Devotions for Life: New Ideas from Old Ways

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With you (Sunday, August 31)

Run the race that is before you, wrote St. Paul. “Therefore let us also, seeing we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, lay aside every weight and sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.”

Each one of us is in a separate race as we go through life. Whether we limp along or encounter frequent obstacles, all of us are struggling in one way or another. The most important part is that we keep moving forward.

We must learn to “run with patience,” as Paul says. Many things will frustrate and beset us. Sometimes we will be crippled by fear or illness; it will seem as though we are constantly climbing a hill or running into a fierce head wind. Keep going and endure whatever you are facing.

In the end, all that matters is how we finish. Jesus is waiting for us, eager to welcome us home. When he does, we will forget everything we had to undergo and go through. He, too, will put our past behind because we have completed our race. “Well done,” he will say, “you have done well. You have finished your race. I was with you each step of the way.”

Follow the leader
(Saturday, August 30)

God goes before us. He leads the way and clears a path. All we need to do is to follow him. Remember the game of follow the leader? The followers have to do everything exactly as the leader does or they are out.

Life is no game. God says to us, here is my son. Follow him. Be like him. Live like him. Many times we eliminate ourselves because we are not copying our king and savior. We do not pray as we should. We do not feed the hungry as we should. We do not take care of the homeless as we should. We do not give of our time and money as we should.

We need to be more like children. First, we have to imitate Christ like young ones mimic their parents. Second, we have to be better followers by learning to listen and watch more carefully. We cannot afford to take our attention off of Jesus. Not for even one second.

How successful we are in life depends on how well we can follow our leader.

More than fair
(Friday, August 29)

Children are quick to spot injustice and unfairness. When they see someone with more than they have they shout, “That’s not fair.” How many times have we as adults said the exact same thing?

The older we become the more we realize a lot of things in life are not fair. The list ranges from how much less we make at work than the next person to not being able to afford the kind of vacation we think we deserve. There also have been times when you and I have said God is not fair. Perhaps he gave one person more than another or he healed one individual but not the other.

God is more than fair with all of us. Think of all the sins we have committed and, yet, he has forgiven us for each one. We deserve to be condemned. He gives us grace. I wonder which one of us, as we are forgiven for our wrong, would dare cry out, “That’s not fair,” and demand to be punished?

Fairness is a relative term; we want it when it pertains to us, but not when it comes to someone else. Instead of always fussing over what is fair, train yourself to look at God’s love and care for each one of us. Quite simply, concentrate on who he is rather than on what he does. “The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion” (Psalm 116:5).

Let Jesus lead and you follow
(Thursday, August 28)

Following Jesus does not mean enduring constant suffering, rejection and pain. No, just the opposite. It means living with the joy and confidence that comes from doing what is right.

“If any of you wants to be my follower,” Jesus told his disciples, “you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). Jesus does not intend for us to take him literally, implying that we must carry a heavy wooden cross through the streets of life while we are beaten and flogged by people. He is talking about the righteous path that takes us to his cross of salvation and beyond.

To do so, we must be humble, patient, loving, understanding and compassionate; these are the signposts on the road that Jesus walked so many years ago and the one we walk today. Taking up our cross is doing God’s will with each and every step.

There will be many occasions when we want to gratify our selfish yearnings and longings, but we must cast these off and leave them alongside the road. If we do not, we soon will become too weighed down in the world to follow Jesus to heaven. “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light,” he said (Matthew 11:30). There is nothing hard about following Jesus unless we try to follow him in our own way.

Are you happy?
(Wednesday, August 27)

The narrator on the radio was asking listeners a provocative question: “Are you happy?” How would you reply? Most of us would respond with something like, “Yes, I would be happy if I wasn’t in so much pain.” Or, “I would be happy if I didn’t have all of these bills.” Maybe we would lament, “I would be happy if I had a car that didn’t break down all of the time” or “I would be happy if I had a better job.”

Our human condition usually is to say the glass is half empty rather than the glass is half full. Jesus taught us to look up toward heaven as we go through life. But, more often than not, our tendency is to look down and concentrate on what we don’t have.

The way to enjoying life and in having it more abundantly is to meditate on what God has done for us: how he has watched over us and guided us for years; how he has protected us when we didn’t even know we were in danger; and how he has been patient with us despite our many mistakes.

Learn to spend more time celebrating than complaining. May you say today, “You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy” (Psalm 30:11). Let us praise the Lord for he has blessed us with goodness.

Touching our lives
(Tuesday, August 26)

God’s hand is upon us as we go on our daily walk. He guides us and moves us for our good. Nothing will happen to us as long as we allow him to show the way.

But sometimes we take his hand off of our shoulder. We remove his presence in our lives and begin to wander free. Without restraint, we go here and there, roaming wherever our emotions and desires take us. No wonder we become confused. Our whims are without direction or purpose. They are completely irrational, certain to take us toward greater danger.

Why we stray from the Lord is anyone’s guess. Perhaps we think we can do a better job than God. Maybe we get tired of waiting for him to make a move. We might even get angry and rebel against him. There are dozens of reasons. In each case, the result is the same: we take away his hand and replace it with our own.

How many times have we become lost in situations and circumstances because we thought we knew exactly what to do? For myself, I have lost count. Dozens of times each day I wander off without thinking. Fortunately, he always brings me back to where I belong. God always puts his hand back on me and leads me home.

His spiritual presence
(Monday, August 25)

One of the primary stumbling blocks of following Jesus is his presence. We want Jesus to be with us physically wherever we go. What we really need, though, is for him to be with us spiritually.

The 12 disciples struggled with the same need. They did not want Jesus to depart from them and return to heaven. They wanted him to remain on the earth with them. Jesus knew what was best for them just as he knows what is best for us.

“In fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don't, the Advocate [Holy Spirit] won't come,” Jesus told them. “If I do go away, then I will send him to you” (John 16:7). Still, they did not understand what he meant.

Think of what would happen today without the Advocate. In the flesh, Jesus could be in one place at one time only. In the Spirit, he can be everywhere for everyone at any time.

Beautiful day
(Sunday, August 24)

I once knew a man – his nickname was Binky – who would fill his small doughnut shop in Roanoke, Virginia, with more than great-tasting doughnuts and fresh coffee. No matter what day it was, Binky would walk among the tables, pouring extra coffee for everyone. As he went from person to person, he would always exclaim, “Beautiful day, beautiful day. Great to be alive.”

From time to time, I would repeat the same phrase in our house at breakfast. When our children were little, they delighted in joining in with me. I would say “Beautiful day, beautiful day.” And they would shout joyfully, “Great to be alive!” The game got old, though, as they grew up. I would have to repeat my line several times before they would even respond; and then their voices sounded tired and weary. The youthful excitement and energy was no longer there.

How often do we as Christians lose our enthusiasm for life? We go through the routine of being happy, but we might feel bored or worn out inside. We allow our emotions to dictate what we think and do, even though we know better.

Each day is a “Beautiful day” and it is “Great to be alive.” God has blessed us with so much, from each breath we take to our family and friends. Most of all, though, God has already given us eternal life. We have a special place waiting for us in heaven. We can truly rejoice today because of paradise. With Binky, we can say, “Beautiful day, beautiful day. Great to be alive!”

False fear
(Saturday, August 23)

Fear is a natural human emotion. Trying to conquer our fear is not so natural. Whether we experience the fear of being alone or of doing something new, we can make the obstacle seem almost overwhelming. Before we realize it, we are paralyzed by worry and anxiety.

The Lord knows there are times in life when fear will come against us. “So do not fear,” God says, “for I am with you” (Isaiah 41:10). Realizing that God is with us should make us feel less afraid. But it is not as simple as merely reading a verse of scripture. We have to convince ourselves God truly is with us. We need to know, without any doubt, that God is larger, more powerful, than any fear we face.

We must shift our focus and change our perspective. Instead of wasting time thinking about some fear – which actually reinforces our feelings – we need to look at God. Contemplate his power, his love, his miracles rather than dwelling on the imaginary situation that is prompting our fear. Once we compare the size, greatness and truth of God to our fear, we will understand how irrational it is to be afraid.

Fear is actually an emotion that tries to manifest itself in reality. But God is reality.

Practicing what he preaches
(Friday, August 22)

Jesus once asked his disciples an interesting question: “Who do you say that I am?” He wanted to see if they saw him differently than most people. Each day of our lives, Jesus asks us the same question. He wants to know if we really believe in him, if we know he is who he claims to be.

Many people profess Jesus as Lord and Savior, yet their words and actions do not reflect his love, his compassion and his gentleness. Often, there seems to be little difference between those who believe and those who do not believe. We would find it difficult to separate the saved from the unsaved.

But those who truly believe that Jesus is Lord are different. They are the ones who always put others before themselves. They also seem to have a peace and a comfort deep within. They are always patient and kind, no matter what the situation. These are Christians who put their love of Christ into action.

We can be followers and yet not practice what Christ taught. But if we truly follow Jesus, we will use ours lives to show the world who he is – that he is indeed the Son of God.

Our constant praise
(Thursday, August 21)

We have many opportunities each day to be disappointed. Friends, spouses, co-workers, sometimes those we don’t even know, let us down. We also can feel discouraged because of what is going on in our government or schools, or by the crime occurring in our own neighborhood.

Maybe we are bewildered by illness, poverty and famine in the world. Perhaps there is personal frustration over how people treat us. It is part of our human nature to wonder why God does not step in and change people or situations.

If we search the scriptures, we find we are not alone in our thoughts and doubts. The Psalms are full of plaintive cries to the Lord. Countless times, the Israelites called out to the Lord for help and understanding. Even David lamented, “O Lord my God, in thee do I put my trust: save me from all them that persecute me, and deliver me” (Psalm 7:1).

When we feel disheartened by what is happening to us or to our world, there is only one way to find comfort. We need to sing praises to God. Even though it does not make sense to us, and it contradicts everything we are feeling, we must thank God for his greatness. The reason is simple.

Once we become wholly involved in praising God, we will no longer be preoccupied with how we think or feel. Instead, we will be more concerned with what God wants because of his sovereignty and magnitude. Because we love him, we should be happiest when his will is done. Praising God helps us realize that he is in control of each and every situation.

Forget the daily battles
(Wednesday, August 20)

“You may have won the war,” my granddaughter said, “but not the battle.” The phrase is usually the other way around, but it caused me to think about the battles we fight each day. We battle others on the road and at the store. We always try to be first in anything as if a few seconds will change our lives forever.

What we need to do is remember that God has already won the war for us – to put it in my granddaughter’s words – but we are not going to win the daily battles. Arguing with people, talking behind someone’s back or refusing to call a relative are all pointless. We may think these things matter now. In the big picture of eternity, however, they stand for nothing except a regret.

The next time you want to start a battle with someone, remember these 14 words from Exodus 14:14: “The Lord will fight for you, and you won’t have to do a thing.”

Also, remind yourself that God has everything under control. He places us in certain situations and encounters to bring glory to him. Forget about bringing glory and victory to yourself by realizing the great war against all evil is already over.

Believing the unseen
(Tuesday, August 19)

Our belief in Jesus frequently finds its origin in what he has done for us rather than on what he will do. In times of difficulty, it is common to draw on what we know. We look back on those events and incidents when the Lord has helped us in divine ways. As much as these reflections help, we have to realize the limitations that such experiences impose.

When Nathaniel was called by Jesus to become one of the disciples, he put his trust in Jesus because of what Jesus had done already. Jesus told Nathaniel that he had seen him sitting under a fig tree long before Philip approached with news of “the one Moses wrote about in the Law.” Nathaniel was amazed Jesus possessed such power. But Jesus quickly pointed out that Nathaniel would see far greater things in the future.

“You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree,” Jesus says in John 1:50. “'You shall see greater things than that.’ He then added, ‘I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.’” On that particular day, Nathaniel could not have imagined all he would witness in the coming months and years.

We are like Nathaniel who based his faith solely on the seen and not the unseen power of Jesus. It is time we place our trust in Jesus because of the greater things he will do in the days ahead. There are no limits in the kingdom, and Jesus is not confined to what he has done already. Jesus has the power to open the heavens, but we must have the hope to believe that he will.

God in all
(Monday, August 18)

Our primary purpose in life is to serve God. All of our hope, trust and faith must rest on this principle alone. The work we do, where we travel, the places we live and the daily chores we perform are not what give our life meaning. Only by allowing God to direct each step can we find complete fulfillment. He must live in all things and be a part of each decision and action.

What would be the reason to spend time seeking God’s will and then depart on our own journey? We may certainly find ourselves headed in the right direction, but without any true purpose or goal. In the words of the psalmist, we should meditate on God both day and night; he needs to direct our path if we are serious about walking with him. Too often, we let God point the way we need to go and then leave him behind as we journey alone. Then we wonder in amazement why our steps are difficult. Like the Israelites in the desert, we complain about our trials and hardships – how God seems to have abandoned us.

Yet, it is we who always abandon God. A brief time once a day with God is not enough to know his will. Every time we encounter a new situation, another person, a different thought, we must pause. We need to let God tell us what to do, to give him control, before we react with our will. In the end, the only way we can say we have done God’s work in each and every situation is if we have reached his destination – not ours.

Do it for Jesus
(Sunday, August 17)

Perhaps you have seen the picture that has gone viral on the Internet. It is a snapshot of a young man, a grocery store clerk, bending over to tie the shoelace of an elderly man. Someone saw the kind act and took the photo. In no time at all it was viewed by thousands of people all over the world.

When I saw the picture on the nightly news, I could almost hear Jesus saying “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40).

How many people would take the time to tie the shoelace of a complete stranger? Most of us would probably notice the untied shoe and quietly pray that God would protect the person from falling. Or if we wanted to be really helpful we might tell the person to be careful.

May we look for some way to do something for Jesus today. Maybe it will be tying a shoelace, holding a door open or letting someone pull out in front of us. Remember, we are doing it for Jesus.

Proving ourselves
(Saturday, August 16)

Over and over again, we have to prove ourselves to the world. We have to demonstrate to those around us, especially people at work, that we measure up to their standards and are worthy of their respect. We also have to show our ability and skills in many other areas of our lives: we have to prove we can drive before we receive a license, we have to prove we are ready for college, we have to prove we earn enough money to buy a house, we have to prove we deserve a particular job or even a promotion and we have to prove we are a good citizen by volunteering in our community. The list of demands goes on and on.

With God, however, we never have to prove anything. He does not demand any proof that we are good enough for him. God accepts us always, no matter who we are or what we have done. He knows us; our actions or thoughts are no surprise to him. We may disappoint God at times, but we never have to prove our worthiness in order for him to love us again.

It is easy to become caught up in the world’s requirement of having to prove ourselves all of the time. Such a system is never-ending: the more we do, the more we are expected to do. We are only as good as our last success. We can easily become worn out by trying to make others accept us. The world sometimes makes us feel like we are “like broken pottery” (Psalm 31: 12), having been crushed under the burden of always proving our value.

To God, we are of greater worth than all the precious stones buried deep in the earth. His love is all the proof we need to prove our worth, both now and for eternity. “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever” (Psalm 107:1).

Go the extra mile
(Friday, August 15)

The owners of Mary’s Gourmet Diner in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, thought they were doing something good by offering patrons a 15 percent discount if they prayed before eating. One of the owners said the discount was never publicized. “We just took off money if saw someone praying or giving thanks before a meal.” It was a simple act of sharing the wealth with customers.

Now, Mary’s Gourmet Diner no longer offers the discount because they were threatened with a lawsuit. It makes us wonder what the world is coming to when owners of a private business cannot do as they wish. But this is life in a postmodern society where everything must be politically correct.

Women and men always seem to take things too far, to an extreme, and then we wonder why there is so much tension and anger everywhere. It is almost as if people go around looking for an argument or disagreement, legal or otherwise.

What did Jesus say about such persons? "If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two” (Matthew 5:40-41). As Christians, we are called to promote peace rather than anger. What has happened at Mary’s Gourmet Diner is extremely upsetting. But to get involved in a lawsuit would not help anyone. We know what the verdict would be. In the end, though, we need to remember that God will have the last word.

A heart full of compassion
(Thursday, August 14)

You and I sometimes forget to have compassion toward others. Everywhere we look, people seem to be more concerned about themselves than with their neighbors. Compassion is not merely feeling sorry for someone else. In addition to our empathy, compassion involves taking action. Having compassion for another person means doing something to relieve their pain or suffering.

How many times do we read in scripture about Jesus having compassion toward the sick, the lame, the poor, the hungry, the sorrowful? Jesus did more than feel sorry for these people. He helped them. He healed. He comforted. He fed. He restored. He taught.

Matthew tells the story of two blind men who came to Jesus one day. They shouted to the Lord to be healed, but the embarrassed crowd rebuked them. However, “Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.”

When we have compassion, we have the power to transform lives. Pity affects only our feelings, while compassion reaches out to affect change in the lives of others. We need to be more like Jesus and less like ourselves. We need to practice the kind of compassion that makes a difference.

What you say reveals who you are
(Wednesday, August 13)

Robin Williams used his gifts of humor and acting to entertain the world. In many respects, he was a genius who was able to show us the many ironies of life. He will be missed, but not soon forgotten.

Comments and respects are pouring in from people in every nation. On one website someone wrote “R.I.P. Robin.” The next remark said, “There is no rest for the Christ-less.” How sad that a professed follower of Jesus would openly judge and condemn a man he did not even know personally.

Too many times these days, Christians take it upon themselves to play God. They tell others what they think and believe that God has given them the divine right to act on his behalf. Jesus talked about those who appear to be above reproach. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness” (Matthew 23:27-28).

The man who commented on Robin Williams being Christ-less needs to examine his own life, for God will surely judge him as he judges others.

Walk not by sight
(Tuesday, August 12)

Faith is a bridge we cannot see. To reach the other side we must be willing to take the first step and then keep walking. We cannot afford to look down with fear or doubt. God has promised he will uphold and hold us as we cross over any tribulation, and he will keep us safe.

Peter believed he could walk on the water when Jesus told him to come forth. Something happened, though, before Peter got very far. “And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’” (Matthew 14:29-30).

Because of the wind and waves, Peter lost his hope. He took his eyes off of Jesus, and looked at the physical realities all around him. Perhaps you are seeing only the world and you have forgotten about the ways of heaven. Maybe a doctor has given you bad news. Maybe you are going through a financial crisis. Maybe you are losing your house. Maybe you are dealing with depression. Or maybe you feel God has abandoned you.

God will help you walk across the bridge you cannot see. Stop thinking about how everything seems and focus completely on God’s dreams for your life.

Sowing heavenly seeds
(Monday, August 11)

One adage is often true. We reap what we sow, at least in our earthly lives. But the whole meaning changes when we make a slight alteration in the wording. Think, for a moment, of what a revision would do both for us and for the Lord. Think about this: God reaps what we sow.

Paul explained this heavenly concept to the Corinthians. “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.” His explanation is based on Jesus’ parable of the sower, where we see what happens when a good person hears the word and understands it. “He produces a crop,” Jesus said, “yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown."

The essential point is that nothing can occur without the seed. There will be no fruit to harvest. Even if there is rain, the ground will remain barren and empty because we have not done our work in the field. We did not plant the seed.

We have been called out into the world to plant the seeds of God’s salvation into the hearts of men and women everywhere. “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone,” Jesus commands. Our job is to be sowers – to scatter the seed everywhere. Some will fall among the thorns. Some on the rocks. Some will be trampled on the path. But some will fall on good soil. Then God will be able to reap what we have sown for him.

Sacrifice of forgiveness
(Sunday, August 10)

The Christian life is one of constant vigilance. There are daily battles, both against the flesh and the mind. We cannot let down our defenses or our guard, not even for a few minutes. We must push ourselves to remain in God at all times.

Realizing that death was near, Paul wrote to his dear friend Timothy. “I have fought the good fight,” he said. “I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” There is a certain tone of confidence in Paul’s words. He reflected on what the Lord had called him to do since that first day on the road to Damascus. Paul was sure of his earthly and heavenly life in Christ.

Paul was not being arrogant in proclaiming he had been successful. He knew there were occasions when he had failed, when he had disappointed the Lord. But he realized he was already forgiven and that all of his offenses were erased through Christ. His life had been made perfect in Christ.

We can make the same claim as Paul. We are fighting the good fight. We will finish the race. We will keep the faith. We can do all of these things because of our trust and belief in God. He has given us sure victory through his sacrifice of forgiveness.

Re-creation
(Saturday, August 9)

Perhaps we have missed the whole point of recreation. For a Christian, it has little to do with fishing or golfing. Recreation is all about re-creating ourselves each day. It means renewing ourselves through prayer, meditation and service.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd and our lives depend on him. As we draw close to him, we are re-created in his likeness. God fashioned us as physical beings, but he revives us again as eternal creations.

Every moment of our present lives can be a re-birth – a renaissance in the truest sense. Studying scripture; talking with God in prayer; listening to the Holy Spirit; all of these renew us in a way that matters most. We are constantly in the process of being made new creatures for eternity.

When we speak of recreation, we should be referring to exercising our faith more than our bodies. One day we will leave this frail flesh behind and live an entirely new life, one that is everlasting and re-created once and for all.

Wait and pray
(Friday, August 8)

My wife and I were astonished. One day the roundtrip airfare from Ohio to Italy was $966 each and the next day it had jumped to $1,200! We wondered what happened overnight. Of course, we were disappointed to say the least. We needed to buy two tickets and we could have saved about $600 by acting sooner.

Just after this experience, I was driving in the car and listening to a local pastor. He was preaching on the subject of being strong in the Lord. “When the going gets tough, the tough get going,” Brother Dave shouted. “Philippians 4:6 says, ‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.’ Pray to God for whatever you need and be strong in him. Trust him for what you need.”

For many years now my wife and I have taken a “wait and pray” approach to everything. We do not rush into anything; instead, we take time to pray and wait on the Lord. This particular time it seemed as though we had missed the boat. We still have four months, however, to buy our tickets.

Thank God, I heard Brother Dave reminding me of God’s power and ability. I am trusting God to show us his way in this situation. Until then we will continue to wait and pray. We believe in God and we believe he can do anything. Nothing is too big for him, not even airfares!

The patience of Job?
(Thursday, August 7)

People often say, “She (or he) has the patience of Job.” At times, though, Job seems to have had very little patience either with his three friends or God.

Throughout the many months of suffering, Job complained on numerous occasions. “I have no peace, no quietness. I have no rest, but only turmoil” (Job 3:26). “The arrows of the Almighty are in me; my spirit drinks in their poison. God’s terrors are marshaled against me” (Job 6:4). “Although I am blameless, I have no concern for myself; I despise my own life” (Job 9:21). “How many wrongs and sins have I committed? Show me my offense and my sin. Why do you hide your face and consider me your enemy?” (Job13:23-24). “All was well with me, but he shattered me. He seized me by the neck and crushed me” (Job 16:12).

Job was human just like us. And, like us, Job wanted answers from God. He asks why God has inflicted such great pain on him. He is angry and he lets his thoughts be known.

We can learn many lessons from the life of Job. Perhaps the most important is that in the end, “The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more that the first” (Job 42:12). Because of this story, may we possess more patience than Job because we know God’s greatest blessing lies on the other side of our trouble.

Can’t buy happiness
(Wednesday, August 6)

Early one morning my wife and I were talking at breakfast. “For some reason,” she said, “I feel really short on patience today.” “I’m going to the store later,” I replied. “I’ll buy some for you. How much do you want?”

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a place where we could instantly get emotions – things like patience, kindness, hope and peace? What if we could buy them like we buy detergent, milk or bread? There would probably be a run on stores everywhere as people hoarded supplies to last weeks or months. But there is no retailer on earth that sells happiness. It is found in one place only.

God is the source. He offers freely and generously. The only cost is giving up our anxiety, frustration and anger. Once we turn these over to him, exchange them, we get what is best for us.

Despite the need, God responds instantly. “The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some count slowness,” wrote Peter, “but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” Unlike those around us, God is swift to answer. A few seconds in prayer produces all of the help we need for today.

Sing joyfully
(Tuesday, August 5)

God does not come and go like the wind. No, he is always there like the sun that shines even when night comes. Though we are not able to see the light from dusk to dawn, the sun blazes brightly.

So it is with God. His spirit moves constantly across the seas and the lands. He dwells among us through his love, and he fills the earth with goodness. His glory is everywhere, from the smallest creature that is barely visible to the billions of stars that inhabit the universe.

“O come, let us sing for joy to the Lord. Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms” (Psalm 95:1-2).

As you go through this special day, sing psalms of praise and thanksgiving to the one who never fails you. He is with you in both your light and darkness. You are always in his presence no matter where you are.

Moving the mountains
(Monday, August 4)

We have all prayed for God to take away our financial problems, to give us a better job or to help us buy a new car. It is hard for us not to take Jesus literally when he said, “if anyone says to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them” (Mark 11:23).

Of course, Jesus is using a metaphor to help us understand what we can do through the spirit. We cannot make mountains move any more than we can command them to jump into the ocean. But we can believe that God will remove the mountains of difficulty in our lives: illness, rejection, despair, discrimination, judgment. Our mountains are many and they are impossible to face alone.

God always is ready and willing to do what we need. He works, however, in ways that transcend and confuse the physical world. God had a great plan for Joseph. But before Joseph became the ruler of Egypt, he was rejected by his brothers, thrown in a well, sold as a slave and spent years in prison. We usually want God to take us right to where we want to be without any hardship at all.

God guided Joseph in a way he could not have anticipated. He will do the same for us when we have faith as small as a mustard seed ((Matthew 17:20). All it takes is our tiny faith for God to move the tallest mountain.

Free to live
(Sunday, August 3)

God does not condemn or demean us when we do something wrong. Instead, he forgives us and gives us another chance.

As a college student, I wanted to get a suntan so I sat about a foot away from a sun lamp for about 20 minutes. The next morning my face was burned and blistered. I went to the campus health center for help. One nurse after another told me how stupid I was. They made me feel even more pain.  

The world is always quick to chastise. People criticize, judge and condemn. Perhaps they think they are offering some kind of aid when, in fact, they are making matters worse.

“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). No matter what we have done, or how stupid we have been, the blood of Jesus has made us clean and pure. Through him we are able to continue the journey he planned for us even before we were born.

Our honor to serve
(Saturday, August 2)

Prepare me for this day, Lord. Make me ready. Help me as I seek to help you. Let my words reflect your love. Let my deeds show your mercy. Wherever I go remind me I am not alone; you are guiding me and protecting me in all things.

Give me eyes to see your will. Give me ears to hear your voice. Give me strength to endure and give me a heart for your way. Help me to learn to be patient, forgiving and kind.

Most of all, father, may my happiness shine throughout the world. May others see you when they look at me; for I want to be a reflection of your glory and greatness.

This day is yours and my life is yours. I want you to be proud of me and I want others to know I am honored to serve you.

Straight toward God
(Friday, August 1)

The best way to follow God is to look in the distance to where he is leading you. Find his point for you far ahead and then keep your eyes fixed on (t)his course.

Farmers are famous for planting in straight rows. Doing so requires much practice, but it also demands something else: they must focus on a point on the other side of the field and aim straight for it. They do not look down except occasionally to check their bearing.

As we go through life, we spend most of our time looking directly in front of us. Once in a while we pause to look ahead. For the most part, though, we see only just a few hours or days ahead. Then we wonder why we get off course rather than heading straight toward God.

Use the farmer’s trick for making your life straighter and better. Look ahead, find him and keep your life going in that direction. “In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:6).

The parable of help
(Wednesday, July 30)

Love your neighbor as yourself, Jesus said. He meant that we should take care of our neighbors as we would take care of ourselves. We must even help those whom we do not know because all of us are sisters and brothers in the one family of God.

The story of the priest, Levite and Samaritan remind us of how we need to act toward others. A band of robbers had beaten a certain man, leaving him nearly dead on the road. A priest saw the man and walked by on the other side of the road. Later, a Levite did the same. Finally, a Samaritan stopped to help. He bandaged the man’s wounds and took him to a nearby inn. The next day, the Samaritan gave the innkeeper some money for the man’s expenses, and promised to pay any additional amount when he returned.

We often refer to this account as the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Yet, it easily could have been called the Parable of the Good Priest or the Parable of the Good Levite. How we remember this story depends entirely on the actions of each individual, much like the way people will recall the deeds you and I perform this day.

Perhaps the things we do today will become known as the Parable of the Good Woman or the Parable of the Good Man in the mind of the person we help. Maybe our story, too, will be told over and over again. Let us make sure that we are pictured as loving our neighbors as ourselves, and not as someone who passed by on the other side of the road.

Grateful hearts
(Tuesday, July 29)

Life is not perfect by any means. But we can learn to see God’s perfection in the world by appreciating all we have been given. This morning, for example, I am nice and warm as I sit in front of my computer at home. Yet, the temperature outside is a chilly 45 degrees. And without ever leaving my soft chair, I can get on the Internet and travel around the world. I can go anywhere I wish and also send messages to people I know over in Asia or Australia.

Recently, as I walked into a Wal-Mart store just a few miles from our house, I suddenly realized something. I could stroll up and down the dozens of aisles, picking out whatever I wanted or needed. I had enough money to buy anything, small or large, from one item to an entire cartful. I could even purchase a wide screen television or a set of tires for one of our two cars! How blessed I am.

I know that I need to spend more time praising God rather than always protesting. What good does it do us when we grumble and complain? God, I don’t have this or that. God, I need more money. God, I have no chance to rest. God, I am tired of being sick all of the time. For our own good, we have to turn our perspective around. We need to proclaim what we do have. Thank you, Lord, for all these things in my house. Thank you, Lord, for the money you give me. Thank you, Lord, that you keep me busy serving you. Thank you, Lord, for letting me feel better than yesterday.

We need to have grateful hearts for the great things God has given us. I doubt he will bless us with more if we do not appreciate what we have now. In the parable of the shrewd manager, Jesus reminds us of an important principle: "Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much.” We have to ask ourselves, seriously, if God can really trust us with more.

Forgiving the past
(Monday, July 28)

We need to learn how to forgive one another, but we also need to ask God to forgive us as well. Without the Lord’s forgiveness, there is little we can do to put the past where it belongs: behind us.

If there is any anger or doubt about things that happened years ago, then we have not given it completely to the Lord. Our emotions will always find us out and reveal how we feel. On a recent trip back home, I stopped to wonder about all of the time I spent there and other places in my life. What if I went back to the same churches and Christian colleges where I once worked? Have people forgiven me for how I acted at times? More important, have I forgiven them and have I asked God to forgive me?

I confess that whenever I visit a place where I have lived in the past, I am always looking over my shoulder to see if there is someone I know. The reason, perhaps, is not to greet the person. Rather, it is to run the other way to avoid an awkward encounter. It is clear to me that I have not buried the past in God and in my own mind.

We cannot live forever living in the past. Sooner or later we will be swept away by a tide of regret so huge that we cannot move forward. If we have any misgivings about what is behind us, let us stop today and ask God to forgive us once and for all. Let us also ask him to keep us from going back to those regrets ever again. He can and will erase the past both in his mind and ours. That is what forgiveness is all about.

A waste of time
(Sunday, July 27)

The remarkable thing about our lives is that we are living for something much larger than ourselves. We live for those whom we love, and to help people in need, but more than anything we live for the kingdom of God. We are here today for our eternal home tomorrow.

God has promised us a place with him in heaven. “I go and prepare a place for you,” Jesus said. “I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” We have his word on where we will spend the rest of our lives. Forever. Not just 60 or 70 years. But thousands of years which will never end.

Why, then, do we spend so much of our day worrying about now: how we feel or what we have to face today. Maybe we do not feel well or maybe we have to do something we dread. Perhaps we know we will have to encounter someone who does not like us. We might even have to waste time standing in line at the store or waiting at the doctor’s office.

There is a German proverb that can help us put our present circumstances into a proper perspective: “It’s all the same in a thousand years.” The point is that what we fret about now will not matter at all in the future. If we are going to concentrate on anything today, let us focus on what will matter in the future – the infinite kingdom that has no end.

Nothing short of a miracle
(Saturday, July 26)

God’s many wonders occur daily. His invisible hand guides and protects us in ways we do not always see. It is nothing short of a miracle that my wife has been driving 50 miles each day, to and from work, and has never been in an accident. It is a miracle, too, that we continue to receive the gift of life each morning. Another miracle is our good health, though we sometimes complain about our aches and pains.

Our entire lives and bodies are miracles of creation. We are created out of nothing. We are made something special by him, and we are given everything. Day after day, we receive all we need from above. Nothing is missing. Not even a hair.

True to his word, God provides for us every moment. As we change and life changes all around us, God sees our need. He hears us and answers our prayers. Then he shows us what to do as he leads the way and we follow. He is always up ahead, making straight the path, and he is always behind, keeping us safe and carrying us along.

Today’s miracles are manifold and many. Once we pause to realize all he has done, we will recognize that this is no ordinary day.

With him at our side
(Friday, July 25)

Jesus and I walked together for six miles the other day. I did all of the talking. I asked him to watch over my friends and family; I mentioned each individual by name. I told him my concerns about my finances. I also said I was worried about what was going on in the world today. All of the wars and conflicts have to stop, I added. I complained that more needs to be done everywhere, especially where people are homeless and hungry.

The whole time, Jesus listened patiently and quietly. I could tell he understood. He seemed to know everything that was on my heart and in my mind. Nothing I said surprised him or made him anxious. He didn’t even get upset when I expressed my anger over what has been going on between Israel and Palestine.

Although Jesus did not speak, I got the feeling he was answering me by the same words he spoke 2,000 years ago. “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life” (Luke 12:22). “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12). “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me” (John 14:1).

Just knowing Jesus was there with me, step by step, gave me more confidence and assurance. By the time our walk was over I felt better, realizing once again he was in control of everything and everyone. I did not have to worry about a thing.

Get out of jail
(Thursday, July 24)

The weight of the world can make us victims. There are all sorts of threats: what people say about us, how peers judge us, the pressure to keep up with our neighbors. Not to mention the financial burdens of everyday life from earning a living to paying the bills to making ends meet from one month to the next.

But Jesus tells us we are victors, not victims. He set us loose from anything that besets us. In the words of St. Paul, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). The life, death and resurrection of Jesus made us free. There are no chains on us anymore.

So why do we usually let the world make us slaves again? We can feel fine on Sunday: confident, strong and courageous. But by Tuesday or Wednesday, we are full of doubt, anger and fear. We have allowed the things of this world to conquer and defeat us once again. All it takes is a comment or judgment from someone to send us spiraling downward. All of a sudden, we have forgotten our birthright as children of heaven.

Maybe we need to say over and over again, “I am a victor, not a victim,” until we begin to believe it – until we know it and are able to stand firm, as St. Paul says. Then, no one will be able to take us prisoner ever again.

Faithful in all he does
(Wednesday, July 23)

Seldom do we see the full picture. But God always does. He knows what is best for us right now and for each day to come. Our faith and trust in him is critical; without them, we will never have the vision to see his goodness unfold.

I tried to help the neighbors next door. They were putting in a fence between our two driveways. I called the city to see if there were regulations on how close they could come to the sidewalk. I did not want them to put up a fence and have to tear it down later. Turns out, a building inspector said they could still have a fence, but it could be just three feet high, not the four or five feet they had planned. The woman became irate at me because she thought I was trying to stop them. Instead, I was looking out for their best interests.

God always has our best at heart. He takes care of us just as he did with the Israelites in the wilderness. They could not imagine where God was taking them because they were focused wholly on their needs at the time. In their minds, they thought Moses was leading them to almost certain death.

The next time you think God is working against you rather than for you, remember what David wrote: “The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing. The Lord is righteous in all his ways and faithful in all he does” (Psalm 145:15-17). He is faithful even when our faith fails.

To worry or not
(Tuesday, July 22)

For most of us, we are guilty of always worrying or planning about tomorrow. While we are going through one day, we are already dwelling on the next. We think about the meeting we have to attend, the shopping we need to do and the many things we want to complete.

Much of the time, we are not where we are. Physically, we may be living in Monday, but our minds have moved on to Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Not only are we missing many important details of our journey today. We also are using up ourselves on things that have not happened yet.

“Do not worry about tomorrow,” Jesus said, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” We spend and expend too much of our time and energy on the future. We have more than enough to deal with today, and yet we add the troubles of tomorrow. So, too, we have enough strength for this day and we use much of it worrying about the next 24 hours.

Let us not wear ourselves out or down by trying to take care of situations before they occur. Remember, God has prepared us for what he has asked us to do. He is confident about tomorrow and we should be as well.

Giving with gladness
(Monday, July 21)

God loves a cheerful giver. Paul reminded his sisters and brothers in Corinth to give with joy. Whatever we do today, we need to remember this caveat. There is no sense in giving out of anger or resentment because it does not do God or us any good.

Paul is talking about more than money. Giving of our time, talents, gifts and wisdom are just as important. Each person has one or more skills that can be used for the glory of his kingdom. No matter the ability – singing, teaching, cleaning, cooking, ministering, leading, painting, fixing – the Lord wants us to use what he has given us to serve others. And we should offer ourselves with glad and joyful hearts.

What can be accomplished by a cold and grudging attitude? What good is volunteering to look good or to be considered one of the team? We often push ourselves into situations and places where we do not belong. Then we wonder why we become resentful, upset and frustrated. “I’ll do it but I don’t have to enjoy it,” we mumble to ourselves. At such times, we are thinking more of ourselves than the people we are helping or serving, most of all God.

He will never ask us to stress ourselves to the limits so we are completely exhausted and drained. We are the ones who always press on in spite of our physical and mental strength. The result is that we become cheerless, and not cheerful. When we give, we have to make sure our heart is in it for the right reason. Otherwise we are wasting both God’s time and our energy.

His purpose
(Sunday, July 20)

In my loneliness, I am forced to be honest with myself. I must face who and what I am in the quiet recesses of my own contemplation. At such times of solitude, I think deeply about my life. I wonder if I am really making a difference. I wonder whether anyone cares what I am doing. I wonder about my worth and value. I wonder about my usefulness. I wonder how the world sees me with all of my frailties and weaknesses. I know how I see myself.

But in this darkness of doubt, a light begins to emerge. There is a small, flickering spark ahead in the distance. It is faint at first. Then it grows. I receive an unexpected greeting from someone I helped years ago. The person is thanking me for what I did. One of my favorite hymns suddenly comes on the radio. Maybe I receive a phone call from a person I did not expect. Or perhaps I am invited to preach at a church across town on a special Sunday.

Soon, the light of God’s sovereignty overcomes the darkness in my mind. I am able to glimpse, once again, a purpose. It is his plan that matters and I need to stay focused, with all of my thoughts on him rather than on myself. My life is, after all, in his heart and hands alone.

Greater than Jesus
(Saturday, July 19)

The right to judge is not ours. It is God’s alone. Even when we have been harmed by others, we still do not have the privilege to condemn them. Jesus never sentenced his accusers. To the end, his life reflected what he said on the cross: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

Despite being tormented and taunted for years, let alone what was done to him on Calvary, Jesus resisted the temptation to judge. “As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them,” he said, “I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it.”

It is easy to judge the world. All we have to do is look around us and think about certain people or specific incidents. There are many I would have liked to condemn through the years and I know many could have condemned me as well. I have had my share of sins and so have they. Still, Jesus did not have the power to judge and neither do we. To do so, in any situation, means we think more of ourselves than of Jesus.

Our purpose, like that of our master, is to save people. We will not be popular and we will face extreme opposition. The world hated Jesus and it will hate us, too. The Father will decide what to do on that final day when all will be judged, including you and me.

He is the source
(Friday, July 18)

The last thing I wanted to do was to take my two grandchildren to the park down the street. The day before I had walked the entire Columbus (Ohio) Zoo and I was tired. I gave them one excuse after another. I finally said, “There’s no place for me to sit down.” “You could sit on the ground, grandpa,” Lexi said. “We can help you if you have trouble getting up.” How could I say no?

Each hour God whispers the same message to us: “I will help you if you have trouble getting up.” God is there to support us in any situation, especially when we are doing something in his name.

Paul never could have completed three missionary journeys without God’s strength. Peter never could have gone to Rome (knowing he would be killed) without God’s courage. Elijah never could have predicted rain during a drought without God’s faith.

The point is God gives us supernatural strength, courage and faith, but we must get in the habit of relying on him to supply our need instead of depending on ourselves. God takes us way beyond our human ability because he is the source of all power.

The living church
(Thursday, July 17)

We can never really say ‘this is my church’ or ‘that is their church.’ We know well what we mean: I go to a certain place to worship and they go to another church down the street. When we make such a statement we may be referring to our sense of ownership and belonging to a particular congregation, along with taking pride in a physical structure. Perhaps there is the implication that we or they attend the weekly services there.

Perhaps, though, we need to be more deliberate and definitive in the language we use and the kinds of things we say. In this case, we might be giving someone the wrong idea. We could be lowering the stature of the church, reducing it to a worldly and human level, when we describe it as something made by man.

But there is nothing earthly or lowly about the church, except for the fact that it is God’s indwelling presence in our daily lives. For all intents and purposes, we are the church. Each one of us is the church. It does not matter whether we are male or female, young or old, black or white, rich or poor. People from all continents, nations, cultures and communities make up the cathedral of God.

His church is everywhere we go: at home, away, on vacation and overseas. We see it all around us in the people that are made by the same Creator and Father. In him and through him, we make up the one true and living body of God’s church.

Jonah's anger
(Wednesday, July 16)

The Lord does many things that we do not understand. Sometimes he forgives those who deserve to be punished or he allows the wicked to be set free. Even though we trust his wisdom, we are always standing by ready to help him exact justice, just like Jonah.

God instructed Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach against the city because of its wickedness. But he ran the other way, boarding a ship to Tarshish. The sailors drew lots when a storm came up; they were looking for someone to blame. They threw him overboard, hoping to save their lives. As we all know, a huge fish swallowed Jonah and he spent the next three days praying for God to spare him. Eventually, Jonah was cast out. When he reached land he headed straight to Nineveh.

The story does not end there. When the Ninevites heard Jonah proclaim God’s condemnation on the city, they were convicted and began to fast and pray. Forty days later, God was pleased and did not harm anyone.

Jonah was not happy. In fact, he was actually mad at God for not destroying the people. Scripture explains that Jonah said to God, “I am angry enough to die.” God tried three more times to make Jonah understand patience and compassion. Unfortunately, Jonah was not aware – because of his own anger – that God had forgiven him and spared his life. Sometimes we are too blind to recognize our own faults, yet we easily see the flaws in others.

Perishing and pear trees
(Tuesday, July 15)

Jonah was certain he was going to die an agonizing death inside a giant fish. Peter thought he was going to drown in a storm at sea. Paul reasoned he was going to be blind for life. Moses believed he would live the rest of his days on the back side of the desert. How many times have we thought and feared the worst, only to see it never come to pass?

We do not know what is ahead of us, but we should know who is in front of us. All too often, though, we get ourselves ready for difficulty and hardship. We imagine terrible circumstances and almost never anticipate the best. Recently, people in our region prepared all week for a powerful thunder storm. The forecasts predicted heavy rains all weekend. When Saturday came, the sky cleared and the sun appeared. We witnessed one of the most beautiful springs days in years.

After a long bleak winter, the ornamental pear trees are beginning to blossom up and down our street. They will not all bloom at exactly the same time, but they will spring forth as they were created to do. So it is with us, as God’s children. We may think our future is uncertain and ominous when, in truth, our days ahead are up to God. He has planned and numbered our hours. He will not let us perish even though we see only darkness. He is a God of light.

If we are tempted today to fear the worst, let us remember who is really in control. His hand is upon us, leading us forward, closer to him.

God’s divine freedom
(Monday, July 14)

You are free. Nothing can hold you back and no one can judge you. In the words of St. Paul, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

There was a man who once was condemned by all those with whom he worked. Even his so-called Christians friends brutally abused his name and called for him to be punished—professionally, personally and financially. Without knowing the truth, people wrote him off and judged him a worthless charlatan. More than a decade later, published articles still appear from time to time chastising and criticizing him.

Today, this man is free from the attacks of the past. He is a faithful servant of the Lord and no person in the world has any right to judge him. The same is true for all of us: “there is now no condemnation for [us] who are in Christ Jesus.” God has set us loose from the chains of condemnation forever!

Don’t let anyone ever stop you or hold you back from the person God made you to be. Never allow what someone says or does to you to prevent you from fulfilling your purpose. Remember this: “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). You cannot be a slave to the world because you are a servant of heaven.

Reformed
(Sunday, July 13)

Being conformed to God’s will allows us to be reformed in his image. You and I cannot be like him until we give in to him, and unless we accept his ways. Once we are able to be molded into what he wants, then we are reformed in all parts of our life.

Desire and discipline go hand in hand. One without the other will not work. First, there needs to be a desire to change. Second, there must be a requisite for change. The whole process is what shapes our will into his. This is how we become one with him; it also is the only way he can live in us.

But we often lack the control we require to be reformed. We want to change, yet we do not wish to go through the rigors of being restrained. We want a method that is painless and effortless. There are no easy fixes, though, for becoming more like Jesus. We will have to suffer for him.

In the end, when God is finished, we will be a new creature. We will be recreated and ready to do whatever he asks. All that we once were is vanished. In its place is a disciplined spirit. What began as a desire to please him is now a perfected heart to gratify him.

Today's daily bread
(Saturday, July 12)

What we need from God today is different than what we needed yesterday or what we will need tomorrow. When we pray for Our Father to give us our daily bread, we are asking him to help us meet our special needs this day.

The circumstances of this hour are unique. Each day unfolds in a distinct way even though we might go through the same routine. All around us the world is changing. God can give us the strength, wisdom and ability to cope with every situation that arises in the next 24 hours, whether it is something small or large.

Much of our time, however, is spent in looking back or thinking ahead. We tend to live outside the moment. Our minds often take us away from where we are and what we are doing now. In a way, we are guilty of distracting ourselves by our own thoughts and concerns; we follow our worries and anxieties rather than his wisdom and reason.

God will give us our daily bread for today. If we do not receive it, perhaps it is because we are trying to live on the daily bread from the past or what will come in the future. Nothing else will satisfy us right now than what God is providing for us this day.

Fellowship
(Friday, July 11)

We love spending time with those whom we know. We want to hear how they are doing and what is going on in their lives, especially if we have not talked with them in a while. How much time we spend with God matters to him. He wants to have a deeper relationship with us and he wants us to know him better.

I recently had a chance to chat with someone I knew only by name. In an hour, I learned all about his family, his work, his goals and aspirations for the future, and his deep faith in God. It was a wonderful time of fellowship and sharing.

Imagine how our Lord must feel when we take time out of our busy lives to be with him. He knows that we love and appreciate him, but he is like us: he wants to hear us tell him with our own voices. He wants to hear our hearts speak.

The more time we spend with him, the more we will get to know about him. We also will learn to have greater trust in him because we realize everything he has done as both our creator and our king.

Thy will
(Thursday, July 10)

Take my will and turn it into your will, Lord. Make me desire what is best, not what is convenient or easy. Above all, help me to become more like Jesus and less like the person I have become.

Our constant prayer must be for God to control more and more of our lives so that he is living in us each moment. We do not move a step or take a breath without him. We do not think a thought or speak a word unless he is there.

We know that our lives are not our own. Yet, how many times do we decide what to do? We make the decision of what to say and how to act before we think about what we should do. We need to slow down and give God a chance to guide us. If he is going to live in and through us, we have to let him dominate our total being.

Only when we are completely consumed by his will for us can we serve him as we should. When we depend on him for everything, then he can do anything. He can reveal his power in us when we give up our will for ourselves.

A lasting lesson
(Wednesday, July 9)

One of the most difficult lessons I am learning is to look at myself more. I need to watch what I do and say rather than always focusing on others. My natural tendency is to judge the people around me, but to excuse myself. “Look at what that person is doing,” I tell God. “That isn’t right. He needs to be told about it.”

Sometimes I talk to God as if he is a blind man – a Father who cannot see what is going on and what people are doing (or not doing). Certainly he knows and sees much more than me. Yet I wonder why he doesn’t do something. Why does he let people hurt someone? Why doesn’t he punish those who take advantage of others?

What I need to do is to stop worrying about everyone else all of the time and start examining my words and actions. The real question is how do I treat people, and do I speak out of love even when I am hurting? I should have more than enough to keep me busy by simply taking care of myself.

Jesus once told Peter to stop asking about what will happen to other individuals. “You need to follow me,” he said. You and I need to make a renewed commitment to follow Jesus and to forget about everyone else. God sees what they are doing and he sees what we are doing. He will take care of the other people if we can learn to take care of ourselves.

Trust without sight
(Tuesday, July 8)

Blind faith is being able to move forward without being able to see. Trusting in God, no matter how situations appear, requires a faith that goes beyond sight or circumstance.

Moses walked in blind faith when he led the Hebrews out of Egypt. Joshua stepped out in blind faith when he fought the battle of Jericho. David came forward in blind faith when he challenged the giant Goliath. Joseph lived by blind faith for 14 years in a dark prison. Paul journeyed in blind faith to spread the Good News to the world.

All of these individuals believed in what they could not see at the moment. They dwelled in what they knew about the future. They trusted that God would be there with them and that he would triumph.

Faith can only be faith when there is spiritual knowledge of the power of God. It has nothing to do with physical reality, but everything to do with absolute reality – the constant presence and protection of God the father.

The desire of his heart, not ours
(Monday, July 7)

The brothers James and John remind us of ourselves. They were the ones who once asked Jesus if they could sit at his side, on the left and the right, in the kingdom of heaven. Lovingly and gently, Jesus replied that they did not know what they were asking.

We often go to the Lord today with similar questions. Out of our innocence and inexperience we ask Jesus for all kinds of things: Can you bring me more money? Can you help me get a more important job? Can you give me better health? Can you give me favor in my business? Can you restore what I have lost?

In every instance, Jesus might be saying, “You do not know what you are asking.” For whatever we desire, there is a price to pay. The cost for what we want is not always something physical. It could be spiritual. Having more money, a better job or a bigger house may lead us away from Jesus rather than closer to him. We may gain material wealth, but lose our eternal inheritance.

When we ask for something, let us be satisfied and content with Jesus’ answer. Let us remember that he knows what is best for us in every situation. What we want, in fact, may not be good for us. What kind of Savior would he be if he gave us something that is harmful, not helpful? The desire of our heart is not what we need. We need the desire of his heart.

Keeping one day holy
(Sunday, July 6)

For Jews, Saturday is the Sabbath. For Christians, Sunday is the Sabbath. No matter when it is celebrated, the Lord’s Day is a holy time. It is a day to set aside all but the essential elements of life. We honor the Creator with devoting one day of the week completely to him.

As we do so, we are changed. We are pulled away from the daily activities of the world: away from work, away from errands, away from meetings, away from the newspaper and, maybe, even away from watching television. The day seems to slow down as we calm down. We begin to feel the beauty of being alive.

I was a young boy when there where Blue Laws on Sunday. Nothing could be open except for businesses that provided most essential services. Even restaurants were closed. There are times when I wish we could return to those days to restore the peacefulness that we so desperately need today.

Each one of us can, if we want, give this one special day back to God. We can take care of everything we need in six days and set aside a holy time – both for God and for ourselves. Now, more than ever, we need to be quiet and listen to him.

Unfinished parable
(Saturday, July 5)

When Jesus spoke, the crowds usually got the message. Even children could understand. All of his parables put people in the position of making a decision: to do what would please God or what would please the world.

One story in Luke, however, ends without a clear message. It is the account of a farmer who planted a fig tree. For three years, he waited for it to bear fruit. Finally, he said to the one who tended the vineyard, “Cut it down. Why should it use up the soil?” But the other begged, “Leave it alone for one more year. I will dig around it and fertilize. If there is no fruit then, cut it down.”

The parable ends abruptly, without any resolution or solution. No doubt Jesus wants us to think deeply about what should be done. Should the poor tree be given another year? Perhaps it will grow. On the other hand, it has had three years and nothing has happened. The time has come at last to cut it down and concentrate on the good trees.

With respect to our own lives, the underlying message seems to be that there will come a time when it will be too late: too late to turn back, too late to ask for more time and too late to make amends. We need to make sure we are always producing fruit in his vineyard.

Past pictures
(Friday, July 4)

Most everyone has boxes and albums full of pictures, some old and frayed, some shiny and bright. The snapshots are of happy faces: newborns, grandparents, aunt and uncles, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, close friends and other relatives. In the background is a Christmas tree, a picnic table, an amusement park or a wedding feast. These are happy memories.

But there are other pictures that we keep tucked away, even though we look at them often. The photographs we hide in our minds never seem to wear with age. They remain as clear as the day they were taken. Our mind’s eye has recorded every negative image and has burned it into our brain. The time we were pushed aside for someone else, the time we were humiliated, the time we were belittled, the time we were ignored – all of these unpleasant and unhappy scenes are there.

It is funny how we allow these invisible pictures from the past to influence our visible lives in the present. We cannot even show the photos to anyone because, in all reality, they do not exist. Still, we are guided daily by intangible impressions from years ago.

Paul’s message to the Christians in Philippi is for all of us to hear. “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” If this is true, and we believe that it is, then why do we keep undoing what God is doing in us? Maybe it is time we gathered up all of those old, destructive pictures and got rid of them. Let’s give them to God and let him decide what to do.

Are you a fixer-upper?
(Thursday, July 3)

The term fixer-upper or fixer usually applies to an old house that needs considerable work. Some people like to buy fixers to put what they want into the structure. Others purchase fixers to make a profit when all the improvements are finished.

You and I are like fixers. God is the one who works on us to make us better. He improves our perspective, our patience, our understanding and our kindness. By the time he gets done with us, we are the person he had in mind all along.

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens,” Jesus said, “and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). No project is too much for God. And he does not turn away from anyone who needs help. From little problems to enormous tragedies, he can fix anything.

Today, think of yourself as a rundown house—a fixer—that needs renovation. Whether God has to work on the outside or inside of you, he is the great carpenter who can do everything in the universe!

This one day
(Wednesday, July 2)

May we deal with this day as it unfolds, without fretting about what will come tomorrow. These minutes and hours right now require our total attention and our full focus on God. Let us look to him to find the strength and the guidance we need this instant.

The old adage is sound advice: take life one day at a time. It might even be better to revise our thinking so that we take things one minute or one hour at a time. God never intended for us to live in the present and the future at the same time. Sometimes, we even add the past to our present, and then wonder why we feel helplessly lost.

God tells us how to live, and he repeats the message:

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?”

“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”

“Then Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear.’”

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

In short, God says “Trust me to take care of you.” We put our faith into practice when we release our life into his hands. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain. We start by giving him this one day. Tomorrow and the next day, we can do the same thing – until we trust him without even thinking about our situation.

How to ask him
(Tuesday, July 1)

Whatever you need today, God is the answer. Maybe your need is small. Maybe you want many things. God will provide and meet your needs. All you have to do is to ask him with an open and honest heart.

James 4:2 says, “You do not have because you do not ask.” We must ask God for what we want, but we must ask for the right reason. Most of the time we ask God for something for the wrong reason, according to James. “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:1-3).

Before we go to God for anything, we have to ask ourselves why we are asking him. Do we want something for ourselves or for God? Our need for money is a good example. How can I go to God and ask for $10,000 (or any other amount) to pay off debts that I have incurred? I can ask for his help in meeting all of my obligations, but giving me the money I need will not help in the least. I would be destined to repeat the same mistakes again. I must ask God to give me the strength to control my spending.

The same is true for all of our other needs. We must ask God to show us the way to better health, the courage to stand against adversity or the ability to rise above failure. God needs to be in the solution to our need or we will never get what we really require from him.

He will right the wrong
(Monday, June 30)

The Bible tells us of God’s many and manifold blessings. Time after time, scripture speaks of how much he loves us and how much he cares for us. But when things go terribly wrong in our lives, we wonder what is going on. We question why God has let us down.

In 1997, our house was completely destroyed on the inside by vandals. The irony was that my wife and I, along with our two children, were celebrating our 25th Wedding Anniversary in Disneyworld. We had just arrived when the police in Ohio called with the bad news. Our insurance agent also phoned and said this was the worst damage he had ever seen in his 30-plus years in the business.

Our first thought was why God allowed this to happen? We know he could have stopped it if he wanted. Instead, we had to cancel the rest of our vacation and get back on the road heading for home. Our anniversary was ruined.

It took us years to realize that God was blessing us by letting our house be destroyed. The event brought us closer together as a family; it made all of us more compassionate; and we learned how to let others help us by providing support and meals while we lived in a hotel for three months. The insurance company had to pay over $70,000 for all of the repairs, but our family received much more. A tragedy turned out to be a triumph for us and God. No matter how bad a situation seems at the time, God is bigger and stronger. In his time, he will right any wrong that comes our way.

Our true career
(Sunday, June 29)

We are not who we think we are. Our vocations in the world are entirely different than our work for God. We may be teachers, secretaries, truck drivers, attorneys, servers, accountants, bookkeepers, etc., but these are jobs and professions. They have little to do with our labor for the Lord.

When it comes to working for him, we are all the same. We each have hands to help, hearts to comfort, eyes to perceive, and feet for the journey. Most of all, we have ears to hear him. We also have something else. We have the strength and support to do his will, if we are willing. Only he can enable us to finish what he has begun in us. We cannot do it alone like we may with our ordinary jobs.

Whenever we turn to God, we are no longer ourselves. We leave our occupations behind and follow him as disciples. In effect, we lay down our career – whatever it might be – and take up our cross, just as the fishermen on the Sea of Galilee put down their nets and became fishers of men.

God is proud of how we have used our gifts and talents to earn a living. But he is even more pleased when we join hands with others to be one body. He delights in seeing how we give up who we were in the world for who we are in the kingdom. Suddenly, we become greater because we have less of ourselves and more of living for him.

Christian worldview
(Saturday, June 28)

Having a Christian worldview involves more than looking at the world from a biblical perspective or through a special heavenly lens. There also is more to it than thinking like Christ or doing what he would do in certain situations. A Christian worldview is realizing who we are and who is in control of the universe.

We are God’s servants – his laborers in the vineyard. We are created to do his will. Our whole existence and purpose in life is to please him. Everything in our lives must bring glory to him. Not to ourselves. The moment we begin to think about what we want, we have turned completely away from what we were put here to do.

The sort of view we need to have is recognizing that all things, in heaven and on earth, depend entirely on God. He is the beginning and the end, the alpha and omega, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made,” wrote John. And without him, we would be nothing.

He makes us everything. As followers of the King, we need to have a worldview that places him at the head of all and us as the least of all.

His story
(Friday, June 27)

The Bible is more than a book of individual stories and events. It is the living, breathing word of God that explains the history of past generations: how God raised them, guided them and protected them. The Bible is his written story of our lives.

Humanity has not changed since the time of Adam and Eve. All of us have the same kinds of emotions. We share the same desires and needs. We laugh and cry at many of the same things. We also are made in God’s image. But one thing is different. God made each one of us for a different purpose and reason. No two of us are exactly alike, and he needs all of us working together to reveal himself completely to the world.

Every one of us is a separate part of God’s overall design for the universe. We are like individual words in a book. No one word is more or less important than the next. Rather, each word depends on the one before and after for its worth. Slowly, the words come together to form a sentence. Sentences become paragraphs and paragraphs turn into chapters. From one word comes an entire story of God’s infinite mind constantly at work.

When we read the Bible, we learn and discover more about the relationship between ourselves and our Creator. We grow closer to him as we realize all he has done from the very beginning of time.

The greatest moment
(Thursday, June 26)

Not one of us will go through this life without being beaten and attacked along the way. There will be all kinds of trials: loss of jobs, having to move away from family, houses destroyed, bankruptcy, foreclosure, the terminal illnesses or death of loved ones. These are tough experiences that leave us shattered and destroyed.

We are not alone in our brokenness, though. Jesus endured everything imaginable. In the end, the world took his physical body as well. Had the story ended there, we would not even think twice about his life and work. But the reality of his resurrection from the dead made all the difference. When he arose on the third day, everything changed forever.

From that moment on, death lost its power and control. Jesus showed the world that the spirit could not be destroyed or even harmed. The spirit was eternal, no matter what happened to the body.

You and I have faced some difficult times so far and we have many more waiting for us. But the past has taught us the truth. We have learned that, despite the pain and suffering, we will survive. Jesus gave us the victory 2,000 years ago, and our names are already written in the Lamb’s book of life.

Going the distance
(Wednesday, June 25)

How many of us are willing to do more than people expect these days? Jesus taught that if we are asked to go a mile to help someone, then we should go the extra mile. We must always seek to do more than we are asked. In a way, that is the guiding principle of Christianity.

The Pharisees and Sadducees lived by the letter of the law. They could travel only a certain distance on the Sabbath. They had rules about cleansing themselves before they ate. They could not eat food that was considered unclean. In all, the Jews had more than 600 laws to follow. Jesus said the greatest of all the laws is to love the Lord God, and the second is to love your neighbor.

Notice that Jesus does not say to love your neighbor…if you want, if you like him, if he pays you, if he is nice to you, if you feel like it. No, he commands us to love our neighbor – all neighbors. We show our love by doing more than we are asked. We go the extra mile, and we do so gladly and willingly.

Remember, we are serving God when we serve others. Doing anything for the least of them is the same as doing it for Jesus.

Perfecting our faith
(Tuesday, June 24)

We cannot afford to be confident or smug in knowing we are justified by faith. The reason is that, most of the time, our faith is not all it should be. We go through periods of doubt and fear, uncertainty and hesitation.

Thankfully, the level of our faith does not determine whether we are justified or not. Jesus said if we have faith the size of a mustard seed then we could move mountains; nothing will be impossible. Even a little bit of faith, no larger than a grain, makes us acceptable in his eyes. Still, we need to keep strengthening and developing our faith.

Each tiny step takes us a little closer to believing in him – to trusting him. It is a gradual process, much like climbing a mountain. St. Paul wrote that our suffering produces perseverance; perseverance leads to character; and character develops hope. He adds that God’s hope, not our own, does not disappoint.

Let us keep perfecting our faith as if it depends on being justified, but knowing all the while that it does not.

Making mountains
(Monday, June 23)

We usually tend to make so much out of so little. When something small occurs in our lives, suddenly we feel like our world is falling apart. Whether it is a flat tire or a burned out toaster, our day seems ruined.

Jesus told us not to be anxious about anything. He said “Do not worry.” The fact is we have heard him, but we do not listen to what he is really saying. We allow ourselves to be troubled over many things: the alarm clock not going off on time, a phone call from a creditor, the mail being late, getting caught in traffic and having to park clear out in the middle of nowhere at the store. In our haste to keep up with a demanding and busy schedule, these little circumstances turn into massive mountains. They become enormous stumbling blocks in our daily routine of life.

The real problem is trying to stop ourselves from being troubled. During the day we agonize over the slightest mishap, and at night we lose sleep over everything we have to do tomorrow. Where can we find some peace, some tranquility? The answer is, of course, in the Lord.

He can quiet our nervous and uneasy minds. He can bring rest to replace the restlessness. What we have to do is to stop running long enough to let him into our lives. We need to pause and feel his presence. He is with us each moment to help us. All we need to do is give him a chance. Just a few minutes of our time can make all the difference in our world.

Talking up or talking down
(Sunday, June 22)

Let’s be honest and admit it. We love to gossip. For some reason, most of us find delight in talking about others. Perhaps it is the intrigue or the news that captures our attention. Maybe we feel better about ourselves when we can demean those next to us.

Gossip comes in all forms, from saying “She has a good heart, but....” to “We need to pray for him because….” We try to hide or conceal our comments by covering them with good intentions. We may fool the rest of the world, but God can see right through our words. He can peer directly down into the center of our heart. He sees the core, and he knows our thoughts even before we think them.

Ironically, we can praise God at one moment and destroy someone the next. With the same tongue we glorify God and criticize our neighbors. Our praise to the Lord means nothing when it is mixed with hateful thoughts about a sister or brother.

We are no longer children. We have grown up and it is time for us to talk like mature adults, servants of God. We need to be people who love and forgive, not people who put down and condemn. Rather than hurting someone, we should be seeking ways to help them find the healing they need.

Grace
(Saturday, June 21)

The act of being gracious to others means extending grace to them. Grace is unmerited favor – something not earned, but given anyway.

Christ showed great grace and compassion to all, especially those who tried to deceive and trick him with their worldly wisdom. The Pharisees and Sadducees came against him over and over again. Each attack was more cunning and devious than the last. They accused him of all sorts of things, from healing on the Sabbath to not paying taxes. Each time, Jesus replied gently, without condemnation or accusation.

On our own, you and I may not be as kind and patient. We take attacks and incidents personally. When someone pulls out in front of us on the road, we want to correct that person. When people talk about us behind our back, we want to strike back at them. When those who know us suddenly forget who we are, we want to pay them back with the same kind of callous treatment.

What does Jesus tell us to do? “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you,” he says. “If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.” There is no compromise in the matter. Either we do what we want or what Jesus did. Being his follower means following his example of offering grace to those who do not deserve it.

He makes us
(Friday, June 20)

I often want more in my life rather than less. I seek more money, more time, more space, more recognition and more appreciation. All these are not good for me because they can cause more harm than anything else.

Jesus never sought money, time, space, recognition or appreciation. In fact, he eschewed each one. He knew the corruption that comes from money. He knew what idle time could do. He knew he did not need more room. Neither did he want recognition or appreciation from the world. All that mattered was what the Father wanted.

I know I would be a much better person if I took the same approach in my life as I do with my writing: Less is more. If there was less of me in all of my wants and wishes, then there would be more for God and his will.

Sometimes, I know I become too full of myself. When I do, I need to be reminded who created me and why I am here. It has everything to do with him and very little to do with me. Less of me and more of him.

Being less to become more
(Thursday, June 19)

The apostle John knew a simple formula for being God’s servant: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). Most people want it the other way around. By being important and wealthy, they think they can be a more effective servant.

When it comes to God, our approach needs to be like the tag line in a television program about buying property in Hawaii. “You don’t have to have money to live in Hawaii,” the announcer says, “you just have to want it.”

In the same way, you don’t have to be important or rich to serve God. You just have to want to serve him. Servanthood comes from the heart. Not from the wallet or fame. God must always come first. We must want more of him and less of us. We must act like Jesus when we get mad. We must talk like Jesus when we feel frustrated. We must think like Jesus when we want to think like ourselves.

God needs to be bigger than anything else in our lives. We must be nothing so he can be everything.

Being close to God
(Wednesday, June 18)

The nearer we are to God, the less that can distract us or hurt us. We must become so close that nothing can come between the two of us, not turmoil, suffering, rejection, loneliness, confusion, doubt or fear. As we go through life, we need to be like children who cling firmly and confidently to the hand of a mother or father. As long as the child does not let go, no harm can come.

The 12 disciples knew the value of being right next to Jesus. They walked with him, ate with him, prayed with him, healed with him, served with him, taught with him, talked with him and probably laughed with him as well. Though they were each different persons, they lived as one. They realized that as long as they stayed with Jesus nothing would happen to them. He would protect them in supernatural ways. With him by their side, no one could lay a hand on them or utter a single harsh word without his consent and knowledge.

Jesus makes the same promise to us. Behold, he says, I am with you always. He is there to keep us safe, to prevent us from being attacked by the world and to offer wisdom when we lack understanding. What Jesus began with the disciples, he continues through us today. He is no different now. We also have the chance to walk with him and talk with him.

Daily, he reaches out his hand to us. He will never let go. We have to be strong enough to hold on no matter what tries to pull us away.

The reflection in us
(Tuesday, June 17)

Loving others like Jesus is hard to do. So often we want to love people for what they do rather than what they are. There is an enormous difference between the two attitudes; they are completely opposite. One point of view is closed and judgmental. The other is open and accepting.

Jesus loved everyone, from simple sinners to Sadducees and Pharisees. He loved the poor, the unclean, the helpless, the scorners and the scoffers. He even loved the criminals who hung on crosses next to him. Not to mention those who condemned him and sentenced him to death. His love for all mankind was so great he was able to say, “Father forgive them,” with his last dying breath.

We are not as forgiving. We base our love on actions and words. What matters most to us is what people say or do. How easily we overlook that everyone, from the meekest to the mightiest, is a child of God. Each person is our sister and brother in Christ.

From my perspective, I would go so far as to say that unless we love people as we love Jesus, then we are not loving as we should. He is our example. His life should be a template for our own. He showed us how to look at the world as he did. Therefore, let us reflect his love for the world rather than our reflection of the people around us.

His great love
(Monday, June 16)

Father’s Day in the United States, Mexico, Canada, United Kingdom, Newfoundland and Labrador is a chance to to honor and pay respect to our fathers. We let them know how much we appreciate all they do. On this special day, millions of children and adults present gifts and cards to express their love and gratitude.

But the father across the street was celebrating the day by training his young son how to ride a little two-wheel bike. Up and down the street they went. Time and time again the father and son rode together, and then the son rode by himself with the father holding on to the seat. The father was always there to steady the bike and to push the boy up the slight hill.

To me, it was a wonderful word picture of our father in heaven. We worship and praise him all of the time, but he never sits back to rest and relax. He constantly watches over us and guides us even as we thank him.

Every day belongs to him. Yet, he spends his time giving his attention and protection to us. How amazing. “O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for his lovingkindness is everlasting” (1 Chronicles 16:34). Amen!

Seeking what we own
(Sunday, June 15)

Looking for happiness. Some look for happiness in their work, others seek happiness at home. People are always searching for happiness in one way or another: a new car, a vacation, an LCD television. There seems to be an endless longing for happiness in today’s culture, even among Christians. We, too, are easily tempted by the materialism all around us.

The happiness that we need, though, is not found “out there.” It is not in the workplace, in an expensive trip or even in an elaborate entertainment center. True happiness cannot be bought, yet it is one of the most valuable possessions in the world. We do not have to spend our time paying for it or wasting time to find it. God has already given us his happiness.

Sometimes we forget about the happiness that we received long ago, when we made the decision to give our lives to the Lord. Along with our new life came a new nature. At that moment, our constant search for happiness should have ended forever. We would never be unhappy again.

Jesus would not have told us so if it was not true. Peace I leave with you, he said. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. There is no need to keep pursuing what we own. We have his divine peace; it is a part of us and inside of us. Our happiness, then, is found in the peace we possess right now.

Meditate night and day
(Saturday, June 14)

Everything requires regular maintenance: cars, houses, even our bodies. For example, being outside during the summer requires drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated. Being mentally stressed requires a time to relax during the day. Being physically exhausted requires more rest and sleep.

What happens, though, when we get off course in our spiritual life? The problem, at least for most of us, is that we become run down throughout the week. On Sundays we are strong and committed to the Lord. But as the week goes on, we wear down. We forget what we heard during worship and the joy of praising God is no longer on our lips.

We need to spend time with the Lord each day. One day or one hour on Sunday is not enough. By the end of the week we will surely forget everything and be living like everyone else we see. We are supposed to be different, setting an example like Jesus.

“How blessed is the one who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,” says Psalm 1, “nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But her and his delight is in the law of the Lord. And in His law they meditate day and night. They will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; And in whatever they do, they prosper.”

The lesson is obvious. If we meditate on the Lord day and night, he will be on our mind night and day. And our spirit will never forget his way.

Unseen presence
(Friday, June 13)

What a comfort to know we are always in the Lord’s hands. That does not mean everything will turn out the way we would like, but it does mean that he is completely and continuously in charge. His protection is on each one of us every minute and he knows what we are going through. Nothing escapes his attention. Not our health, our work, our hardships or our frustrations.

We must learn to lean on him and trust him more. We also need to understand the many ways in which he takes care of us. This past weekend, God revealed a medical problem to me that I would not have known until it was too late. I had volunteered to donate blood. When I went to the Red Cross site, I was told my blood pressure was in the critical stage. I had no idea, but God did.

How many times each day does God show us his love and care? Maybe we are experiencing pain in some part of our body. While we might not think much about it, perhaps God is letting us know that we need to see a doctor. A small ache could be the telltale sign of something more serious. He is prompting us to act.

I was frustrated that I could not donate blood because of my blood pressure, especially after waiting for nearly two hours. But it made me go to the doctor immediately. A disappointment turned out to be a good thing in disguise. God was watching over me even when I was not conscious of his presence.

Go and Tell
(Thursday, June 12)

Everyone is familiar with Show and Tell. What if there was a slight change to call it Go and Tell? "Go into all the world,” Jesus said to his followers, “and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15). As his disciples today, our role is clear. We need to Go and Tell about Jesus, and the difference he makes in our lives.

The demon-possessed man certainly had an incredible story to tell. Jesus cleansed him by casting out his demons into a herd of 2,000 pigs. Mark tells us the swine “rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned” (Mark 5:13). Immediately, the man wanted to go everywhere with Jesus. The master, however, had other plans for him.

“’Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you,’ Jesus said, ‘and how he has had mercy on you.’ So the man went away and began to tell . . . how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed” (Mark 5:19-20).

You, too, have wondrous stories to tell about Jesus. He wants you to share his greatness with others. Although you may desire to spend all of your time inside the church serving your sisters and brothers in the faith, maybe he is telling you to Go and Tell. Go out into the community and tell “how he has had mercy on you.” Others will be amazed and they will believe in him because of what you have said.

Doing the most good
(Wednesday, June 11)

Where God puts us at certain times is not always where we want to be. There are days when he has to place us in difficult or adverse situations. Sometimes it hurts when we have to follow his needs above our own. But we must be obedient if we want to serve him best.

I saved a greeting card that was given to me once. It reminds me of who I am supposed to be for him. The opening verses read, “He’s always putting you right where He needs you to be. And you’re always doing what He needs you to do.” To be honest, there are many occasions when I fail him.

You and I need to remember our life is all about him. He puts us where we will do the most good. Not necessarily what will feel good.

Rational emotion
(Tuesday, June 10)

Thoughts and ideas come from many sources and places. At times, we want to do something because we are moved by our feelings. On other occasions, we take action because of our moods. Still, there are situations when we reason with logic how best to proceed.

Proverbs 23:7 explains that, “As you think in your heart, so are you” (Proverbs 23:7). I am no theologian or Biblical scholar, but the phrase seems to imply that our true self is made up of a deliberate combination of heart and mind. We may experience sensations produced by the heart and, yet, we also must be prompted to act by our right thoughts.

That is to say, the heart and mind are co-dependent and co-equal. Both make up our composition. Both determine who and what we are. Our thoughts and reactions are constantly determined by the sentiments coming from our heart that have first been formed by our godly intellect. When our head and heart are joined together in unity, God can accomplish amazing things.

His gifts for our good
(Monday, June 9)

Think of what God has done for you. Not just in the past few days, but throughout your life. He has blessed all of us beyond measure. Listen to what Jesus said about our gracious Father in heaven: “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11).

My granddaughter and I spent the entire day together recently. We made breakfast, went to a wildlife center, jogged around a lake, shopped for two stuffed kittens, had lunch and dinner at her favorite restaurants, played at the park and I put gas in the car while she washed the windows. It was a full day. She fell asleep in the car as I drove her home. Years from now she might not remember everything I did with her. She will recall the fun she had; how happy and content she was that day.

We, too, may not be able to list all the things God has done for us. What is important, though, is to know that all of our good gifts have come from him. What he gives us is a hundred times more valuable than anything we offer to our children and grandchildren. His gifts are meant to last an entire lifetime. Not just a couple of hours or a day.

We have a great Father who loves us far beyond anything in the world. May we begin this day looking for his good to come our way.

Words of support
(Sunday, June 8)

One of the main elements that the modern church seems to have forgotten is what Paul emphasized in the first of his many letters to fellow believers. He was writing to those in Thessalonica to help them in their faith. Therefore encourage one another, he said, and build each other up (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

For all intents and purposes, we have overlooked what God said to us through Paul. Our Father tells us – he commands us, in fact – to encourage and build each other up. Yet, we fail to do anything at all. We miss one opportunity after another to further God’s kingdom (and people) here on earth. You and I have numerous chances each day to encourage our sisters and brothers. Perhaps we do not notice them because we are too busy taking care of our own needs. We often take of ourselves first, others second.

What Paul is saying is for us to put others first and ourselves last. The only way to edify others is for us to humble ourselves – to be willing to put our desires aside for the sake and benefit of those around us. If we do as Paul writes, the body of Christ will be enlarged and strengthened as it should. We will become a part of something that is much greater and larger than the whole of its parts.

There will be many chances today to support and cheer one another. You will only realize the opportunities if you are looking for them. Keep your eyes, ears and heart open to what God wants you to do through a word or two of encouragement. As we take the time to build up others, we are building up ourselves in the process.

An amazing gift
(Saturday, June 7)

Let others take the credit and the recognition. You do the work. What should it matter if the world does not always acknowledge all of the good we are doing, whether it is at home, in the community, in the church or even in the workplace?

Our motivation for anything should be pleasing the Lord and making him happy. Yes, there will be times when our service goes completely unnoticed by everyone, maybe even our own families. But let us never think, not for a second, that people do not appreciate us. Do we usually say thanks for everything that everyone does for us?

We are familiar with the words of Jesus when he talks about serving: “The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these sisters and brothers of mine, you did for me'” (Matthew 25:40). Regarding this often quoted scripture, Albert Barnes, the 19th century American theologian wrote that, “How great is the condescension and kindness of the Judge of the world, thus to reward our actions, and to consider what we have done to the poor as done to him!”

God knows each one of our works, and he rewards us by transforming our mundane actions for people into miraculous acts for him. An amazing gift for us, indeed.

Guarding his word
(Friday, June 6)

All of us hide items we treasure. We want to keep them safe and make sure they are not stolen. One of our most valuable possessions is God’s word. “I have hidden your word in my heart,” says Psalm 119:11, “ that I might not sin against you.”

Above all else, we want to protect and safeguard what God has said to us. So we keep it deep in our heart where it is secure. No one and no thing can take him away from us. His word is inside of us despite what is going on outside. We can uncover his promises of assurance, encouragement and strength whenever we need them.

Habakkuk was one who relied on what he knew about God rather than what he was experiencing. In the 7th century B.C., he watched his country crumble before his eyes. “How long, Lord, must I call for help,” he said, “but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!’ but you do not save?” (Habakkuk 1:2). To make matters worse, God then told Habakkuk he was going to send the wicked Chaldeans to destroy what was left of the land and the people. Habakkuk continued to cry out against the injustice. In the end, there was nothing more Habakkuk could do, but to bow his head in reverence. “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,” he prayed, “I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights” (Habakkuk 3:8-9).

The prophet certainly had the word of God hidden in his heart. And it was there when he needed it most. Maybe you are facing a time of time and trouble; you do not understand what God is doing because it doesn’t make sense. Look at his word hidden in your heart and take heart. God will take care of everything.

One letter
(Thursday, June 5)

Just one small letter – y – separates your from our. It is the difference between your life in Christ and our lives together in God’s kingdom. What we do individually is important, of course. But what we do as one body is even more meaningful.

Jesus said apart from him we can do nothing. I think, too, that apart from one another we can do very little either. God needs all of us to complete his work and we require one another. One person cannot do it alone. Two or three cannot do it. We must have everyone – each person that God has made in order to reach the nations.

Your task is unlike mine. Still, our service together complements what we do for the Lord. We are like laborers in the field. Each one of us must work in unison and severally to take in the crop. Your work may be to cut down the wheat while mine might be to gather it up. As we join together in one common purpose, we harvest our field.

Your work and mine are necessary for our service to him. This way of thinking imparts deeper meaning into what Jesus told his disciples: “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them." Our separate lives are complete when he is with us, for he makes us one out of many.

Our treasure
(Wednesday, June 4)

We can only find ourselves by losing ourselves. When we give away our time, service or even something that we own, we find who we really are in Christ.

I had a favorite CD that I played over and over at home as well as in the car. One day I felt the Lord telling me to give it away to a friend. No way, I thought. She had the very same CD, but she lost it somewhere. I recalled her showing me the empty container a few days ago when I was in her office. I kept trying to ignore this prompting from God. It would not go away.

Finally, I agree to give up the CD if I saw this woman in the hallway when I went upstairs at work a few minutes later. Sure enough. She was there. I turned around and went back for the CD. At the time, I was not overjoyed. By the end of the day, I felt good because I know how much this music meant to her. It was an album with Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman. I miss it, but I can hear each song clearly in my head to this day.

Once again, I learned that everything we have in life is a gift from God. He expects us to share his earthly treasures with everyone. After all, our true treasure is in heaven with him.

Deleting old messages
(Tuesday, June 3)

I recently deleted, forever, the outdated messages in my email folders. I had stored up more than 10,000 emails, many with attachments, over the past year. It took some time to get rid of all this junk mail, but the effort was worthwhile. My computer, especially my email program, ran twice as fast once the old stuff from the past was completely gone. I also gained one gigabyte of free space.

Our lives are similar. From hour to hour and year to year, we carry around all sorts of useless stuff we have collected or received: regrets, mistakes, humiliation, anger and sorrow. We never realize how much these things slow us down and wear us down. No doubt this is the reason why on some days we feel like we are crawling, not soaring like eagles as God intends.

This day is a perfect opportunity to delete the old messages and memories. It may take some time, but the work will pay off. You will be able to do much more for the Lord because you will not be carrying around the past. The items you have stored up will be erased forever, and you will be free to move forward without any baggage. In addition, you will have more room in your life and mind for the things that truly matter.

Our lives run so much better when we throw away all of the clutter and mess. There is no need to store up what we do not use.

Stressing the story
(Monday, June 2)

People everywhere these days, especially in huge corporations, want to stay cutting edge on all fronts. They demand the latest equipment, designs, strategies and technology. Entrepreneurs around the world set up proactive practices and invent ways to be more interactive. The results, however, are not always successful. Rather than being cutting edge, individuals and companies are simply on the edge.

In some respects, the same could be said of the church. Often, we try to use the business approach to praising God. We have cameras, screens, microphones, 1,000-watt speakers, PowerPoint, videos, tweeting, praise songs, electric bands and shout-out sermons. Nothing in our sanctuaries is old, except for some of the people. Everything is the newest and hottest. Next week or month, it will all be replaced by more innovative tools and models.

The irony is that the message of the cross is 2,000 years old. The account of the chosen people is older still. God’s story is timeless, yet we attempt to make it timelier. We try to make his Word fit into our age and culture, rather than transforming ourselves to accept the Biblical values of trust, faith, belief and obedience.

Maybe we have reached the point where we need to forget about being cutting edge. Placing too much importance on the wrong things, after all, could put us on the edge. Let’s get back to the old, old story of Jesus and his love. The theme is simple, but the meaning is strong. Let’s put the emphasis where it belongs: on the message rather than on the medium.

His grace is sufficient for you
(Sunday, June 1)

We always have more. . . . more strength, more patience and more understanding. The problem is we usually give up; we lose our desire to exercise more of what God can give us—if we ask him.

The result is we become far less than we should be. We get mad. We get angry. We start to worry and we get frustrated. We rely on our own abilities and forget that the Lord is always there to help.

Perhaps these scriptures will enable us to slow down the next time reach the end of our rope. “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing” (Psalm 23:1). “And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8). “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).

May you discover that you have more than enough of what you need in any situation. God is there for us just as he was for St. Paul when he said, “My grace is sufficient for you.”

Re-formed
(Saturday, May 31)

Being conformed to God’s will allows us to be reformed in his image. You and I cannot be like him until we give in to him, and unless we accept his ways. Once we are able to be molded into what he wants, then we are reformed in all parts of our life.

Desire and discipline go hand in hand. One without the other will not work. First, there needs to be a desire to change. Second, there must be a requisite for change. The whole process is what shapes our will into his. This is how we become one with him; it also is the only way he can live in us.

But we often lack the control we require to be reformed. We want to change, yet we do not wish to go through the rigors of being restrained. We want a method that is painless and effortless. There are no easy fixes, though, for becoming more like Jesus. We will have to suffer for him.

In the end, when God is finished, we will be a new creature. We will be recreated and ready to do whatever he asks. All that we once were is vanished. In its place is a disciplined spirit. What began as a desire to please him is now a perfected heart to gratify him.

Thinking ahead
(Friday, May 30)

Today is preparation for tomorrow. What we do today sets the stage for what will happen tomorrow or the next day. Unfortunately, too many times we focus only on what we are doing right at this moment. We fail to stop long enough to ponder the effects of our actions, words or thoughts.

Over time, even a small matter can become a major obstacle if we are not careful. A misguided step or two today can lead us off in the wrong direction tomorrow. A thoughtless phrase said in haste one day may separate us from a loved one in the future. A responsibility put off for today will mean more work tomorrow. A negative thought one moment will most likely determine our thinking and outlook next week.

God does not want us to worry about the future. He does, however, want us to realize the importance of each event in our lives. Instead of always looking at the cause of our problems, we need to concentrate on the effect of our reaction. When we truly understand the consequences of what we are doing right now, then we are preparing ourselves for the way we need to live tomorrow.

Running the race for him
(Thursday, May 29)

The Olympics were incredible! But these weren’t the ordinary Olympics. These were the Olympics where my granddaughter attends elementary school. For two hours, these future nurses, attorneys, managers and politicians competed in the bean bag toss, the hula hoop, jump rope, tug of war, sack race and the crab walk. Each of the kindergartners, first and second graders put everything into every event.

The lesson here was like that in the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard in Matthew 20. All of the laborers—whether they began early in the morning, at 9 a.m., noon or 3 p.m.—received the same. Similarly, all of the children competing in the Olympics received the same recognition. It did not matter to the parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and teachers if a child placed first, second or last. The important part was the children participated. In a way, all of them were winners and each one received a certificate from the principal!

God loves and cares for us because we are his children—his own flesh and blood. It does not matter when we accepted Jesus as our savior or what we have accomplished for the world. The important thing is we have come to him out of a sincere desire to let him direct our lives.

In the end, what matters most is how much we put into serving him, not how much we did for ourselves. In fact, it does not even make a difference how much money we have. All he cares about is that we ran the race for him.

Help me, Lord
(Wednesday, May 28)

My prayer today is for strength. I need your peace. I need your comfort. I trust you, Lord, though I don’t understand. I believe you Father, yet I am confused. I have faith in you God, despite my fears.

When I pause to consider how big you are, I wonder why I doubt at all. After all, you are the Creator of the universe, the Creator of life and the Creator of me. Why is it that I so often lose my hope even when I know you are all these things?

You are in control of each and every situation. No matter what occurs, you do not leave me or abandon me. You do not make me an orphan. You remain faithful, like a loving Father who protects and cares for his children. You are ever-lasting all the days of my life.

Even now, if I have any reason or cause to question you, I ask your help. Forgive my weakness. Grant me your might and courage. On my own, I would surely give up. But with you, I shall endure. Even more, I will overcome because of you!

The world takes, but God gives
(Tuesday, May 27)

God is radically different than the rest of the world. Everywhere we go, people want to take something from us whether it is our money, our time or our happiness. God, however, wants to give us everything. He offers strength, encouragement, perseverance and, most of all, love.

God could have left the Israelites in captivity. Instead, he gave them freedom. God could have let Jonah keep running away, but he gave him another chance. God could have condemned David for his sin, yet he forgave him.

I recall the many times God gave me more than I deserved: my wife, my children and grandchildren, honest friends, a career as a teacher and parents who taught me the importance of faith, worship and service.

God does not want to take anything from us. Rather, he wants to shower us with his goodness. “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name. For the Lord is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations” (Psalm 100:4-5). May we praise him today and every day for all we have; without him we would have only what the world gives us.

Great monuments
(Monday, May 26)

Churches all over the world show what people can do when God is working through them. Some structures are tiny chapels, some are modest auditoriums and others are magnificent shrines that soar into the heavens. St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, the Milan Cathedral and the Duomo in Florence symbolize the greatness of God’s power and might.

But the greatest work of all is us. You and me. Each one of us is an individual masterpiece. Our bodies and our lives are the very workmanship of the Creator. We are fearfully and wonderfully made – made in the image of God himself and designed to do his work. Our flesh is his living body on earth.

Recall the words of St. Paul in his loving letter to the Ephesians: “For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” God made each one of us for a specific time, purpose and meaning. We are a part of his grand design to spread the good news of salvation to the four corners of the world.

What a remarkable structure we are. We can breathe, move, talk, think, hear and see. God has certainly poured out his excellence in us. We are living monuments to greatness. We are holy temples of the Most High.

Judge with your heart
(Sunday, May 25)

Jesus said, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment” (John 7:24). Most of the time our decisions are framed by poor or wrong judgments. Right judgment rarely enters our minds automatically; we have to work at it because our eyes can easily deceive us.

Remember when Susan Boyle first appeared on television? The audience actually laughed at her! But the moment she began singing there was stunned silence. All of the sudden, the mocking turned into sheer amazement. Everyone thought she couldn’t sing at all because of the way she looked.

Another of God’s miracles is Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwo'ole. If you have never heard him, check out this video as he sings “Somewhere Over The Rainbow.” I would travel anywhere just to see and hear IZ in concert! Sadly, he is gone; IZ died in 1997.

Countless times we have heard the idiom, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” If we do, then we are basing our entire conclusion about the book simply by the title or an illustration. What about the hundreds of pages that may reveal new and exciting things for us? Use the right judgment that the good Lord gave you and learn to see God’s way—with your heart.

In times of trouble
(Saturday, May 24)

I enjoy being inside my house when it is raining. Safe from the water and cold outdoors, I can relax knowing I will not get wet. It is a secure feeling.

We should feel the same way when we seek refuge in God. We can rest comfortably, realizing that nothing can touch us. Yes, we can see the trials and difficulties everywhere we look, but for the moment we are sheltered and protected. God surrounds us on all sides.

Being in God is like being inside, away from the tempests of life. “The Lord has become my fortress, and my God the rock in whom I take refuge” (Psalm 94:22).

We never know when a storm will come up. A sudden downpour could threaten us at any moment. No matter. God is always there. He is our refuge in times of trouble.

Let's play I Spy
(Friday, May 23)

The preschool children were having great fun playing the game I Spy. “I spy something red, white and blue,” said one child. A flag. ”I spy something green and flat,” exclaimed another. The grass. “I spy something white in the sky,” a third yelled. A cloud. Everyone was spying something different.

What if we, as adults and Christians, played I Spy as we go through the day? “I spy someone who is patient.” “I spy someone who is kind.” “I spy someone who is helping others.” “I spy someone who is happy.” In no time at all, our outlook on life would change—dramatically. We would be spying the good things rather than searching for the bad.

“I have come so that you might have life,” Jesus said, “and that you might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). To have a richer, fuller life we need to concentrate on what is good. Ignore the negative and the nasty. Overlook whatever might steal your gladness.

Are you ready to play the grown-up version of I Spy? “I spy someone who is full of joy.” Yes, it’s Elinor. “I spy someone who is a great encourager.” You’re right; it’s Maryanne. “I spy someone who helps everyone.” You guessed it; it’s Grace. Now it’s your turn. What do you spy?

Sorting good from bad
(Thursday, May 22)

Each day needs to be sorted out, with us separating the good from the bad. Dividing what is useful from what is not needs to be a constant and continuous practice.

It is much like sorting the mail. We must go through a stack of items six times a week, picking out the bills and messages that are important. The rest we throw away; if we did not, all of the advertisements, brochures and solicitations would quickly fill an entire room.

Unfortunately, when it comes to our thoughts and emotions, we do the opposite. We save most everything. Day after day, we put more into our mind until it becomes too full for the things of God.

Maybe it is high time to organize ourselves into what we should be doing for the Lord from what we are doing for ourselves. Throw out everything that is not useful, helpful and necessary. We certainly don’t need to save a stack of concerns every day.

Instant recall
(Wednesday, May 21)

Jesus taught us the way. Do this, he says to us, as I have shown you. Jesus tells us to follow in his footsteps and to let him lead us. Yet there are times when I claim to forget his example. Most of us, however, do not forget Jesus. What we do is to make a decision, consciously or subconsciously, to ignore him.

It occurred to me the other morning, as I was washing the dishes and putting everything back in the proper place, that I could remember exactly where each item belonged. I did not even have to think about where to put the pans, the forks, the cups and the plates. I have programmed myself to know. Plus, I use these things almost every day. I probably could not forget what went in each space even if I tried.

If I can recall something so basic and simple, how is it that I can forget how to act at times? I can get into an argument or insult someone, and then convince myself that I suddenly forgot the commandment to love others as myself. The truth is that I have decided to reject the right thing in favor of what I feel like doing.

I am not fooling anyone, most of all the Lord, when I say I forget his teachings. I remember all right. It's just that I favor my way rather than his.

You are the bridge to him
(Tuesday, May 20)

Those who toiled day after day for four years on the Golden Gate Bridge could never have envisioned the impact of their work. In their wildest dreams, they probably did not imagine the millions (maybe billions) of people who would benefit from their dedication and service.

As Christians, we are building bridges, too. Our labor for the Lord now will pave the way for those in the future. Maybe it is something we write, something we do or something we say that will help others cross the bridge someday to putting their trust in Jesus.

The stories we have heard from our childhood, whether in the Bible or from our own past, have given us the foundation to believe in Jesus. Perhaps it was the account of Abraham who had so much faith in God that he was willing to sacrifice his own son. Possibly it was the marvelous testimony of a church member long ago who played the church organ every Sunday for more than 40 years.

Only God knows how our service will make a difference in the decades ahead. We can be sure of two things, though. First, he knows what each person will need years from now. Second, he is using us today to build a bridge for him to reach them tomorrow.

Rising above tragedy
(Monday, May 19)

Because of who we are and whose we are, we should be making the world better. On many occasions, we make things worse. We contribute to the problem. We react much like anyone else by getting upset, blaming others, and harboring angry thoughts. It is time we got over our natural instincts and live the way we have been taught. We need to rise above ourselves and take the higher road – God’s high way.

Recently, a two-year-old boy in our area drowned. It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon and the family was enjoying an outing at a park. Somehow the boy wandered off on his own. Only minutes later, he was found dead in the lake.

I was saddened and upset by the tragedy. As a father, I cannot even fathom how the parents felt. Their son was gone forever, at two years old. What made matters worse, though, were the comments that people made online about the boy’s death. Was anyone watching this boy, someone asked. The parents are to blame, said another. Someone should be arrested.

All of the blame, accusations and regrets will not bring this boy back. The only thing we can do at this point is to pray for the parents and family. They are already suffering. Let’s not make their agony even greater by accusing them of actually killing their own son. Jesus taught us to comfort one another in our grief, not to condemn. This death should not have happened, but we cannot change the outcome. What we can change, however, is how we react now. Either we act out of love or out of anger. We already know what Jesus would do.

You are a work of art
(Sunday, May 18)

“For we are God's masterpiece,” says the New Living Translation (Ephesians 2:10). “He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Maybe you have never thought of yourself as a masterpiece. One popular online dictionary defines the word as “a person's greatest piece of work, as in an art.”

The painting of Mona Lisa is a masterpiece by Da Vinci. The statue of David is a masterpiece by Michelangelo. The Fifth Symphony is a masterpiece by Beethoven. And you are a living masterpiece by God.

Think about all that God has put into you. He created every part of you: your arms, ears, eyes, legs, feet and hands. In addition, he molded your heart, mind and everything inside your body. Then he breathed life into you and designed a perfect plan so you could use all of your talents to serve him.

“I will praise Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Thy works, and that my soul knoweth right well” (Psalm 139:14). Indeed, we have reason to glorify God for we are his masterpiece.

Run your race
(Saturday, May 17)

It was hard to tell which was older: the car or the man driving it. Down the street chugged a black, Model T Ford with a very elderly man behind the wheel. The scene was like something out of a movie. What made the event even more unique was they were travelling along a street lined with old oak trees and 80-year-old houses!

Amazingly, both the car and man were still in fit, running condition after all these years. I thought of what is subtitled “The Race of Faith” in Hebrews 12:1-2. “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

In spite of everything, we need to keep going in life. We must not let anything hold us back from finishing the race that has been set before us. We are to put aside difficulty, adversity, even sin to finish what we have been called to do. To give us strength to endure, we are to keep our sights fixed on Jesus; he is both our example and savior.

You can make it through this day and the weeks ahead. You will be able to finish your race as God has planned. Just remember where you are headed and what awaits you at the finish line—a glorious new life in heaven with him!

You will have trouble
(Friday, May 16)

There are times in life when we simply lose our focus. We lose sight of who we are in God and become fixed on who we are in the world. When difficulties or obstacles arise, we can’t see the forest for the trees because we are obsessed with where we are at the moment.

As my wife says, when it rains it pours. On one recent day, we learned that replacing the sewer line from our house to the street (due to tree roots) will cost $6,800. The same day, we found out a rusted electrical panel in our basement will cost about $1,500 to replace. Finally, a routine oil change on our VW is going to cost $400 because the last mechanic stripped the drain plug; now we need a new oil pan and plug.

By the end of the day, we were so overwhelmed with our problems that we thought about selling our house. We completely forgot about what Jesus said: "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). We had given away his peace and replaced it with our worry. Instead of counting our many blessings, we were counting our many troubles.

Whenever we are too close to a situation, we overlook the big picture. We need to take some time to put things back into perspective. We have family and friends who love us; we have food to eat and clothes to wear; we have a God who watches over us daily; and we have his promise of salvation. Yes, my wife and I have encountered a few more troubles in the world. But we will overcome them because Jesus has already overcome the world!

Known by our love
(Thursday, May 15)

To most of society, we are a group of radical renegades. We are part of a religious cult bent on changing the world. We talk about a God who created everything in the universe and a Son who came to earth to save all mankind. We also call upon a Holy Spirit to heal the sick and help the hopeless.

Many people do not understand what we are all about, just as those living 2,000 years ago did not comprehend the teachings of Jesus. They had no idea what he was talking about, but they could see something in him that did make sense. He was always kind, compassionate and caring. He cured illnesses and diseases, and he spent time with the downcast and the poor.

As Christians today, we are to follow Jesus’ example. Spreading the Good News of the gospel begins with being patent and gentle. What we have to share with the world is the very Word of God—something that many people do not know. It is a message that is both strange and wonderful. The best way to communicate the love of God is for us to be loving wherever we go.

We may still appear strange, but at least people will recognize one thing. They will know us by our love.

He is our rock
(Wednesday, May 14)

Today’s devotion is late because I spent three hours this morning praying for our 11-month-old grandson. He fell from a kitchen table and had to be rushed to the hospital. After a thorough examination, the doctors said he was fine and there was no permanent damage. Praise the Lord!

I felt the Holy Spirit prompting me to pray and not do anything else. I prayed for little Henry over and over again. I prayed in my own words and also with the prayer Jesus taught us. I found new meaning in the sentence, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” More than anything, I asked the Lord to heal him with his love.

Some of the time I also said nothing and listened to the still, small voice of God giving me comfort and peace despite my worry. Each day, I learn more about the goodness and grace of God. He is, indeed, everything we read in the Bible and more.

Without him I would have been lost and upset this morning. With him I found love, courage and strength. May we always look to him and count on him when our hearts are troubled. He is our rock: we can hold on to him when everything in our lives suddenly gives way beneath our feet. Amen!

One universal message
(Tuesday, May 13)

There is one central theme throughout the entire Bible. Book after book, chapter after chapter and page after page, the main message is all about love. From the creation of the world through the exodus of the Hebrews to the resurrection of our Savior to the journeys of Paul, love is the holy and invisible presence of God himself.

We only have to look at some of the stories to see God’s great love for Adam and Eve, Abraham, Moses, David, Ruth, Joseph, Naomi, Job, Solomon, Elijah, Mary, Lazarus, and each one of the disciples. Then there are all of the saints during the past 2,000 years. They are too many to number.

In each case, love is at the core of every being. It is the very center of life itself. Out of love, God created us. Out of love, God sustains us. Out of love, God protects us. Out of love, God uses us. Out of love, God saves us. Out of love, we serve him. Out of love, we live for him.

No doubt this tremendous power of love is why St. Paul could write these words with such knowledge and confidence: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13: 4-8).

Love is all embracing and all encompassing. It is everything seen and unseen. When we dwell in love, we live in God and he lives in us.

The church
(Monday, May 12)

Upon this rock, Jesus said to Peter, I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. The Savior says the same to each one of us today. He is depending on us to build his church here on earth.

We have an incredible responsibility both to the kingdom and to God. What happens or does not happen is up to us. Either we stand with Jesus or we fall alone. As much as we might want to run away or deny Jesus at times (as Peter most certainly did), the truth is that we made a commitment to God himself.

Our spiritual faith must always be stronger than our physical fears. Christ is building a church that will last forever, not one that is subject to earthly decay and destruction.

The foundation was created 2,000 years ago. Jesus now commissions you and me to continue building. Peter is the rock, but we are the stones that will make the church rise high into the heavens.

Heaven is for real
(Sunday, May 11)

It is just like God to reveal the magnificence of heaven to a child. “Heaven is for real” is the true story of four-year-old Colton who visited heaven while doctors were operating on him. The movie shows how this young boy saw angels, Jesus and his great, great grandfather. The main part of story, though, deals with whether people can accept that heaven is for real or not.

Listen to what Jesus told his disciples about heaven. “Do not let your hearts be troubled,” he said. “You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going” (John 4:1-4).

The telling phrase is the last sentence: “You know the way to the place where I am going.” We know, of course, that Jesus is the way. Through him we find heaven. But first we must believe in him and believe what he says as the gospel truth.

He is there now, preparing a place for each one of us. Jesus told us there are many rooms in his father’s house and we have his word on it. What more do we need?

Everywhere with God
(Saturday, May 10)

Life can be funny. Not in a laughable way, but in a strange or odd sense. Take the case of Paul Brown, the legendary owner and coach of the Cleveland Browns. In the 1956 NFL draft, Brown wanted to pick Len Dawson, a quarterback at Purdue. As luck would have it, Dawson was chosen first by another team. So Brown had to settle for Jim Brown from Syracuse University. Now we know that Jim Brown is the best player who has ever lived!

We can never tell what will happen in life, and we cannot always count on getting our way. What we want does not always become what we get. But what we do have is God constantly watching over us and leading us. We can trust him to be with us no matter what happens.

When something does not turn out the way we had hoped, we need to step back and allow God to help us make the very best of the situation. God is able to turn anything around. Look at what he did with so many people in the Bible. The greatest example is the Israelites. God took them out of captivity in Egypt to the Promised Land. They went from making bricks to making synagogues and temples to praise the Lord.

“Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain” (Psalm 127:1). May you let the Lord build your house and your life. Allow him to watch over you wherever you go and everything will turn out fine.

Praying rather than judging
(Friday, May 9)

My heart sinks each time I hear of a sister or brother in the faith who has acted badly. Recently, a television preacher answered a woman’s question about her failing marriage. He told her she “must have had the discernment of a slug” for choosing the man she did. An evangelist on another channel said God told him to tell people, “You who are listening right now, God is speaking to you. He wants you to go to the phone and give $300 to this ministry.”

It is hard not to get angry when we hear of such examples. Our initial reaction is to strike out at those who offend or deceive people, especially in the name of Christ. Remember, though, we are not called to condemn or judge others. Instead, we are supposed to pray for them. We need to pray that the woman in the first example is guided and helped by the Lord himself. For the evangelist who was seeking $300 from each person, we need to pray that God will speak directly to those who wonder if they should send an offering.

As Paul wrote to the people of Rome, “So do you think that you can judge those other people? You are wrong. You too are guilty of sin. You judge them, but you do the same things they do. So when you judge them, you are really condemning yourself. God judges all who do such things, and we know his judgment is right” (Romans 2:1-2).

Most certainly, Paul did not mince words. And with good reason. He wanted to make sure individuals knew that judging others makes them just as evil and wrong. Let’s use the power of prayer whenever we are tempted to use the impulse of condemnation. Everyone will be better off and God will be pleased.

Listen to your shepherd
(Thursday, May 8)

We serve the Lord joyfully when we are called to do something we like. But what happens when he stretches us and asks us to help him in a different way? Maybe it is doing something we do not enjoy at all. What is our attitude then? Do we serve with gladness or sadness?

I know a man who is the lead housekeeper for one of the largest buildings at a major university. He does not particularly enjoy his job at times, but he knows God has called him there. And, he is great at what he does! He puts his all, every ounce of his talent and energy, into everything. It does not matter if he is cleaning restrooms or polishing a marble floor. His attitude and work shine for the Lord.

“Serve the Lord with gladness,” wrote the psalmist, “come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture” (Psalm 100:2-3).

We can only be his people, sheep of his pasture, if we are willing to listen to our shepherd. We must hear and obey, trusting that the one whom we follow truly knows what is best for us in every task and situation.

The difference is inside (Wednesday, May 7)

Christ makes all things new. He removes the past, the old and the immoral. In its place, he brings forgiveness, renewal and rebirth. Everything inside of us changes.

The exterior of the 70-year-old house my wife and I bought last year has remained the same. Inside, however, we have put in a new bathroom, installed granite countertops in the kitchen, added wood floors and carpeting, purchased new furniture and replaced all of the old windows. To people driving by each day the house is no different. What has gone on indoors is another story.

Our lives are similar. To those who knew us years ago, we might look the same albeit a little older. They might pass us on the street and think nothing is different about us. We look like the same dull, foolish person they knew in high school, college or at our first job. They would have no idea of the changes that have occurred inside our heart because of Christ.

Think of what Saul, who later became Paul, went through when people saw him after his conversion. He still looked the same, but he had been completely changed inside. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Paul spoke from experience when he wrote to the church in Corinth. He did not worry about what people thought about his outward appearance, and neither should we. Like Paul, we may look the same, but inside we are new creations in Christ.

God wants you to follow through
(Tuesday, May 6)

Is there something you don’t want to do? Whether you made a commitment months ago or recently told someone you would help with a project, the time has now come to follow through. All the same, your heart is not in it and you would rather stay home or go someplace else.

Jonah wanted to run away from his commitment. Even though the Lord commanded him to go to Nineveh, he headed toward Tarshish to get away. In the end, Jonah confessed to the men on the ship that the storm was his fault. “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” Jonah cried, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you” (Jonah 1:12). He learned the hard way.

Adam and Eve also followed their own will. “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden,” God said, “but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:16-17). At first, they tried to hide from the Lord and then they were sent out of the garden forever.

A word to the wise should be sufficient. Many times we are called to do something we don’t want to do. Let us remember that a little decision today can have big consequences tomorrow. Not only for us, but for others as well.

Doing everything we can
(Monday, May 5)

God has blessed me with more than four additional decades of life. It is a miracle I was not shot to death at Kent State University 44 years ago on May 4, 1970. Two of the four students killed by the National Guard were just yards away from me. But I was kept safe even though I did not take cover behind the cars in the Taylor Hall parking lot.

As I reflect on that day, I wonder what I have done with the extra time the Lord has given me. I could say I have written a book of devotions. I could cite my online devotional website that I have kept going daily for the past 10 years. I could say I have been a church elder since 1980, chaired two pastor nominating committees, served on numerous boards, taught at three Christian universities, gone on a missions trip with a youth group and tried to help students in my classes realize their potential.

These are all well and good, but not nearly enough. I should have done so much more. Thank God that we do not have to win eternal life through good works. All of us would fail miserably. Remember what Jesus said about salvation? “’Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’ When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, ‘Who then can be saved?’ Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible’” (Matthew 19:23-26).

Clearly, we cannot save ourselves and we cannot earn our way into heaven. We don’t deserve salvation, yet we have it because of God’s grace. In the same way, I did not merit another 44 years of life. My prayer today is that I will spend all of my remaining days on earth doing everything I can for the one who gave me everything.

Time to understand time
(Sunday, May 4)

Life is short. Time goes by in the blink of an eye. The Rev. Billy Graham once told a group of young people, “The greatest surprise in life to me is the brevity of life." That was 27 years ago. No doubt the occasion seems light-years away from today for those college students back then, but only yesterday to Billy.

The older we become, the more we value life and the more we do not want to waste any of it. Yet, at the same time, we are human. We can quickly forget that our days and years are numbered. We live as though we will be on this planet forever. We get mad with someone; we become upset; we worry too much. Too often, I forget I have much less time left than I have lived.

I am not sure what Albert Einstein meant when he said, “Time is an illusion.” In one sense, time can deceive us. When I get mad, for example, I completely ignore the time I am throwing away. Conversely, when I am enjoying myself, I want time to slow down—as if to make the moment last longer. Either way, the seconds and minutes tick by the same.

We need to change both our perspective and way of thinking about time. All of the time we have is a present from God himself. It is not a right, but a precious gift. May we come to understand, sooner than later, to treasure this amazing present from the Lord rather than always giving it away.

The warning signs (Saturday, May 3)

Orange barrels dot the highways and roads everywhere. They remind us that there is construction ahead and we must slow down. We need to be careful not only for our protection, but also for the safety of those who are working just a few feet away from where we are driving.

God does not put orange barrels in our spiritual life, but he does let us know when we are approaching danger. Maybe we are getting close to being angry or upset. Perhaps we are going to encounter a difficult situation. God warns us whenever we need to slow down or go a different way. We do not always pay attention, though. It is easy to ignore his still, small voice inside of us in the midst of our noisy lives.

Proverbs 3:5-6 says to, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

As long as we are always letting the Lord guide us, we do not need physical things like orange barrels to get our attention. We all know when God is whispering in our ear. The question is whether we will slow down long enough to do what he says. Or will we keep on racing down the freeway of life at our own speed?

Stronger than wrong (Friday, May 2)

In one way or another, all of the disciples deserted Jesus in his greatest hour of need. We know that Peter denied Jesus three times before running away. The others probably fled as well for their own safety. Yet, when Jesus appeared after his death he treated them as though nothing had happened on the night he was arrested.

John tells us that, “On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’” (John 20:19). Rather than being angry and bitter, Jesus seems happy to see them. He exclaims, “Peace be with you!”

I recall the time a person whom I thought was my friend betrayed me. The details of the event are not important now, but at the time I was raging mad. I kept thinking of what I was going to do the next time I saw this man in person! He would be very sorry he crossed me.

Whenever you become furious with someone, remember what Jesus said to his disciples the first time he saw them all together once again. His first words were, “Peace be with you!” He did not seek revenge or retribution for what they had done. Instead, he continued to love them unconditionally just as he had done before. He showed his love was stronger than their wrong. 

Not seeing is believing (Thursday, May 1)

The proof that Jesus lived, died and rose from the dead is in the fact that there is nothing to see! No body and no grave. The tomb is empty; there is nothing because Jesus is alive in heaven.

On the other hand, the Church of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, a minor basilica in Rome, contains numerous relics from Jesus’ death. There are two thorns from the Crown of Thorns, fragments from the wooden cross, a portion of one of the nails, the sign that hung above his head and a piece from the scourging pillar.

Though I have been to Rome many times, I have never visited this church to view these artifacts. But I do not need to observe them first-hand to know that they exist. I have read and heard about them many times. I know they are real, even though scholars may doubt their authenticity.

It is the same with Jesus. I have read and heard about him; I can also tell of the numerous wonders and works he has done. People everywhere may doubt his existence, but I know he is real. He is alive and active all over the world. I do not need to see him to believe in him.

You know the feeling (Wednesday, April 30)

One day 60 years ago, my life changed forever. Right after breakfast, my mother told me to put on a nice pair of pants and a good shirt. She dressed up, too. Then we walked hand-in-hand to the little Reformed Church on the corner two blocks away. I don’t remember much of anything else from that Sunday morning, but the quaint white, wooden church soon became our church home.

Much later in life, I asked my mother why she decided to go to church. She couldn’t really explain it. All she said was, “I just felt like we should go.” Call it what you will: a prompting from the Holy Spirit, some sort of intuition, a prodding by God himself. All I know is that my mother knew what she had to do on that particular Sunday morning.

I wonder how many times this same story has played out all around the world. People who don’t believe in God suddenly feel the need to attend a worship service. They go out of curiosity, perhaps, and they stay because of the peace they find there. They can’t explain it, but they feel it and know it.

God’s way does not always make sense. Yet, all of the pieces of the puzzle—those fragments of our lives that seem unrelated—always fit together perfectly in the end. Every day he proves himself to those who are willing to believe and follow. Not by what they see with their eyes, but by what they feel in their heart. Thank goodness my mother listened to her heart and took me to church on that day in 1954. 

Up all night (Tuesday, April 29)

Last night my computer worked continuously. Hour after hour, it uploaded pictures, documents, folders and programs. Everything was being backed up in the clouds by an online server. The process took all night and ran while I slept soundly.

God worked all night, too. He watched over me as I rested. In fact, he watched over the seven billion people all over the world as they slept, regardless of whether they knew it or not. He could not help but look over them; he created each one and he loves each one.

The Old Testament, especially Psalm 121, is full of verses scriptures that assure us of God’s love and protection. “The Lord will keep watch over your going out and your coming in, from this time and for ever” (Psalm 121:8). “He will not let your foot slip—He who watches over you will not slumber" (Psalm 121:3). “The Lord watches over you” (Psalm 121:5).

There is a contemporary saying that reminds us to trust in God as we sleep: “Don’t worry tonight. Give your problems to the Lord. He will be up all night anyway.” Each night we can sleep soundly and confidently. With God watching over us, nothing can harm us through the night. Not even what we can’t see.

Preparing for this week
(Monday, April 28)

Going to church on Sunday should prepare us for the rest of the week. On Monday, we may need patience. On Tuesday, we may need perseverance. On Wednesday, we may need strength. On Thursday, we may need courage. On Friday, we may need self-control and on Saturday, we may need kindness. On any given day of the week, we might need to put into practice what we learned on the Sabbath.

Going to church can easily become routine and ordinary. We go through the motions of worship and praise without listening sometimes. The words of our Father can fall on deaf ears. On numerous occasions, Jesus warned about our inability to comprehend what we hear. “Whoever has ears, let them hear” (Matthew 11:15). "Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand” (Mark 4:9). “Anyone who is willing to hear should listen and understand" (Matthew 13:9). "Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear” (Luke 14:35). Said many different ways, but the message is the same.

The key to being a follower of Jesus is hearing his word and letting it sink down into our spirit. C.S. Lewis said God’s word needs to be like a stain that soaks in rather than paint which merely covers the surface. What God says to us needs to become second-nature, as automatic as saying “please” and “thank you” or “God bless you.” We have been taught how to be polite and most of us say these phrases without even thinking.

In a similar way, each week we are being taught how to be more like Jesus. Whether the message is on love, grace, forgiveness or some other subject, we must listen carefully to understand it. When we practice what we hear, we have learned our lesson. What do you need today? Chances are you already have an answer. Think back to what you heard on Sunday to understand what God said to you. 

Which will? (Sunday, April 27)

The ultimate goal for the believer must be God’s will, as we repeat in the Lord’s Prayer: "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." His will is all that should matter, and it needs to be the largest thing in our life.

Oddly enough, his great plan is often set aside for the one we think is best. Our tiny thoughts consume our lives rather than his perfect will. We fall victim to our own wants each day, especially when it comes to material objects.

The first lesson in the Bible is the story of Adam and Eve. God gave them everything. Yet, they wanted what they could not have – what was not good for them. They chose their will over the Creator’s.

How often do we follow in their footsteps rather than those of Jesus? We would all do well to remember that the decisions we make have consequences. Good or bad. 

Two wrongs don’t make a right (Saturday, April 26)

Our next door neighbors are extremely annoyed with us. Several weeks ago, my wife and I wrote them a note. We put it in a plastic bag and taped it the window of their car door. They work nights and we did not want to wake them during the day to complain about their dog always going on our front lawn.

Recently, I tried talking to them, but they walked away. My first thought was we are the ones who should be upset, not them. The more I considered the situation, though, I realized getting mad would not solve anything. All of us need to get over what happened and move on with our lives. Life is too short to waste time harboring grudges.

Jesus told us what to do when we are tempted to be bitter toward someone. “You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father who is in heaven; for he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:43-45).

To put it another way, we need to act like our Father in heaven: he makes the sun and rain for everyone because he loves all of his creations regardless of their actions. If we want to be his children, we must do the same. We have to love and pray for all of our neighbors especially those next door.

Triumphs and tragedies (Friday, April 25)

People remember the tragedies in their lives more than the triumphs. We always recall the bad stuff, but usually forget the good. What we need to do is to turn things around: ignore the painful events and dwell on what is positive.

Too often I think about the time I lost my job at a college, when I didn’t get an award I thought I deserved, when I didn’t get a scholarship to study overseas and when I dropped out of the New York City Marathon after 16 miles. Why don’t I center my mind on the other 11 marathons that I finished, the grant I received to do research at the British Library in London, the four books I wrote and the two pastor nominating committees I chaired?

What if Peter would have had the same negative perspective toward his life? What if he would have constantly looked back and remembered the three times he denied Jesus, when he tried to walk on water and the night he cut off a soldier’s ear? And what if Paul would have never pushed past his former life of persecuting Christians and standing by as Stephen was stoned to death?

There is a reason why Paul wrote to the church in Philippi to tell them to meditate on what is good and righteous. “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8). Reflecting on the triumphs God has brought you in life is the only way to defeat the tragedies that the world has given you. 

Blessing in believing (Thursday, April 24)

There are those who claim to have visited heaven and returned. Those who have seen Jesus or the blessed mother Mary. Those who have been brought back to life after being pronounced dead. Those who have seen angels or heavenly choirs. Some have seen great saints or prophets of the past.

As much as I would like to experience such things, I should not need any one of them to believe in God. My faith should not depend on visible, tangible proof. For if my trust is built on what I see, what kind of trust would it be? I would be relying on substantial reality rather than on spiritual actuality.

Faith can only exist when there is no physical reason to believe. When I do not know where my next meal is coming from, I must have faith that I will eat. When I have no money, I must have faith that my bills will be paid. When I feel alone or afraid, I must have faith that God will comfort and protect me. The list could go on and on. The point is that my trust in the Lord must be based on what I do not see at the moment. If my trust hinges on what I can prove or what I see, I am believing only in myself.

Thomas had little faith until he saw the risen Lord. “Put your finger here,” Jesus said. “See my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” “My Lord and my God,” Thomas exclaimed. Jesus then turned to him and said, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

You and I are blessed today because we have not seen, yet we still believe. We should always trust more in what God says than in what he shows. Thomas learned his lesson the hard way. What about you? 

Different for him (Wednesday, April 23)

The young man stood out from the hundreds of others walking along Eighth Avenue in New York City. He was the only one carrying a bag of golf clubs! He looked strange in the middle of dozens of high-rise buildings and concrete sidewalks, with not a speck of grass in sight. The nearest golf course was probably 25 or 30 miles away!

The man did not seem to care that many people did a double-take. Some stared at him while some quickly stepped out of his way. I thought there might have been something wrong with him, but then I realized he was probably taking the subway or train outside of the city to go golfing. That made perfect sense.

Do we, as God’s faithful, stand out in a crowd? Does our witness and service for Christ make us unusual? Do we shine bright for our Savior and not worry about what people are thinking? Jesus proclaimed, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).

Maybe you and I need to be like the golfer going down the street. He was wholly focused on where he was going. We, too, need to be intent on where we are going and on what we need to do for our Lord. We might look or sound strange, but God made us different so people would take notice of who we are. 

"Feed my sheep” (Tuesday, April 22)

On the night Jesus was arrested and taken away, Peter followed close behind. He had several chances to stand up for his Lord. After the third denial, though, the cock crowed. At once, “the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly” (Luke 22:61-62).

We have all denied Jesus many times in our lives. Even the best of us have turned our back on him. We can relate to Peter’s tears of remorse and his shame. Failing our Lord, letting him down, is a bitter pill to swallow.

Peter should not have been surprised later when Jesus put him to the test. It was the third time Jesus appeared to the disciples after his resurrection. As they finished eating, Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him. Each time Peter said yes and each time Jesus replied, “Feed my sheep” (John 21:15-19). The Bible tells us that Peter was hurt when Jesus asked him a third time, but Peter finally proved his love when he said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

When we deny or desert Christ, for any reason, we can be sure he will search our hearts as well. He may ask us the same question as Peter until he is sure we are able and ready, once again, to feed and serve the sheep of his kingdom.

His transformation and ours (Monday, April 21)

For 40 days Jesus walked the earth in his resurrected body. Scripture does not tell us precisely all that he did. John, however, says Jesus did many things. “If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written” (John 21:25).

Imagine what people said and thought when they saw him after his death: “He was crucified in Jerusalem, yet here he is alive. Look, he still has the wounds in his hands and he heals others. How is it possible?”

No doubt Jesus continued to heal, teach, preach and prophesize, exactly as he had done prior to his death. I suspect he was able to do even more. In his glorified human form, Jesus took on more of his divine nature—far beyond his human nature from before. For 40 days, he probably accomplished a hundredfold more than in his three years of ministry. As John wrote, if everything had been recorded, “the whole world would not have room for the books.”

Here we begin to understand the before and after of Jesus. But we also see the beyond, the future of what awaits us in heaven. The Bible tells us Christ himself “will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (Philippians 3:21). We will be made perfect by him and in him.

Peace be with you (Sunday, April 20)

We know the story of Jesus’ resurrection, but how would we feel if he suddenly appeared to us today? No doubt we would be as shocked as the 11 disciples who were in hiding together in one room.

Luke gives us an eyewitness account of what happened: “While they were still talking about this [that several people had seen Jesus], he himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have” (Luke 24).

Then Jesus asked for something to eat. Luke says they handed him a piece of boiled fish and he ate it, proving he was no apparition. The disciples had to be shocked beyond belief. “[Then] he said to them, ‘This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.’ Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”

As you celebrate his victory over death this Easter Sunday, may your mind be opened as well so that you are never startled or frightened by what Jesus is doing in the world. May you come to expect the unexpected because he is God!

The day between (Saturday, April 19)

The minutes seem to stand still on Holy Saturday as we recall both the death and resurrection of Jesus. We reflect on his life and, at the same time, anticipate his victory over death. For today, we are caught between the past and the future. We feel a sense of loss even though we know the joy of Easter is coming.

Believers through the centuries have struggled with the time between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. We know the full story and we wonder what we should do on Holy Saturday. Should we mourn his death or should we celebrate his resurrection? Perhaps this day, more than any other, is when we need to remember the full expanse of Jesus’ life on earth while we also see what his resurrection means for the whole world.

For me, there is a certain emptiness to this day. I feel much like the first disciples must have felt without Jesus. They must have been lonely and lost, wondering what to do next. I cannot experience their complete helplessness, though, because I know what happened on the third day.

It is, indeed, hard to take in: to think of what Jesus did and that he did it all for us, not for himself. He put himself between life and death so we would be able to be with him forever.

Serving him by serving others (Friday, April 18)

“I have to go all the way over here to get my paper,” the woman said as I walked by. She was standing in the neighbor’s driveway. “The carriers just throw it wherever they please.” I nodded and replied that when I delivered newspapers as a boy I had to put the paper between the side doors or in the milk chute. Things were much different in the 1950s and 60s: papers were not thrown from a car; if you phoned a company you could talk to a real person; and when you went to a gas station, attendants surrounded your car and did everything, even washing the windows and checking the oil.

Serving others is no longer as important as it once was, especially in large organizations. Just the same, as the followers of Christ we have an obligation to help and assist people everywhere we go. Not only did Jesus talk about serving when he said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34). He also showed what he meant on the night before his crucifixion. “He got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him” (John 13:4-5).

We can lament all we want and pine for the good old days, but nothing will make difference; nothing, that is, unless we work to make a change. “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand,” Jesus said when Peter objected to the master washing his feet (John 13:7). Maybe we should take the same approach today, no matter if we are at work, the mall, a restaurant or Walmart. People may look at us with a strange expression when we bring them coffee, hold the door for them, buy them a meal or give them a cart. All the while, though, we should be thinking, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

Each one of us can make a difference, just as Jesus and his disciples proved. They changed the world 2,000 years ago and we can do it again today. God is counting on you and me to serve him by serving others. 

FAQ (Thursday, April 17)

Where is God? A ferry sinks off the coast of South Korea; hundreds are dead. There are still no clues of missing Malaysian flight 370. Ukraine and Russia are on the edge of all-out war. Three innocent people are murdered outside a Jewish Community Center in Kansas City. Students at a high school near Pittsburgh are stabbed. Believers everywhere are wondering where is God? Why didn’t he prevent these things?

Why is it that we tend to blame God when things go wrong? More often than not, tragedies are caused by people. Rather than thrusting the responsibility on God, we should be looking at ourselves. We should ask, “Why do people kill other people and why do individuals commit acts to cause the deaths of others?”

What we tend to forget is that God gives us free will. We are free to make all kinds of decisions without God’s interference. How free would mankind be if God suddenly stepped in when we made the wrong choice or when he did not agree?

We cannot have it both ways. We cannot expect to be free at certain times and controlled by God on other occasions. Instead of doubting God’s presence the next time something evil occurs, may you turn to him for guidance, courage and strength. He will help you. “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Deuteronomy 31:8).

The Parable of the Wondering Woman
(Wednesday, April 16)

The elderly woman had lived a long, fruitful life. When she arrived in heaven, she could not believe the incredible beauty. There was light radiating in all directions; everything glowed like gemstones of pure sapphire, jade, topaz and garnet. In the center, surrounded by throngs of people and heavenly choirs, was Jesus. He seemed to be looking directly at her as if there was no one else around.

“Why Jesus,” she asked, still thinking about life on earth. “Why did you do it?” He smiled knowingly. “You knew you would be born in a stable. You knew Herod would try to kill you. You knew people would reject you and spit on you. You knew your disciples would betray you. You even knew you would be tortured, whipped and crucified. Still, you came to earth and gave up all of this. Why?”

He came closer. “I did it for you, my daughter,” he said, touching her gently on the cheek. “I did it so you could be with me in eternity. So that you could enjoy this forever, not just for a little time on earth.”

Suddenly, it all made sense. For the first time, she saw with divine sight and realized why Jesus did it. Now she would be grateful and be able to praise him for all time. 

The Golden Rule (Tuesday, April 15)

Children are all too familiar with time-outs. When they misbehave or act up, they know a time-out is coming. Usually, it means spending 10 or 15 minutes alone in their room. The purpose, of course, is to think about what they have done and not do it again.

A time-out would be a good idea, at times, for us as adults. There are many instances when we need a time-out to ponder how we acted or treated someone. Taking 10 or 15 minutes to reflect might prevent us from repeating the same mistakes. Hopefully, we will think twice when we want to act up or speak out in the future.

Ephesians 4:32 reminds us to, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” At those times when we are tempted to lose our temper, we must realize that we need to offer forgiveness just as much as we need to seek forgiveness. We are no different, and no better, than the person we are eager to rebuke or scold.

God grants you both forgiveness and compassion. He expects you to show the same kind of forgiveness and compassion to others. Avoid a time-out in your life by always remembering the Golden Rule: Treat others as you want them to treat you. Not only is this good advice, but it also will save you from much embarrassment and shame.

Go and tell (Monday, April 14)

Cars streamed out of the church parking lot. Four exits were full of vehicles, all types and colors, lined up bumper to bumper. Hundreds were leaving the worship service and heading out into the world, taking what they heard and learned this Sunday morning to others throughout the week.

All of us share in the Great Commission. The work has been going on for 2,000 years, beginning with the 12 disciples. From generation to generation the word has been traveling for 20 centuries. Now it is our turn and time to take the timeless message to those who have not yet heard about Jesus.

St. Paul’s words to the people of Philippi speak just as loudly to us living today: “You have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now. And I am sure that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on that day when Christ Jesus comes back again” (Philippians 1:5-6). We are part of a living testimony, much like a chain, linking the Savior to everyone in the past, present and future—right up to the day when he returns. Each one of us has a personal place and part in building God’s universal kingdom.

Let the Lord use you each minute for his eternal glory. He began a good work in you and he will remain with you until he completes what he started: telling the whole world that Jesus is coming again.

Going too fast (Sunday, April 13)

No matter where we drive today, there are speed limit signs. These signs tell us the maximum safe speed to travel, especially around sharp turns and on narrow roads. They warn us to slow down for our own good.

God puts similar signs in our lives. Most of the time, though, we do not pay attention or observe his warning. He tells us to, “Be still, and know that I am God.” Often, we do not obey and fly right by. We do not even reduce our speed.

Each day, the Lord is trying to get our attention – to notice his signals because we are going too fast. For some reason, we feel like we do not have time to slow down, especially when we are doing his work. But nowhere in the Bible do we read “Hurry up, go faster, and finish what I have commanded you to do.”

The next time you see a speed limit sign along the road, think of it as a “God limit” sign. Slow down and obey his warning. “Be still (slow down), and know that I am God.” Remember, he is trying to keep us from going too fast in our lives for our own good.

Monuments to God (Saturday, April 12)

Each time my wife and I visit Italy, especially Rome, we are struck by the vast number of churches and basilicas. These towering structures dominate both the cities and countryside. They stand as ageless monuments to the greatness and presence of God throughout the ages.

Sadly, many of the buildings are quiet today, except for the tourists who stop briefly to admire their beauty. For an instant, visitors see physical tributes of how past generations worshipped, praised and honored the Creator of the universe. Soaring columns, marble sculptures, colorful frescoes, stained glass windows and mosaic floors are lasting symbols that show what God is able to do through his people.

I wonder what our churches in the United States will look like someday. Will they also be empty? Will they display what we thought of our Lord? Will they cease to be the very center and purpose of life? Perhaps they will be silent memorials that are rarely used, except on special occasions such as Christmas and Easter.

More important, what will remain of our work here on earth? We, too, can build wonderful buildings. But if we forget about the importance of building the spiritual kingdom, then our effort and time will mean very little in the future.

Getting happy (Friday, April 11)

When my wife is feeling down or disturbed, I tell her to go to McDonald’s and order a Happy Meal. A Happy Meal will change her perspective and cheer her up. If only it was that easy to turn our attitude around. Unfortunately, we often have to wrestle with ourselves in order to be happy.

The first thing we need to do to enjoy life is to separate ourselves from our problems. Being alive, able to appreciate the gift of life, means pulling ourselves away from everything else. We are easily influenced and affected by things such as finances, disappointments and worry. But none of these has to keep us from taking delight in what God created. We can see, hear, feel, taste and smell the beauty all around us.

What Jesus said 2,000 years ago is still true today: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? (Matthew 6:25). Every day we get caught up in what does not matter in the long run. We dwell on the physical – what to eat, what to drink, what to wear – when we should be concentrating on the divine nature of life itself.

Try putting your problems aside today. Write each problem or trouble on a small piece of paper. When you are finished, gather up the pieces and crumble them together. Then, put the whole ball into the trash. You have just thrown away all of your cares and anxieties. Now you are completely free to delight in all that God has given you without being held back by the world. “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all the things [of earth] will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).

Tools to build the kingdom (Thursday, April 10)

Contractors need the right tools to construct a house: a hammer to nail the lumber together, a saw to cut the wood, a drill to cut holes in the studs for wiring and a tape measure to make sure everything is the right size. Without these and many other implements, very little could be accomplished.

As Christians we need certain tools to do our job. We are no different than the 12 disciples. When Jesus sent them into the world, he gave them the power over demons and the ability to heal disease. He told them not to take anything with them. “Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt,” he said (Luke 9:3). They had all they needed inside of them.

Jesus has given us everything we require as well. We have patience for those who anxious, understanding for those who are confused, love for those who are angry and kindness for those who are harsh. These are the tools he imparts to us to complete his work.

Wherever you go, know that you have the tools you need. Like the 12 disciples, who “set out and went from village to village,” you have been prepared for the journey, too. Use your tools to spread the good news and help build the kingdom of heaven.

Each and every word (Wednesday, April 9)

God speaks constantly. I listen frequently. But sometimes, I turn his phrases around. Words such as maybe, perhaps and in time suddenly become yes, definitely and right now in my mind.

I recall when my children were little. They would ask for something and I would say maybe or we’ll see. Within minutes, one child would announce that we would be going out to dinner, to the movies or for ice cream. I was always surprised when one told the other almost the opposite of what I said.

It was obvious to me that neither my daughter nor my son were listening carefully. Rather than hearing my exact words, they heard what they wanted to hear. My speaking was clear enough; their comprehension was not. Somehow they substituted their wishes for my exact words.

Believe it or not, we do the same with God. How many times has he told us to wait and we take it as a sign that we need to be more involved? Or when was the last occasion when he said maybe and we thought he meant it will happen soon? Perhaps he is telling you no not now at this very moment, and you think he is saying it will definitely occur later.

A job well done (Tuesday, April 8)

The sign on a local church said, “In loving memory of Pastor Shirley Jones: Well done good and faithful servant.” No doubt she was one of the founding pastors of this small one-story church on a side street. Obviously, she touched the lives of many people and they wanted the neighborhood to know how much she was appreciated.

All of us want others to be grateful for the things we have done. We hope people will realize the good we have tried to do to make the world a better place.

We also hope the Lord recognizes our service to him. In the parable of the bags of gold, Jesus told about three servants who were charged with keeping the master’s money while he was gone. The first two servants doubled the money, but the third returned exactly what he had been given. The master condemned the man for doing nothing with what he had been given and then threw him out of the house.

Take a moment to count everything God has given you from a place to live, money, an education, family and friends. Plus, think about the talents you possess. The lesson of this parable is clear: be productive with your life. Remember that you are working for the master of all creation. Our goal in everything should be to hear him proclaim, “Well done good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:23).

Do you trust him? (Monday, April 7)

Trusting the Lord means believing in him when there is no earthly reason for our faith. It is not the same as trusting what we see or know. Trusting God is being able to count on him when we have nothing else but hope.

Emily Dickinson once wrote that, "Hope is the thing with feathers / That perches in the soul / And sings the tune without the words / And never stops at all." The amazing thing about trust and hope in God is that it begins as an abstract quality but ends in concrete reality.

Consider the trust of all these individuals: Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Joseph. . . . The list goes on and on through the ages, all the way down to us. How much do we trust God today? Do we follow in the footsteps of the great saints of faith, or are we still learning to walk?

As we go through this day, let us keep in mind what Paul said in his letter to the Hebrews: “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” In other words, faith can exist only when we put our trust in God out of no other reason than a promise.

Measuring up (Sunday, April 6)

Persistence is the yardstick of character. We can measure anyone’s character and capacity by how much the person is willing to go through to reach the goal. Many of us are short on persistence but long on insistence. We want things to go our way no matter what. When it comes to God’s way, though, we suddenly run out of persistence.

One of the virtues that most Christians do not have is persistence – that is, perseverance for the sake of God rather than themselves. We are always eager to stand up and fight for what we believe. But how about what we believe in God? Are we willing to defend his position even when it means we will suffer? Many of us leave God behind when we discover his way will make us unpopular.

Perhaps that is the reason we find a particular statement in Romans 2:7. “He will give eternal life to those who keep on doing good, seeking after the glory and honor and immortality that God offers.” We must keep on keeping on, as the saying goes. Not once, not twice, but all of the time. Constantly we need to “keep on doing good.”

For me at least, the declaration of eternal life is not a one-time deal. Eternity is a process that begins now, here on earth, as we discover the precepts of the kingdom. We get to learn them now so we know them later. Persistence is one we must exercise each day. Practice will make us perfect for our flawless life in heaven.

Overflowing with blessings (Saturday, April 5)

I am always amazed when God performs a miracle right in front of me. I know I should live with expectancy like the early followers in the Book of Acts, but my faith is sometimes less than what it should be. Like most people today, I tend to think God is not present as much as in the past.

For days, I kept trying to sign up for health insurance through the government’s new program. Finally, after dozens of hours online and on the phone, I spoke to someone who was able to help. In an instant, God changed everything. I found out my new monthly premiums would drop from $350 month to $70! The Lord answered my prayers beyond anything I could have imagined.

Once again, I learned a powerful lesson: that there is nothing too big or too hard for God. He can do anything. Far more than we can think or possibly dream.

The next time your faith waivers, remember this scripture: “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need” (Malachi 3:10). Don’t be surprised either if he opens all the doors, too.

Pressing on toward perfection (Friday, April 4)

It is our nature to be persistent when we want something. It is not always our nature to persevere when the issue is what God wants.

We will use most any resource and reason to get our way, whether it involves an opinion or something tangible. There was a time when I worked with an extremely persistent man. He seemed to have a personal plan for how things should run in the company. He would go to great lengths, at every occasion, to complain and force his agenda on everyone. Through persistence, he usually got his way. No one ever quite figured out what his goal was, though.

I did admire this man’s perseverance and stubbornness. What if we all had the same determination, the same resolve, for serving God? What if we did not ever give up praying for others, forgiving others, helping others and loving others?

Paul told the Hebrews that, “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised” (Hebrews 10:36). We should endure tirelessly and make sure, at all times, we are doing his perfect will and not our imperfect way.

The best of both worlds (Thursday, April 3)

Each spring the snow birds return. These people come back to cities in the North and Midwest after spending the winter down South. They reappear for the summer and leave again in the fall before the weather gets too cold. No doubt about it, the snow birds enjoy the best of both worlds.

We as Christians also have the best of both worlds: heaven and earth. We have eternal life and we have physical life. God is with us everywhere.

Concerning heavenly life, Jesus said, “People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God” (Luke 13:29). Concerning this life, God said, “So do not fear, for I am with you [right now]; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

Because we have his promise – “I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20) – we can say with complete and total confidence that we have the best of all worlds. 

More like him (Wednesday, April 2)

Because of our experiences yesterday, we are not the same today. We have changed, if only in very subtle ways. God has been busy in our lives even as we were at rest last night.

All throughout the past 24 hours, God has been helping us, guiding us and protecting us. We may not realize the amazing work he has done, but our hearts and minds have been enlarged with his compassion and love.

We are not the same person right now because he has brought us closer to him and to his ways. Slowly but surely we are becoming more like our Father each minute of every day.

Riding a roller coaster (Tuesday, April 1)

Amusement parks are great fun. All kinds of rides offer dozens of thrills. One of the most popular attractions is the roller coaster. People of all ages love slowly climbing to the top of a steep precipice and then racing headlong down the other side. You can feel the rush throughout your entire body, especially in your stomach.

Some persons are on a roller coaster every day; they ride an emotional roller coaster. They go up and down several times an hour, depending on where they are and what they are doing. They never get off the ride long enough to rest or relax.

What does the Bible have to say about letting our feelings take us for a ride? “Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the bosom of fools” (Ecclesiastes 7:9). “Know this, my beloved brothers and sisters: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19). “A hot-tempered person stirs up strife, but one who is slow to anger quiets contention” (Proverbs 15:18).

Don’t live your life going up and down all day. Instead, give your emotions a break and save the roller coaster ride for the amusement park.

Drive-by prayer (Monday, March 31)

There is a church in Florida that is offering drive-by prayer each Wednesday. People can drive into the parking lot and members of Estero United Methodist Church will pray with them. One of the parishioners told a reporter many people out there are hurting and this is a way to show them someone cares.

I wonder how many people take advantage of the opportunity to have someone pray for them. There is something about people praying for us that calms us and gives us peace. We feel supernatural strength just knowing there are persons interceding on our behalf. Yes, we can pray for our own needs, but when others become involved we no longer feel alone.

St. Paul wrote to the church of Colossae telling them to, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful” (Colossians 4:2). Paul knew the power of prayer. It had brought him through one difficulty after another. Plus, prayer had allowed him to succeed when he should have failed.

You and I might not be able to offer drive-by prayer to people, but we can pray for those we drive by on the road and those who drive by us. Think of the blessing you will be bringing to others and they will not even be aware of what you are doing. All they know is that something special is happening to make their day brighter. You are that something special!

Content or content? (Sunday, March 30)

Many ideas may come to mind when seeing the word “content.” We might think of one meaning: that of being satisfied or pleased. On the other hand, we could consider the content – what is included or inside – of something.

Very early each morning, I see the word “content” as I prepare to upload a devotion to this site. I always have to click on this word to reach the page where I can add new thoughts. Each time I go through this daily process, I always ask myself if I am content (happy) with the content (what is being said) in these inspirational messages.

Often, I also end up taking stock of who and what I am. Am I content (comfortable) with the content (the components and parts) of my life? How am I really doing at being a good and trusting disciple? Perhaps God is not as content with my content as I am at times.

These are two very different words, with separate pronunciations, even though they are spelled the same. We have to be careful that we do not confuse them and fool ourselves into thinking we are better persons than we really are. We should only be pleased with the substance of our life when God is content with our content.

A waste of time (Saturday, March 29)

Have you ever become upset over something that was about to happen? Then you suddenly discovered all of your worrying was in vain. What you thought was going to occur never materialized after all.

Recently, my daughter became angry when I told her I wanted my cell phone back. I had loaned it to her about five months earlier when she could not afford a phone. As soon as I broke the news to her she gave me the cold shoulder, not to mention the things she said to my wife. As it turned out, I gave her another week with the phone. All of her fretting and fussing was wasted; she spent days – time she will never get back – being mad at everyone and everything.

Jesus said we need lean on him during stressful times rather than on ourselves. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest,” Jesus said. “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

Jesus can lift us from our distress, but only if we let him. Life is too precious and valuable to throw away even an hour. May you spend every minute today enjoying the gift of life you have been given.

Blessed are you . . . (Friday, March 28)

The greatest sermon ever spoken was offered to a small, intimate group of followers. Though we have the picture of Jesus standing high on a hill, with the multitudes below, the scene was very different. Matthew 5 tells us that “when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.”

What we commonly call the Beatitudes were given first to the disciples. They were the ones who came to Jesus “and he began to teach them.” Point after point, nine times in all, Jesus says that we are “blessed” in all sorts of circumstances: poor in spirit, in mourning, when we are meek and seeking righteousness, when we are merciful, when we are pure in heart, when we are peacemakers, when we are persecuted and when we are insulted.

These are profound principles that are not easy to understand. They are contrary to everything we think and see. The main point Jesus is making, of course, is that we are blessed by him even when we are rejected and reviled by the world. He is always with us and his love will never change. The blessing he gives us does not depend on our situation, our state or our status.

You and I are blessed this day and every day. We can be happy in him when there is no reason in the world to rejoice. 

The comfort zone (Thursday, March 27)

Being outside in below freezing weather is a challenge. The air is crisp; the wind icy. The sun and clouds take turns ruling the cold sky. Who can resist the temptation to stay indoors where the temperature is snug and cozy? The only problem is we will miss really feeling the beauty of winter.

We all like to stay in our comfort zone where everything is easier. We don’t have to stretch ourselves, take any chances or be inconvenienced in any way. But being in our comfort zone prevents us from growing and living as God intends. There are magnificent wonders everywhere we go and in everything we do. We are made to experience the Lord’s vast variety of creation.

Living in our comfort zone – staying home rather than going out, attending the same meetings and talking with the same people – is simple. We are creatures of habit and, as much as we complain, we like our routine. Being caught in unexpected situations or around strangers makes us nervous.

What we need to think about when we leave our comfort zone is that God goes with us. In fact, he is usually leading us toward something better. He wants us to meet new people and to go new places. Plus, he wants us to tell those we meet how he brought us out of our comfort zone so they can break out of theirs.

Having hope (Wednesday, March 26)

In all situations, God is our hope – our only hope. We should turn to him first, not as a last resort when all else has failed. Too often, though, we try to take care of ourselves. We wrestle with illness, relationships, finances, careers, attitudes and thoughts. As we reach the end of our human ability to conquer a particular problem, we suddenly realize that we cannot help ourselves. Then and only then do we go to God in prayer.

We are very much like children. We want to be independent, to do things ourselves. We think we are big enough to tackle any problem and we do not want anyone to help us. Perhaps we feel it would be a sign of weakness. Maybe we don’t want to bother someone else with our problems. Quite possibly, we cannot bring ourselves to feeling vulnerable, somehow less capable and competent than those around us.

Whatever the reason, we need to get into the habit of going to God first and to ourselves second. As we take our cares and difficulties to God, we will find his comfort and peace as we continue along the journey. Our way may not be easy, but it can be made easier with God. “Be of good courage,” says Psalm 31:24, “and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the Lord.” We will only experience the strength we need if we are willing to put all of our hope in God.

Realizing our hopeless state allows us to become hopeful in God.

Purpose  vs. place (Tuesday, March 25)

Nothing we do goes unnoticed by the Lord. Not one thing escapes his attention. The smallest thought or the tiniest act is great in his eyes when we are serving him. We need to remember that God is not like the world. He does not play favorites or weigh our worth according to our position in life.

The person who cleans the building is as important as the one who is president of the company. The one who maintains the grounds is as important as the owner of the land. The individual who picks up trash throughout the city is as important as the mayor. The soldier who serves is as important as the five-star general that commands. The student in the classroom is as important as the teacher. The homeless woman who is receiving a meal is as important as the cook who prepared the food.

All of us have a specific place in God’s kingdom both here on earth and in heaven. We are his children and he loves each one of us. He does not protect or favor one of us over the other. We are all equal and equally loved.

Try not to forget this thought as you go about your business today; keep it in mind as you serve and are served. Everything we do is important to God. What matters most to him is our purpose in life rather than our place in the world.

People look up to you (Monday, March 24)

Whether you know it or not, you are an encouragement to others. People are looking at you because you are an inspiration; your life and attitude exhibit hope in a dark world.

Ten years ago, an individual I know lost his job of 20 years. I admire how this person has pushed through the setback and taken his career in a new, better direction. He is a role model for all who suffer any kind of loss. Another friend has a life-threatening illness. I am amazed at his courage, persistence and strength. He is a living example of putting complete trust in God.

Barnabas was a personal source of encouragement for all the disciples. Though his more famous brothers in the faith such as Paul and John Mark received the credit, it was Barnabas who helped and supported them in every area of spreading the gospel. They counted on his vision and inspiration.

You might be surprised to learn how many people look up to you at the same time you are looking up to God. They are able to see him because you are letting his light shine down on you.

I believe (Sunday, March 23)

The people could not believe their eyes. A man, blind from birth, had been healed. Yet the Jews doubted he was the same person who sat and begged for money each day. They forced the man to tell what happened. Not satisfied with his account – how Jesus put mud on his eyes and told him to wash in the pool of Siloam – they brought the Pharisees to investigate. Once again, he recounted the details of his healing. Even his parents were questioned about the incident.

Still, no one understood how or why this man could suddenly see. So the Pharisees commanded him to proclaim that Jesus was a sinner; after all, Jesus had healed on the Sabbath and he claimed to be the Son of God. “I don’t know if he is a sinner or not,” the man replied. “All I know is that I was blind and now I see.”

For this man, the fact he was able to see is all that mattered. It did not matter how he regained his sight or when (on what particular day). Nor was he concerned with the things people said or thought about Jesus. The man didn’t even seem to care if people believed his story or not. His words, “Now I see,” said everything that was important.

We also need to focus on what is foremost in our lives. When people question us, doubt us, even mock us, we need to explain what we know and believe from our own experience: “I believe in Jesus. I believe he will help me. I believe he will heal me. I believe he will strengthen me. I believe he will take care of me.” Much like the blind man, we need to say, “All I know is that I was lost and now I am found.” Let the world think what it will about the “amazing grace” that has saved us. Only those who know Jesus will understand.

You can do all things (Saturday, March 22)

Dr. Robert Schuller, who was pastor of the Crystal Cathedral, once said, “Tough times never last, but tough people do.” He should know better than anyone else; he built the congregation from dozens of people meeting in a rented drive-in in 1955 to several thousand members worshiping in a massive glass structure decades later. One can only imagine the ups and downs Schuller had through the years.

The disciples are another example that prove “tough times never last, but tough people do.” They continued the work of the kingdom for years after Jesus was crucified. They did not give up and, in the end, several of them were killed spreading the good news of the gospel.

My wife and I recently encountered a several financial obstacles as we transitioned from working full-time to retirement. Despite all of our planning and calculations, we came up short several times. The last time was the worst. We sat down and came up with a way to make it through the next six days until we received another check. I kept thinking “tough times don’t last, but tough people do.”

Whenever you and I encounter tough times, we have to remember God is right by our side. He is there to strengthen us and make us tough enough to stand up against any hardship. Just keep saying to yourself: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). You will be amazed at how strong you will become.

Flight 370 (Friday, March 21)

What can comfort those who have loved ones on Malaysian flight 370? Pictures show their pain, grief and anxiety. For two weeks there has been no word on the missing plane or the 239 people on board. One father cannot sleep at night because his son is missing. A woman is packed and ready to fly to her husband once he is found. Others light candles and pray each waking minute.

It is natural to wonder what God is doing. Why doesn’t he show us where to look for the plane? Why doesn’t he bring some relief to family and friends? Why is he letting these people experience such pain and loss? Why doesn’t he give us some clues? Doesn’t he care?

The truth is God does care. He is the father of each person on the plane as well as all those on the ground. We know how a parent feels at the loss of a child. How much more God must feel even though he knows where the passengers are right now. His plan throughout the universe is for goodness, not for evil or destruction.

There is no doubt that God is with each and every person. “I know you do not understand why this is happening,” he might be saying to all of us. “I know you are confused, but please trust me. I am with your loved ones just as I am with you. I am watching over all of you. One day you will know what I know and you will see I am present in all things. For now, put your faith in me rather than in what you see.”

Building up or tearing down (Thursday, March 20)

Little things make a big difference. Too often we get caught up in doing huge jobs for God when, all the long, it takes just a few minutes to brighten someone’s day. During the past few weeks, an unknown person on the street has cut our grass. Our front lawn is quite small and it probably took less than five minutes. The whole point is that someone wanted to help.

In the same way, each Tuesday I take in several of the neighbors’ garbage cans once they are empty; I put the cans back by everyone’s garage. A tiny thing, yet I know it makes life easier because people do not have to move the large containers before they pull into their driveways.

Conversely, a little comment or action against another person can have a large impact. “You misread my email,” a person once wrote to me, removing all blame from himself. In another instance, a superior completely ignored a note I took the time to write and send. Still someone else cut me off on the road, forcing me to hit the brakes.

Small incidents have a titanic effect, good or bad. We need to think through each remark, reaction and action. It takes only a moment to build up the kingdom or tear it down.

None of your business (Wednesday, March 19)

Oh, that God would constantly remind us when certain situations are none of our business and that we would have the wisdom to listen to him. How many times have you known people who put their nose into something that was none of their business? It seems humans never tire of wanting to know everything about everybody. To add insult to injury, most individuals always feel like they have to add their two cents.

I once worked for someone who had to know everything, personally and professionally, about everyone who worked for him. Good or bad, it didn’t matter. He would share details with various friends in his circle, but no one ever knew about what he was or wasn’t doing. Eventually, he was forced to step down from the position. The company simply got tired of his micromanaging and gossip.

The Bible contains dozens of verses about how we ought to conduct ourselves. Ephesians 4:29 says: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Proverbs 16:28 warns: “A dishonest person spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends.” Psalm 101:5 gives us God’s admonision: “Whoever slanders his neighbor secretly I will destroy. Whoever has a haughty look and an arrogant heart I will not endure.”

When the temptation strikes to get involved in someone’s life, simply walk away. If God wants you to help, he will tell you and turn you around. Otherwise, it is none of your business. Let God handle it.

How is better than where (Tuesday, March 18)

There are many television programs these days featuring buyers who are looking for another place to live. Some want to move to a new house in the same city. A few want to move across the country. Still others want to relocate to another country.

Being in a new location can be exciting, especially exotic destinations like Hawaii or the Bahamas. A different setting, though, means little unless people think about how they live. Everyone probably has been in a town or city that did not seem friendly or welcoming. Perhaps the problem was not everyone else who lived there. Maybe it was you or me; maybe we were the person who did not enjoy living there.

St. Paul reminds us how we must live each day. “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3). Only we can answer the question: have we been humble, gentle, patient and loving no matter where God has taken us? Personally, I know I have not always been worthy of being called God’s servant.

No matter where you live, remind yourself of who you are. You are a Christian, a follower of Christ. How you live is much more important than where you live. A change in place is good. But a change in your attitude is even better.

Safe and unharmed (Monday, March 17)

It should not have been possible. Everything was destroyed. Nothing seemed to survive the inferno from the gas explosion. But there, at the bottom of the pile of rubble from two five-story buildings, was a Bible. The 80-year-old book was in perfect condition, except for some dust on the covers. Not one page was burned, singed or even charred.

Though the storefront Spanish Christian Church in East Harlem now is gone, God’s Word was not touched. One New York City newspaper reported the “discovery Friday invoked a biblical passage from Isaiah: ‘When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.’”

How often does the improbable turn into the possible? Repeatedly, God reveals himself in ways that confound the world. As his daughters and sons, though, we know such signs are not coincidence. Once again, this time through an old Bible, God shows us he is at work in each and every situation.

A book with paper pages should have been consumed by the fire. And how could it remain intact, unharmed, under tons of ash and debris? There is only one answer. God protected his Word.

By man or God’s hand? (Sunday, March 16)

A number of years ago, there was a television commercial that advised people, “Don’t leave home without it.” The “it” was a credit card. But “it” could have been any number of items: new clothes, new laptop, new car, new iPhone, new iPad, or perhaps plenty of cash.

What would happen these days if we took the same phrase – don’t leave home without it – and applied it to our spiritual lives? Think about all of the things, the lasting values, we could substitute for worldly goods. Don’t leave home without happiness. Don’t leave home without compassion. Don’t leave home without forgiveness. Don’t leave home without mercy. Don’t leave home without kindness. Don’t leave home without love.

Paul wrote to the Romans reminding them about what they possessed in Christ Jesus; in him, they had everything they needed. “I urge you, brothers and sisters,” Paul said, “in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” In layman’s terms, Paul is telling us to let ourselves be transformed (and to transform those around us) by the restoring of our minds in God. Not by the revitalizing of our bodies through the things of this world.

Cars, clothes and computers all wear out in time. But happiness, kindness, forgiveness – these never even tarnish, let alone fade. What is the “it” in your life today? Don’t leave home without ___. Is “it” something made by man or with God’s hand? 

Who isn't answering? (Saturday, March 15)

Have you ever asked the Lord for something and wondered why he did not answer you? Perhaps God did respond; however, it was not exactly what you were seeking. The whole problem could be you and me, not God. We might have had our heart set on our needs, and we did not hear his reply.

You and I are like the rich young man who came to Jesus one day, asking how he could receive eternal life. Jesus told him simply to obey the commandments: do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself. “I have kept all of these,” he said. “What do I lack?”

Jesus answered with words the wealthy man did not want to hear: “If you want to be perfect, sell your possessions and give to the poor. Then, come and follow me.” Jesus did not tell him what he hoped. Sadly, the man turned and walked away, even though Jesus showed him the true way to heaven.

Are we guilty of being like this? Do we turn away from God because we do not hear what we want to hear? We claim God has not answered us because he did not give us our way. Jesus said what was best for this young man. He does the same for us as well, telling us the truth in each situation. Before we rush to judgment and claim God isn’t answering our prayers, let us make sure we are not the ones who fail to respond.

No more darkness anywhere (Friday, March 14)

It is time to get up and let our light shine. We can show the way everywhere we go today. We are not referring to physical darkness. The spiritual blackness in the world is much greater and harder to penetrate than night. It is a force that fights back against any light at all.

Think about how many people you and I will see this day that are in the dark. The angry person at work, the unfriendly clerk at the store, the anxious mother watching her children on the playground, the elderly man living by himself at the end of the street. These individuals will live this day without knowing the true meaning of life. They have things to do but they will feel empty and without purpose.

“I am the light of the world,” Jesus said. “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). Since Jesus lives in each one of us, we are the lights he is talking about. We are everywhere. Still, there is darkness.

Think about the words from a favorite children’s song: “I’m gonna let my little light shine. Every day. Every day. Every day. Every day.” We are called to let our single lights shine. Together we can brighten the lives of others everywhere and every day.

Going out (Thursday, March 13)

Going anywhere, especially on a trip, requires physical and mental preparation. There are items to pack and many miles to travel. Being ready means accepting what must be done before leaving home.

Living each day for God is similar. Preparing to serve him involves thinking ahead – not only for what is immediate but also for what is far off in the distance. The events of one day are another step toward heaven. The finite actions of these hours right now will eventually become the infinite life of eternity.

The physical and the spiritual coexist at the same time and often blend together. As a person packs for a week at the beach, for example, he is thinking about everything that is needed.

Opportunities to help others are everywhere: at the store, the mall, the neighborhood, the gas station. Being mindful of what should be done for the Lord is being aware of where all of these things are leading. The ephemeral acts today will end up in the everlasting reality of tomorrow.

You know the future if you know God (Wednesday, March 12)

When Moses was leaving Egypt what if God would have told him he would return 40 years later to lead the Israelites out of bondage? What if God also would have told Moses he would encounter a holy, burning bush on Mount Horeb? And what if God would have told Moses he would draw water from a rock at the same location and later climb the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments?

Would Moses have understood any of what God was going to do? Probably not. Chances are Moses would have been more confused about his life because he would not understand what all of these events meant and why they would happen.

The bottom line is that Moses did not know any more about his future than we do. In hindsight, everything made sense. But, at the time, Moses no doubt wanted to know where God was leading him. I had the same doubts, especially at a period in my life when I was laid off from four different jobs in two years. I seriously wondered about God’s plan.

Looking back, I now see what God was doing. I even realize why I had to go through many painful experiences. Both the good and the bad took me to a better place. Solomon once said, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). How far would Moses have gone if he relied on his own knowledge and perceptions? No farther than any of the rest of us.

Faith like Elijah (Tuesday, March 11)

Our physical bodies can be worn down because of all sorts of reasons: lack of sleep, working too hard, not eating right, the pressure of stress and worry. If we go too long without correcting the problem, we might become seriously ill.

Our spirit is much the same. We can lose hope, give up or simply throw in the towel due to circumstances. Much has to do with our perspective and attitude. How we look at life often determines if we quit or continue. If you think nothing is going to go right today, chances are you are right. You have already set yourself up for failure. Looking for the best, though, will let you see the great work Lord is about to do.

Elijah did not despair when there was a drought in the land. “Go, eat and drink, for there is the sound of a heavy rain,” he told King Ahab. The story in 1 Kings 18 tells us that “Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel, bent down to the ground and put his face between his knees.” Six times he sent a servant to look on the horizon for rain. The seventh time, the servant returned saying, “A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising from the sea.” Soon, the sky turned black and rain fell.

What if Elijah would had given up after one or two reports from the servant? When we know the Lord is behind us, let us never stop believing. We need to be as persistent as Elijah. Eventually, a tiny cloud will appear and we will see God reign down with his will.

Seek the good (Monday, March 10)

The headlines in any newspaper across the country reveal the very worst in the world. People commit all kinds of crimes, each one more shocking than the other. At times it may seem as though God has abandoned us and left us to our own devices. But he is with us daily. All we have to do is to look in the right places.

We need to go beyond the world that we have made and look at the world that God has made. The wonder of his creation is everywhere: in the changing of the seasons, in the magnificence of a forest, in the invisible wind, in the joyful sounds of children on a playground, in the care of a loving grandmother, in the fruits and vegetables that nourish our bodies, in the golden clouds of a sunrise. These prove God’s constant presence in the universe and in our lives.

We do not have to go very far to experience him. All we need to do is look at ourselves: the hands that move when we wish, the feet that can take us anywhere, the eyes that help us see both beauty and tragedy, the ears that hear the cries of others and the arms that can comfort the lost.

You and I are, indeed, fearfully and wonderfully made. We are the miracles of life! This day may seem, at first glance, like another ordinary day – one more day of bad news everywhere we look. Let us take a peek behind the scenes, though, and glimpse the amazing splendor of God’s world where all things are made new.

Committing our ways (Sunday, March 9)

Lord, I will do whatever you ask of me. I will serve you gladly and do your will throughout the day. I delight in bringing glory to you and in showing others your greatness. Tell me what needs to be done for your kingdom and I will do it.

We need to make this promise to God each moment of our lives. Even before we have a chance to think about our will, we must dedicate ourselves to serving him. He must be first in our thoughts, actions, emotions and words. Our sight must be so focused on him that we see nothing else, not even ourselves.

Giving our lives completely over to his direction and instruction is not easy. But it does become easier the more we follow. In time, his way becomes a way of life for us. We will know we have become successful when we no longer have to ask him what to do. We carry out his commands before he speaks.

“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed” (Proverbs 16:3). If we entrust our lives to him, he will entrust his will to us. He will make sure we are successful because we want what he wants.

A stronger, quieter life (Saturday, March 8)

Not far from home is a large Amish community. These people live in a way completely different from the rest of society. They believe in living quietly and simply: no cars, no electricity, no phones and no modern technology. They are plain and humble individuals who live in a world of their own by producing only what they need.

Visiting this area, full of Amish farms, barns and stores, is a true blessing. Horses and buggies are everywhere. Quaint shops line the streets. Life is much slower, except for the thousands of tourists who pile in daily. Outsiders come to shop and eat, and to see a culture that has remained the same for hundreds of years. After a few hours, these city folk get on their buses and head back to civilization.

Perhaps modern society has lost what the Amish have managed to keep: a strong sense of family rooted in a deep, abiding dependence on the Lord to provide every need.

As we live today, with all of our luxuries and conveniences, may we remember who and what is the heart of everything that exists whether we are Amish, Catholic, Protestant or some other faith. God is the core and the center of the universe. With him, we have everything we need. Without him, there is nothing worth living for. 

Does fear control you? (Friday, March 7)

Getting out of the turmoil of everyday life is no easy accomplishment. Human nature is quickly caught up in a whirlwind of emotions, like a storm of choices that confuses and controls the mind. But there is a way to escape.

Elsa, the Snow Queen, in the Disney movie Frozen tells about breaking free from a tangled web of feelings. In the theme song “Let It Go” she sings, “It’s funny how some distance makes everything seem small; And the fears that once controlled me can’t get to me at all.” Putting space, some distance, between us and the past is where God enters the picture.

He can make the past seem small and insignificant, even those events that happened yesterday. The more we focus on him and recognize his largeness, the less we will see behind us. It is almost as if we are flying toward him at such a rapid speed that what lies behind quickly disappears from view.

Remember, the closer we are to God the farther away we are from the world. He is the answer to putting distance between who we are and who we were so that fear will not hold us back. 

Healing or patching? (Thursday, March 6)

Jesus came so that we would have life, now and for eternity. We are made new creatures in him and through him, leaving the past behind. Even so, we cannot resist the temptation to graft at least part of the old self to our recreated body.

No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth to an old garment, Jesus said, for the patch will pull away from the garment. Often, we try to take the hurts and pains of years ago and attach them to our present self. We even attempt to stitch previous regrets into this new fabric. But it will not work. Sooner or later, everything will unravel. The tear in our lives will become worse, perhaps even beyond repair.

Jesus adds that it is impossible to put new wine into old, worn out wineskins. If we do, he says, the skins will burst; the wine will run out all over and the wineskins will be ruined. Our lives are much the same. We cannot fill ourselves with the new life of Christ without letting him change us completely.

He must remake us both on the outside and inside so that his life and love can be preserved within us. It is impossible to live for him if we only patch up our wounds. Eventually, the seam will rip apart unless we are fully restored by his hand.

In your hands, Lord (Wednesday, March 5)

I took my granddaughter to the mall; she wanted to do something “fun” after going to the dentist. She was probably thinking that I would buy her something. I did not, but I tried to cheer her up by saying Tuesday was window shopping day only.

How many times do we think God should do something for us when we turn to him. He should take care of our finances, find us a new job or fix our car. We almost expect God to rescue us from all kinds of situations simply because he can.

Often, we forget about praying expectantly and, yet, trusting God to do what is best. Our faith seems to waiver when he does not do what we think he should. We might even get angry or pout like my granddaughter did.

Maybe we need to put more of our effort and energy into trusting God rather than asking for the same thing over and over again. Let us say with the psalmist: “I trust in you, Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hands.” We are safe and secure whenever he holds us.

Just ask him (Tuesday, March 4)

If I could, I would heal everyone: my sister-in-law who has dementia; my friend who has cancer; another friend who lost his career some time ago; my brother who has atrial fibrillation; a dear lady who had a knee replacement and her husband who has a heart condition.

Yes, if I could, I would heal all of these and more. Everywhere I go, I would heal people, situations and events. If only I had the power.

I do, however, have the ability to at least help these people. I can offer support and encouragement. I also can ask God to bring about dramatic changes in the lives of everyone I meet.

As we pray today, let us ask God to mend the brokenness and sin around the world. Let us mean it when we say, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” God does not like to see suffering any more than we do, and he can do what we cannot. We just need to ask him just as Jesus did.

Your blessing is coming (Monday, March 3)

Being rejected by people. Having to leave family and friends. Being thrown in jail. Each one of these was a blessing in disguise: Moses was exiled from Egypt; Abraham had to pack up and go to a new land; and Joseph was imprisoned for years. At the moment, it seemed like the worst thing to happen. But in time, Moses, Abraham and Joseph realized their blessing in disguise.

What blessings in disguise have you received from God? Maybe you lost a job and wound up at a better place. Perhaps you had to move far away and found a better life. Possibly you appeared like a failure and suddenly everything turned into success.

Our entire house once was destroyed by vandals to the tune of $75,000. Our family of four had to live in a hotel for three months. During that time, we learned how to be more patient and how to let others help us. When all was said and done, this tragedy turned out to be a blessing in disguise. We became a closer and more appreciative family.

If you are going through an ordeal right now, keep looking for your blessing in disguise. Watch and see how God will turn your sadness into gladness. The Lord told the defeated nation of Israel, “I will turn their mourning into joy; I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow” (Jeremiah 31:13). Most certainly God will do the same for you!

Abba, Father (Sunday, March 2)

Each time I hear a siren, I pause to say a prayer for both the person who needs help and the individual speeding to offer aid. I wonder if there is a house on fire, someone having a heart attack, a business being robbed. The siren is a warning to all to move out of the way so help can arrive as quickly as possible. We are blessed to be able to call for assistance and have support within minutes.

God’s response to us is even faster. He does not have to drive through traffic or navigate intersections. He is with us as soon as we cry out his name. There is no waiting and no delay. Our Father hears our prayers and he is there.

The difficulty for us is when we do not see his immediate presence. He does not show up with a police car, an ambulance or a fire truck. But he is there through the Holy Spirit. We have to believe he is with us though we cannot see him. And, we can rejoice because he is Spirit, who is able to do far more than any human being. The Holy Spirit can give us anything we need.

The next time you hear a siren, think about what happens when we call on the Lord. As soon as we utter the first word, he is present. He is there to protect us and keep us safe. All we have to do is say his name: Abba, Father.

Watch what you celebrate (Saturday, March 1)

I went to a party the other morning. There was no cake or ice cream. No decorations either. It was a party just for me—a self-pity party. All of my emotions and feelings had a great time. I felt sorry for myself for all kinds of reasons. I told myself I was the only person in the world who had problems and disappointments. Over and over I lamented, “I am always willing to help other people, but no one ever helps me. No one cares about me.”

Chances are you have been to a “celebration” like this. You go from feeling up to being down in a few seconds. Suddenly, images fill your head of all the things that have gone wrong in your life. For entertainment, you bring your past back to life again and watch each detail. In no time at all, your self-pity party is in full swing.

We need to stop ourselves from attending these events. Tell yourself you don’t have time for such nonsense. What happens if you don’t go? Nothing. In fact, you won’t miss a thing.

Thank God we don’t have to feel sorry for ourselves because of what has already passed. We have been forgiven and the wrongs forgotten. The next time you are invited to a self-pity party, RSVP that you are busy. Then, remind yourself of this scripture: “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12).

Reformed (Friday, February 28)

Being conformed to God’s will allows us to be reformed in his image. You and I cannot be like him until we give in to him, and unless we accept his ways. Once we are able to be molded into what he wants, then we are reformed in all parts of our life.

Desire and discipline go hand in hand. One without the other will not work. First, there needs to be a desire to change. Second, there must be a requisite for change. The whole process is what shapes our will into his. This is how we become one with him; it also is the only way he can live in us.

But we often lack the control we require to be reformed. We want to change, yet we do not wish to go through the rigors of being restrained. We want a method that is painless and effortless. There are no easy fixes, though, for becoming more like Jesus. We will have to suffer for him.

In the end, when God is finished, we will be a new creature. We will be recreated and ready to do whatever he asks. All that we once were is vanished. In its place is a disciplined spirit. What began as a desire to please him is now a perfected heart to gratify him.

Citizens of ___________
(Thursday, February 27)

Can we learn to look beyond what is in front of us—to see what lies on the other side of trouble, difficulty and sickness? We have to be able to see with our spirit just as Jesus did each day.

Jesus is the supreme example of how we must constantly look to heaven. He was able to see past those who were sick and dying, those who were poor, those who did not believe in him and those who rejected him. He even looked past those who nailed him to a cross and left him there to die.

Too often when trials come our way we look down rather than up. We think of the worst thing that could happen; this, then, becomes our reality. When I lost my first full-time job as a professor, right after receiving my doctorate, I thought my life was over. I believed my career was finished and no college would ever higher me again. Nothing was further from the truth, but I could think beyond my immediate pain and hurt. That event was two universities and 20 years ago.

Jesus lived by the spirit. He knew the truth about life and he knew the future. We may not be able to see into the years ahead as he could. But we can trust him to know he would not mislead us. Paul said “we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives” (Philippians 3:20). Let us always make sure we are looking in the right direction: where Jesus lives and not where the world exists.

Show and tell (Wednesday, February 26)

Our granddaughter Lexi has a chance to participate once a week in show and tell at her elementary school. She can take something she likes to school and tell all of her classmates about it. She can explain why she likes the object and what it means to her.

As adults, we have the same opportunity each day. We can show and tell what Jesus means to us. We can explain to others what he has done for us and why we continue to follow him. Telling the world about him gives people the chance to understand and appreciate him as well.

When Jesus said to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19), he tells us to show and tell just like children do in school. We should share the good news of salvation and the forgiveness of sins everywhere.

Today, take the time to show and tell. Show how Jesus has changed your life and tell people how he can help them, too.

Staying salty and blessed (Tuesday, February 25)

Jesus once told his followers, “Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me" (Luke 7:23). He was saying those who did not take offense at him would be blessed.

All of us have missed a blessing or two because we did not stand up for Jesus. Peter is probably the greatest example. I recall a time when I acted the same way. I was visiting a friend in the hospital when a popular evangelist came on the television. The other two persons in the room laughed at his silly antics of healing a boy who could not hear. In order to fit in, I chuckled as well.

The incident occurred 44 years ago, yet I have never forgotten it. I am not proud of how I acted, but that time has been a constant reminder of how I sometimes forget what is more important than going along with the crowd.

As Christians, we are created to be different; we are meant to be salt and light. Remember what Jesus said? “If the saltiness losses it flavor, then it is thrown out” (Luke 14:32). May we always realize that God puts us in certain situations to make a difference. We are not supposed go along with the world and lose our saltiness or our blessing. 

Lonesome but not alone (Monday, February 24)

We are able to hide our hurts in him. We can go to God for consolation and comfort at anytime. No matter what has happened, we can take our deepest disappointments to him. He understands and he cares. He feels the same sorrow. We are his children and the thing that has hurt us has hurt him as well.

Even in our togetherness with the Father, the pain may not disappear completely. The sadness we feel is real. It is not something we imagine or fabricate. If we did not care so deeply in the first place – whether we failed to get a job we wanted or we learned that a loved one is in distress – we would not experience such intense torment. That is the very reason God weeps for us when we are in distress: he does not like to see us this way because he loves and cares for us.

He grieves with us and for us during times of trouble. The pain that we experience and the pain that he feels are one in the same. We mourn together because we are alike. What bothers us also bothers him. He created us in his image; he made us like himself with his emotions and feelings.

Whenever you are hurting, go to the one who understands. The God who gave birth to you. He knows you better than anyone on earth. Not only will he share your grief, but he will reassure you that everything will be okay. He is your Father and he is in control of each situation. Even when you feel lost and lonesome, you are never alone. 

One letter (Sunday, February 23)

Just one small letter – y – separates your from our. It is the difference between your life in Christ and our lives together in God’s kingdom. What we do individually is important, of course. But what we do as one body is even more meaningful.

Jesus said apart from him we can do nothing. I think, too, that apart from one another we can do very little either. God needs all of us to complete his work and we require one another. One person cannot do it alone. Two or three cannot do it. We must have everyone – each person that God has made in order to reach the nations.

Your task is unlike mine. Still, our service together complements what we do for the Lord. We are like laborers in the field. Each one of us must work in unison and severally to take in the crop. Your work may be to cut down the wheat while mine might be to gather it up. As we join together in one common purpose, we harvest our field.

Your work and mine are necessary for our service to him. This way of thinking imparts deeper meaning into what Jesus told his disciples: “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them." Our separate lives are complete when he is with us, for he makes us one out of many.

Proof of his love (Saturday, February 22)

Children have a hard time learning how to act. Their nature is to do whatever they want. What they do not realize is that they are no good to themselves or anyone else without being disciplined.

Our daughter once bought a horse who was green; he had never been ridden. The horse would not have any purpose if left alone in a pasture all day. It took hours of training before she could even get a bit in his mouth and weeks of work before he could prance in a circle with a saddle on his back. Eventually, she was able to ride the horse. He responded eagerly to her commands and tugs on the reins.

As adults, we probably do not like all of the discipline the Lord puts us through. But, the more he disciplines us the more he is able to do with us. What use would we be to him or anyone else if we never got over getting our way all of the time? Without his correction and guidance, we would be wandering everywhere with no purpose at all.

“The Lord disciplines the one he loves,” wrote St. Paul, “and he chastens everyone he accepts as his child” (Hebrews 12:6). Each time the Lord tries to teach us something new, he is actually showing how much he loves us.

From on high (Friday, February 21)

God works through us in amazing ways that we cannot possibly understand. He gives us hope when we are hopeless. He gives us help when we are helpless. He gives us faith when we are faithless. He does these things even when we are not aware of what is going on.

Recently, I had a technician work on my computer. I did not see him or hear him because he was thousands of miles away—perhaps in India judging by his name. But I knew he was going through my computer because I could see the arrow clicking on buttons, scanning for viruses and problems. The pointer on the screen moved rapidly from side to side and screen to screen as he examined my entire system. He did all this remotely without me ever meeting him in person. He used his skills and knowledge, from right where he was, to assist me on the other side of world.

We never have to see God to know he is working on us all of the time. We should sense the changes as he gives us strength when we are not strong and power when we have nothing left to give.

“Even to your old age and gray hairs, I am he, I am he who will sustain you,” says the Lord. “I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you” (Isaiah 46:4). God does not have to come down out of the heavens to be with us. He can do it all from where he is on high.
 
"Do not be afraid”
(Thursday, February 20)

When Jesus had chosen his disciples he called them together and gave them specific instructions. One of the things he said was, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul” (Matthew 10:28). Jesus wanted them to be able to stand up to all kinds of threats and intimidation. He does he want us to fear what comes against us either.

How many times, though, do we fret over what people say about us or against us? We take their opinions and thoughts to heart. We let others determine how we act and what we do. Even though Jesus tells us not to be afraid, we let fear get the best of us.

When I worked at a college in the western part of Virginia there were several individuals who did not like me. I was never sure why. I became guarded and self-conscious whenever I saw them. Even after I left the school, I always was nervous about going back to the area to visit; I dreaded running into these certain people.

It took me a long time to get over my feelings of insecurity. I wasted a lot of time and energy worrying about nothing. I should not have been afraid, as Jesus said, because this group of professors never could touch me in the way that mattered most. I wish I would have learned my lesson sooner rather than later; 20 years was definitely too long.

Hope will not disappoint
(Wednesday, February 19)

Picture the kind of hope an innocent prisoner has of being set free one day. The kind of hope that an accident victim has of being able to walk again someday. The hope of a mother who has watched her child grow sicker each day. These are examples of hope that is active and alive, the kind we need to have in Jesus Christ.

Hope appears in the NIV Bible 180 times, from Job saying “that God would grant what I hope for” to David singing “my hope is in God all day long” to the Lord telling Isaiah that “those who hope in me will not be disappointed.”

As a noun, hope is synonymous with desire and wish. But as a verb, hope is much different; it means to expect, anticipate and look for. In other words, it is something that can be seen. Not with the eye and the mind, but with the heart and the spirit.

St. Paul knew what he was saying when he wrote, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” (Romans 12:12). Only those who find their hope in God can rejoice. As Christians we can be joyful because we know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that God is good. We will not be disappointed, just as he promised Isaiah. 

Joy (Tuesday, February 18)

Scripture makes clear that because we are justified through faith, we have peace with God through Jesus Christ. More often than not, however, we try to have peace with world. We want things to go smoothly in our lives. We want people to like us and appreciate us, especially those at work. We seek harmony and freedom from strife. We seem to be happiest when we are without problems, sickness or difficulties.

For the apostle Paul, the sort of peace we possess as Christians is far beyond what the world can ever offer. Because of Jesus, we have the hope of eternity. His death made possible God’s great grace for our atonement and salvation. Therefore, we have been fully justified – made pure and holy – though Jesus. This is the reason we rejoice and have peace.

Our happiness should have nothing to do with our circumstances. In fact, Paul says that we should delight in earthly afflictions. Why? Tribulation draws us closer to God. Suffering produces perseverance, according to Paul. Perseverance develops character; and character yields hope, which can never disappoint us. The evidence and proof of this hope is found in the Holy Spirit, a gift that God has already given us through his love.

The peace we can have transcends any adversity we might encounter today. We can have joy even in the midst of hardship. For one, we already possess eternal life. Second, each struggle allows us to perfect our faith and to be more like Jesus.

Where to find help (Monday, February 17)

The church is a spiritual hospital, a place where we can find help, health and restoration for our condition. If we are suffering, we can find relief. If we are troubled, we can find peace. If we are confused, we can find understanding. If we are depressed, we can find hope. If we are in pain, we can find comfort. Come to me, Jesus says, all you who are burdened and I will give you rest. I will heal you, take care of you and protect you.

He knows our needs, even when we say we are fine. Too often, we try to put up a front. We want the world to think we are getting along, that nothing is the matter. We put on our game face so no one can see the fear, anxiety, worry and heartache that are slowly but surely wearing us down.

When we are physically sick, we turn to a doctor. We explain what is wrong so we can receive the right treatment and medication. In the same way, we need to turn to God as well as our brothers and sisters in Christ so we can be nursed back to spiritual strength. God will minister to our needs while those in the church comfort us. Both are important to our recovery.

Let us remember that sharing our troubles is as valuable as sharing our joys. We are all one body in one Lord. Each member depends on the other for its well being. God will help us help one another, but we must be willing to admit that we need what only God and his church can offer. This is only place on earth where we can find the spiritual prescription we need to cure our troubled hearts. 

He lives (Sunday, February 16)

Jesus on the cross. His crucified body hangs there, bleeding and without life, to give true life to all. The Lamb is emptied, used up, and his blood transformed into life-giving power to dissolve death forever. In the darkness of that very moment, in the deepest of all tragedies ever, the light of eternity rises out of the blackness of sin. Sacrifice became salvation. Crucifixion became resurrection. Death becomes life.

The world succeeded in destroying Jesus, but his death was about more than the body alone. Nothing could kill the presence within. God’s Holy Spirit remained unchanged and unaffected even though the heart of Jesus had been silenced. He had already risen into eternal life as he was placed in a tomb. Three days later the grave was empty. Even the body was now gone – a sign that all those who believe shall never die, but have life everlasting.

The cross points to eternity, to the greater life that lies beyond physical existence. He lives now, in us and through us, even though his body is gone. What we do today will reveal his spirit to the lost, the lonely and the forgotten. We are living proof that he lives.

God's principle of increase (Saturday, February 15)

The Lord treasures whatever we do for him. He honors everything. Nothing is ever wasted, and we never know how much he will multiply the little things.

Jesus spoke about God’s principle of increase in the parable of the sower. Seed was scattered on a path, on rocky places and among the thorns. But other seed fell on good soil. “It came up,” Jesus said, “grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times” (Mark 4:8).

Remember what Jesus did with some loaves and fishes? God can take what seems like nothing to us and make a meal for thousands, with baskets of food left over. Amazing things materialize when God takes over.

He can work in you and me just as he did with Abraham, the father of many nations, or Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, or Moses, who led millions out of bondage. There is no telling what will happen when God multiplies your good works. In God’s hands, a simple act may become one of the greatest actions the world has ever witnessed!

To him be the glory (Friday, February 14)

It was not unusual for Jesus to heal someone or perform a miracle and then say, “Go and tell no one.” Biblical scholars and theologians have all kinds of theories, depending on the situation, of why Jesus did not want others to know what he had done. One thing we do know for sure is that Jesus did not want the credit. He always gave the glory to his father.

How unlike many people today, both inside and outside the church. People do something worthwhile, at least in their own eyes, and they want the world to know. Almost everywhere, from politics to entertainment to corporations, individuals boast about their accomplishments.

It is interesting to hear politicians around election time. Many of them use the “I was the one who __________ (fill in the feat)” everywhere they go. Entertainers, too, enjoy listing their many honors. Nonprofit corporations are no different; I have worked with many college presidents, deans and department chairpersons who love to brag about their greatness.

True greatness, however, is not found in singing your own praises. It is found in not seeking thanks and recognition for what you do. Ultimately, like Jesus, we are doing it for God. He is the one who deserves all of the glory! 

"Your faith has healed you” (Thursday, February 13)

Jesus grew up in Nazareth. Everyone knew him and refused to accept him as anything more than a carpenter’s son. Years later, during his ministry from village to village, he returned to his hometown. Still, most continued to reject him. The disciples were surprised at the cold reception he received. “ Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.’ He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith” (Mark 6:4-6).

Curiously, Mark wrote that Jesus could not do any miracles there, with the exception of a “few sick people.” Was it because those of Nazareth lacked the necessary faith to believe in Jesus or did he simply refuse to help them? Perhaps Jesus had already given up on them or he was offended by their lack of belief.

Maybe the underlying message is that God can work only where he is accepted and acknowledged. The New Living Translation of verse five explains, “And because of their unbelief, he couldn't do any miracles among them except to place his hands on a few sick people and heal them.”

It seems (to me) that Jesus was thwarted from performing miracles because the people did not accept him as the Son of God. Therefore, they could not accept that his ability to heal came from above. After all, they said, he was merely the child of Mary and Joseph. Let us never find ourselves acting like the people of Nazareth. May our faith be different—more like the woman who touched the hem of Jesus’ robe. “Your faith has healed you,” he said. “Go in peace and be freed from your suffering" (Mark 5:34).

Smooth sailing (Wednesday, February 12)

The disciples were not the only ones who saw Jesus calm the waters. Mark 4:36 tells us “other little boats were with them” when Jesus and his followers were crossing the sea one night. How many boats were in this small flotilla, we do not know. Mark does not elaborate.

Suddenly, a squall came up and the story shifts to the disciples crying out they were going to drown. Jesus awakened and spoke peace to the tempest. But what happened to the smaller boats?

Surely some of them turned back when the waves became too great. Others, though, must have continued on in spite of the risk. Those individuals who remained saw an enormous miracle. They witnessed the true power of Jesus; they saw with their own eyes he was mighty enough to control even the weather.

How often do we fail to see God at work because we run away—or turn back—when we feel threatened and afraid? May you and I never miss a single miracle because we gave up too early in the voyage. The storm may seem overwhelming to us, but to God it is nothing. Absolutely nothing at all.

All is possible (Tuesday, February 11)

Is there something that seems impossible to you? Maybe it is finding a way to pay all of the bills each month, being able to buy a house rather than renting or getting over an illness. Many of life’s situations seem impossible to us, but what about to God?

God created the entire universe and every living creature. He put the stars in the sky, the sun in the heavens and the planets in their orbits. He watches over the weak as well as the strong, and he has healed more disease than all the doctors who have ever lived.

Do you recall what Jesus said to the rich young man who asked how to be saved? “With man this is impossible,” Jesus replied, “but with God all things are possible.” In other words, we cannot save ourselves. Our salvation depends on God alone. The man said he did all that Jesus told him about keeping the commandments. What do I still lack, inquired the would-be follower. “If you want to be perfect,” Jesus responded, “go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

One of the many messages here is that there are certain things we can and cannot do, including the things we will or will not do. With God, though, all things are possible. Jesus did not proclaim some things are possible or a few things are possible. He stated everything is possible with God. No matter what you need right now, God can provide it. He is the God of all—even what you cannot imagine.

Wear his armor, not yours (Monday, February 10)

Are you prepared for what you will face today? Paul told the Ephesians that we need to be ready for anything at any time. Put on the whole armor of God, he said (Ephesians 6), so you can stand firm against adversity and trouble. We should wear the belt of God’s truth and the breastplate of his righteousness. Also, we need to hold up our shield of faith, and guard ourselves with the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit. Finally, we must pray.

Paul’s analogy is outdated for the 21st century, but it does emphasize the time and work necessary to be fit for the day ahead. What assails us might come in the form of a traffic ticket, losing our wallet, a dent in the car, a bad report from a doctor or hundreds of other problems. The moment of truth comes in how we react when we are attacked.

Do we fight back, get mad, yell? Or do we stand firm, keeping our patience and our tongue, because we know God is in control of the situation as well as our lives? We are Christians, followers of Christ, and we can be patient, optimistic and trusting. Our faith in the Lord’s ability should not waiver if we believe in him.

As Monday begins, take the opportunity to plan ahead. Know that God has given you everything you need. What you must do, though, is to make sure you are wearing his armor, not your own.

Do what he says (Sunday, February 9)

When God speaks, he says what he means and he means what he says. How many people, past and present, have questioned him or doubted if they were hearing right? All of us are guilty on one occasion or another.

In 1 Samuel 23, there is the account of David asking God twice about what he was to do. When David heard that the people of the city of Keilah were being attacked by the Philistines, he asked the Lord if he should help. “The Lord answered him, ‘Go, attack the Philistines and save Keilah.’” The men in David’s army replied they were afraid and the situation would be worse for everyone to go against the Philistines.

David went back to the Lord with the same question. Again, God answered, “Go down to Keilah, for I am going to give the Philistines into your hand.” God was true to his word: he defeated the Philistines and protected the inhabitants of Keilah.

May all of us learn to take God at his word the first time—not the second or third time—regardless of what we see, think or feel. Remember, he is GOD and he is more than able to do anything he says.

God paves the way (Saturday, February 8)

The Lord has a road for each one of us to travel through life. If we ignore his will, we have no choice but to go our own way. The difference is similar to driving on a paved road as opposed to a dirt path. One is definitely smoother than the other.

I went through Boy Scouts, high school and church with a great friend. We did almost everything together. After graduation we went our separate ways and did not reconnect until years later. He went to college and served in the Navy. I worked and earned a doctorate in literature. Ironically, from the same background and beginning, we ended up in very different places.

His life seems to have been much harder than mine. He has gone through a failed marriage, nervous breakdown, several unsuccessful business ventures, estrangement from his only brother and being fired from the post office. Eventually, he left the church and began drifting on his own. He refuses to talk about the time in the hospital when he saw Jesus walking toward him. Instead, he rejects all mention of Christ and religion.

I pray one day he will return. Like the prodigal son, I want him to see Jesus again and realize he has wandered the wrong way for years. Proverbs 3:6 tells us “in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:6). God paves the way for us from the start, but he leaves the direction and decision up to us. Which way are you going?

“Come, follow me” (Friday, February 7)

Simon and his brother Andrew were busy fishing by the Sea of Galilee. Suddenly, they heard someone call to them. It was Jesus. He was standing on the shore. “Come, follow me,” he said. With these three simple words, they dropped their nets and went with him.

Could the two men have had any idea where Jesus was going and where this strange invitation would lead them? Did they think this journey would last for three years and then for the rest of their lives? They could not have even guessed that God had chosen them to witness the greatest event in the universe. Simon and Andrew were plain fishermen who would never be the same again.

So the story goes, repeated over and over again millions of times throughout the past 2,000 years. Jesus says, “Come, follow me.” People instantly drop what they are doing and go with him. When I heard Jesus call to me at the age of 15, I never imagined he would take me to where I am today. I have reached this point only because I have followed him. Where I would have gone on my own is hard to say, but I know it would have been the wrong way.

Think of where you were and what you were doing when Jesus said, “Come, follow me.” Those three words have made all the difference in both your life and mine. May we never forget the day he chose us to follow him and for all he has done through the years.

Removing the stain forever (Thursday, February 6)

When you and I sin, we don’t have to work and work at removing the stain. All we need to do is to ask for forgiveness and the matter is over. God takes away the wrong and we no longer have to worry about it.

Recently, I spilled red wine on our brand new living room carpeting. I cleaned up what I could that night and the next morning began a more rigorous cleaning. There were several steps to the entire process: blot with a damp cloth and detergent, blot with another damp cloth containing white vinegar, and then blot with paper towels until the moisture was absorbed. Then let it dry. Four times I had to repeat the same cleaning. Finally, the stain came out. In the end, I was thoroughly worn out.

We do not have to wear ourselves down as well as punish ourselves each time we make a mistake. We do not have to labor to earn God’s love again. We don’t even have to suffer countless times to prove how sorry and remorseful we are. We just need to go to God with a sincere and contrite heart.

According to 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Not only does God forgive us, but he also purifies us forever from any permanent stain. Unlike the spot on the carpet—which took much effort to remove—God does not make us toil for forgiveness. He realizes we would never be able to make up for what we have done on our own, so he grants us the grace of his forgiveness.

God of all seasons (Wednesday, February 5)

My granddaughter asked me what season of the year I liked best. I told her fall was my favorite with spring being a close second. She prefers summer. Whatever season you enjoy most there is profound beauty in each one, depending on your individual preferences.

In a manner of speaking our lives go through seasons, too. Some seasons we like more than others. Seasons of prosperity, for example, make us happy. Seasons of celebration make us joyful. Seasons of success make us satisfied. What about the other seasons: the seasons of sickness, disappointment, depression and doubt. These are not pleasant; still, they are a part of the mosaic of life.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” Every event or activity in our lives represents a different season and each one is divinely ordered by God. He watches over us during the good and the bad.

We can be content in spite of the season; also, whether we like it or not. God surrounds us year-round with his love and grace. “There is a time for everything . . . under the heavens.” No matter what season you are going through, remember God is a whole lot bigger than any season you will ever experience as a human being. 

A heart for others
(Tuesday, February 4)

You and I sometimes forget to have compassion toward others. Everywhere we look, people seem to be more concerned about themselves than with their neighbors. Compassion is not merely feeling sorry for someone else. In addition to our empathy, compassion involves taking action. Having compassion for another person means doing something to relieve their pain or suffering.

How many times do we read in scripture about Jesus having compassion toward the sick, the lame, the poor, the hungry, the sorrowful? Jesus did more than feel sorry for these people. He helped them. He healed. He comforted. He fed. He restored. He taught.
Matthew tells the story of two blind men who came to Jesus one day. They shouted to the Lord to be healed, but the embarrassed crowd rebuked them. However, “Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.”

When we have compassion, we have the power to transform lives. Pity affects only our feelings, while compassion reaches out to affect change in the lives of others. We need to be more like Jesus and less like ourselves. We need to practice the kind of compassion that makes a difference.

Focus on the victory (Monday, February 3)

Forgetting the past means letting go of the painful moments, yet remembering how God has brought us through these great difficulties. It is easy to recall how we have been hurt by situations in life. Our minds vividly replay the scenes as though we are watching a movie about our lives. Each word and every detail appear in minute clarity, reminding us of previous wounds. Unfortunately, we never stay long enough to see how the past ends: how God has brought us through safely. He has made sure we were not harmed, no matter what the circumstance.

Somehow we always ignore the fact that God protects us through each storm. He has been with us in the past and he will be with us in the future. What lies before us now is no different than what we have been through in the past. But our hope for tomorrow must rest solely in God – in his mantle of love and protection. This divine assurance is what we possess through our faith and belief in him. It is our birthright and it is what separates us from the rest of world. God has made a blood covenant with us. He promises never to leave us nor forsake us.

The Old Testament is full of examples when God’s people forgot about his powerful presence; they thought he had abandoned them. They did not remember what he had done in the past and so they had no hope for the future. Let us not make the same mistakes. Let us forget the pains of the past, and concentrate on how we have been victorious through God. In the end, the victory over trials and tribulations is all that will matter, not our brief time of suffering.

The community of believers (Sunday, February 2)

At least once each week, the Lord gives us a chance to gather together as brothers and sisters in Christ. He knows that we need this time of fellowship and worship in order to realize what it means to love and support one another. Too often we think that we are alone as we go through difficult situations in life. We have the impression that no one understands our circumstances. Even more, we do not want to appear weak or vulnerable so we do not share our burdens with each other.

As we see each other on Sunday, we have a wonderful opportunity to draw strength and encouragement from fellow believers. There are weeks when we are strong and we can help someone else. There also are times when we feel lonely, sick or afraid, and we need to let others help us.

Imagine the delight and pleasure the Lord feels when he sees all of us living as a family in him. As our father, he is happiest when all of his children are together. It pleases him to see us loving one another in the same way he loves each one of us.

The right hope (Saturday, February 1)

A simple four-letter word, hope, can make or break us. Literally. With the right kind of hope we can accomplish almost anything. Without hope we go nowhere.

Jesus showed us the power of hope in God. Lepers, the blind and the lame all put their hope in Jesus to be healed. These miracles were actual examples of what hope in God can do.

People hope for a variety of objects: a new car or house, a new vocation or even a vacation. These are placing hope in what might be possible in the world. Hope in God is different. When we put our hope in God we are believing in him for what we want. We look to him for help, comfort and protection.

Paul said “hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?” (Romans 8:24-25). Where is your hope today? If you can physically see what you want, then you are putting your faith in the wrong place. But if you are trusting God, then you are hoping for him to give you what the world cannot. He is able to give you much more than anything on earth, and his gifts are unconditional as well as lasting. 

He knows the way (Friday, January 31)

When God makes a way, we may not always move forward with confidence and assurance. We tend to doubt what will happen next, even though we know God will protect us.

God showed the Israelites which way to go when he brought them out of bondage. Still, at times, they thought they were going to die in the desert. When they were being pursued by Pharaoh’s army, God again showed them which way to go. He parted the Red Sea and held back the waters. As they crossed, they must have wondered if they were going to drown. When God at last showed them the Promised Land, they were afraid to go in.

We are no different than the Israelites. Even when God leads us in the right direction – both by closing the door behind us and freeing us to move forward – we are full of doubt, fear and confusion. Sometimes we feel lost because we do not know what is out there or what we will face in the days and weeks ahead. We want to know the outcome, the future, even before we go through the desert, through the Red Sea or into the Promised Land.

God says “Trust me, and I will take care of you.” But we do not hear him because we keep asking, over and over again, “Where are we going and what are you doing to us?” Our faith should be built on trust in God’s way. He knows the future and what is best for us. We do not.

24/7 (Thursday, January 30)

The disciples were constantly reminded of God because Jesus was with them every day. They saw him in the morning, in the afternoon and at night. He was always there talking with them and teaching them about the kingdom of heaven. They were also with him as he healed the sick and drove out demons. They could not help but remember what their lives, and his, were all about.

We have the same opportunity today – to see God at work everywhere we go. The problem is that often we forget to look at what he is doing. We have our plans, our schedules and our agenda. We rush from one thing to another without acknowledging God or asking him what he would have us do.

In our haste to accomplish more and more each day, we need to pause frequently and go before the Lord in humility and thanksgiving. He is the source for all we need. He can refresh us when we are tired and weary. He can restore us when we are afraid and lost. He can renew us even when we want to give up and give in.

God is with us at all times. He is walking with us, talking with us and teaching us, just as Jesus did with the disciples. If we do not notice his presence, we are not looking hard enough. “Seek and you shall find,” Jesus said. He knew what he was talking about. The real question is if we trust him enough to believe what he said.

Wearing our faith (Wednesday, January 29)

Various passages in the New Testament remind us to clothe ourselves with certain qualities, such as compassion, humility, love, patience and understanding. These are simple virtues, yet many people misunderstand what God is saying. He does not tell us merely to practice these so that we can become better persons. Instead, God instructs us to “clothe ourselves” in them.

Wearing compassion and being compassionate are quite different. When we wear a piece of clothing, it becomes a part of us much like a shirt or a pair of shoes. The items move when we move; we do not have to think about them. On the other hand, when we perform a certain act – say, being compassionate toward someone – we may do so only for the moment. Depending on our circumstances, we might not be kind and considerate all of the time.

We have to learn how to be compassionate, loving and humble constantly. Our calling is to wear these virtues like a piece of clothing so that they become a part of our being. They go with us no matter where we go, what we do or how we feel. When we wrap ourselves in the right way, we are covering ourselves with the eternal garments of heaven.

Believing without seeing (Tuesday, January 28)

Knowing God is with us in the confusion and chaos of life is essential to our being. Yet, we often deny ourselves the very thing that we need most. As circumstances swirl out of control all around us, we suddenly forget about the presence of God. We need to believe that God never leaves us alone. He is always there.

His supernatural presence is with us even when our lives seem the darkest. When we feel abandoned by the world, God is there. When we suffer because of the faults of others, God is there. When we have no where to turn, God is there. When we have lost our way, God is there.

We have his promise, his own personal covenant, that he will never leave us, even when our hope fades and grows dim. During such times, we have to learn to trust – not with our sight but with our soul. We must resist the temptation to be convinced only by his physical presence. We should not need to see the wounds in his hands before we believe he is with us.

What can help us most of all is to understand that God does not need to show himself in order to be present in our lives. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, God can do all he needs to do. It should not matter to us whether we can see him at work or not. We should place all of our hope in the power of his actions rather than in the physical presence of his appearance. If we truly believe in God’s divine power, seeing him next to us will not give us any more than we already possess through him. 

Pleasing God (Monday, January 27)

Our acts of love toward Jesus are holy and consecrated even though people may not always understand. Often, the world fails to comprehend because our works of kindness and devotion find true meaning only in the pure, eternal light of heaven. Whatever we do for Jesus is never lost, no matter what others might think or say.

The apostle Mark writes of a woman who was harshly criticized when she showed her love and devotion toward Jesus. Mark explains that the woman broke open an alabaster jar and poured expensive perfume on Jesus’ head. Immediately, the disciples complained; they rebuked the woman for her senseless act. “Why this waste of perfume,” they asked indignantly. “It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.”

The woman offered all she had, yet she was condemned. To her, Jesus was more precious than anything she possessed in life; his worth and his life far exceeded even the finest, most fragrant, oil on earth. Jesus alone recognized gift. ”She has done a beautiful thing to me,” he told his followers. “Why are you bothering her?”

Others may not always grasp what we are doing for the Lord. But their lack of understanding or recognition should not keep us from what we know is right. We must follow our hearts, doing whatever is pure and holy in God's sight.

Our story of his good news (Sunday, January 26)

Everywhere he went, he saw opportunities to serve and preach. He made three missionary journeys and told thousands about the salvation of Jesus Christ. Nothing seemed to stop him. Even in prison Paul wrote letters—to the Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon.

Paul was being true to what Jesus had taught: to “go and make disciple of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). How much more we can do today to spread the good news. We are not in bondage and we are free to go wherever we wish.

We have cell phones, iPads, computers and the Internet to reach people just as Paul did. But we can do something Paul could not. We can tell our story of what God has done in our lives. For me, I can write down how he has watched over me through the years. When I walked away from him in college, he waited for me to return. When I lost job after job, he used the defeats to put me where I needed to be. When I thought I was going deaf in one ear, he restored my hearing. All the times I lost faith in myself, he gave me the strength and courage to continue.

Paul told his story through what he did. We can, too. But let us not forget the obvious: to tell what God has accomplished through us. Let us make sure our family and friends know our story of good news: how Jesus has been a personal friend and savior to us. This is one of the most powerful ways we can reach more disciples for Christ. 

He is smiling at you (Saturday, January 25)

Take a moment to think of who you are. To God, you are more precious than all the treasure on earth! You are fashioned by him and created to be in Jesus Christ. Even more, you are designed to do good works that are prepared for you.

Paul told the Ephesians how much God valued each one of them. “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10). Imagine what it means to be God’s handiwork. One dictionary defines the word as “work done by the hands” or “work done personally.” God molded you and made you with his own hands and breath. He also chose you to be his special servant in Christ, and he prepared “good works” for you to do in life.

How amazing that God loves us so much he plans for us to be his chosen children and he gives us a purpose for living. Our lives matter to God and to those he has placed around us. God knows we are not perfect and he knows we sometimes fall. But it does not make a difference. He continues to love us as much as he loves his only son—our lord and savior Jesus Christ.

You are great not because of what you have done in the world or for the world, but because of what you have done for him in heaven. Each and every thing you do with a kind and open heart pleases him. May you see him smiling down on you today, and may his holy countenance give you his everlasting peace.

The battle is not yours
(Friday, January 24)

As children, most of us sang the song about Joshua. “Joshua fought the battle of Jericho,” went the refrain, “and the walls came tumbling down.” Yes, Joshua was there as commander of the army, but it was God who fought the battle.

“March around the city once with all the armed men,” God said to Joshua. “Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have the whole army give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the army will go up, everyone straight in” (Joshua 6:3-5).

All Joshua had to do was what God told him to do. Then, and only then, would the walls fall. How many times do we try to fight the battle alone? God tells us what to do in every situation. Yet, because of our human pride and feelings, we march ahead without the Lord. Later, we are suddenly surprised when the walls don’t come tumbling down.

The next time you find yourself in a battle, remember what Moses told the Israelites when they were being pursued by Pharaoh’s troops: “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Exodus 14:13-14). We know what happened next. The Lord will do the same for you!

Eat and drink and be glad (Thursday, January 23)

Recently, I searched the Internet for “why bad things happen to good people.” Google returned 113 million entries. Who really knows how many people since the beginning of creation have tried to understand life and the paradoxes of living.

How many times have we heard someone say, “Why is this happening to me? I have always tried to be a good person. And now this!” On more than one occasion, I have asked myself the same question. Like everyone else, though, I have failed to come up with an answer.

The truth is that bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people. Who knows why? King Solomon said it did not matter. “There is something . . . meaningless that occurs on earth: the righteous who get what the wicked deserve, and the wicked who get what the righteous deserve. This too, I say, is meaningless” (Ecclesiastes 8:14). He did not see the point of wasting time to figure out why these things happen. They just do.

It is much better to spend our days appreciating the life God has given us. “So I commend the enjoyment of life,” he said, “because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 8:15). Today, take Solomon’s advice to heart: concentrate more on loving your life and less on trying to understand it.

Doing his desire (Wednesday, January 22)

Sometimes the best thing to say is to say nothing at all. Likewise, sometimes the best action is to take no action at all. Holding ourselves back from our natural feelings is not easy. We are prone to speak and then think later. We also are inclined to act and then realize we were wrong.

At heart, we are emotional beings. We are passionate about our beliefs, our desires, our needs and our thoughts. We defend ourselves and state our position without hesitation; it is an automatic response, much like a reflex. Most of us are hard-pressed to hold back when we feel strongly about an issue or matter. At times, we even surprise ourselves with how quickly we react.

What you and I need to practice is being more patient, willing to trust God more than ourselves. We must become humble, like Jesus, realizing that we can step back from adversity because God will step in with authority.

Remember what Jesus said: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29). We do not have to be restless or wrestle over anything. Jesus has the peace we seek but it requires us to be meek. Never forget that your strength is found in God, no matter how passionate you become. For in ourselves, we can accomplish very little. In the Lord, however, we can achieve everything.

Forgive and be free to live (Tuesday, January 21)

Why does forgiveness have to be so hard when it is such an easy thing? All we need to do is say “I forgive ___________” (fill in the blank) and let the matter go. The difficulty comes in not being able release our anger. For some odd reason, we want to hold on to our emotions.

I think the whole issue has to do with believing we have been wronged and we want justice. Maybe we hope to get even with the person or that they owe us something.

I still am a little upset by an incident that happened five years ago. The dean at a Christian university where I worked at the time threw me out of his office and slammed the door behind me. To this day, I have no idea what provoked him. My first instinct was to tell him where to go. Fortunately, I kept my mouth shut, but the anger remained. Forgiving this so-called “man of God” has not been easy. Nor have I been able to forget completely what he did.

You may think I am silly. Seen in the light of eternity, I realize such a small incident in my entire life is not even worth a mention. If I have any grace at all in me, I should not want him to go through what I did. Yes, he may deserve the same humiliation and hurt, but nothing anywhere—in this world or the next—gives me the right to harm him. No matter how I feel, I have one choice: to forgive him forever. If I do not, I will be the one who continues to suffer. Once I forgive, I will be free to live.

The bridge of goodness (Monday, January 20)

As much as we try to live good and godly lives, we have to realize it is impossible. Jesus said to the man who asked him about gaining eternal life: "Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments” (Matthew 19:17).

So often you and I try to do all of the things we should, such as keeping the commandments and being holy. Only God is perfect and only he can save us.

On our own, we are lost, sinful and deceitful. There is none among us who can be counted worthy of the kingdom of heaven without the grace of salvation. We have been forgiven for all our sins and wrongs—this is what purifies us to be counted as his children.

May we always try to be the best servants we can be but, at the same time, knowing we will always fall short. That is where he comes in: to bridge the gap between what we were and what we are in him.

Renewing our strength (Sunday, January 19)

Sometimes we become tired and weary, worn down by the struggles of life. We may feel as though our energy is gone – that it will take all of the remaining strength we possess to make it through today. What has happened? What has taken away our enthusiasm and joy?

Chances are we have become too involved in the world. We have allowed ourselves to get caught up in petty disagreements, the judgments of others, and the demands of our own schedule. Rather than looking at the world from a Christian perspective, we examine everything from a human viewpoint. We see people and situations only from our earthly perception.

What often remains invisible to us are God’s many blessings: the protection, the love, the guidance that He provides. We also are blind to the possibilities and challenges that await us. We do not notice, either, the miracles that have brought us to this time and day; we conveniently forget the past when we forget our purpose for being here.

You and I have a reason to be joyous and a purpose for today. You already know what you must do, and so do I. We need to believe in God and have faith in Him. “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God” (Psalm 20:7). We must put our trust in the name above all other names, no matter what we witness. God will renew our strength through his righteousness.

Depend on him (Saturday, January 18)

We say we want to understand God, but how much time do we spend with him? A few minutes each day? An hour? A couple of hours? The only way to get to know him is to be with him.

I recall when I first met my wife. She was (and still is) attractive, funny and smart. I did not really know her well back then, but as time went on I got to realize there was much more to her. She had a wonderful personality, a warm heart and a caring attitude toward everyone. The more time I spent with her, the more I knew who she was deep inside. Now, after 41 years of marriage, I almost always understand what she is thinking and why.

I have known the Lord since I was five and still I struggle at times to understand his ways. When I don’t understand something, though, I have faith to trust him. I know he will care for me each day in the future because of all I have seen him do in me in the past.

May you take every opportunity to be with God this day by talking to him and reading the things he has said down through the ages. You will never know everything about him, but at least you will know enough to depend on him in all situations.

His promises for you (Friday, January 17)

Life is not fair. Yet, from an early age we believe that if we are good and work hard, we will have a happy and rewarding life. If only there were guarantees we could depend on.

What we frequently forget is that we live in a fallen world…with sin, disease, harm and evil. These things are all around us every day. God is all around us as well and we can count on him. He surrounds us with a love that will not let us go. He is closer even than a friend.

His living word reminds us repeatedly of his compassion. "The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth" (Psalms 145.18). "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5). "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand" (Isaiah 41:10). "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you” (Isaiah 43:1-3).

These words were spoken by our father and written down for us to remember. Take these promises with you as you go through the day and let him bless you as he said he would.

We are God’s reflection (Thursday, January 16)

Dear Lord, you are the architect of this day. You will design what is best. You alone will build a perfect structure in me.

With each breath, every word and each step, you will shape me and mold me. You will construct a temple to you and for your glory. The world will look at me and say, Look and see what God has done; he has put together a magnificent work! Only a great Creator could have done such a thing.

What I am and what I do today is a tribute to you, Lord. I am ready to be used, to be a servant so that others can see your love and compassion. Make me what you want me to be, not for myself, but for you. Let others see in me what I see in you.

Disable your add-ins (Wednesday, January 15)

We know we should not be uneasy or nervous. The most important reason is because these emotions can infect us and harm our relationship with others and God. St. Paul advised the Philippians “not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6). Easier said than done.

My computer started to act up a couple of months ago; it was running slower and shutting off at random. I tried defragmenting the system, cleaning the hard drive, and removing all of the temporary files and cookies. Nothing seemed to work. Finally, I read about add-ins, which are added to existing programs in the computer. These enhance the features of certain types of software; most are downloaded automatically when a computer is linked to the Internet.

I disabled all of the add-ins and now my computer is back up to speed. It runs as fast as it did four years ago. Over time, the things we add-in our lives can slow us down. Worry, anxiety, frustration, anger – all of these decrease our effectiveness as Christians. We cannot serve God as we should when we are burdened with such emotions.

Perhaps you need to disable the many add-ins you have unknowingly downloaded into your life. Take time today to look inside your own personal hard drive and see what is slowing you down. Ask God to help you get rid of what you don’t need so you can focus all of your energy in the right direction. 

Completing his work in you (Tuesday, January 14)

God is constantly changing us, little by little. Sometimes we can become frustrated at our lack of progress. We are eager to be better servants and persons, but changing our personality or attitude seems to come too slowly. We want to be changed in an instant and not have to wait.

Think about how God works with us and through us. Each day, he is making us better. It does not happen all at once. The process is much like renovating a building or house. Any sort of remodeling takes a great deal of time and lots of patience.

My wife and I have been making improvements on the 70-year-old house we moved into six months ago. Not only has the work put a strain on our budget, but it also has put a strain on our emotions. There are days when we really struggle to keep ourselves together; we want everything to be done yesterday so we can enjoy our retirement in peace right now.

We have to remember that the finished product will be worth the wait. Our life in Christ will be worth it in the end as well. I am fond of a saying by evangelist Joyce Meyer: “I am not where I need to be, but thank God I am not where I used to be.” Try to be as patient as God is with you. Don’t worry either. Just trust God. “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

100% protection (Monday, January 13)

Children love candy, cookies, ice cream – anything sweet. Given the choice of something they like or something good for them, a cupcake versus broccoli for example, they will choose the cupcake every time. When it comes to our lives as adults, we are much like children when we want something from God.

The difficult part is in understanding what is good for us. What if we allowed children to eat what they wanted all of the time? They cannot see what will happen one day. They will have cavities, become overweight, develop diabetes and their bodies will not grow normally. Children never think about the big picture; they live only for the moment.

We, as adults, stop them from having too much sugar because we know the effects. God, as our father, also knows when a certain desire or wish is not good for us. He keeps us safe from harming ourselves.

At times, we may think God is withholding something good or beneficial. When, in reality, he is protecting us. If we do not always get what we want, it is because God loves us too much to see us hurt in any way.

The size of his love (Sunday, January 12)

You and I are little more than a speck of living matter in a vast, infinite universe. Yet, God blesses us daily with his love and grace. In fact, we are so dear to him that we are made in his image and fashioned for a special place in his kingdom.

When I consider what I am, I have to wonder why God wants me at all. How small and puny are my arms compared to his great works of creation; there is no comparison. I am a mere blade of grass. He is the light and life of the entire cosmos. On him, all living things depend.

Once we realize the gulf that separates us from him, the more we must bow with deep humility. “My soul glorifies the Lord,” said Mary, “and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant” (Luke 1:46-48). John the Baptist also realized his unworthiness. “He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie” (John 1:27). David wrote, “When I consider your heavens…what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” (Psalm 8:3-4).

All of us are the like the centurion who told Jesus, “I am not worthy that you should come under my roof” (Matthew 8:8). We do not deserve what we have or who we are. We have much for which to be thankful. Most of all, that he created us and chose us to be one of his own children and heirs in eternity. What a miracle!

Can you remember? (Saturday, January 11)

We are always fast to forget and slow to remember. We tend to forget what the Lord has done for us unless we write it down and share it with others. That is exactly what happened when I wrote an email to a friend several states away.

He asked how my wife and I were doing now that we had moved. My response surprised even me. “The Lord has been blessing us in amazing ways,” I wrote, explaining the progress of our ‘new’ old house. “He has enabled us to install new windows, new granite countertops in the kitchen, remodel a full bathroom, add carpeting and wood flooring, rebuild a 70-year-old chimney, put in a driveway, repaint the entire first floor, add curtains and blinds, replace a furnace and the list goes on.”

I added that God was there during the difficult times, too, when my wife had to be hospitalized because of congestion and our six-month-old grandson was in the same hospital for four days with pneumonia. Many of these things I had overlooked in my daily rush to get everything done as fast as possible.

I concluded by saying, “If people ever doubt the kindness of God, all they have to do is look at us. We don't deserve any of this, yet God gives freely. How great is his love; it has no end.” Thank goodness the Lord gave me a chance to remember all he had done in my life. What about you? Perhaps there is something God wants you to remember.

Just like Jesus does (Friday, January 10)

I am sure Jesus must have been physically exhausted at the end of each day as he tried to tell people the truth. Most would not listen. Many jeered him and there were those who tried to harm him as well. Everyone wanted a miracle, but not everyone understood what he was doing or why. No doubt Jesus wept many times for the very people he had come to save, only to see them walk away.

Still, he did not give up. He kept spreading the good news of salvation everywhere he went no matter what came against him. Even on the cross in all of his pain and misery he showed his great love and compassion for all mankind. “Forgive them for they no not what they do,” he cried out as he hung there, forsaken even by his own father (Luke 23:24).

Jesus intercedes on our behalf today, too. He says to the father “forgive them for they no not what they do” each time we are angry, mad or upset. He says the same thing when we disappoint him, ignore him or sin. He never turns his back on us.

That, my friends, is the good news. You are forgiven no matter what you have done, big or small. You are forgiven and you can move ahead with complete assurance that the Lord does not love you any less for your mistakes. But the next part is up to you. You need to forgive yourself and give yourself another chance, just like Jesus does.

Life and peace (Thursday, January 9)

Daily we must sacrifice ourselves as Christ did. We must give up what we want in the world for what awaits us in heaven. We need to live according to what is right and holy, not according to what we desire. “The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:6).

Too often we use our minds to get what we want rather than what is truly good for us. We rationalize fleshly yearnings when we should be rejecting them. What we ought to long for is the will of heaven, ignoring the pleasures of earth.

There are certain things we require in order to live. But we do not need food, clothing, money and shelter in excess. There is only so much we can use at one time.

Let us strive to put aside everything that stands between us and our Savior. May we use our minds as he taught us – to be governed by the Spirit so that we have real life and peace this day.

Learning with a purpose (Wednesday, January 8)

I have a thought about why God lets us to go through certain experiences Certainly, God could make our lives perfect so we wouldn’t have to do anything. Instead, he allows us to work through matters for a reason.

I was about to make brownies for my eight-year-old granddaughter Ellie the other day. She had a snow day from school and was at our house. As I gathered everything together, I thought it might be nice for her to help. She was overjoyed! She could not wait to get started, not to mention baking and eating them.

As we waited for the brownies to cool, I thought about what we had done together. I could have made them on my own and given her the finished brownies. She would have been happy. With her being a part of the process, though, she learned how to mix different ingredients, how to put the mixture into a baking pan, how to test if they were done, how to remove them from the pan, and how to frost them. To her, these were the best brownies she had ever tasted.

She learned several valuable skills that afternoon. Perhaps, in a similar way, God (even though he is right there with us as I was with my granddaughter) allows us go through things so we will learn more about life and become wiser. The result is that we can improve ourselves to serve him better. The lesson (to me, at least) is clear: whenever God gives me a new and different learning experience, I should look at it as an opportunity rather than an obstacle. I just might learn something.

Heaven came down (Tuesday, January 7)

The baby would be born in Bethlehem. God had willed it and prophecy had declared it. The angels proclaimed it and the shepherds witnessed it.

In an instant, the universe was changed forever. Sin was swept away and salvation was made possible. Eternal life had begun. The old was washed away and the new was born on earth.

All creation was reborn that night, though few knew it at the time. The news would not be fully known until decades later when his purpose was fulfilled.

It began in a manger and ended on a cross – a journey of years that turned the world upside down forever.

My idea vs. his plan (Monday, January 6)

Yesterday did not go as I had hoped or planned. But it did go well in the end. Our son-in-law was scheduled to install new kitchen countertops in our house. He, our daughter and grandchildren came over as planned. Just a short time after they arrived, however, our daughter called the doctor and learned that our six-month-old grandson had to go to the emergency room. He had been fighting a bad cold and congestion. The doctor feared pneumonia; he was right. My wife went to the hospital with them while I stayed behind to watch the other two grandchildren.

The point is I had a very different vision for this day. I thought we would all have a nice, relaxing family dinner once our countertops were completed. How wrong I was. God had a different idea. Thankfully, we did what we had to do: we followed where he was leading us.

We were grateful that the doctors were able to help our grandson, even though he had to spend the night in the hospital with his mother and grandmother. I was grateful I had more time to spend with my two other children; I took them out to eat and then we watched television together. Finally, my wife and I were grateful that we were retired and living nearby to help during this difficult time.

At the end of the day, I realized once again that God never fails us – as long as we continue to follow him. His wisdom and knowledge are far above ours. He always knows what is best for us despite our own ideas and judgment. Had we not listened to him today, we would have struggled each step of the way. That much I know for sure.

The journey of a thousand miles (Sunday, January 5)

The three wise men followed nothing more than a star for more than 1,000 miles! Literally, they staked their lives on the belief that this heavenly sign would lead them to the new king. No matter what came against them, they travelled on. It is hard to picture their commitment and persistence.

How many persons today would trudge on mile after mile, month after month, because of a star? We cannot even imagine the hardships they endured: over mountains, through valleys, across deserts, in rain, wind and heat. What kept them going all this time was their faith. They trusted their vision of the prophecy.

This special journey should be an example to all of us. With just their faith, these priests spent almost a year walking by foot and by camel to see this newborn ruler “who would shepherd the people of Israel” (Matthew 2:6). Without a doubt, they believed what they could not see at the moment.

If only our faith in God would take us half as far. Sometimes, we give up at the slightest hint of trouble. Our car will not start in the morning and the whole day is ruined. We come down with the flu and think we are dying. A check bounces and we feel like filing bankruptcy. Let us remember where we are headed, too. None of these things will matter one day – on that divine day when we see our king and savior, just as the three wise men discovered.

One (Saturday, January 4)

Drawing close to God requires us to get away from ourselves. We must leave behind our selfish thoughts, and empty ourselves of ourselves. Then, and only then, can God fill us completely with his love, kindness and mercy.

He reaches down into every part of our being and breathes new life in us. He purifies and cleanses us, making us holy for his work. Once we are sanctified for his service, nothing can keep us from fulfilling his will.

The baptism of his Holy Spirit prepares us and protects us; it sets our life on him and on his mind. As his chosen children, we are set apart for a divine purpose.

He created us for eternity, but what we do today matters. Through us, he is bringing the world into his kingdom. The closer we are to him, the easier it will be for us to be one with him in body, mind and spirit.

The gift of others (Friday, January 3)

To me, each Christmas season becomes more important and meaningful than the past. I know it is not because of bigger gifts, newer decorations or brighter lights. I realize that I as I grow older I am able to understand the essential spirit of this time of the year. I have reached the point, at last, when I find more value in spending time with others than in all the festive things that dazzle my eyes and please my ears.

The sight and sounds of loved ones are what really matter most. Long after the presents, the meals and the trees are all gone, my heart and mind will remember the precious moments we had with family and friends. I will cherish the plain conversation, the simple touch and the unadorned appearance of another person. With each breath, I can appreciate the divine gift of life – both mine and that of others all around me.

I thank God for my days, no matter what I have had to endure or suffer. Despite the pain at times, I am strengthened by the knowledge that God loves me. As I begin to love others in the same way, I discover what the birth of Christ was all about.

My life was made possible through a selfless act. It stands to reason, then, that I should find the greatest pleasure in appreciating and treasuring the lives of others.

Jesus in a box? (Thursday, January 2)

The holiday decorations are coming down. Some slowly, others quickly. A few lights and outdoor displays probably will remain for several weeks. I recall seeing a small ornament toward the top of a huge bush throughout the year in our old neighborhood. Day after day, as I walked by, I thought of Christmas.

Just because we are putting away the lights, ornaments, mangers and artificial trees does not mean we have to stop thinking about Christmas. This special day should be foremost in our thoughts as we live each moment. Christmas marks the birth of our savior and king, but it also marks our birth as Christians and as eternal children of heaven. Without Jesus, we would have nothing and we would be nothing.

While our decorations might be packed away for the next 11 months, we do not have put Jesus in a box and pack him away, too. He needs to be alive and active in our lives. With him living inside of us, perhaps what we do or say will remind others of Jesus and they, too, will recall Christmas time once again.

Jesus is the light of the world and he shines through us throughout the year. Not just at Christmas. We should not need bright lights or fancy decorations to show off his birth. All we need is to share the love he has for us. Then, people will remember what this holiday is all about no matter what time of the year it is.

His new year in us (Wednesday, January 1, 2014)

Anything new automatically appeals to us: a new car, new house, new clothes, new furniture. The list could be endless. It does not have to stop with physical items; we love new experiences and new foods, too.

Now we find ourselves at the beginning of a brand new year! We look forward to new opportunities and challenges. The past is gone, as are all of the other years. We have a clean slate to start over. No burdens, cares or worries have to follow us into 2014.

The best part about this new year is watching to see how God will work in our lives, how he will use us in a powerful way, and how he will reveal himself through our human words and actions.

Let us celebrate together under the one God who loves us all! We can share our excitement and anticipation for the great things that most certainly will come our way just as they have in the past. May we say in two zero one four that nothing can hold us back anymore. This is the year when God will make the impossible possible.

He was there (Tuesday, December 31)

When I needed a blood transfusion just after birth, he was there. During the surgery on both my eyes at eight years old, he was there. At 12, when I was hit by a rock just millimeters away from my temple, he was there.

He was there at all of the other occasions in my life: my marriage, the birth of our two children, the deaths of family members, my wife’s two surgeries, the death of her parents, my graduation from graduate school and the celebration of our 40th wedding anniversary.

God was there through it all—the happy, sad and painful. He never left when I needed him most and he was there to share the highest moments as well. He never left my side. No, not once.

And to think, he had everything planned before my birth, from the woman I would marry someday to the children who would give us grandchildren. The older I get, the more I understand what he was doing all along. I couldn’t see it at the time, but he was there always making sure every time that everything would go the way he had planned from the very beginning.

From why to thanks (Monday, December 30)

How do we act when we feel like God has let us down? Maybe he has allowed illness to strike us, a handicap to hinder us, or a passion to turn into disappointment. How can we possibly reconcile God’s goodness when bad things happen?

How hard it is to see God’s light in the midst of darkness. What do we say to a mother who loses a little girl to cancer? How do we tell a father that his only son has died in battle? What words can bring peace to a family who has lost its house of 20 years to a tornado? These are but a few of the many times when we wonder why God did not help.

God could have saved the girl, protected the son and stopped the destructive winds. Why didn’t? I don’t know. Then again, perhaps that is the point. The temptation is to blame God because he did not do what we thought he should. To our way of thinking, there is only a right and wrong way. In God’s divine purpose, though, there have to be many other solutions that we do not recognize.

The only answer for us, anytime we wonder why, is to remember what we do know. We know why God flooded the earth, why Lazarus died, why Jonah was swallowed by a whale, and why Jesus was crucified. We also know God is good, compassionate and loving. So, may you live today by what you know rather than by what you think. If you do, you might stop always asking why. Instead, you may begin to thank him for being with you in spite of your circumstances.

Seeing or believing? (Sunday, December 29)

During the frequent confusion and turmoil that touches our lives, there is no better and safer place to be than with God; there we are protected. Waiting with him, and waiting on him, offer shelter while the storm rages all around. He calms us. He gives us his peace. Especially in times of difficulty, our hearts need his comfort much more than our heads need human understanding. Without him, nothing makes sense anyway.

As he works, silently and surely, his mighty hand holds us firmly to keep us from falling into despair and doubt. In his grip, we are secure in spite of how we feel. Even if our world is shattered and broken, he continues to hold on to us. He consoles us with his love and presence. He asks us to trust him just a little longer; in time, we will comprehend. Later, we will see what he sees now.

It is not important how things look to us at the present, no matter how dark and threatening. For now, during the trial, we must have patience. We need to have faith in him and in nothing else. All of our energy should be spent clinging to him, trusting and believing in his power.

When we abide in him, he will give us all the hope we need. Hope produces faith and faith truly is the substance of things unseen. Our hearts need to be set on what God can and will do, rather than on what our eyes observe and experience at this moment. 

Your new life (Saturday, December 28)

There are days when I feel I am suffering from burnout. I am weary for one reason or another. The future seems so far away, as if better days never will come.

But the good news is that our great hope rests in God. He gives us hope over finances, hope over depression, hope over failure and inability. He can even give us hope over physical pain.

It is natural to be down from time to time. We have the ability, though, to lift ourselves out of despair by remembering these words: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).

The key to our happiness is not in what we do not have but, rather, in what we already possess. We have an active, living hope in Jesus. He has conquered all, including death, and he has given us a new life that does not depend on the circumstances of this world. 

Innocent and intelligent (Friday, December 27)

What are we to make of the Parable about the Shrewd Manager? Jesus tells the story of a manager who realizes that the owner of the house is going to get rid of him. Before anything can happen, though, the manager goes to two debtors and quickly reduces what they owe. His thinking is that they will be obliged to help him when he is out of work and homeless.

The point Jesus is making here is about being smart and sharp, but with a positive approach. We, as Christians, are to be as insightful in pursuing the ways of heaven as the wicked are in pursing worldly wealth and security.

We are not to be cunning and conniving. We need to be open and honest, always on guard for those who are trying to deceive us. “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves,” Jesus said. “Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16).

Think, for a moment, about the word picture of sheep and wolves. The sheep must remain simple and pure while they also are quick and clever. We must learn how to retain our innocence and still use our intelligence.

Our love for him (Thursday, December 26)

How can we begin to fathom the greatness of God? He is more powerful than all the forces in the universe, let alone those here on earth. He is larger than anything we can imagine and he is everywhere at all times, whether past, present or future. He is the beginning of all life and the creator of all things. It is because of him that the planets go in their daily courses around the sun and it is because of him that we exist.

You and I are but a whisper, a tiny breath of life for a short time here on earth. Yet, in spite of our smallness and our sinfulness, God loves us more than anything. We are his pride and joy, his children in whom he finds purpose and meaning. We are made in his likeness and his image. Above all, we are his. We belong to him and he remains with us all of our days.

May we praise and honor him throughout this day. As we feel the sun on our faces, let us thank him. As we see people at the store, let us thank him. As we work in the garden, let us thank him. As we see children at play, let us thank him.

Let everything we do and say today prove our love for him.

The glorious revelation (Wednesday, December 25)

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary is celebrated throughout Italy on December 8 of each year. Nowhere in the country, though, is it observed with more activity and excitement than in Naples. In the heart of this ancient city, there is the Street of the Nativity Workshops. People pack the narrow passageway from end to end to see hundreds, maybe even thousands, of miniature mangers complete with figures of Mary, Joseph, the baby Jesus and all of the animals in the stable.

In many ways, walking along the street on December 8 takes on an aura of a holy pilgrimage. Passersby slowly traverse one side and then the other, curiously looking at tiny crèches to entire villages. Many of the artists have devoted an entire year or more to their projects. On this special holiday, they reveal their interpretation of everyday life at the time of Jesus’ birth.

The dedication and persistence of these artists throughout the year is amazing. Month after month, week after week, they toil away quietly in their workshops. No one pays much attention to them. Not until December 8 does the world realize what has gone on the other 364 days of the year.

Christmas is a time to remember what the Lord has done for us. He has been with us, in each and every and circumstance, working silently in our lives. He has protected us, healed us, guided us and cared for us. We may not have always seen or recognized his love, but he has been bringing about his good and perfect will for each one of us.

Today, December 25, is actually a day of revelation. We have a chance to reveal the great news of Jesus Christ to the world just as the first shepherds did. This Christmas, proclaim what God has done the other 364 days. Let everyone know and see, at last, his wonderful work in you! 

Happy Birthday, Jesus (Tuesday, December 24)

There are long lines at the store. Traffic jams everywhere. People are in a frenzy shopping for food and gifts, hoping to be ready for Christmas Day.

Life was much the same when Jesus was born. Bethlehem was swarming with people. Caesar declared that a census be taken; all residents had to return to their home town to be counted. As they flowed by the hundreds into this tiny village, they frantically searched for lodging and food.

The more things change, the more they stay the same, according to a French proverb. One thing is certain: people do not change. For ages, individuals everywhere have rushed around to get ready to celebrate special occasions.

My prayer is that once Christmas Day arrives, we can stop all of the fretting and running around long enough to remember Jesus. He is at the very center of Christmas, yet we often forget about him in the swirling activity of our lives. We get caught up in giving presents, eating meals, watching television and, yes, even singing Christmas carols. It is easy to ignore him completely. Do something different this year: set aside time to honestly ponder the gifts Jesus gave you. He brought you both life in this world as well as for all eternity. Christmas is his birthday, but we receive the gifts.

Have your picture taken with Jesus (Monday, December 23)

We love to have our picture taken next to monuments, attractions and various people. Children, for the most part, like to have their picture taken with Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. Teenagers enjoy having their picture taken with friends. Adults want to pose with someone famous, the president for instance. I often wonder what would happen if Jesus were here today. Would we have our picture taken with him to put in our scrapbook?

It is one thing to have our picture taken with Jesus and completely another to be with him all of the time. A picture captures only a moment in our lives, and it cannot show where we are the rest of the time. We can show off our photo of being with Jesus, but does it represent who and what we are every day? Are we standing next to him always, not just at certain times of the year like Christmas and Easter?

I have no doubt that if people had cameras 2,000 year ago we would unearth picture after picture of individuals and groups posing with Jesus – everyone happy and smiling. The snapshots might lead us to believe that everyone loved and revered Jesus back then. Not so.

This Christmas, let us not forget what Jesus did for us. He came to earth to die for our sins. As you unwrap the gifts, take photos, eat dinner, and enjoy being with family and friends, may you remember that Jesus is with you always. Don't leave him out of the picture simply because you cannot see and touch him. You can smile, knowing he is there.

Constant light (Sunday, December 22)

It is cloudy and rainy. A little cool, too. Everything seems dreary and dank this day. Even the birds and squirrels seem to be hibernating.

But just above the many layers of gray clouds, the sun is shining. It is beaming as bright as ever. Its heat radiates throughout the earth, the same as every other day. If we could suddenly jump on a plane and ascend several thousands of feet, we would see the sun has not changed. The clouds are merely obscuring the rays, making the day seem gloomy.

Just as the sun shines constantly, so should our lives. We need to be a steady ray of hope to others, especially when there is despair or desolation. We must be persistent in talking, testifying, about God’s love. He does not cease from caring and loving simply because we are hurting. Above the physical pain and suffering, God still shines and heals.

Let us not forget the children’s songs that reinforce a solemn and universal truth. Songs like “I’ll be a sunbeam” and “This little light of mine.” Let us be the light shining on a hill and the sunbeam for those who have lost their way. May we point the way back to him and let them know that God loves them. He is there, just above the dark clouds of life, just as he is every day.

Just like him? (Saturday, December 21)

The Jesus we carry in our minds changes throughout the year. What we imagine depends on the holiday and the season. At Christmas, Jesus is the infant in a manger. At Lent, he is the one being tempted in the wilderness. At Easter, he is the holy one being crucified and buried and resurrected. Then, 40 days later, he is the one being lifted into the heavens.

But who is he the rest of the year, those times between Christmas, Lent, Easter and Pentecost? Do we see the Jesus who walks next to us each day? The Jesus who holds us in his arms when we are sick? The Jesus who weeps with us in our grief? The Jesus who comforts us when we are cold or hungry or alone and afraid?

Maybe he is the Jesus who laughs when we are light-hearted. The Jesus who smiles when he sees children playing. The Jesus who likes to hug us. The Jesus who enjoys our company. The Jesus who wants to make us happy. The Jesus who kisses us goodnight.

Jesus is all of these. Though our concepts and thoughts about him might change from one time of the year to the next, he is just like us. Rather, we should say that we are just like him and really mean it.

Sacrifice (Friday, December 20)

Am I willing to surrender? Not only what I want, but who I am. Can I give up all that I have in submission to God? Jesus did. Now it is my turn to follow his example.

We seldom think of the act of submission at Christmas. Our minds turn, instead, toward giving gifts and making ourselves happy. What greater gift could there be than our own life? Jesus showed us what to do and how to it. He was willing to surrender his life when he left his throne in heaven and came to earth as a child.

His was the ultimate sacrifice. He willingly gave up all he had to be crucified for us. Yes, there is great joy in his birth. As we celebrate this wondrous occasion each year, we do so knowing the full magnitude of his physical life and death. His story is one of surrender, both to the world and to the will of the father.

Jesus laid down his life for you and me. We need to recommit ourselves this season to do the same for him. He knows the cost and the price we will pay, but he also reminds of the promise of salvation. His birth in the manger is a sign of how we will one day be reborn in heaven. Like a tiny child, we will be made new in him and live without any pain or suffering. In eternity, it will be Christmas every day forever.

Our concept of God (Thursday, December 19)

We need to ask ourselves a critical question about God: What is our concept of him? Is he a Father, a friend, a counselor, a helper, a savior, a guide, a comforter, or all of these? How we view God determines, in large measure, how we serve him.

If we look at God as an extension of ourselves, chances are we will not go very far with him. We, as human beings, are made in the image of God. He is not made in our image. Yet, we often treat God as if he is one of us – one of the guys. He is friendly, helpful, kind, gentle and understanding. He would do anything for anyone. I would contend that such a being is little more than a good person, much like that particular individual at church who is always ready to help anyone at any time.

Our perception of God must be more, much greater and higher. We need to see God as the creator of all life, the sustainer of all things and the Father of all people. He has a divine plan for each person and every situation. His will has always reigned throughout the universe and controlled the motion of the planets. He made everything, from the smallest to the largest, to reveal the glories of his power. He stands as the “I am” above the heavens but lives and breathes among us each day.

Let us resist the temptation to reduce God to our level. We cannot expect God to do what we would always do. We would stop earthquakes, fires, accidents and hurricanes from ever occurring. He does not, and we wonder why. If we are going to accept him as our God, we must also accept that he has a reason, no matter how circumstances might look to us. He is above everything we know, and it is natural that we do not understand his ways.

Feel his compassion (Wednesday, December 18)

There are few things more satisfying than being in a warm house when the temperature is 20 degrees and there is snow on the ground. We feel cozy and safe, protected from the cold elements outside.

In a different but similar way, God offers us spiritual comfort in times of crisis and need. When we encounter the harshness of life – illness, loneliness, rejection – God is there to give us love and hope. He hugs with invisible arms and keeps us wrapped in his divine compassion.

St. Paul told those in Corinth that, “God comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us” (2 Corinthians 1:4). We know the Lord is always with us, and we know he works through us. What we might be feeling in our physical bodies has nothing to do with our spiritual fitness. Although pain is real, it cannot cripple our spirit.

If you are going through difficulty right now, never forget that God is comforting you spiritually and he wants you to do the same to others. Think of what it means to be able to pass along the very same comfort that God is giving to you. His divine power is flowing all through your body! That is something physical pain can never touch, no matter what is happening.

"I want that” (Tuesday, December 17)

Watching television with a child just weeks before Christmas is an interesting adventure. Each time my grandson saw a commercial with a new toy he said “I want that” over and over again. It didn’t matter what it was. As long as it was new and different, he wanted it.

In this respect at least, we are a lot like children. It doesn’t matter how old we are, we always want something newer and better. A new car? “I want that.” New furniture? “I want that.” New clothes? “I want that.”

We can get out of control always saying to God, “I want that.” We are reminded in 1 Timothy 5:6-8 what is important in life. “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.”

The next time you are tempted to say “I want that,” make sure it is something that will help you get closer to God. Remember that wanting worldly things always pushes us away from him, but seeking spiritual things bring us great gain.

Why or how? (Monday, December 16)

You and I make things difficult for ourselves when we ask God why rather than how. Why did this happen? Why me Lord? Why not someone else? Why God why? Why do I have to suffer? Why do I have to apologize?

What if we turned our question around? What if we asked God how instead of why? How can I use this situation to serve you? How can I glorify you? How can I accomplish what you want? How can I help?

When we stop and ask why all of the time, we are doing much more than posing a question. In essence, we are asking the God of the universe to give us a reason for what he has willed. But when we ask how, then we show our willingness to serve him in spite of our doubts.

The difference between how and why is subtle. The way we ask our question, though, reveals both our motivation and our trust.

Time for a check-up (Sunday, December 15)

Taking the time to address our physical needs is necessary. We know we have to schedule annual check-ups at the doctor, dentist and perhaps a specialist or two. The reason is because we want to remain healthy and catch little problems before they become major afflictions.

What about our spiritual growth, though? Do we pause occasionally to let God examine our hearts and for us to see the changes we need to make in our lives? A few minutes with the Lord right now can help us in countless ways for years to come. Is there some anger deep inside of us? What about regret? Perhaps we cannot forget the past. Or we might even be struggling with some person or issue at this moment.

No matter the ailment, God has the remedy. “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3). Our Father can mend anything. He made us and he knows how to fix us. Wherever you are right now, stop and ask God to examine your spirit. Have him look into your life and then follow what he says to do.

Above all, love (Saturday, December 14)

All of the Christian virtues hinge on one: love. Without love, nothing else can exist. Forgiveness, for example, depends on love. We cannot forgive others for anything unless we love them. Nor can we forget about wrongs done to us without first loving our enemies. We must love them as God does: without condition, anger, emotion, disappointment or retribution.

So, too, love must be at the core of helping others. We will not be able to do anything for anyone unless we love them. We have to love the sick, the poor, the dirty, the homeless, the destitute and the unwanted all in the same way. One is not preferred over the other, and we do not have the right to choose who is more or less worthy. The need is the same among all, just as God’s love is equal for each one of his creations.

Accepting the difficulties of life involves love, for we must love God’s plans more than our own. We must know that he loves us and that he will provide for us. No matter how hard or how painful the journey is for us, our love for God’s wisdom must outweigh our personal desires and wants. We have to want his will, something which only love allows us to do.

Finally, love must be the driving force in our life. We should love what God has called us to do each day. It is an honor and a privilege to serve him, not out of any obligation but because we love him. Our love proceeds from and through him. This virtue is the highest and greatest. Our lives, and our very existence, wholly depend on it.

Wait and see (Friday, December 13)

Are you tired right now? Maybe you are worn out or run down, waiting for something better to happen in your life. You might be losing hope about your situation, wondering if it will ever get better, if you will ever find a job, if your problems will ever go away, if your life will ever be normal again.

Yes, you will get better. Yes, you will find a job. Yes, your problems will go away. Yes, your life will be normal again. Just keep reminding yourself, over and over and over, that “God is getting ready to move in my life.” Repeat the phrase when you get up in the morning, when you drive to the store, when you walk out to get the mail, when you sit down to eat each meal. Soon you will begin to anticipate the good that is about to happen.

Remember what the apostle James wrote in his epistle: “Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy” (James 5:10-11).

God knows what you are going through. He is “full of compassion and mercy” and he will honor your patience. The more you persevere, the greater his blessing. He will certainly turn your suffering into great joy as he did with Job and all of the other prophets who trusted him. Your persistence will pay off. Just wait and see. God never makes promises he can’t keep.

The vine and branches (Thursday, December 12)

I am guilty of not always serving Jesus as I go through each day. What I mean is not doing my part in his work. My purpose is to help him build the kingdom, but sometimes I turn my back on him.

My response to Jesus is critical. I cannot bear fruit if I am not connected to the vine; he is the vine and we are the branches. “If you remain in me and I in you,” Jesus says, “you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

Our entire lives must be grafted to Jesus, the true vine, to be productive and useful. How about Jesus, though? What can he do without us, his branches?

Both the vine and the branches are essential. Just as we are nothing without the vine, the vine needs us to bear fruit. When we fail to bond our lives to Jesus, we are doing much more than deserting him. We are actually preventing the world from seeing the fruit he can produce in his branches.

More than fair (Wednesday, December 11)

Children are quick to spot injustice and unfairness. When they see someone with more than they have they shout, “That’s not fair.” How many times have we as adults uttered this exact same phrase?

The older we become the more we realize a lot of things in life are not fair. The list ranges from how much less we make at work than the next person to not being able to afford the kind of vacation we think we deserve. There also have been times when you and I have said God is not fair. Perhaps he gave one person more than another or he healed one individual but not the other.

God is more than fair with all of us. Think of all the sins we have committed and, yet, he has forgiven us for each one. We deserve to be condemned. He gives us grace. I wonder which one of us, as we are forgiven for our wrong, would dare cry out, “That’s not fair,” and demand to be punished?

Fairness is a relative term; we want it when it pertains to us, but not when it comes to someone else. Instead of always fussing over what is fair, train yourself to look at God’s love and care for each one of us. Quite simply, concentrate on who he is rather than on what he does. “The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion” (Psalm 116:5).

He is here (Tuesday, December 10)

Each day, a woman who lives several streets away walks by our house. Sometimes she is carrying her poodle and sometimes the little dog is out in front eagerly pulling on its leash.

We all have days when God has to carry us as well. Then, at other times, we are full of energy and we tug at God to keep him moving in our direction. No matter where we are at this moment or our condition, the Lord is with us. “I am with you always,” Jesus said, “to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

Not a second passes in our life when we are alone. Even if we feel abandoned or left out, God is with us. He will carry us if he has to, but he will never leave us. He stays near us through pain, sorrow, anxiety, worry and loss. Nothing in this world can separate him, or his love, from us.

Remember his wonderful promise as you go through this Thursday. Like the woman who either carries or walks her white poodle, God will do the same with us. He is with us always in all ways.

Forward or backward (Monday, December 9)

The Lord is up to something. We can only imagine what awaits us today. We might receive the great news we have been waiting for or we could be blessed with a special gift.

Many things can happen in the coming hours. We may not know what will occur, but we do know it will be divinely ordered by God for our complete good.

As we anticipate what the Lord will do, our hope increases in the incredible power he has to bring forth anything we can conceive. With one wink of his eye, our entire life can change in an instant. God is able to take us from sadness to gladness with just a thought.

Psalm 25:5 reminds us how we should live each minute: “Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” Let us continue to look forward to what God will bring us rather than always glancing backward on what life has brought.

Struggling to be still (Sunday, December 8)

The way we began this day may not have been the best. Perhaps we jumped into everything right away rather than beginning on our knees in prayer.

We must guard our time each morning to make sure we are prepared. There are all kinds of things we will face, and we need to have the Lord at our side.

He knows he is always with us. But sometimes, in our haste, we forget about him. We attempt to conquer situations that are much better left to him. We go looking for a fight rather than backing away.

“The Lord fight for you; you need only to be still" (Exodus 14:14). May we concentrate on being patient and quiet today, allowing God’s mighty power to work in our lives. Let us pray and let him show the way.

Stand for him (Saturday, December 7)

The whole point of our lives is to tell others about the Lord. Can we recall the last time we talked about the salvation that he offers or even mentioned Jesus Christ in a conversation? He has done great things for us and we need to make sure people know.

Jesus said, “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven” (Matthew 10:32). As we acknowledge Jesus to the people we meet, we show how much he means to us. If we never talk about him, the world will get the impression that he matters little to us.

Just the opposite is true. Jesus is everything to us, and we are everything to him. He loves us so much that he is willing to acknowledge us before the Father in heaven.

When he acknowledges us, he says he knows us, he recognizes us, he accepts us, and he receives us. He is eager to stand with us before his Father. If he is willing to do all this in front of the entire universe, then certainly we can stand for him in our little corner of the world.

Sorting good from bad (Friday, December 6)

Each day needs to be sorted out, with us separating the good from the bad. Dividing what is useful from what is not needs to be a constant and continuous practice for us.

It is much like sorting the mail. We must go through a stack of items six times a week, picking out the bills and messages that are important. The rest we throw away; if we did not, all of the advertisements, brochures and solicitations would quickly fill an entire room.

Unfortunately, when it comes to our thoughts and emotions, we do the opposite. We save most everything. Day after day, we put more into our mind until it becomes too full for the things of God.

Maybe it is high time to organize ourselves into what we should be doing for the Lord from what we are doing for ourselves. Throw out everything that is not useful, helpful and necessary. We certainly don’t need to save a stack of concerns every day.

Serving ourselves (Thursday, December 5)

On occasion, you and I have probably strayed far from where we should be. We have forgotten about the vision God has given us. Instead, we have concentrated on personal concerns.

It does not take much to distract us. The slightest emotion. A little noise. A captivating image. Suddenly, our attention shifts away from where the Lord is taking us. Like children, we instantly set out on our own voyage. We lose sight of the heavenly vision as we wander down the path of earthly enchantment.

Satan loves nothing better than to get us looking at our own needs. What we want. What makes us feel good. What is important for us to accomplish.

The very moment we draw back from helping others first is when we become lost. Giving in to ourselves, we easily succumb to temptation. The Father’s will always takes us toward a life of serving others. Our will always keeps us serving ourselves.

Out of focus (Wednesday, December 4)

It does not take much for us to lose our perspective on life. We can be fine one minute and the next be troubled and confused; all because of our own outlook.

Recently, I was not feeling well, but I was doing okay. Then I received a phone call that bothered me. Still, I was pushing past the illness. A while later, I opened an email that sent me over the edge. Suddenly, I wanted to jump on a jet and fly to a remote island in the Caribbean, away from everyone and everything.

We all have the same thoughts on occasion, I am sure. When you and I are ready to throw in the towel and give up, take a minute to look up. Look up to the one who created you. Look up to the one who loves you. Look up to the one who protects you.

If we are looking up at God, we will not be as concerned about what is going on down here. Simply focusing on God allows us to remain strong when everything else seems out of focus. Never give up hope in him.

In times of trouble (Tuesday, December 3)

I enjoy being inside my house when it is raining. Safe from the water and cold outdoors, I can relax knowing I will not get wet. It is a secure feeling.

We should feel the same way when we seek refuge in God. We can rest comfortably, realizing that nothing can touch us. Yes, we can see the trials and difficulties everywhere we look, but for the moment we are sheltered and protected. God surrounds us on all sides.

Being in God is like being inside, away from the tempests of life. “The Lord has become my fortress, and my God the rock in whom I take refuge” (Psalm 94:22).

We never know when a storm will come up. A sudden downpour could threaten us at any moment. No matter. God is always there. He is our refuge in times of trouble.

Ready to believe (Monday, December 2)

There is power in prayer because there is power in God. It is his grace, compassion and love that heals, restores, revives and renews. Alone we can do nothing. With God, we can do everything.

Jesus granted us his authority over sickness, disease and difficulty. I tell you the truth, Jesus said, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

Each moment of our lives, Jesus intercedes on our behalf. He goes to the Father for us. He presents our need to God as we present our prayers to him. Whatever we ask through him and by him, he says he will do. He will answer our prayers because our petitions for wholeness in him bring glory and honor to the Father.

No matter what our request, Jesus is there. He says we can ask for anything in his name and he will, indeed, do it. But we must be willing to ask and also ready to believe.

Stating over (Sunday, December 1)

This is a new day. I have a fresh start. Whatever happened yesterday, last night or last week is gone. God has given me a chance to begin again. However I have disappointed him or forgotten him has been erased. As long as I have asked his forgiveness, he has put it behind.

Unfortunately, it is not so easy for me to overlook the things I have done or not done. At times, I have been selfish, angry, upset, anxious and insensitive. I have even hurt the ones who love me the most and then tried to defend or excuse my behavior. In short, I have acted badly. Still, God gives me another opportunity to ‘get it right’ by giving me this day.

The most difficult part in all of this is in moving forward without regret. God wants me to learn from the past, but he does not want me to stay there. If I resolve to make the most of this day, I cannot unless I cut myself free from my own feelings of guilt and shame. It is a painful process, but one that I must do. I must be willing to suffer just a little while longer as God reshapes and renews me.

I know that he has removed my transgressions as far as the east is from the west. He separates me completely from my sins, yet I always try to make them a part of this present moment. The truth is that I must learn to forgive myself. Once I do, I will be able to live for God rather than living for myself.

What we leave behind (Saturday, November 30)

We are often so busy moving forward in life that we fail to think about what we are leaving behind. Like a powerful ship making its way across the sea, our lives leave a wake that tells others where we have been. Do we leave a gentle ripple behind or is the wake of our life rough and roiled?

We are not to go through life by always looking behind, but sometimes we need to think about the effects of our present position and how fast we move forward. What will linger long after a moment of anger or frustration has passed? Rough and choppy words take longer to dissipate than smooth, gentle phrases. Also, if our lives cause too much of a wake, there is the risk that other, smaller ships will not be able to follow behind. They will have to avoid us completely.

As we steer our course through life, let us move forward with caution. Let us always remember to let God chart our course and speed so that we will not regret what we leave behind.

Using his power (Friday, November 29)

God is closer to us during our struggles even though we may feel farther away. When we experience physical pain, for example, God is nearest to us because we draw nearer to him. During times of adversity or loneliness, God is holding on to us even though we feel like we are falling.

We have to realize that whatever might come against us – suffering, anxiety, worry, grief – is separate from our true existence in Jesus Christ. The pain and problems of the world can only touch our flesh; nothing can affect us at the core of our spiritual being. The heart of our heavenly nature in God remains the same, despite changes in our health or condition.

Jesus said he had come to overcome the world. He also proclaimed that he came to give us life, not death. Through Christ, we have the power to rise above whatever threatens to change our spiritual nature. No matter what we face – sickness, fear, isolation or even panic – we can overcome it.

We do so by focusing on who we are in God, rather than on what we are in the world. When we rise to take on our heavenly character, then we will begin to understand what Jesus meant when he told us we have the power to move mountains.

Which way? (Thursday, November 28)

In all things give thanks, said the apostle Paul. Not just when we feel happy. Nor only when things are going right. Not even when we achieve something good or receive an unexpected gift. We are to be thankful at all times, especially during difficulty, fatigue, sickness, confusion and anxiety.

These are words we can, quite literally, live by. We do have the ability to be thankful in spite of our circumstances. Such a state of mind is more than wishful thinking. We possess the capability, if we choose to use it. All we have to do is turn our thoughts (and hearts) toward God. The decision is entirely up to us – either we give thanks or we give up and accept defeat.

What we decide to do is really quite simple. We make a conscious commitment to be grateful or ungrateful, nothing more. We cannot be upset and glad at the same time; it is impossible. We must be one or the other. In much the same way, we cannot be in two places at the same time. If we are at the store, we also are not able to be at home. So, too, we are either working or resting, but not both simultaneously.

God leaves this decision up to us. But he doesn’t stop there. He says that if we choose to give thanks, he will help us and give us a joyful heart. If we go the other way, we are completely on our own. Something to think about as we go through this day. God’s way or our way?

Representing Jesus (Wednesday, November 27)

We are ambassadors of Christ. We are a symbol of Jesus to the world and we help those who are fellow followers. Our position is much like that of an earthly ambassador: one who represents a nation in a foreign land and who also assists those from his own country that visit or reside there.

Ambassadors have a certain job to do and they are on duty 24 hours a day. They serve anytime, anywhere and whenever they are needed. An emergency or need may come in the middle of the night, on a holiday or on a weekend. An ambassador always answers the call, eager and willing to serve.

As ambassadors of the Most High, we need to be ready and prepared at all times. We never know what we will have to do from day to day, but our position is to serve the kingdom in any way that we can whether we talk with one person or an entire country. People are watching and listening. The impression we make on them will reveal what it is like to be a citizen of our true home.

Jesus is depending on us to represent him to others. He appointed us and anointed us for this important work. He trusts us to fulfill our commitment to him and to the kingdom we serve.

Proving our faith (Tuesday, November 26)

Jesus is on trial every day and everywhere. Now, in the 21st century, it is our turn to defend him. What do we say when people say that there is no God? What do we do when we see others mocking him? How do we act when offenders break the laws of his teaching? Perhaps we are like Peter who denied him three times. Maybe we are like the rest who ran away and hid.

If I am truly one of his disciples, I must constantly ask myself if I am willing to stand up for him. Will I admit that I know him? Moreover, do I have the courage to confess that he is my savior, even in the midst of adversity? Or do I stay inside my house, safely hidden from the world?

How many people really know that you and I are followers of Christ? What would be the response, for example, if someone asked a neighbor down the street, ‘Are there any Christians living in this community?’ I wonder if they would point to my house or not.

We can use all sorts of things to let people know we belong to Christ. There are pins and crosses we wear; bumper stickers, decals and symbols we put on our cars; and pictures we hang in our living rooms and hallways. But the way our faith will show forth the best is by how we act and what we do every minute. People will know us by our love and concern for others, not by our earthly displays of dedication. Our commitment to stand up for our Lord depends much more on what is in our hearts than what is on our cars, our clothing and in our homes.

A new land in a new time (Monday, November 25)

The sanctuary is quiet. My wife and I are the first ones here for Sunday worship. What a change from our previous church. There was so much life and energy there.

Now we begin our journey in a new place, looking for a new church home. We know what we want, but the decision is entirely up to the Lord. He knows the way and the purpose. He does not always call us where we want to be. He shows us where we need to be. Perhaps this little, community church is what he wants. Maybe it is someplace else. We will have to listen closely for his will.

It has taken us many months to get to this point. We suddenly realize why. We did not want to come down from the mountain top—and the wonderful experience of our last church. But it is time for us to go back out into the world and continue his work.

No matter where we go, he will be with us and sustain us. He will use us and what we have seen to glorify his name in a new land, just as he did with Peter, John and James after the transfiguration of Jesus. It is time for us to spread the word to another nation and to be witnesses of the remarkable things we have seen.

Selling ourselves short (Sunday, November 24)

Our salvation is worth everything, yet we often forget the cost. We fail to remember what Jesus paid for us on the cross. You were bought for a price, St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, offering them encouragement and reminding them of what God had done – that He gave his very Son for their redemption.

We are like the Corinthians. We, too, need to be told time and time again what we have been given. We must constantly ask ourselves how much we are willing to pay for happiness, for peace, for protection, for security. Almost daily we let the world buy us for a price. We sell ourselves short. We give away the true treasure of eternity for the temporary pleasure of today. We sacrifice salvation for the price of a house, a car, a vacation or an expensive hobby. Some even trade servanthood in God’s kingdom for a powerful position in their own kingdom here on earth.

We can easily give away our soul and lose everything. Our lives are not cheap. Christ purchased our salvation with his living body. How much are we willing to pay to keep it?

Perfect fulfillment (Saturday, November 23)

The genuine motivation for seeking Jesus should be to fill our hearts, not our desires. His direction and guidance must always be first and foremost; we should long for his will more than our own. It is easy to forget that Jesus came so we might have a more abundant life, both now and in heaven. He yearns to give us a life that is full and meaningful – one grounded in the spiritual world of eternity and not just in the physical reality of the present moment.

Jesus wants us to look beyond the here and now – to see that there is more going on than what we see or feel. Mark tells the amazing story of Jesus feeding the 5,000. The next day, Mark says, the people searched desperately for Jesus but could not find him. Finally, they traveled across the Sea of Galilee, where they discovered Jesus in Capernaum. “Rabbi, when did you get here,” they asked anxiously. The master knew why the people had come; they were looking for one thing only. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.”

What people seek is not always what they need. Jesus calls us to look not just for bread, but for the bread of life. In the same way, he tells us to seek not just water to quench our thirst, but for the living water that will satisfy our souls. “He who comes to me,” Jesus said, “will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” His life is there for us to live; he gives himself freely and openly to all who are willing to believe in his truth.

Merry Christmas to all (Friday, November 22)

In a matter of weeks, people around the world will celebrate Christmas. Some will exchange expensive gifts, enjoy grand meals with family and friends or watch special events on new widescreen LCD televisions. Others will be on their own or far away from home. Many more persons will be homeless, literally left out in the cold with little to rejoice.

Despite the numerous differences, the meaning of Christmas is the same for everyone everywhere. The birth of Christ is no less important for the homeless than for the affluent. Nor is it any more significant for those who are with large families than for those who spend the day alone. What counts most is what Jesus did 2,000 years ago for all of us.

No matter where we find ourselves on Christmas day, we need to remember that Jesus came to earth to give us life. The rich, the poor, the homeless and the lonely – all can have the gift that he offers. All can accept him if they desire.

Being grateful for his birth does not depend on money, place or circumstances; that much we know as we recall the miraculous night in the tiny town of Bethlehem. Let us realize, once and for all, we celebrate Christmas with our hearts and not with our gifts. Nothing is greater than the present Jesus has already given us.

He is able (Thursday, November 21)

Sometimes we use worldly excuses to disguise our lack of faith. Rather than stepping out in faith, we step back in fear.

When faced with a new challenge, it is easy to break things down and explain our opposition. We may be against trying something different, whether in our individual lives or in our church, because we do not see how it will work. We can usually come up with many reasons to support how we feel. What we have to realize, more than anything else, is that God can do the impossible.

The story of feeding the multitudes with only two fish and five loaves is a case in point. The disciples wanted to send the people away. Then, when Jesus told them to provide for everyone, they said it was impossible. They argued that providing food for so many people would take at least eight months of a man’s wages. We do not have that kind of money, they reminded Jesus. Plus, there was no place to buy so much food.

Jesus showed them that God the Father was far greater than anything they thought or knew. What is blessed from above will always succeed, even in spite of our doubt and logic. We can rationalize all we want, but the truth is that God is not limited by our simple reason or reasons. He is able to do what we cannot because he is God.

The gift (Wednesday, November 20)

Every November and December people everywhere are buying gifts; presents for loved ones at Christmas. What to give a special husband or wife? What to give each child and grandchild? What to give a close friend?

We can spend more time thinking about what to buy, along with decorating our houses, than on why we give gifts to one another in the first place. Yes, we want to make them happy, but there is much more.

As Christians, we know the purpose of giving Christmas presents, or at least we should. Each gift symbolizes what God gave to us more than 2,000 years ago. Every time we give even a single present, we need to remember the precious gift of Jesus’ birth.

How sad that many persons do not know the real reason for buying and offering Christmas presents. Sadder still would be if we forget what we are doing and why; then there would be no need for Christmas.

Seeking happiness (Tuesday, November 19)

Happiness does not always fall upon us as we would like. Sometimes we have to seek it out. We must push ourselves, fighting our own thoughts, in order to see the peace and comfort that awaits us in the distance.

The tribulations of daily living sometimes can be more than we can bear. We are so small that we wonder how we can survive the enormous storms that assail us. But no one, not even God himself, expects us to struggle alone. We have friends and family who are always there to help. More than that, though, we have God himself! In fact, he is all we need.

He is more loving, more powerful, more caring than a thousand persons who might pledge their support and encouragement. God remains, no matter our distress. What he says, he will do. We have his promise.

We can count on him to give us the comfort we so desperately need. We only need to ask, and he will give us a far greater peace than we can find on our own. What he gives is forever; what the world gives is only for now.

Forgive us our debts (Monday, November 18)

In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught the disciples many key elements about the kingdom of God – the importance of worship, reverence, trust and obedience. He also emphasized the significance and magnitude of forgiveness. Down through the ages, believers have repeated the words over and over again. We ask God to, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” Or we say, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

Jesus’ words here imply a deliberate order. We ask God to offer us forgiveness after we have pardoned those who have mistreated us. We are not declaring that our forgiveness toward others depends on God’s forgiveness of us. Nor do we mean we will pardon others at the same time God absolves us. What we are saying, quite literally, is that we have already forgiven all those who have trespassed or sinned against us.

The thing we must realize is that God’s forgiveness of our sins does not depend on us forgiving someone else. But it is crucial for us, as Christians, to understand our forgiveness is based on knowing that we have been forgiven. Put simply, we arrive at a surer knowledge of our own forgiveness because we have experienced the act of forgiving others.

Our expression of offering forgiveness is more than wishful thinking or a strong desire. We are affirming to God that we have pardoned our debtors.

Faith will move mountains (Sunday, November 17)

What do we say when we pray and our needs remain unanswered? We seek God’s power to relieve pain and anxiety, but the suffering continues. Our anguish often is compounded by our own lack of understanding. We wonder how God can stand by when there are burdens and needs that threaten to overwhelm us.

But God does not resolve each situation in our way. He has a perfect purpose for everything, and the reason may be beyond our comprehension. The knowledge we possess is limited to what we see and feel. God’s plan and authority are infinite; he has no human boundaries or barriers. We might ask for physical or emotional healing, yet God is at work in a higher, lasting way.

We are never alone in our struggles. God never leaves us, especially when we feel confused. He is with us to offer constant comfort and peace as we wait for his divine will to unfold.

In our waiting, we will learn how to trust him even when doubt surrounds us. Half the battle is learning how to get beyond ourselves – to be able to place our hope in God more than in what we know. Our faith, small as a mustard seed, can move mountains. It is God who will move them for us, though. Try as we might, we cannot do it alone. 

A game with consequences (Saturday, November 16)

There is a game that children of all ages love to play: Hide and Seek. The trick is to hide where you cannot be seen or found. Then, when the coast is clear, you run back to home base where you are safe. The person who is found and tagged, of course, becomes the next seeker while all of the others hide.

Adults have a similar game they play with God. They do things and think he cannot see them. They get mad at a slow cashier, they yell at telemarketers on the phone and they make comments or hand gestures toward other drivers. They might even become upset with the pastor or someone else at church. Once they are back home, they quickly forget about what they have done. They assume they are safe and nothing will happen to them.

Just because we don’t see God does not mean he can’t see us. Nothing is hidden from his view. Not even when we are alone or when it is dark. He will surely seek us out and find us.

Our first parents made the mistake of believing God would not find them after they ate the apple from the forbidden tree. Genesis 3:8 says “they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.” But to no avail. God found them and they learned the hard way that we never win when we play hide and seek with God. 

A faithful father (Friday, November 15)

The youngest son thought he knew what was best. He did not want to waste his life by working in the fields like his older brother. Instead, he wanted to enjoy himself.

We all know the next part of the story. As soon as his money was gone, the boy was left with nothing. He was dead broke with no place to live and no food to eat.

One of the many messages in this parable is the patience of the father. He knew what would happen to his son. He realized the boy was being foolish and foolhardy. Still, he let him go. All he could do was to wait. How he must have prayed for his son: for his safety and return one day. No doubt the father prayed, too, for patience. He had to put his complete trust in God.

Through it all, God was faithful to both the father and the son. True to his word – that he watches over each one of his children – God brought them back together in the end. Despite the rejoicing, the older brother did not see what God had done for all of them.

He is very near (Thursday, November 14)

There are times in life when we might feel as though we have lost touch with God. Maybe we are too busy. Perhaps we are going through numerous changes that are distracting us. It could be, too, that we are experiencing loneliness and a sense of being lost.

No matter what, God has not lost touch with us. Each day, every moment, God is watching over us. He is protecting us, providing for us and guiding us. He loves us and never takes his eye off of us.

Psalm 121:5 says, “The Lord is your keeper.” Psalm 37:28 says, “For the Lord loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones.” Psalm 116:6 says, “The Lord protects the simple-hearted.” Isaiah 43:2 says, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.”

Know that the king of the universe is with you right now, even though you may feel far from him. He will never leave your side, no matter what threatens to separate you from him. Unlike us, nothing can get in his way!

Perfect time and our time (Wednesday, November 13)

Being followers of Christ means we must set our time according to God, not so much by the world’s clocks. These two measurements are completely different. One has to be re-calibrated occasionally, whereas God’s timing is always precise and exact.

We must follow his clock when we are serving him. God knew when it was time for Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. God knew when it was time for Paul to go to Rome. God knew when it was time for David to become king. Each one of these servants listened and obeyed. They did not wait until they were good and ready to do the Lord’s work.

Our tendency is to get around to something when we have more time or even when we feel like it. If we do not act when God says it’s time, he may find someone else who is willing to fulfill his will. Not only will we disappoint him, but we also will miss the opportunity to be a part of his great work here on earth.

Take time throughout today to reset your life to God’s clock. Stop paying so much attention to the world’s time. It is not perfect, but God’s is.

Fact, fiction or faith? (Tuesday, November 12)

A university professor in Florida has an international reputation for his theories on two Biblical stories. First, he says that Jesus never walked on water. Instead, he claims the lake was partially frozen and Jesus was walking on ice. A second theory is bolder. He posits that God never parted the Red Sea for the Israelites. What happened was the winds were so strong that they pushed the water over a small ridge at the bottom of the sea, thereby exposing dry land.

While science may prove how something occurred, no experiment or person can explain why. For example, why would Jesus be able to walk on ice, but not Peter? Also, it would take winds of more than 100 miles an hour to push back even a small amount of water in the Red Sea. How would a million people carrying all their belongings be able to stand up, let alone walk, in hurricane force winds?

The simple truth is either people believe what is written in the Bible or they do not. As Christians, we have to be careful we are not lulled into thinking like the world. Science and the laws of physical nature can go only so far. Once we run out of human suppositions and presumptions, there is only one thing that can take us the rest of the way: faith.

No one can explain faith, but we can prove it. We, as his followers, can show we believe in God’s power and miracles by relying on him for answers, rather than on mankind. Our minds are finite, but God’s is infinite. Which one do you trust with your life?

The best and only place (Monday, November 11)

The last place my wife wanted to be that day was in the hospital. After a brief trip to the doctor’s office, however, she knew she had no choice. If she didn’t get some strong medication in her, and quickly, her bronchitis would develop into something much worse—perhaps pneumonia.

Sometimes the last place we want to be is the best place. No one enjoys going to the hospital, the dentist or for physical therapy. But this might be exactly what we need in order to get better.

God does not always give us an easy path to follow or even simple obstacles to overcome. Sometimes our circumstances seem almost insurmountable and impossible. But certain difficulties may be exactly what we need in order to make us better and stronger. Chances are the trial you are facing right now will take you closer to and more dependent on God.

While we might admire Paul’s persistence for our Lord, we also must realize it was never easy for him on any one of the three missionary journeys. In one city after another, he was jeered, shoved, beaten, spat upon and yelled at. Still, he persevered. In doing so, he became more dedicated to the Lord. The world was pushing him away, but God was drawing him closer. God was putting Paul where he needed to be. Not necessarily where he wanted to be.

What matters most (Sunday, November 10)

Where we are physically in our lives does not always reveal where we are spiritually. Our body can be worn down but our spirit can be strong and robust. On the other hand, we can be empty inside at the same time we appear happy and whole. What the world sees is not always who we really are in Christ.

It is easy to get caught up in the ways of everyone around us. We can become more concerned about appearances than we are about our inner self. We want to have a nice house, an attractive car, new clothes, a good job and plenty of money. In the light of eternity, these things mean little. But many people spend a lifetime trying to achieve these marks of success.

What truly matters is what no one else can really see: what we do to serve Our Lord and King. People rarely notice everything we do for others or the time we spend in prayer. Nor does the world see what is in our hearts and the little things we do each day to glorify God.

We have to strive more toward the invisible than we do the visible – seek the infinite rather than the finite. What we see now will all pass away; what is hidden will last into eternity. You and I have to be careful that we do not give away any part of ourselves to the world. Once we learn how to be content with who we are in the Lord, nothing else will seem important. Not even what people say or think about us.

Listening in a different way (Saturday, November 9)

Hearing God involves listening for inaudible signs and sounds. It is learning to hear in a different way, not just with our ears but with our whole being from our hearts to our heads. Our head needs to remind us what God has already told us and our heart must be sensitive enough to respond to his commands.

In order to accomplish the will of God, we have to be willing to obey. Our first action in any situation is not to react the way we feel. Instead, we should remain still. We need to be quiet, silent, calm and at rest – waiting for God to reveal himself to us. He cannot reach us if we are running in one direction and then another, crying out with each turn. Only when we take time to stop what we are doing is God able to get through. Sometimes he must wait until we are done with all of our complaining and grumbling – at times, even our self-pity.

In the silence of our emptiness, God will let us hear him in ways that are far beyond what we experience physically each day. His is the still small voice that speaks without a sound, but we know clearly what he is saying. Listen and know that I am God, he says. When we hear him we know he is God, for nothing else in the world sounds the same.

Being too curious (Friday, November 8)

Why did Lot’s wife disobey? She knew better. God warned her not to look back when she fled the city or she would be turned into a pillar of salt. What was she hoping to see and why did she ignore what God had said?

No doubt her human nature, her curiosity, got the better of her. She wanted to see for herself exactly how God was destroying the city by fire. How many times each day does our curiosity get us in trouble? The fact is we are not so different than Lot’s wife; we want to know everything about everyone and everything.

Let’s not get in trouble because our curiosity in the world is stronger than our faith in God. If God wants us to know something, he will certainly tell us. Until then, we need to trust him and do as he commands. He knows what is best for us to know.

The master’s touch (Thursday, November 7)

“Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.” So begins a prayer most often attributed to St. Francis of Assisi. His words show he was giving himself, honestly and simply, wholly over to God. He was allowing himself to be used, in any way, for the glory of heaven.

All of us are instruments of the Lord. We come in all sizes and shapes and sounds, but God is the one who orchestrates and directs us. Like a well-seasoned violin, we too are nothing without his touch. We cannot even make a pleasing noise on our own. In his hands, though, we become beautiful.

May you share his kindness and compassion – the very music of his love – wherever he sends you today. Let him touch the world through you as you become a living instrument of his blessed peace and purpose.

A heavenly moment (Wednesday, November 6)

God grants each one of us divine moments when we are able to touch him. There are occasions in our lives when we know without a doubt that we are in his presence. An unexplainable gladness seems to spring forth from deep inside our soul, surprising even our own selves. We see the universe in a different way. Problems and difficulties disappear. The darkness of the world fades and we feel God’s Holy Spirit filling every part of our being. With each breath, we are lifted higher toward the beautiful peace of eternity. In the words of the prophet Isaiah, “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you” (Isaiah 60:1).

Scripture tells us over and over again of how God has allowed his children to draw near to his throne. In his divine mercy, he reaches down to give us a glimpse of the everlasting. He alone chooses when and how he will bless us in this extraordinary way; he even creates the time and the place for our sacred time with him.

We need to remember these special experiences each day of our lives. Just the thought of such moments, like speaking the name of Jesus, gives us the strength to endure any trial or tribulation. As Christians, we can use what God has done for us in the past to help us trust the future.

The prayers of others (Tuesday, November 5)

In those rare times when I am able to ponder my many years from birth until now, I wonder how much of my life has been affected by prayer. Not my individual petitions to God, but by the prayers of others: a loving grandmother who knelt each night at the bedside, a concerned neighbor down the street, a faithful Sunday School teacher, a godly doctor before an operation, a compassionate aunt and uncle several states away, and even faithful ancestors who lived generations before my creation. All their prayers have sustained me for more than half a century. That God has given us the ability to pray is a miracle. But the greater miracle is that he listens and responds.

Recognizing God’s voice (Monday, November 4)

God is a constant source of encouragement. Daily he speaks the same words he has spoken throughout the ages. We seldom hear everything he is saying: Be anxious for nothing. I know the thoughts and plans I have for you. Call to me and I will answer you. I will never leave you or forsake you. I have begun a good work in you. Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. Give your burdens to me and I will take care of you. I am your refuge and strength. I promise that everything will work together for good.

How quickly we forget his many promises. How swiftly we become distracted by our own words and thoughts. Our emotions always get the better of us. In the end, we forsake God’s help for the temporary satisfaction of our own selfish security.

God’s words cannot comfort us if we do not hear them. Several times each day we need to stop and listen carefully: Be anxious for nothing. I know the thoughts and plans I have for you. Call to me and I will answer you. I will never leave you or forsake you. I have begun a good work in you. Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. Give your burdens to me and I will take care of you. I am your refuge and strength. I promise that everything will work together for good.

Recognizing what he says will save us from disappointment and distress. Too often, though, we do not distinguish his voice from ours.

God's miracle for you (Sunday, November 3)

A new day always brings new hopes, new dreams and new opportunities. Each day God not only renews us completely from the past, both spiritually and mentally, but he also gives us his wonderful plan for the future.

Today may be when God blesses you with better health, a new job, needed finances, the house you have been searching for, a call from a distant friend, the opportunity to travel, a chance to start your own business or just simple peace of mind.

God wants us to live in anticipation of all these things—to expect his miracles each day. As we wait with eagerness and enthusiasm, we need to set our minds on the great work God is about to perform in our lives.

We know he is a God of miracles. He will always surprise us. We will be blessed in amazing ways that we did not expect. God will always give us what we need, and he also will give us more than we thought we needed.

Which way? (Saturday, November 2)

All around us a violent war is raging. The battle is over our soul. Satan tries to pull us in his direction, while God keeps showing us the true way. Even as Christians, there are times when we are confused. We act much like the apostles who failed to comprehend Jesus’ final conversation with them.

When Jesus announced he was going away and that certain events would occur, he reminded the 12 not to be anxious. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas, however, responds that they are unsure what he means.

There may be times in life when we also claim we do not grasp the message. We try to excuse ourselves by claiming we do not know what to do or what to make of a situation. But God knows better. He can see that we do understand, if only we will take time to think about what he has already told us.

Pieces of our lives (Friday, November 1)

The circumstances in our lives sometimes seem like parts of a jigsaw puzzle, especially when we are young. One piece is here, another there, still another is someplace else. But as we grow older, the pieces suddenly begin to fall into place. We see that the events in our lives do fit together, forming one complete and beautiful picture.

Through all the years, God has been guiding us. All the times in our lives, the good as well as the bad, make up who and what we are. While all of these random occasions may seem totally unrelated to us, God has a different plan. He uses everything in our lives to mold the person he wants us to be. He even makes use of the insignificant and shadowy pieces – those events that we would like to leave out or forget.

Piece by piece our life is put together by God’s loving hand. He knows how all of the pieces fit and where they belong. When he is finally finished, the full image reveals a picture of priceless beauty far beyond anything we could have ever imagined. But all along, God knew what he was putting together.

Sitting beside him (Thursday, October 31)

James and John asked to be seated next to Jesus in paradise. No doubt they wanted to be as close to him as physically possible, but they did not comprehend the full nature and import of their request.

Being on the right and left of Christ is not the same as being one with him. Jesus tells the two brothers that, “You do not know what you are asking.” Many modern-day followers do not realize what they are asking either. They seek to be near Jesus in a superficial and earthly way. There is much, much more at stake.

To be next to Jesus requires a complete acceptance of all that is necessary both in this world and the next. James and John were wholly focused on what they desired in an earthy sense. They had a vision, but lacked the spiritual insight of what heaven and eternity were all about.

The fact is that sitting on the right and left of Christ is not something that should occupy our thoughts or minds. In all that we do today, and throughout our entire lives, the true aim must be to count ourselves worthy just to be in paradise with our Lord and Savior. There we will be as close to him as possible. Neither our place nor our position will matter once we come into the kingdom.

Your restoration (Wednesday, October 30)

Whatever has been lost, God will restore. Not only does he replace the loss, but he offers hope for the future. He brings us to a point where a previous hurt, a material loss, a damaged reputation or even a rejection by friends no longer matters to him. Yet we are the ones who rehearse the past, over and over again, in minute detail until every emotion and suffering returns. We keep our pain alive and allow it to affect what we do today.

How many times did Jesus speak of forgiveness? How often did he tell us to forgive others? Forgiveness is the first step toward restoration. Once we forgive others and then forgive ourselves, we allow God to restore what has been taken from us. Just as an old dilapidated building cannot be renovated simply by covering the problems with a wonderful façade, so we cannot be made new again without removing the anguish from previous years.

God’s restoration is complete and full. His work in us erases the past and takes us into the future with new hope. Whatever has been lost, he will replace. Whatever has been stolen, he will return. And whatever has been done, he will forgive.

He is proud of you (Tuesday, October 29)

You and I are God’s workmanship, his very creation. We are his children, heirs to his kingdom. There is no one greater or more loving than our Father. Yet, we often walk around as if we have no future or hope. We feel defeated and depressed.

How easy it is to forget that we are living in a world that God created for himself and for us. Unfortunately, we tend to look at the world created by man and controlled by Satan. We do not see the beauty that God places all around us: the hearts of family and friends, the loveliness of nature and the health that we enjoy. Instead, our attention is drawn to those things that others tell us are important: a job, house, cars, money, our status in society.

But not one of these matters to God. He loves each one of us, regardless of who we are or where we are. In fact, he loves us no matter what we have done or not done. His love is unconditional and does not depend on achievements or accomplishments. Our acceptance does not even depend on acts or actions. He cannot stop loving us no matter how much we disappoint him.

God is always present to console, to comfort and to cheer. He is always seeking to pick us up and build us up. Whenever circumstances seem too overwhelming to bear, he is there. We can count on his love always in all ways. He created us for his glory and his is proud of us.

Capable through him (Monday, October 28)

God created us to do his will. He knows perfectly well what we can do. We do not.

Time and time again, we sell ourselves short. We give up because we think the work ahead is too hard, too big. We are being asked to do more than we are able. What we forget is that we are capable. God designed us for huge tasks.

God had Noah build an ark. Moses took his people out of bondage. David saved a nation. Paul traveled the Mediterranean three times. Each of these individuals made an enormous difference in the lives of others by serving God. They were great not because of what they did, but because of what they believed. Trusting in the Lord, realizing he knew what they could do, allowed them to succeed.

The difference in what we are and what we become is all up to our willingness to believe God. By ourselves we are not able, but through God we become capable.

Follow your heart (Sunday, October 27)

The heart can lead us where our sight and feelings do not want to go. We may see someone who is depressed, lonely, anxious or in need of help. Our feelings tell us not to become involved, to let people work out their own problems and difficulties. Yet, at the same time, our heart reaches out to them.

Our compassion for those around us needs to be strong enough to reach out, no matter what might happen. We have to be willing to risk being rejected and hurt. We must have the heart of Jesus and the love of God so we are not held back by what we think or feel as human beings.

The first thought should be to do whatever we can for others – to care for them as Jesus would and to serve as he did. Each day, God places us in situations where we can show that he is working through us. We are his heart and hands. We are here in the world for him, not for ourselves.

The assurance of hope (Saturday, October 26)

Hope in God is much different than the hope found here on earth. When most people use the word hope, they anticipate something better in the future: “I hope I will be able to buy a new car soon. I hope I will find a better job. I hope I will be able to take a trip to the Holy Land someday. I hope I will be able to afford a larger house.” People hope for all sorts of things. Some even hope to win the lottery or a contest.

But the kind of hope we have in God has nothing to do with chance. It is, in fact, the assurance of what will come to pass. When we place our hope in God, we are saying that we are completely confident of what God says in the Bible, and we trust that his promises will be fulfilled. We know, for example, Jesus will come again to judge the world. We know we have eternal life. We know there will be a day when pain and suffering will be gone forever.

We have our hope in the knowledge that all of these things will happen. There is nothing left to luck, good fortune, happenstance or coincidence. We can be positive God will do what he says. Our hope in him is sure, while our hope in the world is not. God tells us what will take place. The world merely tempts us with what might occur.

His radiance (Friday, October 25)

Bright as light! Jesus is the one true and eternal light. He illuminates the way and enlightens the soul. He shines and the darkness disappears. There is nothing that can compare to Jesus. In him, according to scripture, is life and that life is the light of everyone (John 1:4).

Many people thought that John the Baptist was the one sent to save mankind. They asked if he was Elijah, the Christ, or the Prophet. “I am the voice of one calling in the desert,” he answered (John 1:23). The gospel makes it clear that John was only a witness to the light who was coming. John was merely a messenger.

We, too, are God’s messengers. We are not the Word or the light, though some of those around us might think that they are. We are witnesses and couriers. Our purpose is to prepare the way so the Lord can come into the world and dwell among his people. Our duty is to testify that Jesus is the light of all life.

Like John the Baptist, our voice is like “one calling in the desert.” We can baptize in the name of Jesus, but we cannot save anyone because we are not the Savior. On our own, we are not even worthy or holy enough to untie the sandals of Jesus. We are more than able to do one thing, though. We can declare what we know so people will recognize the light when they see it. 

Standing still (Thursday, October 24)

The more faithful we try to be to God, the more trials we face! It has always been this way, ever since the beginning of the world. From the time of Adam and Eve, Satan has tried over and over again to pull us away and to separate us from our Father. He will do everything within his power, limited though it might be, to come between us and God.

His most effective weapon is our own mind. He fills our heads with doubt about God’s goodness. At every opportunity, he preys on our pain and weakness. “If God truly loves you,” he asks, “where is he right now? How can he let you suffer this way? There must be a reason why he isn’t helping you.”

And that reason is the key to remaining faithful to God, in spite of intense distress and misery. Remember that there is indeed a purpose why God is not removing the hurt, at least not right away. God is always working for our greater good—to turn our pain into prosperity and our suffering into success. The change will come and it will come in a divine and prophetic time.

All Satan needs to win the battle is for us to give up. He counts on our impatience, our frustration, our emotions. We should not be defeated so easily. There may be times in our lives when all we can do is to stand, as St. Paul says in Ephesians 6:13. But that is enough for God. He will hold us up until he is ready to help us move forward. The worst thing we can do is to listen to Satan and go it alone. God is by our side no matter what the enemy claims.

Being content (Wednesday, October 23)

Paul said he had learned how to be content in every situation. He did not mean that he agreed with each circumstance he faced. Despite difficulty, Paul was content in knowing that God was with him every moment; he accepted God’s direction and protection more than he believed in his own limited understanding.

The world is full of people who lean on their own knowledge; many even depend on what they think they know to get through life. They try to make things happen despite all odds. They simply refuse to acknowledge their state of affairs; instead, they fight relentlessly until a change occurs or they are too worn out to do anything at all.

Being content is being happy with what is. It is being pleased with what we have, not desiring something more or different. It is being satisfied with our situation. We can be peaceful and calm at all times because we know everything is proceeding in accordance with God’s will. Following our desires can make us act with contention, while pursuing God’s design leaves us content.

Made in heaven (Tuesday, October 22)

We can easily forget who we are. Because we live in a world that is run by human beings, we often allow people to define our worth and usefulness. When we let others put labels on us, then we have a tendency to forget who we are in God.

Each morning, we should remind ourselves that we are made in the image of God and that he loves us unconditionally. God does not judge us as the world does; rather, God is there to encourage us, strengthen us, guide us, and protect us. We are much more than the world says we are.

As children of God, we belong to a loving and great Father. His kingdom is our kingdom because we are his heirs. Even the least of us in eternity will be a thousand times greater than the most powerful human living in the world today. Let us go through every day on this earth knowing, with confidence and boldness, who we are in God.

With that knowledge and assurance, you and I can stand tall against anything the world might do or say to us. People do not realize that when they criticize us, they also are criticizing our Father.

Less can mean more (Monday, October 21)

The story of the Exodus from Egypt is a true miracle. Who else but God could have taken care of more than two million people for 40 years in the wilderness? Even today, some 3,400 years later, such a feat would be impossible for man to accomplish. Think about the staggering needs of each person—food, water, clothing, health care, shelter—for four decades. When we consider the fact that this group was largely self-sufficient, we begin to appreciate the epic proportions of this event.

If God can watch over and guard two million Israelites for 40 years in the desert, how much more can he do for us as individuals in contemporary society? Sometimes, with all of our modern conveniences, we complain that God is not taking care of us as he promised. We should be ashamed of ourselves for thinking this way. Most of us have large houses, one or more cars, plenty of food, an endless supply of water, and closets full of clothing. Yet, we expect more from God.

We need to focus on everything God has done for us, not on what we still want him to do. Instead of grumbling and complaining, like the Israelites, we need to praise God for his greatness and protection. He has given us so much that, at times, we take these many benefits for granted. God will never give us more until we are satisfied, and thankful, with less.

Disciples who are free (Sunday, October 20)

Lessons in living are all around us. All we need to do is to think about some of the things we do. I felt like I had moved a ton of dirt the other day. One wheelbarrow after another, I moved dirt from the side of our house to the back yard. I must have made 20 to 25 trips. When all was said and done, I had moved what seemed like a mountain.

The lesson in all this was simple. I could not move that much soil all at once. But in time, little by little, I was able to do the impossible. All it took was persistence.

What God asks us to do for him occasionally seems hopeless. One step at a time, though, we can accomplish his will. We just need to stick to it and not give up. The Bible is full of examples for us to follow. Perhaps the greatest is the exodus of his people from Egypt. Following God, Moses led the Israelites one day at a time for 40 years.

Remember, you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you (Philemon 4:13). Paul was a prisoner when he wrote these words to his brother in Christ. Most certainly, he did not give up. He kept doing what God asked of him even when he was locked up. As disciples who are free, can we do any less?

The desire of his heart (Saturday, October 19)

The brothers James and John remind us of ourselves. They were the ones who once asked Jesus if they could sit at his side, on the left and the right, in the kingdom of heaven. Lovingly and gently, Jesus replied that they did not know what they were asking

We often go to the Lord with similar questions. Out of our innocence and inexperience we ask Jesus for all kinds of things: Can you bring me more money? Can you help me get a more important job? Can you give me better health? Can you give me favor in my business? Can you restore what I have lost?

In every instance, Jesus might be saying, “You do not know what you are asking” (Matthew 20:22). For whatever we desire, there is a price to pay. The cost for what we want is not always something physical. It could be spiritual. Having more money, a better job, or a bigger house may lead us away from Jesus rather than closer to him. We may gain material wealth, but lose our eternal inheritance.

When we ask for something, let us be satisfied and content with Jesus’ answer. Let us remember that he knows what is best for us in every situation. What we want, in fact, may not be good for us. What kind of Savior would he be if he gave us something that is harmful or not helpful? The desire of our heart is not what we need. We need the desire of his heart.

Who are you—really? (Friday, October 18)

There are certain things I can do and certain things I cannot do. I must have the wisdom and humility to realize the difference. For example, I know that I am not good at electrical work; I would be a fool to try to rewire any part of a house or garage. The result would be disastrous for me and the structure.

In serving the Lord, we are meant for certain work. Some are good at teaching. Some are good at preaching. Some are good at cooking meals for the homeless. And some are good at greeting newcomers. Whatever our gift, God expects to use what he has given us in the right way.

Too many people spend all their lives trying to be something they are not. A man goes into business for himself and nothing seems to work out. A woman becomes an accountant because the job pays well. A couple opens a bed and breakfast in a tropical country, hoping to cash in on growing tourism. Whether it is a vocation or avocation, we need to see first what God has in mind for us.

At first, Peter thought he was a fisherman. Paul thought he was a tentmaker. Luke thought he was a physician. Who are you? There may be a wide gap between who you think you are and who God wants you to be. Make sure you know before you decide to go in one direction or another.

Suffering for his sake
(Thursday, October 17)

Doing God’s will brings gratification and a high sense of satisfaction; we know we are doing something much greater than this world can imagine. Through the years, those who have served him have told of his miraculous feats through their small efforts.

But what happens when we follow God and we suffer? The disciples dedicated their lives to Jesus only to find themselves in a sinking boat on the Sea of Galilee. They continued to sink deeper and deeper. Finally, they cried out to Jesus to save them; he was fast asleep in the back of the boat.

How often have you and I felt the same way? We were following what the Lord wanted us to do, yet we were threatened by one thing or another. A dear friend of mine was working where the Lord had called him. After 20 years, though, he was fired. Where was the Lord then?

God is always in the boat with us. He knows our peril and, in his time, he will calm the seas. May we have faith enough to believe he will come through even when there seems to be no hope. He lifts us up when the world lets us down.

He cares for you (Wednesday, October 16)

The Lord has blessed each one of us far beyond what we think, know, or remember. For example, I have been blessed for more than four decades with a wonderful wife, two healthy children, four grandchildren, and many other persons no matter where I have lived or travelled. Each step of the way has been divinely ordered through the Lord because of his great love.

I must confess that there are many times when I did not see, nor do I recall, all God gave to me because I was looking too hard at what I think he should have done. Through the years I have wanted different jobs, desired more money, sought other ways to serve, and thought more about myself than my God. In short, I have been self-centered rather than God-centered.

God created the world for his glory, not mine. He controls and orders every happening for his purpose. I was made to be a part of that perfect plan. Even though I may act it on occasion, I was not created for my own design. Instead, I live to be blessed by him as I do his will. My pleasure should grow out of being allowed to serve him.

As I reflect on the years, the times that have brought me the greatest meaning and pleasure have been when I lived for him. In following his path I have found happiness, comfort, and peace. I have discovered how he blesses us in ways that the world cannot. His care never fades and it is always there. There is no way for me to count all of his many blessings; they are too numerous. But I can learn to be more grateful and thankful for all he does each day. What he does to me is for his good and mine.

Doing our job (Tuesday, October 15)

I am no good to God the way I am. He cannot use me if I am resentful, if I am angry, if I am anxious, or if I am upset. He can use me only when I conform to what he wants.

The principle is simple. I am able to serve God if I am willing to accept his will. This is not much different than what we do each day in the world. We work for someone or some company and we must do what is expected of us. If we strike out on our own, following our own agenda and ideas, chances are we will be let go. We are of little use to the people and the company we serve if we do not live up to our responsibilities.

As Christians, there are certain duties that God demands of us. We are to love our enemies, pray for those who attack us, reach out to people who push us away, forgive sisters and brothers who hurt us. If we do not, we cannot serve God in the way he expects. Simply put, we are not doing our job; we are not whom we profess to be and God knows it.

He has every right to let us go and find someone else to do our work. Instead, he forgives us and gives us another chance. Maybe it is high time we think more deeply about God’s grace and how he gives us a second chance hundreds of times. He has a particular job for us. To him we are irreplaceable. Let us remember that the next time we want to do his work our way.

Giving in to get control (Monday, October 14)

We do not know all of the many things we may encounter in the hours between our rising up and our resting again tonight. We can experience joy, pain, happiness, sorrow, delight, tragedy, peace, and turmoil. Our lives are unpredictable. None of us truly knows what will happen in the next 10 minutes, let alone the next 10 hours.

This example is precisely why our faith is so important. God does know what lies ahead. He also has prepared us for any situation, good or bad. In the sudden rush and flurry of activity in our daily lives, we often forget that God goes on before us. He is there to help and guide us. He will take us safely through hardship, suffering, even gladness and pleasure.

Where we run into real difficulty is when we decide to lead the way, when we try to handle life on our own. We should know by now we are incapable of even the slightest movement or accomplishment without God’s guidance. The key to our success is not in the ability to set our own life and destiny; rather, the real victory is in following God in spite of what we want to do.

When we relinquish control of our life and let God take over, each hurdle becomes smaller because God is clearing the way. We no longer have to be anxious over what will happen next. As long as we stay behind God and follow him, we are right where we need to be.

God-incidences (Sunday, October 13)

The world is always amazed and surprised by coincidence. To those of us who believe in God, though, we should see things that happen by happenstance as part of a divine and purposeful plan.

When someone we are thinking about suddenly calls us on the phone, when we receive help from a stranger, when we feel the need to pray for a friend or loved one, when an unexpected door opens in our life—all of these are little pieces of God’s great design for us. Day after day we can see him at work. Each event brings us closer to realizing his greatness and power.

God grants us his favor over and over again through unexpected ways. He delights in blessing us simply because he loves us.

The divine connection (Saturday, October 12)

If, then, we are created by God, specifically chosen by him, purposely called by him and fully justified by him through his Son, what can ever happen to us? Nothing has the power or authority to change who we are in him. We were born into his family. We are his daughters and sons, his own flesh and blood. We will never be cast aside or rejected. No difficulty, illness, problem, or fault can separate us from his love.

We are more than victors in all things because of God’s love for us, according to Paul (Romans 8:37). His love surpasses anything we see or experience in life, for it extends far beyond the physical realm of this world into the great mind and soul of our Father. His affection for us flows through the Holy Spirit, which is an infinite force that is never extinguished or changed. Not even the angels in heaven can affect such supreme love.

No power on earth or throughout the vast universe is able to divide us from God. His ever-present love is much like the sun. Though clouds may obscure our view at times and darkness appears to overwhelm the day, the sun’s light remains nonetheless. Nothing can stop this star from shining, not even the momentary illusion of an eclipse.

So it is with God’s affection for us. We cannot see his constant care and concern, or even how he watches over us each moment. Still, he is there, keeping us safe, free from harm. It is impossible to keep him from being with us for that is the essence of his divine nature. He generously loves us and grants us his love so that we might triumph over any adversity. We become the conquerors in our daily struggles all because of his wonderful passion.

If indeed God be for us, Paul asks, who can be against us?

Unspoken signs of love (Friday, October 11)

Divine love transcends culture, race, gender, and age. There is no one anywhere who does not respond to the kind of love that Jesus tried to show the world: a warm smile, a gentle touch, a helpful hand, something to eat or drink, a word of comfort, a simple prayer. All of these display the holy and godly love of the heart.

Too often we communicate with others using our lips and hands. We say how we feel or we stand by as someone struggles. We fail to let our heart speak. We do not offer understanding, kindness, support, and encouragement.

Our days are a journey of becoming more Christ-like, to love as he loved, and to live as he lived. We cannot learn how to be compassionate toward others all at once. Love develops slowly and deliberately. Over time, we begin to realize the potential of what we can do through God.

We discover we can love in greater ways when we are guided by the heart, for that is where the Spirit speaks to us. 

Living for the kingdom (Thursday, October 10)

Little things, done with an open and joyous heart, mean more to God than great acts or vast sums of money. The widow who offered two mites at the temple gave everything she owned, while others put in only a portion of their wealth. Many probably donated 10 times as much as this poor woman, but Jesus was not impressed. She presented more, Jesus said, than all of the others combined.

The meaning and purpose of life is found in the seemingly insignificant. A note of encouragement, a phone call, a card, or an email takes only minutes, but can last days or weeks to someone who is sick or lonely. Even returning a neighbor’s garbage cans to the back of the garage or putting the newspaper by the front door can mean a great deal.

Not only do these small things help those around us, they also show others what it means to be a follower of Christ. Our one little act can be a life-changing experience for another person. A few words, spoken in the right way, may open the door of salvation to a non-believer.

Just as Jesus noticed the old widow, he will see what we do in his name. When we quietly bring glory and honor to him, he is pleased. Our little works in the world become great in the kingdom.

Beating the giants (Wednesday, October 9)

The giants of this world loom large in our lives today, just as they did to the Israelites who were afraid to enter the Promised Land. But the giants all around us are often more than people. Sometimes they are things like anger, jealousy, anxiety, and regret. These emotions exist inside our minds and cause us to become our own worst enemy.

We can easily become crushed by our perspective, what we think, rather than by physical objects. We believe we cannot do something or we become afraid. We can feel discouraged even when there is no logical reason to fear.

We create giants out of all sorts of things: our jobs, our schedules, our chores, maybe those in our neighborhood whom we do not like. We are good at convincing ourselves that we have been defeated already; we are fighting a losing battle no matter what we do.

Let’s remember that everything is small when compared to God. There is nothing large in his eyes. As long as he is with us, and working through us, we can overcome anything, especially our own gigantic thoughts and emotions.

Enjoy the present (Tuesday, October 8)

There are only so many hours in a day in which to do the Lord’s work. All too soon daylight passes and it is time to rest. Once again, we must retire from our labors and wait for the coming of another day.

There needs to be a balance in every day. We cannot spend all our time working, whether for ourselves or the Lord. There must be time for other activities if we are to live the way God intended. He made us to enjoy life, not to regret it.

How many persons have you and I known through the years that have spent every waking moment working at a job or profession? Day after day, they went to work early and came home late. They ignored their family and friends; they toiled away while others enjoyed vacations and holidays. There was no time to waste on taking time to delight in being alive, let alone meditating on scripture or even praying.

God does not want us to spend every waking moment at work. Our bodies need rest. We have a complete day of rest once a week, if only we would use it. Remember, your life is a gift. Enjoy the present!

Seeing through our hearts (Monday, October 7)

The silent beauty in the world can be seen only with the heart. We observe most when we see by using our compassion for others. Offering to help when there is no request, praying for the persons we pass on the street, thanking those who serve others, encouraging a child who is lonely—these are the things that allow us insight into the real world that God created.

Much of what we see with our eyes each day is not of God’s design. He did not build the sprawling cities that are overcome with people and traffic, he did not develop the governments of continents, nor did he create the technology that drives our economy. God never intended for us to be consumed by work, our jobs, and our own needs.

He tells us, simply and directly, to love one another. There is nothing mysterious about his words. Yet, we fail to recognize those who desperately need our love and care. Physical sight gives us only a temporary glimpse. Our eyes do not let us see beyond the present moment. But when we look at the world by the divine love implanted in our heart, we perceive with our whole being.

All around us, we have a chance to discover the indescribable beauty and wonder that can come only through love. We must learn to follow what we witness with our heart rather than what we see with our eyes.

Completely safe in his wisdom (Sunday, October 6)

The abundance of God’s blessings are in direct proportion to our faith and service. Nothing great was ever done by anyone who served him half-heartedly.

One needs only to look at the amazing journey of Paul. He traveled not once but three times around the whole known world at that time. The leadership of Moses is another example. He came out of exile, on nothing more than faith, to take millions to the Promised Land. Both saints were blessed beyond measure because they followed the Lord’s will to the letter.

I once worked at a Christian company that suffered setbacks time and time again. The problem is they were not led by the Lord; instead, they decided what to do and then asked the Lord to bless their man-made decisions. He did not. The Lord could not bless what he had not ordained. Slowly, one by one, good people left and programs suffered. Even the CEO resigned suddenly and without notice. It was sad to see the unraveling of an otherwise sound business—all because those in charge put the cart before the horse.

May we always make sure God is the head and not the tail of anything we do. If we put him first, he will put us first. He will bless us mightily because we were humble enough to do things his way. Remember, he is never wrong. “Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe” (Proverbs 28:26).

Faith power (Saturday, October 5)

The words of St Paul in Hebrews 11:6 are a chilling reminder of how we ought to live. We should trust God in everything because our faith actually proves how much we love him. “Without faith, it is impossible to please God,” wrote Paul.

What good is it if we do God’s will—at work, school, church, in the community—when all the while we are worried about our own health. Or what sense is there in not trusting him with our finances when he has already said he will take care of all our needs? Even children trust their parents to take care of and feed them. Yet we, who are supposed to know so much more, fail to trust the one who created us in the first place.

We can delight God in many different ways. Nothing gives him greater pleasure, though, than when we put our faith entirely in him. In effect, we are saying we believe in his best for us no matter what. “I trust you Lord even though I am not feeling well.” “I have faith in you God even though I do not have a job.” “I am counting on you Father even though my heart is breaking.” “I believe you even though my doubt is overwhelming.”

Faith is a simple word, yet is can do so much. Even faith the size of a mustard seed (Matthew 17:20) pleases God and has the power to move mountains. 

He is the treasure (Friday, October 4)

The man across the street seems to have spent a small fortune on Halloween decorations. There is a huge spider web across the front porch, pumpkins everywhere, a couple of scarecrows, bales of hay, flashing lights and inflatable creatures in colorful costumes.

It is odd these days what people will buy. To Ed, decorating his front yard for Halloween is important. To others, it might be Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine’s Day or Easter that is meaningful. Whatever the day we celebrate, we must be careful that we use all of our resources, especially time and money, wisely.

I have to remind myself not to get carried away when it comes to decorating the outside of our house for Christmas. Festive displays are fun, but they say a lot about us. They tell the world what is important to us and what we value most. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” Jesus said (Matthew 6:21).

A couple I know puts lights and ornaments outside at Christmas, but they also have a manger with Mary, Joseph and Jesus right in the middle. They believe that the heart of Christmas is all about Christ. Truly, their treasure each and every day, especially on December 25, is in him. May he be the center of our lives as well as we go throughout the year.

Your potential (Thursday, October 3)

God knows you. He realizes everything about you. More than anything, God sees your potential. He sees what you can do, how you can help others and how you can be a shining light everywhere you go. He wants to help you achieve all he has planned for your life.

A year ago, my wife and I bought a 70-year-old house. It needed a lot of work, inside and out, but we envisioned what it could be someday with the right care and repair. During the past several months, we have put in a driveway, added a wall in the basement, renovated the master bathroom, installed new windows and bought new furniture. Still, we have to paint all of the rooms on the first floor, refinish the kitchen cabinets and add granite countertops. Then we will move on to fix up the two bedrooms and bath upstairs.

This old house has a solid foundation with lots of character; we just need to spend time making it shine. Our lives in Christ are much the same. God created us and knows our being. What he wants to do as we grow is to make us better, make us an example to the world. He wants to show everyone the amazing things he can do by doing them through us.

The journey will not be easy as we go through the years, but imagine what we will become by the time God is finished! We will be the loving and generous children he saw from the very beginning. You and I have great potential because the one doing the work is the very creator of the universe. God is the sustainer and perfector of all life, especially you.

Not being swayed (Wednesday, October 2)

If God were to ask me what I am seeking in my life, and why I am sometimes unhappy or discontent, I would have to confess that I do not know. I am helpless to understand or even rationalize my feelings. All I know is that on occasion I sense I need a change.

At such times I feel like I am being tossed back and forth on a stormy sea. I cannot remain still. The winds and waves push me first in one way and then another. I easily become confused and lose my heading.

When I am tempted to go off in many different directions, I need to ask for the strength to remain on course. I must keep my spirit moving toward the place where God is leading me, not where I would like to go. I also must trust his guidance and his plan, for he can see far beyond where I am right now.

Even though there might be darkness all around, he will direct me toward where his light is shining if I am willing to follow.

The faith of God (Tuesday, October 1)

Have your ever missed the point? Maybe it was something someone said or did, but you took it the wrong way. Frequently, we direct our thoughts on what we see or think. We fail to see beyond where we are at the moment. Peter seems to have been guilty of thinking more about a dead fig tree rather than on what Jesus was teaching him. Jesus was trying to give Peter greater vision and faith.

Mark recounts the story of Jesus who one day came upon a fig tree bearing only leaves. There was no fruit. “May no one ever eat fruit from you again,” he said. The next day, Peter was surprised as they passed by the tree. It had withered all the way down to the roots. When Peter exclaimed the obvious to his master, Jesus said simply, “Have faith in God,” adding that God will do whatever one asks as long as the person believes in his heart. No doubt Peter became all the more confused.

The lesson here was not that Jesus was able to perform miracles and do the impossible. The demonstration dealt with having full and complete faith in God. Some translations of the Bible say the literal wording of Jesus’ statement to Peter was “Have the faith of God” (Mark 11:22). While these two phrases may sound quite different, the implication is identical. To “have faith in God” should be the same as to “have the faith of God.”

We might say it is easy for God to have faith in what will happen in all things because he knows the outcome of every situation. We, too, know the outcome because we know God. The answer for us should be the same whether we have faith in God or the faith of God.

He is our example of creation (Thursday, September 12)

The creations of the past are all around. Everywhere there are houses, stores, office buildings churches and schools. We may not have seen those who built these structures, but we know construction does not occur on its own.

When it comes to the world and nature, many people argue that what we see evolved logically over billions of years. They discount any notion at all of a universe created by one God. Instead, they believe that what exists today is nothing more than happenstance.

We cannot have it both ways. We cannot say the earth accidentally came into being, but a house or a building was created. I should think we would have greater success trying to convince someone that a house evolved out of the forest around it than to say everything on this planet grew out of chaos in space.

We cannot suspend physics merely because of our notions and whims. The physical laws of this world are a reflection of God’s laws throughout the universe. The act of creation is real whether it occurs here on earth in what we see or elsewhere in what we cannot see. God created all things, seen and unseen. If something as simple as a building cannot evolve by itself, how can we ever expect an entire world to form on its own?

Clear your head (Wednesday, September 11)

Sometimes there are things that block or diminish our effectiveness as Christians. The problem is not God. The problem is us. The wrong thoughts and ways get inside of us. What we think and do stops our ability to serve God fully and completely.

Recently, the water pressure in our 70-year-old house was cut in half. Water barely trickled out some of the faucets. I knew the problem was either dirt or calcium deposits. Days went by and nothing seemed to clear the lines, not even cleaning all of the aerators. Then, one morning, everything was back to normal. We had full pressure once again.

God is our constant source of energy and strength. Negative attitudes and actions can significantly reduce what we are able to do for him. The difference we make in the world is far less than what God intended and created for us.

We have to find ways to get back to normal, functioning as God’s disciples once again. In the words of the great hymn by Helen Lemmel: “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face, And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of His glory and grace.” A great way to clear our head and heart so nothing blocks us from shining for him.

The battle is God’s (Tuesday, September 10)

The battles we face in life belong to the Lord, yet we take them personally. We want to get involved and solve the problem on our own. What we fail to realize is that much of what we encounter is bigger than us, more powerful than one person alone. Still we strike out and wonder why we cannot defeat the enemy.

God is always ready and willing to help. He can fight our battles for us, if we can step out of the way. Like a parent who protects his children at all costs, God will keep us safe from harm. He will not allow a single arrow to wound us. “For the battle is not yours, but God’s” (2 Chronicles 20:15).

When circumstances overwhelm us, we need to repeat this verse over and over again until we accept and believe it. God can do incredible things in impossible situations. As creator of the universe, he will create a way for us through any trial and battle.

Ever present (Monday, September 9)

It is only in our helplessness that we can discover God’s mercy. Only in our weakness do we realize his strength. And only in our grief do we understand his greatness.

The difficulties and tragedies of life reveal to us the divine power of God. As we are forced to stop and ask Him why, we open ourselves to him completely. We let God touch us in a way that only he can. We kneel before him, with our hearts bleeding and our minds empty of reason, for one thing only: his love.

We want to know that He is there in the midst of sorrow and despair – that he has not forgotten us even though we feel lost and confused. The image of Our Lord and Savior in the garden, on the night before He was crucified, is all the understanding we should need to remember that God is always with us.

Jesus was not alone during his many hours of darkness. Nor are we ever left on our own in despair. Our Father is always there to give us what we do not have within ourselves. He can help us to accept tragedy and despair even when we do not comprehend.

Walking by faith (Sunday, September 8)

Many people want God in their life without wanting his will. We cannot have one without the other, for the two are inseparable. In accepting Christ as my savior, I also accepted God’s plan for my life. I have to remind myself often of what I did as a boy, when I was almost too young to understand. Now, decades later, many times each day I still find myself wanting all of God’s blessings and, at the same time, to be able to do as I desire. It is a constant and continuous struggle to go in the right direction.

What I have learned through the years, though, is to trust God more and myself less. Gradually, with each little step, I have been able to follow his path even when it is hard and painful. As I continue to grow, I see the pieces of my past all fitting together in a divine order – something that only God could do. What I did not understand at the time, I realize clearly now. All the while, despite the times of difficulty and disappointment, God was leading me toward his greater purpose.

Through his grace, and not my own, I have been brought to this point in my life. Sometimes I do not understand. Sometimes I still question. But I have faith in what God is doing. The past has taught me how to trust. By looking back on all he has done for me, I can more forward. Even though I may not see where I am headed, I am able to walk by faith and not by sight.

The reality of God’s spirit (Saturday, September 7)

The mystery of the Holy Spirit – how God works in supernatural ways – is not as hard to accept as we make it out to be. True, we do not see God or the things he is doing. That does not mean he is not there or that he has left us on our own.

We possess the capacity to believe in God’s constant presence and guidance, in spite of what we cannot see. For example, we often reflect on our memories (both good and bad). These experiences exist within the mind, but give us the illusion that they are real; we think that they are occurring right in front of us. As a result, the present moment is affected by what we no longer experience with our eyes. The past is gone, yet it takes shape once again in images, sounds and smells. These sensations are as authentic as physical reality.

In the same way, God is no less real because his spirit is not visible. We make the mistake of always trying to look for him with our eyes only. We should seek him with our heart as well. When we do, our mind will show us all he is doing, even though it will not be seen by the rest of the world.

Learning the hard way (Friday, September 6)

Think before you speak. Zachariah did not and he learned a hard lesson. The Gospel of Luke reminds us of what can happen when we become too impetuous, even bold, when it comes to our response to God.

One day when Zachariah was in the temple he saw an angel. The angel told him that he and his wife Elizabeth would bear a son, despite their old age. “He will be filled with the Holy Spirit,” said Gabriel, “even before he is born….And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah” (Luke 1:11-17).

But Zachariah doubted. “How can I be sure of this,” he questioned. Gabriel replied, “Now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words.”

If Zachariah had taken a moment to comprehend what Gabriel said, he would have believed without a doubt. Instead, he believed his own thoughts rather than the very words of God. In answer to his question, the Lord proved himself to Zachariah by taking away his speech until his son, John the Baptist, was born. May we never have to learn the hard way like Zachariah.

Worried about nothing (Thursday, September 5)

We have enough to do today without worrying about yesterday or being anxious over what may happen tomorrow. All of our thoughts, concerns and focus should be on what is in front of us right now. If we do not exercise caution, we can be distracted by all sorts of feelings and emotions that do not matter.

When we step out of the present moment, we begin living based on what occurred yesterday or what may take place tomorrow. Our feelings and emotions then affect our attitude. We get angry today because of yesterday, or we are upset because of activities awaiting us tomorrow.

In all situations, God is there. He even protects us from our own thoughts and feelings. “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). He can guard us from ourselves – especially emotions that influence our behavior at this very minute. He is our ever-present help in an ever-changing world.

God in the whirlwind (Wednesday, September 4)

It is hard to count your blessings when you can’t hear yourself think. Right now, our one dog is barking. A repairman is hammering away in the other room. Outside, two guys are rebuilding the chimney on our house and landscapers are mowing and trimming the lawn across the street. How I long for silence. I keep telling myself all will be quiet in a few more hours.

Sometimes we get so caught up in the noise of the day that we lose sight of our purpose. We easily become distracted by a world of sounds everywhere and we do not have a chance to hear God’s still, small voice. Sadly, In order to hear him, God would have to come to us as he did with Job—in a whirlwind!

When everything seems too much for us to bear, maybe we need to close our ears and open our hearts. Feel God’s gentle love and remember his many blessings: how he has been with us day in and day out no matter what we have endured. He has never left our side. Not even once.

Turn away from whatever is distracting you today and turn toward him. His eye is always watching you and his hand is always on you. He can give you the peace you are seeking even when everything threatens to drown him out. He should not have to raise his voice to get our attention. Let us not have to learn the hard way like Job.

The best is yet to come (Tuesday, September 3)

Finding our joy in the Lord is what our lives are all about. Constantly, we must give thanks for what he has allowed us to do for him. Despite the work, pleasing him should please us beyond measure.

The apostle Paul never seemed to tire of serving the Lord. He traveled hundreds of miles by foot and ship. The same for Peter and the other disciples. All of them endured pain, fatigue, persecution and rejection. They persevered, though, because they knew their earthly trials were nothing compared to their heavenly reward.

Like them, we need to set our sights on heaven. Not on how much God will give us then, but on the glory we will experience just being there among the all of the other saints. Together, we will join the divine gathering to worship and praise God forever.

“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror,” wrote Paul. “Then [in paradise] we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12). Right now, we see only part of the picture. There is much more to see and experience. Whatever we encounter today, the amazing thing about our lives is that “the best is yet to come.” 

He makes the difference (Monday, September 2)

It is hard to believe. My wife and I are celebrating our 41st anniversary today. We have been together on an amazing journey through life. We have experienced joy, sadness, sickness, disappointment and happiness. We have been there to cheer and support one another no matter what we faced.

When we were too young to understand, God brought us together. We met through a church youth group and developed a friendship that matured into marriage. Back then, we could not have imagined all that God was planning for the future.

Now we have two children and four grandchildren, and we are able to be with them many times each week. We also have more time to spend with one another; we are still growing and learning new things. We do not know what the future will bring, but we know God will be with us, just as he has been in the past.

Decades ago, we decided to put our faith and trust in him and that has made all the difference in our lives, our marriage and our love.

Making God visible (Sunday, September 1)

People can observe the beauty of creation. What they often cannot see is the beauty of God. We must make God visible to the world. Words, actions and gestures help our neighbors begin to realize that there are hidden wonders all around them – things they have not yet discovered.

Others begin to grasp the remarkable splendor of God when we speak kindly about a person who has hurt us, when we go out of our way to say hello to one who is suffering, when we donate money to help a person we do not know and when we accept God’s will even though it causes us physical or mental pain.

Being totally committed to God shows his magnificence because we display his love in the face of great hardship. As people watch us serve him, they recognize a difference in us as human beings. They see how he transforms our actions and attitudes through his mere presence. His quiet power can change the course of a nation or one single person. May those of us who know God is in the everyday routine of life show others the beauty of his work.

We are his workmanship and we are living examples of his majesty. His radiance is everywhere, but we must teach the world about the unseen treasures that far exceed even the most charming landscape. The divine magnificence of eternity far outshines anything we know or can imagine. All that we do must reveal the way for others to see.

Being joyful (Saturday, August 31)

The apostle Peter told us that we should “greatly rejoice” because of our salvation. At the same time, he said that “though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials” (1 Peter 1:6). Peter’s words seem almost contradictory, but he understood the profound recompense of suffering. The trials were enlarging and perfecting his faith, not destroying it. 

Idle threats (Friday, August 30)

At one point in his life, the apostle Paul had 40 men who hated him so much they vowed not to eat anything until they killed him. Acts 23:14 says they even “bound [themselves] under a great curse.” Hatred and anger usually cause evil people to commit desperate acts. Certain persons are bent on wickedness no matter what.

You and I may not have individuals who want to assassinate us, but we do have people who wish us harm for one reason or another. Maybe there is no reason at all; the person just dislikes or distrusts us. It is hard living or working around such individuals.

How we act, as well as what we say, is critical. First and foremost, we have to take our cue from God. We have to put more faith in his ability to take action than in what others might want to do. When people attack us, they forget they actually are going against God himself.

We are his children and he will protect us, just as he protected Paul in this situation. Paul escaped being assassinated by the 40 men because God miraculously sent 200 soldiers to take him safely to another city. Never doubt God’s plan or love. Remember, God always knows what others are planning and he has a better plan to protect us from their idle threats.

Why he can hear (Thursday, August 29)

Who knows when or where God will choose to change a situation. There is no magic formula for God’s goodness and grace. He shows his hand according to his time. Sometimes he acts quickly and other times he waits.

Our grandson could not hear when he was born. A hearing test at the hospital confirmed this fact. Two weeks later, another hour-long hearing exam showed the same. There was no change. Baby Henry could not hear.

All of us were extremely concerned, yet I knew he would hear one day. Some might call it a feeling, a hunch, intuition—whatever. I believed he would hear and I prayed with complete confidence in God.

Yesterday afternoon we heard from our daughter. Henry passed his third hearing test! After three times, he passed the same test he had failed twice before. Those who do not believe in God probably will say that the test was somehow flawed, but I know it was God who made all the difference in the world for Henry. God healed this little two-month boy. Now, Henry will carry this miracle with him through the rest of his life. He will listen to people everywhere and be able to tell them why he can hear.

The gift of time (Wednesday, August 28)

What Jesus taught us is the importance of sacrifice: putting the needs of others before our own, helping someone even though we need help, giving away something we value, caring for a loved one who is demanding, calling friends and neighbors to encourage them. All of these acts require discipline and strength. But they also require our time.

As human beings we have a tendency to squander time. We want to keep it to ourselves, to make sure we have time to do the activities we need or want to do. We think about the time required each day just to accomplish the routine tasks, let alone anything extra. We often say we need more than 24 hours to get everything done. What we need, however, is not more time. What we need is more discretion and better judgment.

We must get in the habit of exercising caution and prudence when it comes to spending our time wisely. We need to get to the place where we look for opportunities to sacrifice our time for the sake of someone else. Then and only then will we understand what Jesus tried to show us. He gave up every minute of his life for others so that they could live a more abundant life.

Our calling is to follow his example, to sacrifice a part of ourselves in order that those around us can experience a better and more meaningful life. The precious time we have is not ours to keep. It is a gift from God. He gives us time so we can spend it serving him by helping others, not ourselves.

Like him or not (Tuesday, August 27)

We say we want to be like Jesus, but then we suddenly act like everyone else around us. We race from place to place, trying to accomplish everything we have planned for one day. Our schedules are often so full that it would take us weeks to complete everything we attempt in one, 24-hour period!

Can we ever imagine Jesus living this way? It would be hard to picture him getting up several hours before dawn, pushing himself to get some odd jobs done before he actually went to work. No doubt he would be too busy for lengthy prayer or even a brief devotion. Then, at the precise time, he would have to wake his disciples to make sure they were ready to spread the word. They probably could not pause for prayer either because they were rushing to heal and restore crowds of people at the temple.

We have to wonder what Jesus might say about our hectic lifestyle. He would not have any trouble keeping up with us, of course. But he would refuse to follow us. What are we hoping to accomplish, he may ask. What do we think we can do on our own, without spending time in prayer and meditation? He would certainly be confused by our propensity to ignore God as our constant source of strength and wisdom.

The next time we are in a hurry, we need to consider how Jesus would react. He set an example for us to follow. If we want to experience his peace in our daily lives, we also have to practice his ways.

Building our belief (Monday, August 26)

God does not leave us during times of difficulty. No, just the opposite. He draws closer to us. We do not see him, though, because we are too focused on ourselves. In a way, we react much like those who did not recognize Jesus on the day of his resurrection. Through their sorrow and mourning, they could not perceive that he was right there among them.

When trials come we react much like Thomas, who said he would not believe until he saw the wounds in the master’s hands. We are no different today. We say we will not believe Jesus is with us until he heals us or solves our problems. We wait for proof in order to believe. This kind of faith is shallow and physical. In reality, it is not faith at all for it demands concrete evidence of the divine. How much trust is necessary, for example, to accept the obvious? Even those who do not believe realize what is right in front of them.

Believing in such a superficial way will never give us the confidence and assurance that we need to make it through life. We will never come to the point where we live more by what we know rather than what we observe. Even children believe what they cannot see because they have confidence and trust in what they are told.

Finding the beauty (Sunday, August 25)

We need not travel to some exotic place to find the beauty of life. Nor do we need to take a vacation from work or our daily routine. The wonder of the world that God has created for us is all around, no matter where we find ourselves.

Too often we do not realize what God has given us because we look at what we do not have. We may have a perfectly good car, yet we seek something better. We may have good health, but we want to look better. We may have a good job, yet we want more money and recognition. We may live in a nice house, but we want one that is larger. We may possess everything we need, yet we desire more.

Our emotions and thoughts are always drawn more toward the things of this world rather than in those that last into the next. We allow ourselves to be attracted and captivated by what we see. We let our minds settle on the tangible elements of life, not the spiritual qualities that can transcend the here and now.

We have the ability to live by what we cannot see or touch. God has given us much more than we can ever find on earth. Our faith and trust can take us far beyond where we are at this place and moment in time. When we believe that God can do all things, we move toward the higher kind of life where we are truly living in the spirit.

The beauty of life is found in the unseen, the spiritual. Not in what we experience physically each day.

Being in and with God (Saturday, August 24)

Prayer does more than bring us nearer to God. It also brings us to the stark realization of how much we need him. In all of our petitions – for health, a job, companionship, financial security – we are actively confessing our humanness; we are acknowledging our dependence on his goodness and mercy to accomplish what we cannot.

As we pray, we move to bridge the gap between where our understanding ends and God’s power begins. Our faith in him allows us to go beyond what we know or what we can even imagine. Believing that anything is possible in God lifts us out of the limits of our present existence into the potential of God’s eternal universe. The simple act of prayer frees us from the bondage of physical life to where we can glimpse the true wonder of the everlasting world.

God is the creator and center of all life. In him, we have our being and our hope. When we go to him in prayer, with all of our earthly troubles and problems, we are brought a little closer to his presence – where we are living completely in him and he is living in us.

You are a light (Friday, August 23)

Even in the blackest night, a small light can dispel much darkness. A tiny candle, lamp or flashlight can act as a sharp beacon of hope and direction.

Our lives are much like a small lantern. Despite the darkness that we experience all around us, one single bright act of kindness has a tremendous effect. What we do for Christ, as we help others, can be seen from a great distance by a great many people.

We are meant to be light – to stand out from the shadows and gloom created by man. Each of our little actions should point the way to the one true, divine light of Jesus Christ. You and I need to reflect his light in everything we do or say.

Time for a change (Thursday, August 22)

We change our minds every day. We start doing something one way and then suddenly take a turn. King David, for example, made a drastic change in his life after he realized what he had done both to Bathsheba and her husband, Uriah.

There is a term in art that relates to change. When an artist begins a painting and then changes the composition in midstream, it is called pentimento—Italian for repentance. In other words, the artist changes his or her mind and repaints over an earlier image, no doubt hoping to improve the work. Sometimes it can be an entirely new painting over a previous one. The initial image eventually shows through, however, when the top layer becomes transparent with age.

Pentimento applies to our lives as well. Maybe there is something you and I have done and we have tried to cover it up. Sooner or later, people will discover our wrongdoing. Numbers 32:23 says, “Your sin will find you out.” If there is an incident or experience in your past that seems wrong, you need to get rid of it, repent, and get on with your life. The last thing you should do is try to hide it.

Living with the past is not really living at all because of the weight of our guilt. God always wants to free us and help us change for the better. He will cover the past completely, but we have to be willing to do it his way. Otherwise, our previous actions eventually will show through and come back to haunt us.

What matters is the struggle (Wednesday, August 21)

All that we do this day should be done through and for God, not ourselves. If anyone speaks, says the apostle Peter, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God; if anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.

The words of God and the acts of God are much different than what we often hear and see around us. Even what we say and do from time to time are done to please ourselves. We react to circumstances and situations out of anger, but God responds out of love.

His nature is to help, ours is to hinder. His way is kind, ours is not. He forgives, we cannot forget. What Peter tells us is not easy to achieve, for it requires us to live above and beyond ourselves. We tend to look at life through from our one-sided perspective and not through the omniscience of God.

We know the words of God and we know his deeds. The Bible is his word and his story. We also have the life of Jesus as an example. What we need to do is to be imitators, disciples, of what we have been taught. The only way we can be successful, though, is to let God help us. We cannot do it on our own. All that we accomplish today is done through, by and for him. After all is said and done, that we bring glory to him is what matters most.

Do we seek life or living? (Tuesday, August 20)

The whole purpose of living is God. Yet, even we as Christians fail to remember what we are all about. It is easy to become so caught up in life that often we forget how to live. We miss the point if we are consumed by a career, a car, a house, entertaining or being involved in numerous organizations. We may be able to come into contact with much of life, but we will not give ourselves a chance to experience living – at least not on God’s level.

You and I have a chance to understand more than what the world calls life. God shows us a meaning beyond what we see each day; he allows us to discover ourselves and his purpose for our living. His plan is for us to find happiness and joy in simple things. As we help a neighbor, pray for a relative, make a meal for our family, send an e-mail to our spouse, we feel God working through us to bring about his wholeness and love. We take part in a divine activity not only for our life but in the life of someone else.

God made us for one another. We are a family in him. As we serve our sisters and brothers, we serve our Father. He loves each one of us and he wants us to know the kind of living that can make life meaningful. In order to do so, though, we must follow his example. Not what we see going on outside of our family.

His yoke is easy (Monday, August 19)

If we are truly following the Lord, we will come to a place, many times in our life, when we fall to our knees. The world will always try to crush us under the weight of cares, worries, problems, tragedies, pain and sin.

Jesus knew all too well the toils and difficulties of this life. That is why he issues a special call to each one of us. He wants to relieve our weariness. “My yoke is easy,” he says, “and my burden is light.” We will find the rest and peace he offers when we come to him and let him join us on the journey. His yoke is not heavy like the world. He is kind and gentle; there is nothing to weigh us down when we walk with him and serve him.

In his humility and compassion, Jesus saves us both from the burdens of this life and the next. He lived and died for us so we could be set free. All we have to do is accept his sacrifice.

A social mission (Sunday, August 18)

For centuries, the church has focused on the spiritual side of Christianity. It is long past the time when the church needs to live up to its social responsibility as well – to be the body and example of God in the physical world. Jesus spoke about the importance of following the spirit, yet he showed through his actions how to care for people.

When the disciples wanted to send away the multitudes for something to eat, Jesus demonstrated how to feed people. When the disciples wanted to send away the children, Jesus said to bring them forward. The point is that we many times we have the wrong idea about what we should do. We think about ourselves when we should be thinking about others.

As the life of Christ, the church must learn how to minister to the spiritual needs of people by beginning with them as human beings. The church must show that it knows how to accept and love – to be true servants – before our neighbors will accept the spiritual gifts that are so important. We must meet their human needs. Then we can tell them about the good news.

First and foremost, others must see God working through us before they will ever believe in him.

Our other side (Saturday, August 17)

Have you ever had an angry day? Perhaps nothing seemed to go right. You could not get a bill straightened out because of a computer error. Maybe you spent the day taking care of others, but there was no one to help you. It might be that the world, everyone and everything, seemed to be against you from morning until night.

We have all had bad days. I know I have had my share. Regretfully, I have many times let my anger get the best of me. The tone of my voice, the look in my eyes and the impulse of my actions have spoken loud and clear. Everything about me says, “Get out of my way or you will be sorry.” When our anger takes us to the point where we want to take it out on someone else or we plan to get even, the point has come for us to take a time out.

Instead of going to our room, though, we need to get away, get quiet and get close to God. Even five minutes with him is enough to change us for the rest of the day. There is no way we can hold on to our anger when we are with the one who loves us more than life itself.

Paul’s advice to the people of Philippi is good for us, too: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6). I would add to Paul’s admonition by saying, “Do not be anxious or angry about anything.” Remember, anger never accomplished anything except to show others our other side—just how terrible we can be at times. 

Think on this (Friday, August 16)

My hope today is that the Lord will help me to be “here” and not someplace else. Like most people, my thoughts wander everywhere at almost every moment of the day. I might be driving down the street, for instance, and I am thinking about what I will do tomorrow. Or I could be wondering about what a particular person said to me yesterday, especially if it happened to be a disturbing or critical comment.

The apostle Paul told us how and what to reflect on in his letter to the Philippians: “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” All of these values are positive. They bring us closer to God and keep us going in the right direction. There is no chance of us being led astray by negative thoughts.

Most of the time, we catch ourselves thinking about circumstances that really do not matter. What can I possibly gain today by pondering a remark I heard yesterday? Or how can I be effective right now if I am anticipating what may or may not happen tomorrow? When I am distracted, I get off track; I allow my thoughts to take over.

We can stay on the narrow road by meditating on whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable. These qualities make us more like Christ. Things like worry, anxiety, anger, regret and stubbornness make us more like the person we were before we came to Jesus. Why go backward in our lives when the Lord longs for us to move forward toward a better life?

A waste of time (Thursday, August 15)

The remarkable thing about our lives is that we are living for something much larger than ourselves. We live for those whom we love, and to help people in need, but more than anything we live for the kingdom of God. We are here today for our eternal home tomorrow.

God has promised us a place with him in heaven. “I go and prepare a place for you,” Jesus said. “I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” We have his word on where we will spend the rest of our lives. Forever. Not just 60 or 70 years. But thousands of years which will never end.

Why, then, do we spend so much of our day worrying about now: how we feel or what we have to face today. Maybe we do not feel well or maybe we have to do something we dread. Perhaps we know we will have to encounter someone who does not like us. We might even have to waste time standing in line at the store or waiting at the doctor’s office.

There is a German proverb that can help us put our present circumstances into a proper perspective: “It’s all the same in a thousand years.” The point is that what we fret about now will not matter at all in the future. If we are going to concentrate on anything today, let us focus on what will matter in the future – the infinite kingdom that has no end.

Lord (Wednesday, August 14)

How we think of Jesus determines how we live each day. Do we see him as Savior? Do we view him as King? Or is he God’s beloved Son? He is all three. But first and foremost we must treat him as the Lord of our life.

We willingly and gladly serve him, no matter what he asks us to do. We know he knows us; he will not ask us to do anything that will bring us harm. We trust him without question and without doubt. We do not hesitate to obey him. We have faith that he will take care of us in all situations, protecting us and providing for us.

Paul said it is critical that we publically proclaim his lordship in our lives. “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).

Make it a point today to express aloud, even if it is to yourself as you are driving in your car or at home alone, that Jesus is Lord. Remind yourself who he is, and that you will serve him not out of obligation but out of dedication.

Learning when to accept (Tuesday, August 13)

My wife and I have been married almost 41 years and we bought our very first outdoor grill last week. You might be wondering what we did all of those years. Didn’t we ever cook out? The truth is that we never bought a grill, but we always had one.

We received our first grill several years after we moved to Florida in 1974; my wife’s boss gave us his old one. We fixed it up, replaced the old parts, and used it for the next 20-plus years! We dragged it with us as we moved from Florida to Virginia in 1988 and then to Ohio in 1993. We ended up giving it away when we moved back to Virginia in 2003. Then, soon after we bought a townhouse in Virginia Beach, the family next door moved and gave us their old grill. We threw it away earlier this year when we came back to Ohio.

This devotion is not about a grill. The whole point of this story is that God provided for us when we did not have enough extra money to buy a grill or many other luxuries in life. He met our desires for four decades until we could afford what we wanted. He carried us through the hard times and made our life easier, more enjoyable.

God always provides for his children. It may not be in the way we wish – such as having a brand new barbeque – but he does give us what we need and want. We need to learn to accept his gifts when he gives them, rather than when we want them. Let us rely on his time for the right time for everything, not just for a grill.

Let him help (Monday, August 12)

May God breathe new freshness into our tired, old lives this day. As you worship him and give thanks, let him fill you with his spirit, his compassion and his love. No matter how you are feeling, God can take away the pain, the doubt, the weariness and the fatigue. He is able to transform us in an instant.

But, we must let him and we must do as he says. We cannot ask for his help and then ignore his wisdom. We must come to him with open and willing hearts, ready to follow what he says is best for us. We cannot be like a patient who goes to the doctor to get better and then ignores the medication as well as the treatment. What has this person accomplished, but to become more miserable?

We can trust what God tells us to do. He knows the effect of our every action and word before we act. He knows what can make us better and what will make us worse. Left to our own devices, we usually make the wrong choice – the decision that will take us farther away from where we need to be.

This morning, as we lift our lives and problems to him, let us be ready to follow him without hesitation. May we believe, with all of our being, that his way is the best way. Never mind what we think. Doing what he says is the only way he can help us.

Worry (Sunday, August 11)

What are you anxious about today? Is it work, a hectic schedule, money, the future, an illness that will not go away? God tells us not to be anxious in anything. For most of us that is far easier said than done. Our human nature is to worry and fret.

God knows we can rise above the many things troubling us. He created us and he also created a way for us to overcome adversity. He would not have told us as much if it were not so. We do have the ability not to allow anything to beset us, but the power comes from God himself.

Our success in these matters lies in whether we trust him. How much are we willing to let him control? The level of our anxiety goes up or down in direct proportion to the amount of faith we possess.

The more we give to him the less we have to carry for ourselves. No load is too great for God, even though it is too much for us. We were never meant to labor with his burdens. He is always willing to bear ours, though. If we are able to give them up, our anxiety will go down.

Halfway there (Saturday, August 10)

This year, 2013, is half over. Another way to look at it is that we still have half a year remaining. Somehow, though, it feels like the New Year’s Eve celebrations were just a few weeks ago and that the Christmas decorations have been packed away only a short time. Soon, we will be going through the holidays once again.

Today is a good time to pause and ponder. Perhaps there is something we vowed to do this year. Maybe we wanted to lose weight but never started on a diet. It could be that we were going to spend more time enjoying life. I wanted to get in better shape. Whatever it was we resolved to do, we still have time to follow through.

All we need to change is our attitude. The glass is not half empty. No, it is half full. There is really no point in fretting over what was. Worry and regret cannot alter the situation. We can, however, change the future. We can tell ourselves that we have the other half of the year to accomplish our goal.

As you look ahead, remember that the year is far from over. Also, remember how much Jesus talked about the future: how life on earth could be better and what awaits us in heaven. He was always looking forward and looking up. He always saw a greater life ahead than the one we leave behind. Live the other half of 2013, and don’t even think about the first half. Our lives in Christ depend on what we do ahead of us rather than on what we did (or didn’t do) behind us.

A new season (Friday, August 9)

In another month, the first day of fall will begin. Summer will be over and a new season will start. Breezes will turn cooler, nights will be clearer, leaves will drop slowly to the ground and birds will migrate south. Everywhere things will change.

Our lives in Christ are always going through various seasons. God is constantly leading us on different paths in diverse directions. One season we may be called to mission work, another as a Sunday School teacher, then a time when he pulls us away from others or a period when nothing seems to be going our way. Daily, weekly, monthly and yearly, God ends one season in our lives and begins another.

Change will come no matter what we want or desire. There is nothing we can do to stop where God is taking us. He keeps moving us forward on the journey – along the path he has for us. Like the changing of the seasons, God directs and guides our steps as we enter a new time in him. There is always a certain order in the change from one season to another, even when we feel lost or afraid. His love is always there. His grace is always there. His protection is always there.

Through everything, God remains the same. Our lives may seem as though they have been turned upside down, but God always shows us the right way to go. Gradually and gently, he is changing us so we become more like his Son. God is molding us each day, in each new season, bringing us ever closer to his will and purpose. Someday we will realize that all of these changes are good for us, for they are actually building both our faith and our trust in him.

False fear (Thursday, August 8)

Fear is a natural human emotion. Trying to conquer our fear is not so natural. Whether we experience the fear of being alone or of doing something new, we can make the obstacle seem almost overwhelming. Before we realize it, we are paralyzed by worry and anxiety.

The Lord knows there are times in life when fear will come against us. “So do not fear,” God says, “for I am with you” (Isaiah 41:10). Realizing that God is with us should make us feel less afraid. But it is not as simple as merely reading a verse of scripture. We have to convince ourselves God truly is with us. We need to know, without any doubt, that God is larger, more powerful, than any fear we face.

We must shift our focus and change our perspective. Instead of wasting time thinking about some fear – which actually reinforces our feelings – we need to look at God. Contemplate his power, his love, his miracles rather than dwelling on the imaginary situation that is prompting our fear. Once we compare the size, greatness and truth of God to our fear, we will understand how irrational it is to be afraid.

Fear is actually an emotion that tries to manifest itself in reality. But God is reality. 

Upgrading your life (Wednesday, August 7)

My personal computer always is being updated with various new versions of old software. Almost daily, an online notice flashes on the screen that one program or another is ready to be updated. I have to decide whether to take the time to install the new version or not.

In a way, our lives are like what happens regularly with our computers. God always is trying to improve and update our attitude, behavior, compassion and self-control. He sends us a notice, through an experience or encounter, that lets us know we have a chance to make a change for the better. We must decide whether we want to take advantage of this opportunity. The upgrade will do us a tremendous amount of good, if we accept it.

I think of what might have happened if Paul did not accept the Lord’s will to change. He would have persecuted Christians all his life rather than trying to protect them. What about Moses? What if he would have remained in exile in the desert? God would have sent someone else to free the captives.

What does God want you to do today or tomorrow? First, you have to let him get into your system and change you. Let him upgrade your spiritual hard-drive so you are ready for the challenges ahead.

God leaves nothing to chance (Tuesday, August 6)

The signs that come from God, no matter how subtle, are unmistakable. They are resounding confirmations of his love, guidance and assurance. The sad thing is people tend to dismiss them as nothing more than coincidence.

Think about all of the signs and wonders that have occurred through the ages. The Bible records incident after incident when God intervened by turning the ordinary into the extraordinary: the Red Sea parted just when the Israelites were at a dead end (Exodus 14); an iron ax floated on water (2 Kings 6); Peter’s shadow fell upon people and they were suddenly healed (Acts 5); three young boys walked through a furnace without being burned (Daniel 3); Jairus’s daughter came to life the moment Jesus showed up (Matthew 9).

Were all of these nothing more than an accident or chance? How many times has God given you a sign when you were in doubt or lost in confusion? Many months after we moved into another house, I noticed a small framed picture that was found in one of rooms. Apparently, it was left behind by the previous owner. The illustration was of animals climbing aboard Noah’s ark before the flood. Oddly enough, for the past 20 years or so my wife has been collecting all kinds of figurines and artwork of this amazing story in Genesis. For me, this sign represented God’s assurance that we had bought the right house, even though I had many doubts each time something broke down or fell apart in the previous two months.

God has not changed in thousands of years. He works today as he has always done. Let’s not be so quick to call something a coincidence when, in fact, it is a miracle from God. Think of what might have happened if Noah said the dove returning with the olive branch was only happenstance. Noah also could have thought the command from God to build the ark and to gather up all the animals were coincidence. Maybe the rainbow was a coincidence as well? Remember, God is not like us.  He never leaves anything to chance.

Connected (Monday, August 5)

Many times in my career as a teacher, I have used various devices and equipment in the classroom. Projectors, tape recorders, DVD players, and computers are great tools to aid in teaching about a subject. Just recently, I was having trouble with a CD player. No matter what I did, it would not work. Finally, after much frustration and anxiety, I discovered that the unit was not plugged in.

Often, we come unplugged from Jesus. We need and require him in order to function. He is the source of our strength, wisdom and power. “You can do nothing without me,” Jesus said (John 15:5). Indeed, we cannot do anything of eternal worth, in or for the kingdom, outside of our Savior. We always need to be connected to him.

I have to admit that I sometimes go through the motions, thinking I have done all of the right things in my life, but still I am not effective. I have no power. Without God, I cannot do anything. He is all powerful and I require his energy.

He is the source. I need to be plugged in to him each minute of the day. Otherwise, I am like that unplugged CD player: useless and lifeless.

Changing because of love (Sunday, August 4)

God loves us so much that even when we fall he forgives us. Others who love us with the same kind of commitment also are quick to forgive. The difficulty, though, is us. We do not let ourselves be forgiven. We hold on to our wrongs and punish ourselves over and over again. At times, we stop ourselves from getting better. We must turn around and use our failings to keep us from making the same mistakes all over again.

The critical step in the process is to change. That point is where God comes in. We must be willing to put our lives in his hands and allow him do what must be done, no matter how painful. It is necessary for our sake as well as for the good of those who love us, too.

To him be glory (Saturday, August 3)

The master design of our lives is so intricate that we marvel at its complexity. Each change and nuance is timed with precise detail, down to the exact second. It is only when we look at the whole picture of who we are that we are able to glimpse the beauty of God’s plan.

David never could have thought he would be more than a psalmist or shepherd. Yet, he became the greatest among all when he slew the giant Goliath and later became the king of Israel. God has fashioned us, too, for greatness. If only we would stop focusing on what we want to accomplish in the world and start dreaming of what has in mind for us in his eternal kingdom.

You and I are wonderful examples of his incredible workmanship. Never could I have imaged that I, as a small boy living on the west side of Cleveland, would grow up to be a college professor and write four books. Not to mention the people God has brought into my life, from my parents to my wife to my children and grandchildren. I have been blessed with success and happiness far beyond what I imagined in my wildest dreams.

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul realized the amazing things God was doing through him. “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,” Paul wrote, “according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21). May you give thanks to God for what he has done in your past. But more important, praise him for what he will do in you in the future.

Creation (Friday, August 2)

The sun rising on a new day. Flocks of birds flying over the trees. A gentle wind blowing across the valley. The dew glistening on the wet grass. The beauty of this world, God’s world, is everywhere. All is renewed by a dark night of quiet and solitude.

We have been given the gift of another day, to see and experience the wonder of creation. We can actually dwell in what the God of the universe has made with his own hand. It is proof of his greatness and what he is able to do through the sound of his voice. Mountains rise, seas ebb and flow, clouds form, rain waters the valleys—all obey his command and go according to his divine plan.

This day will unfold as God wills. He is the one who decides what will happen and when. From the fields to the forests, from the lakes to the rivers, from the creatures across the land to the course of our lives, God is in control. He knows what is ahead of us even before it comes, and he will watch over us just as he does with everything he has created.

God never sleeps or slumbers. He delights in what he has made; he never takes his eyes off of us. Constantly, he watches and protects what is his. This day belongs to him, and he gives it freely for us to share with him.

Really serving (Thursday, August 1)

Our work for the Lord is down here in the world. It is all around us in the streets and alleys and roads that run through our neighborhoods. We are called to serve where we are, not always where we want to be.

Peter wanted to camp on the mountain where Jesus was transfigured. He said they should build three shelters: one for Jesus, one for Elijah, and one for Moses. Suddenly, a voice came down from the heavens and the three disciples fell to the ground. Jesus went over and touched them. Get up, he said, and don’t be afraid (Matthew 17:7). When they arose, they realized that Moses and Elijah were gone. As they walked down the mountain, Jesus commanded them not to say anything to anyone until the Son of Man had been raised from the dead.

Part of the message here may be that we cannot live in the clouds. We were not created to live on the mountaintop, constantly dwelling on the high things of heaven. We must get down to business and do what we are asked to do in the valleys and lowlands of life. We need to help people who are poor, homeless, lonely, bereaved, and in pain. They are all around us in the landscape of our earthly lives. God wants to reach out to them in their trials and he uses us, his servants, to touch them.

A psalm of praise (Wednesday, July 31)

Dear Lord, give me a heart for gladness, not for sadness; give me hands for helping, not for hurting; give me eyes for visions, not for desires; give me feet for following, not for falling; give me thoughts for atonement, not for avenging.

My whole life depends on what you do for me, not on what I do for you. I know that I cannot do anything on my own. You are my constant source and resource of strength and hope. If you were not there to help me, I would certainly fail.

You show mercy to me even when I forget you, even when I take you for granted, even when I deliberately turn away and ignore your guidance. Each time I fall, you pick me up and mend me. You even forgive my ways and forget my sins.

How great is your patience with me. How amazing is your love. How incredible that you protect me all the days of my life. Use me as your creation to bring glory and honor to your name. Show the world that I am nothing in myself but everything in you.

Staying the course (Tuesday, July 30)

Change is stressful. All types of change are difficult on us, especially unexpected problems. The reason is because we find security in being on a daily schedule. When events in life disrupt our normal patterns, we become unsettled and anxious.

Sometimes the alterations are so sudden and radical that we have difficulty adjusting. It is as if the rug has been pulled out from beneath our lives, leaving us startled and confused. Suddenly, we become disoriented, mentally and spiritually. We want to hold on to something stable, such as a familiar routine, but our days are no longer the same. In a moment, we are thrust into a new life.

We need to remind ourselves that while a new course in life is different for us, it is familiar ground to God. There is no place that is strange to God. He made the world, he made us, and he made our lives. God is not at all surprised by the twists and turns we experience.

The next time we go through a change, whether it is a flat tire or a doctor’s report, we need to remember two important facts. First, God has already been on this journey when he designed our entire life. Second, God is stable when everything in our world feels unstable.

Even though we never know exactly what lies ahead, we do know God. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Therefore, each of us can say, with the same solid assurance as the prophet Samuel, “God is my rock, in whom I take refuge” (2 Samuel 22:3).

Going halfway (Monday, July 29)

There are a vast number of published programs that can teach us how to spread the good news of Jesus to the world: they show us all sorts of things from hosting community events at our churches to having a backyard barbeque for our neighbors. These are great ways to share the gospel, but we must first have the joy of the Lord inside our own hearts. We also must know what the Holy Spirit is prompting us to do for the Lord.

In and of themselves, there is nothing wrong with structured studies that make us better disciples. In fact, they are a vital link in helping us become more successful followers of Christ. What we have to realize, though, is that such programs are only half of the equation. We are the other half. We must be willing to be taught how to serve God as well as how to follow the path he prepared specifically for us.

If we go too far one way or the other—placing more emphasis on a program than on ourselves, or the other way around—we will not become the mature Christians that we need to be. Jesus focused on teaching people about the kingdom. But he also spent much of his time praying and seeking his Father’s will. Both were crucial.

The bottom line is that we cannot expect some curriculum, course, or book to give us everything we need. These are well and good. The other part, perhaps the most important part, is us. We must know, beyond any doubt, what God is asking us to do. Our hearts and our hands have to be aligned and working together. Otherwise, we will not go in the right direction with the right perspective.

Overcoming pain (Sunday, July 28)

God never fails us. He is always at our side to strengthen, encourage, and guide us. God is powerful enough to help us accept any situation, whether we are dealing with frustration, confusion, disease, or pain. Our trust in him must go beyond how we think or feel. Even in our darkest moments, when we physically feel the worst, the spiritual love of our Father can lift us out of the suffering.

The greatest example of God’s power was shown to us by Jesus. We remember his prayer in the garden as he faced his own physical death. Jesus sweat drops of blood as he asked our Father to remove the cup of suffering that he was born to accept. God did not take away the mental and physical torment of the cross, but he did give Jesus the divine ability to endure it.

So it is with us. God does not always eliminate our sickness or anguish. But, somehow, he does grant us the capacity to rise above our earthly agony and sorrow. Through the joy of knowing that we belong to an omniscient and omnipotent God, we can receive the peace that transcends anything we think or know.

When we possess the divine assurance of heaven, we will never be afraid of what the world does to us.

Our alienation (Saturday, July 27)

It is natural to feel estranged when we find ourselves outside the box of familiar company and surroundings. We never like to feel distant or cut off from the rest of the world. We always want to fit in, accepted and embraced by those at work, down the street, and in the community.

We have to realize, though, that God cannot always use us when we are part of the group. There may be many times when we can only fulfill his will by being isolated from others. God may separate us for his good and his purpose. Maybe he needs to pull us away from colleagues or friends; perhaps he must remove us from a comfortable position or place; possibly he has to allow us to be rejected and shunned by others.

Looking at the lives of Moses, Joseph, Job, Jonah, Daniel, Stephen, Peter, and Paul can help us overcome our fears when we are detached from the rest of the world. Each one of these persons had to be separated from others before being used by God. None of them could have been faithful to both God and man at the same time.

Living in personal separation comes at a great price, but it also accomplishes great purposes. When all is said and done, and we arrive in eternity, our temporal feelings of being lonely and abandoned will vanish in a second. They will be vanquished once and for all. Then we will be glad we gave up our human desires for a little while on earth in exchange for the divine happiness of heaven forever.

Stay connected (Friday, July 26)

The foundation of a house or building is critical. If the footing is too weak or small, the upper floors will not matter. No amount of reinforcing or buttressing helps; the whole structure is doomed to crumble eventually.

Being connected to God is likewise. If we do not build on his principles and commandments, nothing we do later in life makes any difference. In time, we will fall because we are cut off from our creator.

I thought of how God sustains and nourishes us as I cleared years of ivy from the side of a house we bought for our retirement. I could not reach the vines on the second floor; I could pull down only the part of the plant from the ground up to about seven feet high. About a week later, the remaining ivy died because there were no roots to provide food and water.

As you go through this day, make sure God is the foundation of whatever you do. Build on him and don’t do anything on your own. “Surely God is my help,” reminds the psalmist, “the Lord is the one who sustains me” (Psalm 54:4). You and I need to stay connected to God in order to live.

A great treasure (Thursday, July 25)

The other day, my wife and I met a cashier at a fast-food restaurant who was so happy and bubbly that she made us smile. A really perky person, we thought, as we sat down to wait for our food.

This girl did not seem to have a care or worry in the world. She was living totally in the moment and nothing else seemed to matter except taking orders and helping anyone who walked in the front door. She was truly a joyful person who enjoyed what she was doing.

You and I are supposed to act the same way all of the time, not just when we are feeling good. As Christians, we have nothing to fear, nothing to worry about and nothing to regret. God has our lives already planned and he is taking care of everything for us. In fact, even when we face terrible adversity God is there to guide us safely through.

Think of this young girl in the pizza shop. She could have easily been distressed and depressed about doing such menial work. Instead, she was making the most of each moment, just like we should do as God’s children. We need to delight in living for him and say to ourselves over and over again, “I rejoice over Your promise like one who finds vast treasure” (Psalm 119:162).

Letters and emails (Wednesday, July 24)

How we communicate with God has an effect on the kind of relationship we have with him. Perhaps we call on him only when we need something. Or maybe we do spend time talking with him and then wait patiently for him to speak to us.

Unfortunately, most of us usually fire off what amounts to little more than quick emails to God. We hurriedly send our requests to him and then expect his response within a few minutes. Or we build long lists of questions and want all of the answers so we can move on with what we want to do.

We should be in the habit of composing a complete letter to God each day rather than short emails. He wants to know what is going on in our lives, how we feel, and what he means to us. Our written conversation should be a time of talking and listening, not just telling.

There is no comparison between an email and a letter. One goes straight to the point while the other says, in effect, “I enjoy sharing my life with you.” Perhaps we need to change the way we correspond with God (and to others as well). It can make all the difference in our lives. 

More than you think or dream (Tuesday, July 23)

It is funny how life turns out. Definitely not the way we planned, but always with divine blessings we could not have imagined or foreseen.

Peter’s journey is an excellent example of how God gives us more than we thought or deserved. This rugged fisherman never could have dreamed he would be the very rock on which the modern church is built. God used Peter’s persistence and impatience to catch souls for heaven rather than fish for the world.

Each step of your journey is fashioned for God’s glory to be revealed to those around you. We have all experienced difficulty along the way, just like Peter. Like him, too, the trials are meant to soften our hearts for the kingdom way of living.

Look at your life right now and see the great things God has done. May you realize that God has made you for much more than you could have ever made yourself. That is the beauty of his wonderful care and love for each one of us.

Teaching through living (Monday, July 22)

Jesus’ life is a clear demonstration of how to serve. In everything, Jesus gave up his will to allow himself to be used by the Father. Not only did he surrender his place in paradise to come to earth but, in the end, he sacrificed his physical body as well.

From the time he was first tempted in the desert until his final trial before Pilate, Jesus followed the road the Father had set before him. Through it all, he remained faithful as the son of God. He was saving the world by serving the world.

The path we must walk today is difficult. Sacrificing our will for the will of our Father does not come naturally to us. Nor did it come naturally to Jesus. While he was on the earth, he had to struggle with the same things that come against us now.

You and I cannot fail as long as we listen to God. “For I know the plans I have for you,” he says. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). These plans depend on doing his will and being willing to serve him at all cost. Jesus taught us how to do it. Now it is up to us to teach others through our life.

God's way (Sunday, July 21)

Our lives can be fine one moment and in turmoil the next. You and I tend to plan and organize our days so that we can move swiftly from one event to another. Often, our schedules are interrupted by unexpected surprises: we get our times mixed up, we forget something, we fall behind, we are delayed, we have to do another errand. Suddenly, all of our careful preparations go out the window. We are forced to rearrange the remaining time we have left in day.

We might have avoided at least some of our problems, if we would have prayed for God to guide us. Too often, as we sit down to put together a list of priorities for the day, we attempt too much. We make unreal expectations of ourselves and then become impatient when things don’t turn out the way we expect.

In all that we do, Jesus needs to be our example. Our actions must reflect his. Before we undertake any task, large or small, we need to pray. We must put aside our own plans and desires, and seek God’s design. Then, when the problems of the world assail us, we can turn to our Father for relief. We almost never find comfort or answers in turning to ourselves.

As human beings we cannot change everything that goes wrong in our lives. But God can. He has overcome the world. Not only can he give us immediate help; he also can help us avoid future problems. Our way is easiest when we follow God’s way.

Ready to believe (Saturday, July 20)

There is power in prayer because there is power in God. It is his grace, compassion, and love that heals, restores, revives, and renews. Alone we can do nothing. With God, we can do everything.
Jesus granted us his authority over sickness, disease, and difficulty.

“I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (John 14:12-14).

Each moment of our lives, Jesus intercedes on our behalf. He goes to the Father for us. He presents our need to God as we present our prayers to him. Whatever we ask through him and by him, he says he will do. He will answer our prayers because our petitions for wholeness in him bring glory and honor to the Father.

No matter what our request, Jesus is there. He says we can ask for anything in his name and he will, indeed, do it. But we must be willing to ask and also ready to believe.

Reading our life (Friday, July 19)

Each day we turn a new page. What happened yesterday is over and finished. As much as we might like to modify what we did or said, we cannot go back and make any changes. But we do have a chance to change today. God has given us this new day, fresh with new prospects to serve him better. This page of our lives is waiting to be written.

To be sure, this day will bring many obstacles as well as opportunities. We may encounter criticism from others, judgment by a co-worker, or anger from a stranger. There may be drivers who cut us off, people who ignore us, and situations that anger us. We also may be tempted to get into an argument or get even with someone. We might even face pain or sickness.

Today is all before us. We have the opportunity to record how it will go. Though we cannot alter what happens to us, we can indeed change how we react. We can choose compassion, forgiveness, love, and kindness rather than resentment, indifference, and bitterness. One way is the right way to write our lives today and the other is the wrong way.

In the end, what we do depends on how we want this day of our life to read. Either it will be a page that brings honor to God as creator or to us as human beings. We have the power and the will to decide exactly what is written.

Forgiving (Thursday, July 18)

Looking at my life, my failures and mistakes, allows me to be more tolerant of others. By acknowledging my shortcomings, I am able to accept my neighbor and to realize that we are very much alike.

But as much as I see my faults in those around me, I frequently do not excuse them as I excuse myself. I judge them without giving any thought whatsoever to the things I have done wrong. I dismiss my anger, my impatience, and my abruptness. I convince myself that I have good reason to act in a certain way; I am not as forgiving of my family and friends, or even strangers for that matter. That person should know better, I think to myself.

You and I can find it much easier to blame the world than to admit our own sins and weaknesses. Each day I use the wrong words, think the wrong thoughts, and commit the wrong deeds. I know that God forgives me. Even so, I am not willing to extend the same kind of mercy and grace to my sisters and brothers. At such times, how far these words of the Lord’s Prayer are from my heart: “to forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” (Luke 11:4).

If I want to be forgiven for what I do, I must forgive others for what they do. I need to make the first move to accept people just the way God accepts me—faults and all.

Finding hope (Wednesday, July 17)

Many people did not understand Jesus because their faith was no greater than their vision. Jesus said he was the light of the world. He referred to himself as the Son of Man. He explained they were slaves to sin and they did not truly know God the Father. He declared that anyone who believed his words would never taste of death. Rather than accepting Jesus, they wanted to stone him.

Before we condemn these early unbelievers, we must remember our own disbelief at times. Jesus tells us through scripture what he can do for us, yet our minds remain full of doubt and uncertainty. We question his presence and power when we encounter physical pain, when we are mistreated by others, when we are separated from family, when we are despised by friends, and when we suffer financial loss.

As we examine ourselves, we must admit that we are not so different than those living long ago. We should not try to deceive one another by saying we would have believed Jesus and not doubted his word. When Jesus told the people “I am,” he was proclaiming his deity. At that moment, they had to decide whether he was the Son of God or a blasphemer.

We face the same choice each day. As we encounter trials, we must decide if Christ is who he says he is. If we believe him, we can let go of our doubts and fears. We can acknowledge him as God because we hear his word, despite what we see or feel. “He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God,” Jesus said (John 8:47).

We must be willing to believe what Jesus says before we are able to hear and understand his promises. Only when we accept him at his word can we find the hope we need to go forward with him.

Listening carefully (Tuesday, July 16)

The teachings of Jesus were always simple and straight forward. His parables were easy to understand, even for those who had little education or intellect. Anyone could listen to the stories, recognize the main point, and decide whether to accept the message. Many people today try to complicate the meaning of Jesus’ words by adding their own interpretations and qualifications. Too often, we think in terms of money or giving.

Jesus was not referring to tithing, for example, when he pronounced that, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded” (Luke 12:48). Nor did he have in mind being honest with one another when he explained that “you will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). He also meant what he said about following his manner of living: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). We have to be very careful that we do not make too little or too much out of what Jesus is trying to teach us today. His lessons are not difficult to comprehend, yet we often attempt to put words in his mouth.

We need to remember that Jesus is both our example and our teacher. If we truly look to him for guidance, we will be able to see what we must do. His path is always straight and direct, just like his parables.

Water into wine (Monday, July 15)

Jesus performed his first miracle during the wedding at Cana. Most everyone, Christian or not, knows the account. Jesus’ mother went to him when she heard there was no more wine. Then Mary turned to the servants and instructed them to do whatever Jesus said. He responded to his mother’s call for help, even though his time had not yet come to reveal his power to the world. Once the servants filled the six jars with water, Jesus turned it into wine. A simple story, but with many hidden meanings.

One of the curious elements occurs after the miracle. Jesus told the servants to take a taste of the wine to the master of the banquet. The man congratulated the bridegroom for saving the best wine for last. John tells us that master of the banquet “did not realize where it [the wine] had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew.” The master’s only concern was about the quality of the wine. The servants, on the other hand, had witnessed something incredible.

It is easy to act like the master of the banquet: to take the wine for granted and be happy. Think about the servants who knew what had really happened. Jesus took plain, ordinary water and transformed it into exceptional wine made from grapes. The servants could appreciate the wine all the more because they realized where the wine had come from.

We rush through life without knowing the full story. We are pleased and happy that nothing has really gone wrong in our day, but we rarely stop to realize all God has done to keep us safe from harm on the highway, at work, at the store, or even on vacation. Quietly and unnoticed, he is performing miracles that we never see.

Thy will (Sunday, July 14)

Take my will and turn it into your will, Lord. Make me desire what is best, not what is convenient or easy. Above all, help me to become more like Jesus and less like the person I have become.

Our constant prayer must be for God to control more and more of our lives so that he is living in us each moment. We do not move a step or take a breath without him. We do not think a thought or speak a word unless he is there.

We know that our lives are not our own. Yet, how many times do we decide what to do? We make the decision of what to say and how to act before we think about what we should do. We need to slow down and give God a chance to guide us. If he is going to live in and through us, we have to let him dominate our total being.

Only when we are completely consumed by his will for us can we serve him as we should. When we depend on him for everything, then he can do anything. He can reveal his power in us when we give up our will for ourselves. 

Our acts (Saturday, July 13)

Every story has a beginning, middle and an end. But one book of the New Testament does not have an ending. The Book of Acts is not finished. The story begins with the ascension of Jesus, chronicles the actions of his disciples, and stops abruptly with Paul in Rome under house arrest. In the final chapter, he is a prisoner who speaks freely to all who will listen about eternal freedom.

Throughout the narrative, Luke’s testament records in detail how the good news of the kingdom was revealed to Jews and Gentiles alike, from Jerusalem all the way to Rome. What now, one might wonder. What happens now that Paul is gone? The next section of the Book of Acts depends on us and what we do.

As modern-day apostles, we are writing the next chapters. Our acts and actions today continue to tell the story of what Jesus is doing through the Holy Spirit. Day by day, for the past 2,000 years, the book has grown larger and more convincing. More have been healed. More have been saved. More are now living for him.

This particular book of scripture is titled The Acts of the Apostles for good reason: it proves the power and authority of our Savior to the world. In a very real sense, Jesus is the main character of Luke’s account, just as he is the subject of our lives. His ministry began at the young age of 30 and it has lasted through the ages. Now we tell the story. We are a living testimony in a story that will not end until Jesus comes again. I wonder what you and I will add to the book. 

Better than expected (Friday, July 12)

Sometimes we have the wrong impression of ourselves. The image of who we are is much higher than it ought to be. We tend to think we are not such bad folks, compared to some people we know. After all, we don’t steal, we don’t attack others, we don’t lie, we don’t cheat and so on. All of these are well and good, but we ought to be examining what we do rather than what we are not doing.

For example, suppose I say that I am a better worker than the person next to me. My explanation might go something like this: I don’t come in late, I don’t leave early, I don’t miss deadlines and I don’t take longer than 30 minutes for lunch. In my own eyes, I think I am a pretty good employee. My boss, however, might have a different view. Why? All of the “do nots” on my list are things I should do anyway. If I want to demonstrate my worth and value, I must rise above what is already expected of me.

When it comes to serving God, we need to go beyond the norm. We have to be above the mean. We cannot simply satisfy ourselves or God by naming a dozen sins that we don’t commit. God expects the best, not the average. Instead of being nice, we must be loving. Rather than being kind, we need to be compassionate. As opposed to offering to pray, we need to be ready to lend a hand.

Going the extra mile is what others should remember about us, more than a number of things that we did not do.

The glory of love (Thursday, July 11)

There is always light at the end of the tunnel, and the light shines the brightest when the tunnel is the darkest. The same is true of God’s love. The more we have to endure and the dimmer our circumstances, the more we can see his great love shining for us.

The apostle Luke tells about what happened to Stephen when he was brought before the high council. He was charged with preaching against the Law of Moses. After the council members accused him of heresy, “they saw that his face looked like the face of an angel” (Acts 6:15).

Stephen stood bravely before the assembly and reminded them how the people had ignored God and his servants – such as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and Moses – time and time again. In the end, says Luke, “when the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. ‘Look,’ he said, ‘I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God’” (Acts 7:54-56).

As they stoned him to death, Stephen was so full of God’s love that he even asked the Lord to forgive them and not to hold this sin against them.

Each word is a step forward
(Wednesday, July 10)

We receive a new word from God each day. Today he may give us patience, peace, understanding, gentleness or persistence. Whatever he has for us is planned for this particular moment and these circumstances. It is easy to miss his word, though, if we are not listening.

Our tendency is to seek everything all at once – to reach the end of our trial without having to experience more frustration or anxiety. Rarely will God lift us completely out of a struggle. He wants us to realize, and learn, that we can trust in him each step of the way. All the while, he is developing our faith so that he can do greater things through us.

People like Moses, Abraham, Habakkuk, Barnabas, Stephen and Paul did not gain their great belief in God all at once. Their trust in him grew gradually through each encounter and each day, with every new word from God. At first, Moses was little more than a shepherd in exile; years later he had the faith to part the Red Sea. Once Paul persecuted Christians, yet he eventually traveled the world on three separate journeys to spread the good news of the gospel.

The word we have from the Lord today will take us ever closer to the place where he will accomplish miraculous things through us as well. He has to know, however, that we can be trusted with the small tasks first. Gradually, as we learn more, we will arrive at the point where we will do anything for him. With each new word we draw closer to God and farther away from our will. What God says to us today matters in what we are able to do tomorrow.

One letter (Tuesday, July 9)

Just one small letter – y – separates your from our. It is the difference between your life in Christ and our lives together in God’s kingdom. What we do individually is important, of course. But what we do as one body is even more meaningful.

Jesus said apart from him we can do nothing. I think, too, that apart from one another we can do very little either. God needs all of us to complete his work and we require one another. One person cannot do it alone. Two or three cannot do it. We must have everyone – each person that God has made in order to reach the nations.

Your task is unlike mine. Still, our service together complements what we do for the Lord. We are like laborers in the field. Each one of us must work in unison and severally to take in the crop. Your work may be to cut down the wheat while mine might be to gather it up. As we join together in one common purpose, we harvest our field.

Your work and mine are necessary for our service to him. This way of thinking imparts deeper meaning into what Jesus told his disciples: “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them." Our separate lives are complete when he is with us, for he makes us one out of many.

Reaching our full potential (Monday, July 8)

Our world needs to hear more stories of inspiration rather than those of desperation. We have to charge our lives with encouragement and not so much discouragement. The news, by its very nature, dwells on occurrences that are unusual in our communities: accidents, robberies, fires, assaults, homicides and the like. What if we could put aside this sort of negative news and, instead, hear stories of people who have survived and overcome great tragedies and difficulties?

How about the courage of a woman in Minneapolis who is now living next door to the young man who killed her son years ago? It is a remarkable journey of faith and forgiveness. Or what about the South Korean boy who appeared on “Korea’s Got Talent” and wowed millions of people with his rich, resonating voice? Sung-Bong Choi has lived on the streets since the age of three by selling gum and energy drinks. We all know the similar account of British singing sensation Susan Boyle. And how about the account of Joni Eareckson Tada who was left a quadriplegic by a diving accident in 1967? She now travels the world telling about the miraculous things God can do. These are the widely known accounts. Think of the thousands of others that are waiting to be told.

My highest hope and dream is that one day soon there will be a newspaper, television station or some medium that will present these types of stories 24 hours a day! I can only imagine how people would feel filling their hearts and minds with nothing but positive reports of how others have persevered in the face of hardship, loneliness, hatred and adversity.

All around us there are marvelous and thrilling stories which have the power to uplift our spirit. Through such accounts we can witness the force of God, and we can see his handiwork in people just like us. Let us seek out the good things in life and put away the rest. We need to focus on our potential and possibilities as children of God as opposed to our failings as human beings.

Living now for the future (Sunday, July 7)

What is difficult to fathom to our little mind is how we are made alive in Christ. Paul tried to explain the concept in his letter to the Ephesians. Though at one time you lived among the world, Paul wrote, God chose you and brought you out of darkness because of his great love.

The same is true of us today. God’s whole and complete mercy has given us new life through his son. First, we are made alive by Christ; our spirit lives in him and his in us. Second, we were dead but now we are raised up with Christ; our salvation is sure. Third, we are seated forever with Christ; we have a place in eternity. All this is a gift from God. There is no way to earn it. We can receive it only by faith.

Our life in eternity has already begun because of what we believe and profess right now, this very day, while we are still alive on earth.

He repairs our lives (Saturday, July 6)

Fixing up an older house can be exciting and stressful at the same time. Much has to be done, sometimes simultaneously to make the house livable as quickly as possible: replacing old windows, adding a driveway, remodeling the bathroom and kitchen, building stairs and railings to a second floor deck and fencing in the back yard. With the help of many contractors and workers, my wife and I tackled each job on our “new” house built in 1933.

Working on a so-called “fixer” is what God does each day of our lives. No matter our age, God is in the process of making us better, stronger and more useful. Many times he has to undo what we have done prior to building us up. Frequently, he needs to make major repairs in our attitude or behavior before giving us a fresh perspective and outlook.

When God changes us, we are never be the same. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come; The old has gone, the new is here” (2 Corinthians 5:17). People who knew us before our renovation may not recognize the difference because they still are looking at the previous creation – the person we used to be before God improved us.

In God’s eyes, we are much like an old house that has been completely redone. The previous flaws, defects and worn out sections are gone. Much more, they are forgotten forever.

No longer a child (Friday, July 5)

No wonder most of us have a hard time in life. We try to get by on what we learned and heard ages ago. We have not grown beyond the little songs and verses we memorized as children, such as “Jesus loves me” and “Down in my heart” and “The B-I-B-L-E” and “This little light of mine.”

These tunes are, indeed, fun and inspirational, but they are not going to take us very far when we are up against the loss of a job, a loss of health, the loss of a spouse, a loss of reputation and the loss of our hope.

At these times we need the deep, spiritual matter that Jesus spoke about. “Place my yoke over your shoulders, and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble. Then you will find rest for yourselves” (Matthew 11:29). He also tells us, “Do not worry about your life” (Luke 12:22).

Jesus looks at us now as grown-ups and says, "Don't be troubled. Believe in God, and believe in me” (John 14:1). After all we have seen and experienced through the years, we should know what he is able to do. We have to be bigger than a child and really trust him.

Getting what he wants (Thursday, July 4)

There is an enormous difference between what we long for with our human heart and our heavenly heart. Our worldly wishes will always be in sharp contrast with our heavenly requests.

This is especially true when we talk about things we want. Psalm 37:4 says that God will give us the desires of our heart. Therefore, what we ask, we will get. At least, we think we will receive it.

What we overlook is the initial phrase of this verse: “Delight yourself in the Lord. . . .” That comes first. We need to have delight – to take great pleasure – in all aspects of the Lord, from his love to his mercy to his salvation to his will. Once we find happiness and fulfillment in him, then we have reached the point where we want what he wants.

Our desires and his are one in the same when we find complete happiness in him. "Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart." 

Follow the leader (Wednesday, July 3)

God goes before us. He leads the way and clears a path. All we need to do is to follow him. Remember the game of follow the leader? The followers have to do everything exactly as the leader does or they are out.

Life is no game. God says to us, here is my son. Follow him. Be like him. Live like him. Many times we eliminate ourselves because we are not copying our king and savior. We do not pray as we should. We do not feed the hungry as we should. We do not take care of the homeless as we should. We do not give of our time and money as we should.

We need to be more like children. First, we have to imitate Christ like young ones mimic their parents. Second, we have to be better followers by learning to listen and watch more carefully. We cannot afford to take our attention off of Jesus. Not for even one second.

How successful we are in life depends on how well we can follow our leader.

Serving (Tuesday, July 2)

Being great in the kingdom means being the least of all here on earth. The mission is to serve, not to be served. No matter the cost. Jesus set the bar. The Christian – the follower of Christ – must be willing to go all the way to the cross for the sake of others.

It should not matter if the world does not recognize our greatness. We know who we are in Christ. If those around us do not see what we are doing for God, we should not be disappointed. Even when people forget about us or ignore us, we must walk away and continue walking toward God.

The path will be lonely, and not even those in our company will understand sometimes. But we can take comfort and refuge in knowing that Jesus has led the way. He was unpopular. He was misunderstood. He was rejected. He served those who did not deserve to be served. Yet, he did it all for the kingdom, for his Father. He was faithful all the way to the end.

Each one of us has a natural bent toward greatness. What we must decide is whether we want to be great on earth or great in the eternal kingdom. We cannot be both; the world’s way is not God’s way. We can be accepted either by man or by the Son of all mankind. It all depends on whether we want to serve or to be served.

Following or watching (Monday, July 1)

People not only came to Jesus when he was in town, preaching near their homes. But Luke tells us in chapter 14 of his gospel that large crowds were traveling with Jesus. They went with him from place to place.

These curious “followers” took their time, their resources and their lives to go with Jesus. His words of truth compelled them to leave all else behind. More than anything, they wanted to hear him and to understand his message of forgiveness and salvation. There was something about this man, who proclaimed to be the Son of God, that was strangely comforting and peaceful. He offered them the hope of eternal life.

Sometimes we fail to count the cost of traveling with Jesus and following him each day. How much are we willing to leave everything behind: family, friends, house, work and possessions? Does the hope that he preached long ago prompt us today to be true followers? Or do we watch from afar, at a safe distance, so we will not have to give up all we have?

If we are not willing to commit to him, fully and completely, he cannot commit to us. If we decide to go with him, however, he will give up his own life for us. We mean that much to him. The question we must answer is how much he means to us.

What we produce (Sunday, June 30)

Bearing fruit for the kingdom is not simply being busy for God. Nor does it mean bringing soul after soul into the kingdom. We must bear the marks of a good and faithful servant more than anything else.

Kindness. Gentleness. Helpfulness. Graciousness. All of these determine the fruit we produce. Do those who meet us and know us want to be imitators of us just as we are imitators of Christ? Or, do our words and actions merely look good from the outside when, in fact, our hearts are hardened and stale.

You and I can only bear the right kind of fruit if we are connected to the true tree. I am the vine, Jesus said, and you are the branches. To be productive, God’s love and compassion must be living and growing in us, so much so that he is one who produces the fruit that we bear.

Defeating the enemy (Saturday, June 29)

Serving Jesus means suffering like him and for him. God’s path will not be easy. Satan never gives up. Time after time, the attacks will come. The enemy will strike out through sickness, failure, tragedy and heartache. He will use anything, even doubt and temptation, to obscure God’s plan.

Satan knows our weakness: the physical things of this world. He realizes that all sorts of questions and fears enter our minds when we are sick, when we hear of someone losing a job, when we experience problems, when we see disaster, when we feel depressed.

What Satan does not want us to see is the power we possess in God, in Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit. He does not want us to know that we can conquer any situation. We have the spiritual authority to overcome the corporeal through the spiritual.

Often, we listen to the devil when we should be listening to God. We accept lies over the truth because we base our conclusions on the seen rather than the unseen. In God’s universe, the invisible is stronger than the visible. His Holy Spirit is no match for the enemy; God does not need to rely on the tangible properties of this world.

He is much higher and greater. That is why we will overcome evil each time when we place our faith in God.

We need a change (Friday, June 28)

The world that God has made does not change. It is always the same, from the sunrise and sunset to the changing of the seasons to the rising and falling of the oceans every day. God’s universe remains constant. Still, we try to alter all kinds of things to make life adapt to our way of thinking and living.

We change from daylight savings time to regular time and back again to meet our needs. We build houses on the beach to give us spectacular views of the ocean. We construct enormous cities with millions of people. We develop artificial lakes and rivers. All the while we are trying to create a world that bends to us rather than learning to live with the one we have been given.

Our personal lives are no different. Often, we fight to change what God has already created for us. We find ourselves struggling to buy a bigger house. We seek a better job with more responsibility. We try to earn more money. We shop for more clothes. We buy more furniture. We spend more time entertaining ourselves.

Perhaps we have been trying too hard to change everything around us. Maybe we need to change ourselves, and begin to appreciate what God has already done.

Divine sight
(Thursday, June 27)

Whether we see God at work in our lives depends more on us than on him. Where we look for him makes a difference. I must have my heart and head firmly set on the right things in order to distinguish his works. I will not notice his presence in times of anger or frustration. Nor when I am upset and mad. He will not reveal himself until I am ready, until my spirit is still enough to receive him.

I must accept, too, that God chooses the time and place. He sets the schedule, no matter how much I may want him to act right now. I must learn to be patient and wait. I cannot simply say to God “do this” or “do that” based on what I think is best. Situations and events must unfold according to his plan and his laws, not mine.

Suppose I get it in my mind that I want to see the stars overhead in the middle of the afternoon. I know they are there and I want to look at them. As I peer up, with the sun shining brightly, I observe only a clear blue sky. Yet, if I am willing to wait a matter of hours, I will see thousands of stars.

Just as the world moves by the physical laws of nature, so God moves according to his divine and eternal laws. I cannot expect my way to be God’s way. I am a physical being; God is spiritual. Whether I see him at work in my daily life depends on how I look at him. The more I understand about his everlasting principles, the more I will experience his invisible and constant presence in the world.

Lighting the way (Wednesday, June 26)

What people do or say often surprises us, especially when it goes against what we might imagine from a fellow believer. We may become offended or upset by someone’s unexpected actions and words. But before we judge too harshly, we have to consider our reaction. Are we considerate and forgiving? Or do we respond in kind, exhibiting the same sort of behavior we have witnessed?

We need to remember that we are not created to be mirrors, reflecting images of the world. We are made to be lights – beacons of hope that shine bright even in the darkest of circumstances. Jesus told us to turn away, to turn the other cheek, whenever we are attacked. We can never overcome evil with evil. But we can overcome wickedness by goodness. Nothing can hide the pure light of God that shines through us unless we bury it.

The power to choose is up to us. We can decide to be mirrors or lights. One imitates. The other outshines. It all depends on the source. A mirror can only reflect what is in front of it. But a light can remove the darkness and change everything it touches.

Bless you (Tuesday, June 25)

Every person is created for a specific purpose and plan. God fashions a certain path for each one. As long as we follow his will, we are making the most of our lives. We please him most when we place ourselves in his hands.

We have to be careful that we do not overstep our bounds, that we do not try to be someone we are not or do something we should not. Peter learned the hard way. He tried to change the will of God by stopping the soldiers from arresting Jesus. Jonah is another example. He refused to go to Nineveh to serve judgment on the people. Nor did Moses want to lead God’s chosen out of Egypt.

God’s design will be done in all things. We cannot rest and find the peace we are seeking until we are on the road God has prepared specifically for us. His path may be more difficult, but it will make us less anxious because he is going before us. We must remember to walk directly behind him, letting him clear the way.

Our journey in life is, in effect, God’s journey too. He created us to go in a certain direction, doing the work that he has already willed. If we follow him, his blessings will be with us all the days of our lives.

Creation (Monday, June 24)

The rising sun on a new day. Flocks of birds flying over the trees. A warm, gentle summer breeze. The dew that glistens on the wet grass. The beauty of this world – God’s world – is everywhere, fresh each morning. All is renewed by a night of quiet and solitude.

We have been given the gift of another day, to see and experience the wonder of creation. We can actually dwell in what the God of the universe has made with his own hand. It is proof of his greatness and what he is able to do through the sound of his voice. Mountains rise, seas ebb and flow, clouds form, rain waters the valleys – all obey his command and go according to his divine plan.

This day will unfold as God wills. He is the one who decides what will happen and when. From the fields to the forests, from the lakes to the rivers, from the creatures across the land to the course of our lives, God is in control. He knows what is ahead of us even before it comes, and he will watch over us just as he does with everything he has created.

God never sleeps or slumbers. He delights in what he has made; he never takes his eyes off of us. Constantly, he watches and protects what is his. This day belongs to him, and he gives it freely for us to share with him.

Your words 
(Sunday, June 23)

Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Each one was chosen and divinely inspired by God to write a gospel, a book about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. No two books are alike, yet they have the same message and include many of the same events. There is another gospel that the world is waiting to read. It is being written at this very moment. It is your gospel – the story of Jesus through your eyes and life. The Gospel According to You.

Precisely what will you tell the world in your 21st century gospel? You could explain why you believe in Jesus and how you are saved by grace. You might write down all of the miracles God has performed in your life. Perhaps you want to include advice and encouragement to help others in the faith. Maybe you just want to say why you love Jesus and what his death on the cross means to you: how he died for your sins, and how he paid the complete price for your salvation.

Whether we realize it or not, our gospel began taking shape years ago, not so much in the words we have spoken or written but in our actions. Our lives have been a living gospel for everyone to see and read. Each day, more and more thoughts have been added to the book. Every month, the life and teachings of Jesus are revealed to others in greater detail through us.

Your gospel will be much different than mine, for I see things in a distinct way, just like Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Also, I have a unique perspective and I have a separate purpose in life. Still, in the end, our gospels will have the same theme. They will tell the good news of Jesus Christ: what he did for the Father, what he did for us and what he wants to do for everyone – forever.

Rational emotion (Saturday, June 22)

Thoughts and ideas come from many sources and places. At times, we want to do something because we are moved by our feelings. On other occasions, we take action because of our moods. Still, there are situations when we reason with logic how best to proceed.

Proverbs 23:7 explains that, “As you think in your heart, so are you” (Proverbs 23:7). I am no theologian or Biblical scholar, but the phrase seems to imply that our true self is made up of a deliberate combination of heart and mind. We may experience sensations produced by the heart and, yet, we also must be prompted to act by our right thoughts.

That is to say, the heart and mind are co-dependent and co-equal. Both make up our composition. Both determine who and what we are. Our thoughts and reactions are constantly determined by the sentiments coming from our heart that have first been formed by our godly intellect. When our head and heart are joined together in unity, God can accomplish amazing things.

A picture of you and God (Friday, June 21)

You and I need to see ourselves in a much different way. We have a chance each day to re-discover and re-imagine ourselves, if we take the time to look at God first. He speaks to us softly, gently, and reminds us what our lives are all about. The image he reveals to the world and to us is far from the familiar one we most often see.

The snapshot we carry around in our minds is lonely and desolate. We are by ourselves, alone in the middle of nowhere, looking up toward heaven. But the picture God shows us is full and complete; we are safe and secure. He is there with us, protecting us and showing us which direction to go.

When we glimpse the photograph of God with us, we realize that we are never alone. He is always there, in the struggles as well as the successes. No matter how lost and deserted we may feel at times, the truth is that there are always two figures in the picture. We can see God standing next to us even though he is unseen by the rest of the world.

A message from God (Wednesday, June 19)

The Lord speaks to us in a variety of ways. Sometimes we hear his voice audibly. Sometimes we feel his spirit. Sometimes we sense a “knowing” in our heart. Sometimes we get a thought we realize is not ours. Sometimes we hear him talk to us through the Bible. Each time, each word is an individual gift.

There are occasions, though, when God actually shows us a far-reaching message. We notice a sign or place we had not observed before. Or we might see ordinary people on the street who tell us a story – with a point straight from the Lord.

Yesterday morning, as I was driving to work, I saw a grandfather pulling his grandson in a little wagon along the sidewalk. The grandfather was doing all of the work while the small boy sat comfortably in the wagon; I could tell he was enjoying himself as he looked around at everything that passed by. The boy did not seem to have a care or a worry in world. And why should he? He knew his grandfather was in control.

Our lives in Christ should be the same as this boy in the wagon. God is in charge and he will not let anything (or anyone) harm us. He will keep us safe. He will even pull us along through life since we are too small to do it ourselves. So let us delight in all that passes by today, knowing that nothing will hurt us because our Father is in complete control.

He will lead the way today (Tuesday, June 18)

We can be sure that everything we are called to do today is from the Lord. He orders our steps and guides our actions. He goes before us in body and spirit. God knows what we are going to face this day though we are not fully aware right now.

There is great comfort in placing all of our faith in God rather than in our ability. We need his help to accomplish even the smallest of things. God never fails, but we do. God never makes mistakes, but we do. God never makes the wrong decision, but we do. Apart from him we can do nothing.

During the next 24 hours, there will be many times when we will act without asking. We will drive our cars, go to the store, go to work or school, go to meetings, go to the doctor or go to see a friend. If we know (and believe) that God goes with us everywhere, why don’t we take the time to ask for his blessing and acknowledge his presence?

Until we fill in the blank, we will go on our own. We need to say, “God help me as I _______ “ (fill in the blank). Then we will know, with complete assurance, that we are not alone. He will go with us and he will even lead the way. “In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:6).

The church depends on us (Monday, June 17)

Where would the early church have been without the many disciples and apostles to spread the Word? The good news of salvation through Jesus Christ might never have gone very far without those faithful followers. Some nations may never have heard about Jesus. There could have been people living in darkness only a day’s journey from Golgotha, where Jesus died for the sins of all.

How is the church doing today? As modern believers, are we continuing to tell the world about God’s kingdom? Perhaps we allow the physical structure we call the church do the talking for us. Maybe we believe people will drive by each day, see the building, and somehow be saved.

A few years ago, there was a wonderful restaurant around the corner from our house. It was just a mile away and served authentic Northern Italian cuisine. Each time my wife and I went there, we felt like we were visiting Italy once again. Unfortunately, the restaurant did not last. The food was fantastic. The location was excellent. The owner was gregarious and outgoing. Even the prices were perfect. One thing was lacking, though: the news never got out about this gem. There was no advertising and no word of mouth to pass along the information. It was a sad day when Albie’s closed its doors for the last time.

I sometimes wonder if the same thing will happen someday in churches throughout our country. The doors will close for the last time because no one bothered to tell others what was going on inside. There is only one way to make sure that day never comes. We need to spread the good news like the early disciples did.

As Jesus commands
(Sunday, June 16)

Where most of us find the highest challenge is in trying to square the physical world with the spiritual universe. We know tangible objects – from people to houses to cars to lakes and mountains – but we lose our way when all of these disappear.

We seem to have nothing concrete to hold on to in the spiritual realm. On our level, we find ourselves humanly incapable of comprehending the spiritual, the unseen. Even our tactile senses, which have guided us faithfully all of our lives, suddenly become useless.

Jesus told us to, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27). We understand what it means to love our neighbors. But how do we love a God we cannot see?

The only way is to allow him to lead the way in every way: what we do, where we go, what we say and how we act. Whenever we yield ourselves to him, he is able to direct our heart, soul, strength and mind. With him guiding our lives, in spite of what we are going through or undergoing, we can love God as Jesus said. 

You are my church (Saturday, June 15)

We have one perception of ourselves. God has another perception. We are far greater and more significant than we think because of God’s view of us.

When we think of remarkable saints in the kingdom, we probably do not include ourselves. But God does. Just as Jesus once said to Peter, he says to each one of us today: “You are Jack, Elinor, Bruce (fill in your name) and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.”

God has so much faith and trust in each one of us that he is willing to develop his church here on earth based on our lives. He also knows that we are not perfect, even though we strive to be so. God is willing to forgive us when we fall short of his expectations, just as he forgave Peter when he denied Jesus three times.

Remember, too, that Jesus told Peter the gates of hell would not prevail against the church. We may be attacked from time to time by all kinds of evil, but the wickedness and tribulations will not triumph. As you go through this day, do not forget God is building his church on you and he promises that nothing will defeat his plan or promise.

We belong (Friday, June 14)

People may prefer one individual over another, but God does not. He loves all persons with the same care and compassion as his son. No matter what race or color, God created them all. And he sent his son to die for everyone.

John 3:16 is a constant reminder to us. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Sometimes we gloss over the magnitude of this verse of scripture. We never stop long enough to think about what we have been given.

God sent Jesus, his one son, to live and die in this sinful world. He did so for one reason and one reason only: to save us. All we have to do is to believe in Jesus and be willing to follow him. Then we will never perish. Then we will have eternal life.

We cannot explain it. We cannot understand it. We cannot even describe it. Therein lies the beauty and greatness of God’s love. He gives us something we do not deserve simply because we belong to him.

The heart of the matter (Thursday, June 13)

The everlasting nature of love is, for the Christian, the nucleus of all belief. The kind of love we are to practice is far removed from the temporal constructs of daily living, so much so that we miss the point and meaning entirely. We tend to love with our feelings, attitudes and emotions instead of by and through the spirit. Our human character, because of its selfish and narcissistic temperament, often separates us from the divine quality of love.

Yet, this same human body, with all of its many flaws and sins, has the potential to reveal God’s complete and whole love. By loving our sisters and brothers in the way God loves each one of us, we can see the fulfillment of God; the invisible God becomes visible. The apostle John explains this profound mystery in his first epistle. “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us” (1 John 4:11-12). In other words, divine love will let us witness God in one another!

It is crucial to understand what John is saying. No one has ever seen God’s divine essence and nature but, John explains, we can see the invisible God as we practice unconditional love for one another. What happens is that as God begins to live in us and through us, his holy love is made complete in us.

As we look at the church – so full of people like us who are in desperate need of all kinds of help – we must remember how important it is to love one another with divine affection. When we are able to practice this kind of pure love – free of any intolerance or prejudice whatsoever – we will see and witness God. His love and being suddenly will be made visible in each one of us.

An amazing gift (Wednesday, June 12)

Let others take the credit and the recognition. You do the work. What should it matter if the world does not always acknowledge all of the good we are doing, whether it is at home, in the community, in the church or even in the workplace?

Our motivation for anything should be pleasing the Lord and making him happy. Yes, there will be times when our service goes completely unnoticed by everyone, maybe even our own families. But let us never think, not for a second, that people do not appreciate us. Do we usually say thanks for everything that everyone does for us?

We are familiar with the words of Jesus when he talks about serving: “The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these sisters and brothers of mine, you did for me'” (Matthew 25:40). Regarding this often quoted scripture, Albert Barnes, the 19th century American theologian wrote that, “How great is the condescension and kindness of the Judge of the world, thus to reward our actions, and to consider what we have done to the poor as done to him!”

God knows each one of our works, and he rewards us by transforming our mundane actions for people into miraculous acts for him. An amazing gift for us, indeed.

Change for the better (Tuesday, June 11)

I want God to make me a better person and a stronger disciple. I want him to do what he needs to do in order for me to be more committed to him. Yet, at the same time, I don’t want it to hurt or be painful in any way. I want to change without having to change.

I know I need more patience, but I want it to happen. I would like to wake up one morning and be filled with tolerance and perseverance for any situation. I would no longer get mad at any one or anything. As much as I wish it, that will never happen. Being able to endure tough circumstances can come only by being tried over and over again. I must practice each day.

With change comes pain. At first, it will hurt. Gradually, over time I will get used to doing what does not come naturally to me. One trial after another will make me stronger, just like exercising my body day after day.

As we allow God to transform us, let us trust him to take care of us as well. He knows how much we can handle and he will never push us beyond our limits.

Where is He? (Monday, June 10)

Quick to complain and slow to remember. Does that describe you in any way? We usually waste no time in wondering if God has forgotten us when we face difficulties. Conversely, we always forget what he has done for us in the past. Like the plaintive cries throughout the Psalms, we lose our hope from time to time. Where is God when we need him most, we ask. Why doesn’t he help us and why doesn’t he punish the wicked?

In our humanness, it is natural for us to grumble. But let’s not continue on and on until we are tired of hearing ourselves moan and groan. Let us learn from the Psalms. Let us turn our laments into hymns of praise. We cannot forget his good deeds and gracious blessings.

Most every psalm in the Bible follows a similar format. The song begins with an expression of grief, followed by a plea for help and mercy. Soon the words become softer and gentler; the writer turns the problem over to the Lord. Finally, there is worship and adoration for the greatness of God.

Since the beginning of creation, people have had the same concerns and worries. Perhaps we can be the generation that at last learns from the past. Maybe we can see all the good God has done throughout thousands of years; maybe we can stop doubting where he is all of the time. He has always been right here, guiding the same universe he formed out of nothing and helping each one of the children he created.

Being free under God’s control (Sunday, June 9)

At one time, Alcatraz was the most secure penitentiary in the world. There were bars on each cell as well as around every separate cell block. There also was one steel door after another that had to be opened before anyone could get out. As far as we know, no one ever escaped from Alcatraz.

Imagine spending year after year in a five- by nine-foot space with a cot, sink with only cold running water and a toilet. You and I may never be locked up, but we often imprison ourselves with our way of thinking. We might focus so much on understanding why something happened that we can’t see or imagine anything else. We become trapped within a mental prison with no way out.

When was the last time you demanded to understand what God was doing in your life? You wanted to understand why God didn’t protect you or why God let you down. Maybe you wanted to know what would happen tomorrow and why God allowed you to suffer.

Why not release yourself from being held captive by your human need to understand everything? The key to being set free is to trust God. Once you do, you no longer will feel trapped by any situation. Nothing in the world can ever imprison you when God is in control.

Hanging by a thread (Saturday, June 8)

For 10 years, the overhead fan in our front bedroom has whirled away without interruption. None of us, though, knew the hidden danger that was just above the queen-sized bed.

My wife and I have slept there. Countless guests as well. Even our dog and two cats have spent time lounging on the bed and looking out the front window at the street below.

A couple of weeks ago, the fan dropped about 12 inches and was dangling by two single wires. No one was in the room at the time. When I began the repair, I suddenly realized that one tiny screw—no longer than three-quarters of an inch—had held up the 20-pound fan for an entire decade!

It was a miracle that no one was hurt in all those years. I don’t believe for a second that a little screw kept everyone safe, but I do know who kept the fan in place. Sometimes it takes years to realize God’s blessings. We realize it only after the fact. He is probably doing something in your life right now, but you may not know it for quite some time. Maybe a decade from now.

What does the future hold? (Friday, June 7)

Sophisticated weather satellites and state-of-the-art radar systems allow us to see into the future. We can have a pretty good idea what the weather will be tomorrow or the next day. Sometimes forecasts let us look 10 days ahead so we can make plans for next week or next weekend.

But life does not allow us to know what is coming tomorrow. Metaphorically speaking, tomorrow can be bright or cloudy, or a little bit of both. We will not know until it happens.

One thing is for sure, though. We do not have to worry or be anxious. God is the same day after day; he never changes. He says he will protect us, guide us, strengthen us and forgive us. We can count on him when we cannot count on life.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above,” wrote James (1:17) in his epistle. “Coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” The experiences we encounter in life move like shadows in the night; they are unpredictable. But God is sure and predictable. His care for us is the same whether it is sunny or cloudy.

Can he trust you? (Thursday, June 6)

How odd it would be to see a man dressed in a suit, white shirt and tie cutting his grass or washing his car. He certainly would be overdressed and out of place in either situation. How many times each day, though, are we out of place in serving God? We might look good, but we are not really suited for what God expects us to do.

Maybe we walk by a piece of crumpled paper on the floor at the mall. We don’t return a phone call. We ignore email messages, even important ones. We glare at a slow driver as we race by. We forget to notice the overflowing trash container in the kitchen.

Time and time again we pass by opportunities to make the world just a little better. Most of these chances are small things. Yet, we fail to do them. “If you are faithful in little things,” Jesus said, “you will be faithful in large ones” (Luke 16:10).

As you go through this day, look for tiny ways to serve God and those around you. Let God know you are faithful in little things and he will give you something much larger someday. First, he has to see if he can trust you and if you are who you appear to be.

Walk a mile in my shoes (Wednesday, June 5)

It is hard, if not impossible, to walk in someone else’s shoes. Children, though, always try. They put their tiny feet into mom or dad’s shoes and begin shuffling along. Within a few feet, they usually fall.
We have to give children credit for trying. At least they want to know how the huge shoes feel on their little feet.

When was the last time you tried to walk in another person’s shoes? Not literally, but figuratively. Did you take time to put yourself in the shoes of someone who is unemployed, someone who has congestive heart failure or someone who is upset because of a death?

The next time someone offends you, or maybe even ignores you, take a minute to put yourself in their place. Try being their shoes rather than your own. Chances are if you do, you will stumble, too.

Take your cue today from the 1970 song by Joe South. The refrain is simple, yet haunting: “Walk a mile in my shoes / walk a mile in my shoes / Hey, before you abuse, criticize and accuse / Walk a mile in my shoes.” Jesus calls us to do this and more as we try to understand, forgive and help others.

The only way to serve (Tuesday, June 4)

Determination is one of the most important virtues, as long as it is used in the right way. Abraham was determined to follow God’s command to sacrifice his son. Moses was determined to lead God’s chosen people to the Promised Land. Habakkuk was determined to wait for God to restore his nation.

There are negative connotations of the word determination that quickly come to mind. Stubbornness is one; pigheadedness is another. Jonah, for example, was determined to get away from God’s calling to preach to the people of Nineveh. Cain was determined to get more than his brother Abel.

I was on my way to work when I saw two elderly women with walkers going along a sidewalk. They were quite some distance from the retirement center down the street. Obviously, they were determined to take a walk and enjoy the spring sunshine. It is interesting to note that two synonyms of determination are decision and resolution. Before these ladies determined they would go outside, they had to make a conscious decision about their course of action and then resolve to see it through.

Remember what Paul wrote to the Romans? “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). Now that’s the kind of determination we need today!

Our moral compass (Monday, June 3)

A compass, if it is working properly, always points north. Even if we turn around or go the opposite way, the needle adjusts the setting to north.

The same is not necessarily true of our moral compass. It should always point toward the Lord, but on occasion it will point a different way. Sometimes it aims toward anger, resentment, hatred or worry. Without thinking, we note the setting and head off on this new course.

Each day, we have to make sure our moral compass reveals the right bearing. We have to remember the needle can be thrown off much like a real compass when placed too close to another metal object.

Don’t let your moral compass be attracted to anything except God. Keep it away from opposing objects like impatience and intolerance. Most of all, make sure it is pointing in the right direction by calibrating it regularly with what is in the owner’s manual: the Bible.

No excuse (Sunday, June 2)

The world is full of excuses. People have all kinds of reasons for not doing something: I don’t have time; I don’t have the money; I don’t have the experience, and the list goes on.

The prophet Jeremiah was no different than many of us. Perhaps you recall his response when God proclaimed he was sanctified and appointed to be the Lord’s spokesperson to the world. “O Lord God,” Jeremiah said, “I can’t do that! I am far too young. I am only a youth” (Jeremiah 1:6).

God was quick to rebuke him. “Don’t say that, for you will go wherever I send you and speak whatever I tell you to. And don’t be afraid of the people,” God added, “for I the Lord will be with you and see you through.”

Have you tried to get out of doing what God has called you to do? God does not stand for excuses; he stands for the truth. And the truth is he “will be with you and see you through” anything he wants you to do.

Rooted in the Word (Saturday, June 1)

It may seem puzzling that a group of Christians can hear the same sermon, read the same Bible, pray the same prayers and all react with different degrees of faith. The answer is quite simple really. All those who hear the Word of God do not listen.

Recall the parable of the sower. Some of the seed fell by the wayside and was eaten by the birds. Another portion fell on stony ground and perished as quickly as it sprang up. Other seed fell among the thorns and was choked out by the weeds. Still more seed was planted in good soil and flourished; there was good fruit and plants multiplied.

At some time or another in our lives, we have each fallen into one of several categories: we allowed the Word of God to be stolen from us; we have not had deep enough roots to survive trials and temptations; or our faith in God has been choked out by our trust in the world. On occasion, we have survived and actually grown because we were firmly planted in God.

We reap what we sow, especially when it comes to the kingdom. How much we produce depends on how deep our faith goes into God’s ground. Good fruit comes only from deep roots, buried well in the soil of the Word. 

Be who you are (Friday, May 31)

It would be worthwhile and valuable to spend more of our time thinking about who we are rather than who we want to become. We can be all sorts of things: teachers, writers, secretaries, vice presidents, lawyers, doctors, actors, etc. We cannot say the same when it comes to declaring who we are.

That question was answered long ago, even before our birth. We were created by God and chosen to be his children as the heirs of his kingdom. We are his and we belong to him. If we accept what he has given to us, including salvation through the Son and power by the Holy Spirit, then there is no mistaking who we are.

In other words, we do not have to become anything. We do not have to spend our lives attempting to be someone else or strive to be something we are not. We are God’s. Pure and simple. Nothing else is required.

Decades ago, American poet Archibald MacLeish wrote in “Ars Poetica” that, “A poem should not mean / But be.” The world will always try to make us think that we have to work to become or mean something. As long as we believe in God, though, we can just be.

Sowing for the Lord (Thursday, May 30)

You and I are called to plant seeds—seeds of God’s grace and goodness in the hearts of people everywhere. In essence, we are to be farmers for the fields of heaven. We must sow so the Lord can reap.

In The Georgics, the epic poet Virgil warns his fellow countrymen about the dangers of giving up their agrarian lifestyle. A few centuries later, the great Roman Empire fell due in large part because it had no means of sustaining itself. People had left the farms to live in teeming cities like Rome; everyone wanted to eat the food but no one wanted to work the fields.

God calls us to labor in the fields. Jesus said, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few” (Matthew 9:37). Not many of us these days want to put the seeds of life in the ground. Yet, everyone wants to reap a bountiful harvest of bringing souls to Christ.

We have to realize that it is God who reaps the seeds we sow. “I planted the seed in your hearts,” wrote Paul, “and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow” (1 Corinthians 3:6). Let us be content with planting seeds wherever we go and allow God to make them grow. 

Playing our part (Wednesday, May 29)

We have a critical part to play in God’s divine drama of life. As the Creator, God has determined what we will be and what we will do, but he also gives us a choice. We can accept our role or walk away from it.

Through the years, I am sure many actors in movies and theatre have turned down roles that were too small or did not feel right. They chose to wait for something better rather than to accept the part they were offered.

On a mission trip to New York City, I had my part all picked out. I wanted to be the main speaker preaching to the homeless as they came to a small church in Chinatown for lunch. Instead, the person in charge gave me the position of greeter. Imagine my initial shock and disappointment. Quickly, though, God showed me the greatness of being a greeter as I gave up my will and gave in to his.

There are no small roles in God’s kingdom. Each one is vital and each one is necessary. May you remember this truth the next time the Lord gives you something to do that seems unimportant. If God asks, there is nothing little about the task.

A parable point (Tuesday, May 28)

Sometimes we worry too much about what we don’t have or what we didn’t get. We always try to make sure we are treated justly by others and we are quick to complain if we don’t receive our fair share.

Jesus spoke about our penchant for what we think is fair in the parable of the workers in the vineyard. Matthew records the story of the landowner who hired workers for his vineyard. The man hired help throughout the day: some workers early in the morning, some at nine and noon, some at three in the afternoon and again at five. In the evening, all of the laborers lined up and each received the same amount.

Much like some of the workers, we might grumble and complain that the landowner was unfair; he paid those who worked all day and those who worked a couple of hours the same amount.

To our earthly way of thinking, what the landowner did does not seem right. But that is not the point. Does it really matter how much each one received as long as they all got paid? In the same way, do we think we deserve more because we have served our lord longer or better than the next person? The bottom line of this parable is “the last shall be first and the first shall be last” (Matthew 20:16).

All for us (Monday, May 27)

The beauty of the world is all around us. We do not have to travel to faraway places. Nor do we have to search deep into dense forests or high in the mountains to see what he has made. The wonder of creation is right in our own backyard.

Each blade of grass, every leaf of a plant, the individual branches on a tree all display what God has crafted for his glory. The birds that fly through the air and the creatures that run across the grass reveal the life he has put into every living thing. Even the lofty clouds above, the gentle breeze and the bright shining sun show his power and splendor.

The earth is full of God. Everywhere we look, nature tells us more about Our Father. We have to take time to watch and listen. Then we will discover what God has already given to us. His presence is in everything, especially in us.

He shares all he is and has ever done with us, his children. We have ears to hear, eyes to see, hands to touch and feet to walk in order that we might realize his care and concern. He has given us much more than our own personal life. He has given us an entire world to enjoy and appreciate.

The divine connection (Sunday, May 26)

In our own individual ways, we are each different. Our appearance is different. Our thoughts are different. Our gifts and talents are different. Our behavior is different. Our attitude is different. Yet, we are all part of the same body – the body of Christ.

Our Lord said, “I am the vine and you are the branches.” We are joined to him no matter how different we might seem from one another. As long as we are connected, our lives will bear fruit. But, he tells us, we can do nothing apart from him.

How many times each day do we try to carry on without carrying him with us? We speak the wrong words, we act the wrong way, we think the wrong thoughts. We cut ourselves off from him in countless ways and never realize what we are giving up. We will never be any good, producing any worthwhile fruit, separated from him.

May we always put forth the effort to strengthen, not sever, our bond with him. His blood must flow through us in order for us to have life.

Man-made vs. God-made (Saturday, May 25)

I wonder why it is we always want to know God’s complete design and intention. Rather than following him step by step, we ask him to show us everything all at once. We want to understand his plan before we obey even his simplest command.

Yet, each day there are dozens of occasions when we do not need any explanation at all. We accept freely without the least bit of understanding or insight. We use computers, talk on cell phones, drive cars, fly on airplanes – all without any idea of how these things operate. We just know that they work.

We often put more stock in what is man-made rather than what is God-made. When it comes to God we suddenly become analytical and logical. We demand to know before we go anywhere or do anything. Why can’t we simply trust him?

It certainly does not say much about our faith in God if we put more confidence in the world than in the Creator of the universe.

Your perfect plan (Friday, May 24)

Jesus’ journey was perfect. The years of his ministry were divinely ordained and every step put him in the right place at the right time. Nothing happened by happenstance.

From the time he was born until his death on the cross, the Father was in control. Each miracle was planned to bring glory to the kingdom: restoring the widow’s son to life, feeding the 5,000, turning water into wine, healing the blind man, curing the centurion’s son, raising Lazarus from the dead, and the thousands of other acts of restoration that must have occurred.

“For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me,” Jesus said (John 6:38). Our lives are the same. God has a plan and a purpose for each one of us at each moment, if we only listen and follow.

Showing our service (Thursday, May 23)

The church today could learn a few lessons from the corporate world. Businesses everywhere know that the name of the game is service. Many companies are willing to bend over backward to make sure people are satisfied.

Car dealers offer “free for life” services, such as free car washes, oil changes and inspections for as long as you own the car. In fact, some also give complimentary manicures, snacks, haircuts and movies while you are waiting for a repair. Mattress manufacturers let you sleep on a new mattress for up to two months before you decide to buy. Even hotels have a full money back guarantee if you are not pleased with your overnight stay.

But how is the church doing at serving the needs of the people? Are we making sure everyone in our community has enough food, clothing and money to pay utility bills? Perhaps there are shut-ins who just need to talk with someone. Maybe people need a car or a drain fixed. It could be the woman down the street needs her lawn cut.

You and I are the church. We are the body of Christ, and the world will judge him by our service to others. We need to make sure we go the extra mile in everything we do so people will know the goodness and greatness of God’s love. 

 What do you want? (Wednesday, May 22)

We are strange creatures sometimes. We will stop for coffee in the morning but not take time to pray or to read the Bible. So, too, we will pause in the middle of the day because we need to eat lunch yet we forget about our spiritual needs. Then in the evening, we will rest our bodies without really resting our hearts and minds in God. Our focus in life can easily become out of balance, especially when we concentrate more on the physical than the divine.

Jesus told us, many times, that we do not live by bread alone. Instead, we should live by every word that comes from God. The spirit of God is eternal; the bread of the world is not. God’s word lasts forever. Earthly bread lasts for a day; it will not satisfy us tomorrow or next week because it spoils quickly.

We are physical creatures made in the spirit of God. We have to decide which is more important to us: our body or our soul. We cannot treat both the same. We must choose one over the other.

Denying our flesh is what Jesus came to teach us. He showed us that we can, with the Father’s help, rise above corporeal and selfish desires. We can push our hunger or feelings aside if we want. The key is to want God more.

The blame game (Tuesday, May 21)

Most people, children and adults alike, love to play the blame game. The rules are easy and the object is simple: just blame someone or something else for anything that goes wrong in your life.

The other morning, I was tempted to blame our dog for being locked out of the house. When I discovered I had forgotten my keys as we left for a walk, I wanted to blame the dog for rushing me and making me leave my keys behind.

The whole matter seems silly now, but we do this kind of thing all the time. We are late for an appointment and we blame the traffic. We are late for Sunday school and we blame our children. We forget to do an errand and we blame our busy schedule. Better yet, we misplace our glasses or wallet and we blame someone else for moving the objects without telling us.

Friends, it is foolish to blame others for our shortcomings or problems. “The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly” (Proverbs 15:14). The next time you are tempted to blame others, even your pets, listen to how ridiculous you sound. Learn to seek the knowledge of accepting your faults rather than the folly of denying the truth.

His decision or ours? (Monday, May 20)

Living by faith means going forward without knowing exactly what will happen, where the outcome depends solely on God. What lies ahead is entirely up to him and in his hands. All we can do is to trust him because we have nothing else to do. Whether it is money, food, health, plans or desires, everything depends on him. Nothing in the world can change his will.

Our faith must be strong enough to say “Lord, this is what I want, but only if it is your will.” And, we have to believe what declare. Otherwise our words mean little. What truly matters is our faith – counting on God in every situation: I want a new job, but only if it is your will. I want to take a trip, but only if it is your will. I want to be healed, but only if it is your will. I want more money, but only if it is your will. I want a new car, but only if it is your will.

When we are able to say what we mean and mean what we say, we put God ahead of our earthly needs. We tell him that he is more important than anything else. We commit and entrust our lives to what he knows is best for us.

I suppose we will always struggle with personal feelings. Our physical desires are not easily overcome; like little children, we want exactly what we want. But we need to start acting like a child of God, able to trust our heavenly Father in every circumstance. He has already planned what is best for us. He may not always give us what we want, but he will give us what we need. The question is whether we have the faith to accept his decision.

The choice today (Sunday, May 19)

Our lives, even before birth, are fashioned and molded for a specific purpose and reason. God does not ask or consult with us before he decides his plan. He puts us somewhere, gives us a job to do and no one else can complete his work for us.

You and I need to reassure ourselves over and over again that God’s plan is true. He is right all of the time. If we would just follow him and not make him follow us, we would be fine. Sometimes, I imagine that God spends more time chasing us than he does leading us. We are like overactive children who take off on our own without realizing the dangers or the risks. All we think about is our freedom.

We need to realize that our freedom is found in God’s will and not in our will for ourselves. He has already released us from everything that can ever keep us in bondage. Yet, we always want to run back to what enslaves us: jealousy, anger, revenge and selfishness to name a few. God says we do not have to deal with these things any longer. We are totally free if we want to be.

In one of his Holy Sonnets, the seventeenth-century English poet John Donne wrote about the freedom we can possess only by going to God: “Take me to you, imprison me, for I / Except you enthrall me, never shall be free.” May we learn more today about being captives for freedom rather than slaves to our sins. God has opened the prison door. You and I have to make a choice. We can go free to do his good and perfect will for our lives – regardless of where he leads – or we can sit there inside the cell doing what we want. 

Your new life (Saturday, May 18)

There are days when I feel I am suffering from burnout. I am weary from my work and many responsibilities. The future seems so far away, as if better days never will come.

But the good news is that our great hope rests in God. He gives us hope over finances, hope over depression, hope over failure and inability. He can even give us hope over physical pain.

It is natural to be down from time to time. We have the ability, though, to lift ourselves out of despair by remembering these words: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).

The key to our happiness is not in what we do not have but, rather, in what we already possess. We have an active, living hope in Jesus. He has conquered all, including death, and he has given us a new life that does not depend on the circumstances of this world. 

Mercy and peace (Friday, May 17)

It is only in our helplessness that we discover God’s mercy. Only in our weakness do we realize his strength. And only in our grief do we understand his greatness.

The difficulties and tragedies of life reveal to us the divine power of God. As we are forced to stop and ask Him why, we open ourselves to him completely. We let God touch us in a way that only he can. We kneel before him, with our hearts bleeding and our minds empty of reason, for one thing only: his love.

We want to know that He is there in the midst of sorrow and despair – that he has not forgotten us even though we feel lost and confused. The image of Our Lord and Savior in the garden, on the night before He was crucified, is all the understanding we should need to remember that God is always with us.

Jesus was not alone during his many hours of darkness. Nor are we ever left on our own in despair. Our Father is always there to give us what we do not have within ourselves. He can help us to accept tragedy and despair even when we do not comprehend.

Seed faith (Thursday, May 16)

Faith means nothing unless we use it, and faith is never strengthened without trials. Each time we are tested, our reliance on God grows a little more. But we must let God control the situation.

It is easy to say we have faith in him when everything is going well. As long as we have no problems, our trust remains intact. What happens, though, when the bottom falls out – when we come down with a serious sickness, when we lose our job, when we are ignored for a promotion or when others are preferred over us? Where is our faith then? We are at a crossroads. We either reach out to God or we pull back away from him and feel sorry for ourselves.

Jesus said that we could move a mountain, if we have faith the size of a mustard seed. He did not say we could speak to the mountain and it would literally run out of our path. What he meant was for us to have a tiny bit of faith, just enough to believe that God would help us go around the mountain.

If there are any mountains in your life right now, look to God to help you to go around. Keep moving forward on level ground each day until you reach the other side. Don’t waste time and energy trying to dig your way through or to climb over. Have a little faith and you will develop more with each step. 

Pleasing only him (Wednesday, May 15)

God recognizes us. He knows who we are, what we have done and how much he continues to do through us. Often, those around us have little knowledge of the things we do without any recognition or fanfare. They don’t know that we constantly pray for a special person or that we spend time each day reading the Bible or that we are always there to offer encouragement to anyone who needs it.

But we are human. Sometimes we see the world rewarding someone else for a specific deed or action. Perhaps we become jealous and want the same kind of gratitude. We feel we deserve respect, too. After all, we have done just as much, maybe even more, than our brothers and sisters.

We can easily forget that God sees us for who we are. He sees everything we do and he remembers. Even when no one knows how much we have done, God is aware and he is pleased. He takes great pride and delight in us because he knows we have tried to make him happy more than the people who tend to judge us all of the time.

Let us not be tempted to be caught up in human values. May we seek the heavenly recognition that truly makes a difference, both in our lives right now but for all eternity.

Paradise (Tuesday, May 14)

What vision do you have for yourself? The way you and I see ourselves at this moment can determine, in large measure, how we live today. Do you feel tired, worn out, defeated, anxious? Or do you feel happy, excited, full of life and energy? Your vision will set your mood, and your mood defines your vision.

Scripture tells us that, “My [God’s] people perish for lack of knowledge.” Some interpretations use the word vision instead of knowledge. Either way, the statement is true. We will perish (spiritually, mentally and physically) if we do not have the proper knowledge of God or if we do not envision the wonderful future he has for us.

We will spend eternity with Our Lord in paradise. Think for a moment of living in joy and peace, praising God forever. There will be no pain, no suffering, no disappointment, no worry, no poverty, no problems and no disease. Our lives will be made perfect in him and for him.

As I look toward that time, I can gain renewed strength for this day. Yes, this day will not be all I might want it to be. But I can still live right now knowing the very best is yet to come and that it will last forever! 

Everything in our nothingness (Monday, May 13)

Unless we find our purpose and value in the Lord Jesus Christ, we are deceiving ourselves. For in and of ourselves we are nothing. In God we are everything. Yet, how often we regard ourselves above others. We measure our importance by the work we do or the acts of kindness we perform. These are earthly matters which do not matter to God.

We must consider ourselves as nothing in the world. In doing so, however, we become everything in the kingdom. That is when God can use us most to accomplish his will in this world. The one who plants and waters is nothing, says Paul. Only God, who actually makes things grow, is worthy to be praised.

We have but one purpose, whether we plant or water. We were created to be used by God, and we will be rewarded in proportion to our service to him. We are God’s fellow workers, adds Paul. We are God’s field and we are his building. What he does through us depends on how we look at ourselves. He can do little when we take credit for what he does.

The greatest step we can take in life is to do what we are formed to do, all the while realizing that it is God who accomplishes everything. We are but a piece of the puzzle in his divine plan. When we find our place next to all of the others he has chosen, then we find fulfillment in our “nothingness” here on earth. 

Hearing true wisdom (Sunday, May 12)

I hear God the loudest of all in quiet times. He speaks in a stillness that is greater than any other sound in the world. Inaudible to the human ear, yet the heart hears. It is the silent voice of his power.

His words are always crystal clear. He tells us to trust him for the next step or when we need to be patient. He tells us who needs our help and how to serve our neighbors. God is never hard to understand.

The problem is that we are not very good at listening or at obeying. God may say we should stop what we are doing at the moment and call a certain person. But we think we can phone later when we have more time.

Solomon knew well the value of listening to God. “Whoever listens to me [the wisdom of the Lord] will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm" (Proverbs 1:33). May you hear God when he speaks to your heart and do as he says. He knows what is best in all circumstances; we know only what is best for us at the moment. 

Focused on the future (Saturday, May 11)

I am convinced that many people spend far more time looking backward than they do looking forward. I am not talking about a particular event some day in the future. I mean life in general. We usually don’t think about where our lives are going or headed.

Yet, we remember with absolute clarity what we did yesterday or the day before. We even ponder specific events from years ago. There is nothing wrong with trying to figure out where we might have gone wrong. But there is a real problem when we spend all of our hours living in the past.

Our sights must be focused on the future – where God is leading us and the wonderful things that await us. What matters is not where we are right now. Our attention should be on where we are going. Look at what God did for the Israelites. He brought them out of slavery into the Promised Land full of freedom. Though he provided for them each step of the 40-year journey, they constantly dwelled on the good old days back in Egypt, especially when they were tired, hungry or thirsty.

Their backward thinking prevented them from seeing a wondrous future. May we learn from their mistakes and begin looking up, both to God and to his good works ahead. 

Complete us (Friday, May 10)

People everywhere are seeking joy. They want to be happy and cheerful. It seems the entire world is obsessed with finding gladness. A random search at an online bookstore revealed there are 36,990 books for sale on the topic of joy.

Going to Amazon.com will never help us find the kind of blissful lives we desire. There is only one place to go: Jesus. He is the answer and he holds the solution. “I have told you this,” he said, “that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11).

Notice that Jesus did not say, “Someday your joy will be complete” or “When you get to heaven your joy will be complete.” He meant now, today, “your joy may be complete.” That is, it may be complete but it depends on us. Do we see the hope Jesus offers daily? Are we happy to be Christians following him? Do we work our hardest to please him? Do we feel that nothing is lacking in our lives? Do we know we have everything we need to serve him?

Derived from Middle English, the word complete means to fill up, fulfill. The Latin form is complētus, which sounds like “complete us.” Jesus can complete us; he can fill us up with his joy so we find our true enjoyment and fulfillment in him.

His faithfulness continues (Thursday, May 9)

Reading the many stories in the Bible, both in the Old and New Testaments, we might get the impression that God did more thousands of years ago than he does now. Look at how he helped the Israelites, King David, Noah, Abraham, Paul, Peter and thousands of others. The Lord still is working through his people today and he continues to perform miracles everywhere in this age as well.

We have to look beyond the headlines of our modern culture. First, what about the World War II veteran who is finally learning to read at age 90? Then there is the disabled man who now has a new electric wheelchair after his was stolen one night. Also, three women in Cleveland, Ohio, are free again after being kidnapped and held captive for 10 years. And, a pair of conjoined twins are separated and each one is healing without complication.

Time and time again, in cities and towns all over the world, similar incidents are occurring. Each day there are probably millions of examples of God’s intervention in the lives of his children. We do not notice, though, because we are captivated and shocked by all of the evil. The goodness of God’s love is there, if only we will seek it out.

“For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations” (Psalm 100:5). God’s protection and guidance are not only timely, but timeless as well. He is faithful in all times and generations. We just have to take the time to see and notice what he is doing.

Blessed are the meek (Wednesday, May 8)

In the kingdom of God, being meek is a good thing. When we are meek, we are humble and gentle; we know our position as servants of an omnipotent king. We do not think more of ourselves than we ought. Quietly and confidently, we go about God’s work without boasting of our accomplishments, thoughts and ideas. We make little noise and fanfare over how God is using us, for we are meek enough to know that every task is done for his glory.

Not so with the world. The world demands that we exalt ourselves. The more attention we bring to our own worth and achievements, the better. Success is based on what we do right now, and not on what we do to make a difference in the future.

God does not share the world’s perspective. His values and standards are radically different. In fact, the ways of Our Father are in sharp contrast with the actions of human beings. Our nature is to be full of pride – well-pleased with ourselves – when we do something noteworthy of attention. God’s nature is mild and unassuming, even though he is the God of the universe. He does not call attention to his many acts of kindness and forgiveness each day. Instead, he guides us with a silent power that is barely noticeable to those around us.

Jesus shows us what it means to be meek. As the Son of God, he washed the disciples’ feet before the last supper. Even when Peter objected, Jesus explained that “unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” We need to remember Christ’s example whenever we are tempted to be arrogant or self-righteous, swollen with pride, over what we have done. God has no part with us if we cannot humble ourselves both to others and to him.

Whom do you see? (Tuesday, May 7)

We need to be careful of how we look at those around us. Not from our perspective, but from what we see in them. How others appear to us affects what we think, or even believe, about their character.

In our part of the country, there is a popular television commercial that begs viewers to look at everyone like $100 bills. The purpose is to picture them wearing the face of Benjamin Franklin, who appears on the note. You can earn an easy $100 for every person who switches to your satellite television company. Quite an incentive in these harsh economic times.

Using the same metaphor, what if we imagined everyone with the face of Jesus? The people you see on the street, at the mall, in the grocery store and, as difficult as it might be, those at work. I suspect our attitude toward all people, friends and strangers alike, might be radically different. What we see – the likeness of Jesus – would dramatically transform our thinking and actions as well as theirs.

Years ago, I heard a preacher on the radio offer advice on what to do when we are tempted to become upset with someone. He said to picture the person as a child of four or five years old because it is always hard to be mad at an innocent girl or boy. The same holds true for us today: see everyone with the face of Jesus. I dare say it is impossible for us to be angry with him. 

Living today for tomorrow (Monday, May 6)

If I say to myself that today is the last full day of my life then, of course, what I do now is more important than any other 24 hours in my life. Most certainly, I will be kinder, more patient and less angry. I also will have a tendency to apologize when I make a mistake and I will be quicker to think of others before myself. In short, I will be the person God created me to be.

No longer will I care about how much money I possess or be concerned over the possessions I have spent a lifetime collecting. Everything I have will be gone tomorrow; everything, that is, except the part of me that God has nurtured and cared for all these years.

What I do with my life today makes a difference tomorrow. Each morning I need to remind myself that I am alive for this one day, and I need to live as though my life in eternity depended on it. All my thoughts, deeds and actions should be worthy of where I am going, not on where I have been.

Danger ahead (Sunday, May 5)

Stopped by the Red Sea, the Hebrews could go no farther. They had reached the end of their journey. Their short-lived freedom seemed to be over.

The Egyptians pursued them, just like the troubles of this world attack us at times. The forces of destruction are relentless and constant; they try to capture and control us. They long to hold us in bondage like helpless slaves and force us to make bricks without straw.

But God has set the captives free. Just as he did some 3,000 years ago for the Hebrews, he does for us today. We have all been released from whatever tries to make us prisoners. People, situations, circumstances and illness threaten us daily on all sides. To no avail, however. God will not let us perish. He holds us in his promises and nothing can break through his Word.

He is our fortress and our strength, a very help in times of trouble. No matter what you are going through this day, remember that God parted the Red Sea. In spite of what looms ahead, he is in control.

The chosen (Saturday, May 4)

Jesus calls out. Come follow me, he says, and I will make you fishers of men. One by one, the disciples dropped what they were doing. They left everything behind: family, friends, vocations, money, houses and all the usual pleasures of a routine life. Each follower was selected by Jesus. In fact, each person was created by God to be one of the chosen.

The same is true of us. We have been individually chosen to serve and share God. We were born to be one of God’s special children. He made us just to be his own.

This day he will ask both you and me to do his will – to go past ourselves and to reach out beyond who we think we are. He will tell us to do all sorts of things for him (and in his name) because he knows us and why the Father made us. Either we drop what we are doing for ourselves or we go the other way, back to where our life is comfortable and safe. The choice is ours alone.

You have been chosen and so have I. We have a decision to make right now. Will we forsake what we want for what he wants? Jesus did this for us some 2,000 years ago on the cross. Are we willing to do the same today for him?

He is (Friday, May 3)

Today could be the day when Jesus returns. In an instant, all of the pain and suffering will be gone. So, too, will the regrets, heartaches and sorrows disappear. It will truly be a new day – forever.

When Jesus left the disciples, he promised to return. He said he was going to prepare a place for each one of us. Plus, he was going to send the Holy Spirit to be our constant guide and comforter. Jesus would be with us each moment, even in his absence, through the Spirit.

As we go through this day, let us be hopeful for that day when Jesus comes to take us home. But may we also realize what we have now. We have the power of the Holy Spirit to make possible what is impossible in the world. The Spirit has the ability to save, heal, mend and restore.

While we wait for the second coming, we need to remember first that we have the Holy Spirit to help us accomplish whatever we are called to do right now. 

Ask and follow (Thursday, May 2)

The miracles of Jesus usually seem straight forward. He heals a leper, cures a disease or drives out demons. More often than not, however, we miss the deeper meaning of his everyday actions.

Matthew tells about the time Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho. A huge crowd was following them, and two blind men were sitting by the road. When they heard Jesus was coming, they cried out, “Lord, son of David, have mercy on us.” The people tried to silence them, but they shouted again. Jesus asked their need. “We want our sight,” they replied. According to Matthew, “Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him” (Matthew 20: 29-34).

There is much more to understand than what is right in front of us. As the son of God, Jesus certainly knew the needs of all the people around him. Yet, Jesus did not stop until he heard the blind men shout a second time. It is important to note that the men did not give up; they probably would have yelled a third and a fourth time. And, even though Jesus knew their need, he waited for them to ask.

The important thing for us to remember is Jesus always waits for us to ask for his help. He also wants to know if we are sincere. Then and only then will he have compassion on us. What happens next is critical: we need to keep following him just as these two blind men did. Our physical healing will mean very little if we turn around and walk away. Simply put, our sight will account for nothing if we lose eternal life in the end.

All for one (Wednesday, May 1)

I did a lot of praying the other day as I drove to and from my job. I prayed for the old man riding a bicycle on a narrow two-lane road. I prayed for the city workers picking up trash right next to the highway. I prayed for the construction crew building a new development. I prayed for the woman crossing the busy street. My prayers were for God to keep each person safe from harm.

It does not matter if we know the people for whom we pray. We are all daughters and sons of God. He created each one of us and we are his children. We are one family. He is counting on us to help him take care of each member, not just those we know well or those who are closest to us.

The apostle Paul said to the Colossians that whatever we do, we do for Jesus. “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Though it may feel strange at first to pray for people we see but have never met, we can learn to reach out – in word or deed – to everyone no matter where we find ourselves. The alternative is to look away or not pay any attention to them. We certainly would not ignore a friend, so why would we close our eyes to one of our siblings in our Father’s family?

Do we seek life or living? (Tuesday, April 30)

The whole purpose of living is God. Yet, even we as Christians fail to remember what we are about. It is easy to become so caught up in life that often we forget how to live. We miss the point when we are consumed by a career, a car, a house, entertaining, or being involved an organization. These may allow us to come into contact with much of life, but we will not give ourselves a chance to experience living – at least not on God’s level.

You and I have a chance to understand more than what the world calls life. God shows us a meaning beyond what we see each day; he allows us to discover ourselves and his purpose for our living. His plan is for us to find happiness and joy in simple things. As we help a neighbor, pray for a relative, make a meal for our family, send an e-mail to our spouse, we feel God working through us to bring about his wholeness and love. We take part in a divine activity not only for our life but in the life of someone else.

God made us for one another. We are a family in him. As we serve our sisters and brothers, we serve our Father. He loves each one of us and he wants us to know the kind of living that can make life meaningful. In order to do so, though, we must follow his example. Not what we see going on outside of our family. 

Peace to you (Monday, April 29)

We hardly know the true meaning of the word peace anymore. All around us there is unrest. You and I experience strife and conflict at work, in organizations, on the streets, among nations, between races, even in our homes and churches. No one is immune from the turbulence of life. People everywhere seem uneasy over one thing or another.

One popular dictionary defines the word peace as “a state of tranquility or quiet.” Another says peace is “a situation in which there is no war between countries or groups.” A third explains peace is “a situation in which there is no war or fighting.” No matter what our concept of peace is, all of us would agree that it denotes a state of calmness or serenity.

Still, there is another type of peace, one that we rarely consider. That is, peace as a verb – something active – rather than a noun. The original word comes from the Latin term pacisci, which means literally to “make a bargain or agreement.” In this context, Jesus’ words take on new import. When he says “my peace I give to you,” he means that he is making a covenant between us and him.

In the same manner, the heavenly proclamation to the shepherds on the night of Jesus’ birth reaffirms what God is doing for us. We are being given a divine gift from on high. “Glory to God in the highest,” sing the angels, “and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14). According to Matthew Henry’s commentary, “Peace is . . . for all that good which flows to us from Christ's taking our nature upon him.”

This is not the peace of the world, but the streaming and constant peace of the kingdom – that which is between us and our Savior. Despite where we are right now or what we are doing, we are able to experience his sinless and flawless peace.

More like him (Sunday, April 28)

Because of our experiences yesterday, we are not the same today. We have changed, if only in very subtle ways. God has been busy in our lives even as we were at rest last night.

All throughout the past 24 hours, God has been helping us, guiding us and protecting us. We may not realize the amazing work he has done, but our hearts and minds have been enlarged with his compassion and love.

We are not the same person right now because he has brought us closer to him and to his ways. Slowly but surely we are becoming more like our Father each minute of every day.

What you can do (Saturday, April 27)

Talents and gifts are meant to be exercised. These are no good tucked away and never brought out. God cannot use us unless we use what he has given us.

Almost every morning, I see a man down the street drive away without using the windshield wipers on the front window or clearing the side windows of condensation. How utterly stupid and careless! One of these days, I fear, he is going to hit a child walking to school or a car because he cannot see clearly.

We may wonder what this guy is thinking, but many of us are just like him when it comes to serving the Lord with our skills. We do not use what has been given to us. We refuse to use what we have and then complain we can’t see where God is leading us. In a way, we never turn on the wipers.

As you go through this day, may you make the most of what God has given you. Whether it is the ability for singing, speaking, praying, teaching or helping in some other way, show the world what you can do because God lives in you.

Having the will (Friday, April 26)

Each day, we encounter huge challenges and obstacles. None is more daunting than ourselves. The biggest battle we face most often is the self: our own will. Few things in the world are stronger and more determined.

The will is powerful enough on its own. But it also has two allies – two accomplices that help us get most anything we want. These are stubbornness and passion. Once we make up our mind about something, not much can stand in the way. We pursue our desires with relentless fervor. And we stick with it until we win. Almost nothing can stop us.

Most often we pay a high price for getting our way, though. In the end, we realize that what we received was not worth the cost. We got much more than we bargained for: we lost our composure, our peace, our contentment and our happiness.

If we stay close to Jesus, we have nothing to lose. With him, we can only grow and gain. He can increase our joy, not take it away. The next time we are faced with facing ourselves, we ought to step back and turn our will over to him. He can change our will before it changes us.

The first and final word (Thursday, April 25)

We have to obey God. Whether we are talking about our individual or corporate lives, we must be guided by everything God commands. We cannot pick and choose what we want to follow.

I cannot go to a restaurant after Sunday worship, for instance, and leave a paltry five percent tip for the server. Nor can I be praying to God on my way to work at the same time I am angry at the person who just cut in front of me.

The same applies to businesses and institutions that are founded on the Lord’s principles. The people in charge cannot do as they wish simply because they are in positions of power. They must be led by God; he is the head of everything and we are his body. We exist to serve him and to seek his will—all of it. Every letter and word.

Article 2 in the Shorter Catechism states clearly what we must do each and every day: “The word of God, which is contained in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.” We have no choice in the matter. Either we do things according to his plan and be blessed, or we do it our way and be troubled. To put it another way, he must have the first and final word in everything!

Share his gifts (Wednesday, April 24)

When will we get to the point where we can love others as much as we love ourselves? Think of all the things we do for ourselves. We make sure we have nice houses, clean clothes, good food and large cars. We treat ourselves well and to all sorts of things.

But what about the persons living right next door? Do we ever share what we have with them? Do we invite them over for dinner or a cookout? Do we even stop to talk with them in the driveway for a minute or two? Chances are the last conversation we had was when their dogs in the back yard barked too loud or too long.

“A new command I give you,” Jesus said. “Love one another. By this, everyone will know you are my disciples” (John 13:34-35). Loving one another means thinking of other people in the same way, and with the same meticulous care, as we do ourselves.

Do people recognize you as a disciple of Jesus? Do they see him in you? Or do they see only you, keeping all of God’s gifts to yourself? Remember, we cannot bring him the glory if we do not share his glory with the world.

Weighing your worth (Tuesday, April 23)

No one’s work for the Lord is any lesser or greater than the next person. The only difference is that it is different. Each of us has an individual gift to perform God’s will in a way that only we can do.

As humans, we tend to place more value on big accomplishments. There is a modern evangelist, for example, who claims to have brought 74 million people to the Lord thus far. Is his achievement any greater than the woman who always bakes wonderful cakes for every church event or the Sunday morning greeter who is at the sanctuary door each week month after month?

God does not play the numbers game. You may recall Jesus said the poor widow who gave two mites donated more than all of the others combined. The reason is simple: she gave everything she had while the rest of the people gave just some of what they possessed.

Never think the little things you do for God do not measure up. In his kingdom, the scales are not the same as down here on earth. He puts more value on our personal passion for serving rather than on the numbers we serve. 

God's constant gifts (Monday, April 22)

We have much for which to be thankful. We have more than any other people in the world, past and present. We have nice houses, good cars, all kinds of appliances and plenty of money. We also have more than enough food, water, heat and air conditioning, clothing, and medicine. Whatever our hearts desire, we can buy.

But the one thing that should make us most thankful, along with what Jesus did for us on the cross, is one another – the true sisters and brothers who care for us, pray for us, help us and listen to us. There are wonderful people all around us. It might be someone who is a constant source of encouragement, one who goes out of her way to write an email, or a person we rarely see but who is always interceding for us. Perhaps we are thankful for a neighbor, a doctor, a cashier or server, a teacher, a pastor or a mechanic.

Think of what our lives would be like without these persons in our lives. Our real Thanksgiving Day is every day of the year, not just one particular day in November. The friends God has made for us are with us throughout the weeks and months. They are there when we hurt, when we are happy, when we are disappointed and when we are celebrating. May we always be thankful for their constant presence and think of them as a precious present from the Lord.

The community of believers (Sunday, April 21)

At least once each week, the Lord gives us a chance to gather together as brothers and sisters in Christ. He knows that we need this time of fellowship and worship in order to realize what it means to love and support one another. Too often we think that we are alone as we go through difficult situations in life. We have the impression that no one understands our circumstances. Even more, we do not want to appear weak or vulnerable so we do not share our burdens with each other.

As we see each other on Sunday, we have a wonderful opportunity to draw strength and encouragement from fellow believers. There are weeks when we are strong and we can help someone else. There also are times when we feel lonely, sick or afraid, and we need to let others help us.

Imagine the delight and pleasure the Lord feels when he sees all of us living as a family in him. As our father, he is happiest when all of his children are together. It pleases him to see us loving one another in the same way he loves each one of us. 

Don't lose your peace
(Saturday, April 20)

All of us are disturbed by the events going on around us, especially when it comes to the church and Christian institutions. Why would Christian colleges fire dedicated and committed employees? Why do Christian businesses go out of business? Why do well-meaning charities go bankrupt?

The honest answer is only God knows and we have to trust his judgment. Instead of being overwhelmed by what we see or think, we need to believe he will bring divine victory out of earthly failure. Over and over we have to repeat that God is going to turn this obstacle into an opportunity for people to see his glory.

He weeps when any of his children are hurting or confused because he realizes we do not understand. His will takes time to unfold or else he would gladly show us the exact day when everything will be restored. In the meantime, he comforts us as best he can and as much as we allow him.

“Let not your hearts be troubled,” Jesus said (John 14:1). We can be perplexed over what is happening to us and the world, but we cannot let the bewilderment in our minds disturb the peace in our hearts. If we lose the calm he imparts in our hearts then we will be completely lost.

Ears for God (Friday, April 19)

Children often have a difficult time listening to instructions and directions. Adults are not much different. For example, when was the last time the Lord asked you to do something and you did nothing?

God is constantly telling us what to do. He tries to direct and guide our steps. Yet, most of what he says goes right over our heads. We do not have a clue he is speaking because we hear only our own thoughts.

We have to get out of the habit of listening to ourselves all day. “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes,” said Solomon, “but a wise person listens to advice” (Proverbs 12:15). What sense is there in following our own foolish wisdom when we can have the true wisdom of God?

May we not be foolish enough today to think we know what to do in every situation. Chances are we do not even know what to do in even the smallest circumstance. Remember how you felt the last time someone took the parking spot you wanted at the mall.

One special person (Thursday, April 18)

Think of all the great tasks that are done by regular people—individuals like you and me. The truth is, though, there is nothing mundane or ordinary about our work when God is working through us.

There is a person who is mentioned only twice in the New Testament. First, in the preface of his gospel, Luke says he is writing to the “most excellent Theophilus.” The Ryrie Study Bible notes that the name means “dear to God” or “friend of God.” This man is “unknown otherwise, but the form of the address shows that he was a person of high rank.”

Many theories exist about the identity of Theophilus. Was he a Jewish priest, Roman official, lawyer or common citizen? All of these aside, Luke thought enough of him to mention him in the very beginning of his gospel and the Book of Acts.

The whole point is that the world may never know the wonderful things you are doing for the kingdom. Everyone will not see what God is doing through you, but there always will be one special person like Luke who is deeply grateful for your service and commitment to the Lord.

Your new testament (Wednesday, April 17)

The apostle Paul always wanted to go to Spain to spread the good news of salvation. He made three missionary journeys, but as far as we know none of them included this particular nation.

What we do know for certain is that years later Paul’s letters did make it to Spain. Long after his death, his epistles to the Corinthians, the Galatians and the Ephesians were copied and circulated everywhere people traveled. Paul’s words to the people of Spain were just as alive as when he lived.

All of us have stories to tell about our relationship with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. We need to make sure these words are passed on to others, especially those who will come after us decades from now. “I will open my mouth with a parable,” said Asaph. “I will utter hidden things, things from of old—things we have heard and known, things our ancestors have told us” (Psalm 78:2-3).

What will our descendants have to say about our relationship with the Lord if we do not pass along what “we have heard and known.” We are the ancestors of tomorrow and our words can be a true new testament that future generations need to believe in God.

Our co-mission (Tuesday, April 16)

The Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) is sharing the good news of salvation. As Christians, our co-mission is to tell the world what Jesus did for everyone through his death and resurrection. We know the truth about eternal life. All we have to do is to repeat what we know.

There is nothing complicated, complex, or confusing about the message. Even children can tell how Jesus died on the cross and came back to life three days later. Girls and boys in the church accept and believe the story. As we grow up, however, we have all sorts of questions and doubts. We start to wonder why Jesus had to die in this way, why he had to suffer, and what we should be doing as modern-day disciples. We try to make sense out of his birth, death, and everything in between.

Jesus warned people about their grown-up attitudes and perspectives. He said we need to be careful of our own doubts as adults: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3).

We have to change back to what we were long ago: loving and believing children who did not question. We knew in our hearts.

Being big through God (Monday, April 15)

Each day, I wonder what I can do for God. I can encourage someone. I can help someone. I can listen to someone. I can pray with someone. I can tell someone about God. I can simply love someone.

There is much I am able to do during these brief hours in order to serve God. But I know myself. I know I will fail many times. I will miss many opportunities and chances. Try as I might, I will let God down, not once but often. I will forget about him as I rush from one appointment to another. I will not take time to remember what he wants me to do. I will think more about myself than him.

I seldom keep in mind the little things that make a huge difference. Instead, I want to be used only in big ways. I want to walk on water like Peter, travel the world like Paul and lead the people like Moses. I know I want to be bigger than I am. I have to learn that I cannot be any more important than when I am doing God’s will. Nothing else on earth can compare to fulfilling my purpose for God.

What should make my life worthwhile is worth anything that God asks of me. I may never be recognized or remembered by the world, but God will always remember what I did for him – even throughout eternity. I can be big in God’s eyes when I am the smallest in myself.

His spiritual presence (Sunday, April 14)

The greatness of God is everywhere. Most of all, his greatness is in us – what he does for us and through us. Countless times he has comforted us, helped us, protected us and guided us. God has been there through each crisis, not merely watching but actively and lovingly taking care of us.

There have been many times when we did not understand God’s plan, especially when we were called to wait and to be patient. Oftentimes, anxiety made our situation worse both for us and for God. Still, he has been there in the darkness, giving us his strength when we did not feel strong, showing us the way when we were lost and sheltering us when we felt abandoned.

Like a father, God has taken care of us since our birth. He has brought us to this place in our lives, to this day, and he will not leave us now. His hand continues to be upon us despite what we see going on all around us. We must constantly remind ourselves that God is with us each minute.

Through the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit, we are never alone. God truly is everywhere. We can find him, and experience his peace, if we know where to look. We must seek him through his spirit, not through our physical ways.

All that awaits us (Saturday, April 13)

Unlike us as human beings, God does not worry. He is not anxious. Nor is he concerned about time – whether or not things happen according to the events of this world. So, too, God is never swayed or affected by what people do or do not do. At the same time, though, he cares for us and wants to give us his peace.

We can only experience his divine assurance by placing complete faith in him. He alone knows the future. God knows where he is taking us. All things work together for those who love and trust him. There is a great future awaiting us. God has made it and promised it. Despite our many doubts and fears sometimes, God’s plan does not change.

All of the challenges of life are taking us nearer to the day when we shall see his greatness. We will realize his blessings and fullness beyond all we have ever imagined. Then our struggles of this present moment will not matter. They will be gone forever, replaced by what God had waiting for us all along.

Citizens of heaven (Friday, April 12)

No matter where we reside, we must follow the laws and regulations of that particular place. Paul said that “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20). Therefore, we need to live a worldly life that is worthy of eternity.

As residents of heaven, we display love and not hate. We practice patience and are never anxious. We are accepting when circumstances might make us intolerant. And we are open-minded rather than judgmental.

All of these virtues are the hallmarks of a kingdom citizen. We adhere to the statues of our earthly states and nations, but we do much more. We follow in the footsteps of Jesus who walked this journey long before us. He is our divine example of how to conduct ourselves each day.

We need to picture ourselves walking on streets of gold in a place that Jesus has prepared for us. We are able to see him, be with him and sing praises to him. Even though we are walking through the darkness down here, we must be the shining lights that point the way heavenward.

Thirsting for him (Thursday, April 11)

Getting to know the Lord takes a lifetime. The years we live teach us about God’s love, power and care. When we first begin our journey with him, we are but little children. As we grow and develop, however, we start to comprehend his greatness though we can never fully grasp his ways.

The more we learn of God, the more we will want to know. That must be our driving passion and deepest longing, even more than our physical needs. It is much like the living water that Jesus proclaimed would satisfy us. “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13-14).

If we are always seeking to gratify our basic yearnings, we will never reach the place he has planned for us. We need to have a divine spring of water welling up inside of us so God’s grace can flow freely and continuously into our hearts. He alone is the living water that quenches our thirsty soul.

Fixed on God (Wednesday, April 10)

Desires of the mind are quite different than desires of the heart. The mind tends to wander, while the heart is always fixed on God.

This conflict between the head and the heart is as old as the story of Adam and Eve. Choosing between the pure desires of God and the wishes of the human will is a constant struggle. Emotions, feelings and thoughts can lead away from God. Trust, obedience and truth keep us centered on God. We have a natural tendency to stray when we need to stay; it is always easier to pursue what we want than to remain where we are with God.

But the battle is not ours alone. God is there to help when we feel helpless and weak. We can call on his strength to stay where we are and to do the right thing. His power and authority are greater than anything that threatens to take us in the wrong direction. Whether we are tempted by the world or even by our own minds, God can keep us focused on him.

We have to believe with our heart that he will give us all we need. We do not have to go searching on our own for anything else.

Feeling God’s love (Tuesday, April 9)

Remember your reaction the last time you helped someone in need? That very feeling was the divine blessing of God’s love, which touches us like nothing else in the world.

When we extend compassion to others, we suddenly remember the grace that has already been given to us. We recall times, maybe years earlier, when we required the help or assistance of someone as we reach out to those who need us now.

Giving money to the poor reminds us when we were poor. Shopping for a neighbor reminds us when someone had to shop for us. Taking used pants and shirts to the homeless reminds us when we could not afford new clothes.

One of the most memorable experiences of my life was when my wife and I spent the day of our 30th wedding anniversary collecting money for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. All at once, our personal celebration became more meaningful because we focused on other people. We felt God’s love in a unique way as we used our special day giving some hope to people who had absolutely nothing left to live for.

Having a glad heart (Monday, April 8)

Praising God continuously transforms and renews us. In an instant, we can be new creatures in him. When we lift our hearts, hands, voices, minds and bodies – all that we are and have – toward God, we set ourselves free from the earthly problems that so often beset us. Our perspective on life shifts dramatically because we are taking time to experience the full glory of God. Being grateful for the great works he has done shows us, proves to us, how much we have been blessed.

Nothing else matters when we live each moment through the presence of God. He is all we see and hear as we go through the day. If we encounter trouble, we realize our entire life will not fall apart. If we do not feel well, we know God will heal us. If we lack strength and energy, we have faith he will help us. If we are depressed, we understand he will lift us. If we are anxious, we believe he will calm us. If we feel grief and sorrow, we remember he will comfort us.

Worshipping and praising God are not hard, yet they do not come easily. Sometimes we must fight our way through hatred, regret, suffering and stubbornness. On occasion, we must battle even harder with feelings of anger toward God.

We need to know, and remind ourselves over and over again, God is good. He has given us the gift of life and the grace of his love. We can praise him for these two things alone; yet, how much more he has done for you and me. No matter what this day brings, we are able to give thanks. We praise him with a glad heart, confident that he walks with us because we see all his blessings.

Are you ready? (Sunday, April 7)

We need to be set at all times to be a witness – to be able to share our good news at a moment’s notice. We never know when God will open a door or give us a chance to lead someone to salvation. When the time comes, he expects us to be prepared for what he has called us to do.

Too often, we think that being an obedient follower means doing all of the right things: going to church, serving on committees, teaching Sunday School, being kind and patient, helping our friends and neighbors, not getting angry, even tithing regularly. All of these are good, of course. But if we are not able to share why we do them, then we are not doing everything we can. We are falling short of explaining to others how much God really means to us.

Think of Philip’s “chance” encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch. Philip is in the right place at the right time. God has brought both of these men together in the middle of the day on the long, desolate road leading from Jerusalem to Gaza. The eunuch is reading a passage from Isaiah, and Philip asks if he understands the meaning? How can I, says the Ethiopian, unless someone guides me? Philip takes the time not only to explain the scripture, but also to baptize the man.

Like Philip, we must be ready. We never know who we are going to meet on the road today.

Where are you living? (Saturday, April 6)

There are times when we need to push ourselves beyond ourselves. We have to draw on every ounce of faith we have and trust God. Even though the Lord is always leading the way, sometimes it is hard just following in his footsteps.

Remember when you were little and you tried to place your feet exactly where an adult had walked? You almost had to jump from one imprint to the next. It took all of the strength and energy you had just to go 15 or 20 feet.

God is constantly encouraging us to go farther and higher in our walk of faith. We need to learn how to look up at him rather than always down in front of us. Get your eyes and hearts off of the world for a while so you can imagine what is possible with God in you.

He has no limits. He has no boundaries. In the physical sphere of our human capabilities, we can do very little. But in the scope of heaven, everything suddenly becomes feasible. It all depends on what realm we are living in.

Reaching out (Friday, April 5)

Like most of us, you came to the Lord because someone told you about him. The person explained what Jesus had done personally and how he came to offer salvation to every woman, man, girl and boy. There are those around us who need to hear the good news.

When I was 15, I accepted Christ at a Youth for Christ rally on a Saturday evening in downtown Cleveland, Ohio. I did not move when the speaker gave the call to come forward. I remember standing there at my seat for what seemed forever. I was afraid to move and to publically declare Jesus as my Lord and Savior.

Had it not been for the close friend next to me, I would not have had the courage to go up on stage. My friend Don asked me if I was ready. One simple invitation from him was all it took.

Since then my life has not been the same. My journey for the past 45 years has been divinely guided by the one I almost ignored. What a mistake I would have made—an eternal mistake. Don’t let a friend or anyone else go the wrong way. Spread the great news of what Jesus has done in your life. You will be amazed at the difference he can make for others, too. But you have to take the first step for them.
 
The new you
(Thursday, April 4)

God has a precise plan for you. It is a separate, individual design based on the skills, talents and abilities he has given you. As your life unfolds, remember that he must work through you in his own way. Sometimes that means he must change you before he can accomplish his will.

We had to make significant changes in our house when we had new carpeting installed in every room. The same occurred when we had all of the rooms painted. All 1,800 square feet of space! We had to move furniture to replace the carpet and we had to take everything off the walls for repainting. There was no other way to accomplish each job.

In a similar way, God has to make changes in us so we can serve him as he planned. He may have to modify our way of thinking or our attitude toward someone. It is not easy on us or God, but there is no other way.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ,” wrote the apostle Paul, “the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here” (2 Corinthians 5:17). The only way for God to make us new is to let him redo us according to his plan.

Where he leads (Wednesday, April 3)

Contrary to what most people believe at times, the greatest part of following God is the journey. Each day brings something new and different, yet there is constant safety and security in his presence. Illness may come, rejection may attack, depression may overwhelm, loneliness may strike and tragedy may occur. None of these, however, can penetrate God’s defense.

He is our rock, our fortress, our protector, our stronghold. In him, we find refuge no matter where we go or what we experience. His infinite and invisible love surrounds us daily. He carries us safely from place to place on the road he has created for us. His rod and staff offer shelter and comfort. Though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we should fear no evil. A shadow cannot harm us.

God is the gentle shepherd who leads his people beside the still waters and on paths of righteousness where we are restored for his sake, not for that of the world. We are led each step of the way; even goodness and love follow us from behind. Nothing can touch us for we are surrounded by him, safe in his company.

With him as our guide, we should not want for anything else. No matter what we face today, we are safe because of his grace. He is with us each day of our life. 

Our house and his (Tuesday, April 2)

Each Sunday, and often throughout the week, people everywhere go to the house of God. They go to praise, worship, meet and pray. We love being in his house.

If we think about it, though, we are always in God’s house whether at church or at home. Aren’t our own houses – the ones in which we dwell daily – also houses of God? We can do all of the same things where we live as we do in a corporate building with a congregation. We can praise, worship, meet and pray with those who mean the most to us.

God’s house is his house as well as our house. Wherever we find ourselves, we also need to remember the most important element is God. Psalm 127:1 reminds us that, "Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain."

He must be at the center of any building we do, be it in our personal lives or in our physical dwellings. Every place is God’s house.

One purpose (Monday, April 1)

Our sole purpose as Christians is “to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.” These words from the Shorter Catechism should be more than a reminder of what we need to do each day. They should tell us how to allow God into our lives so we live according to his plan.

Much of what we do daily, however, gets in the way. From morning to night, it seems our many activities separate us from God: working, shopping, entertaining, studying, even eating. Seeing God in all these places and times is not easy.

Frequently, we have to push beyond our neighborhoods, the television programs, the breaking news and all of the chatter around us in order to notice the God of the universe. When we first seek him, he is barely visible through the fabric of our busy schedules. But, as we look closer and more intently, we will begin to see his brightness and radiance.

Slowly, he reveals himself to us. When the complete magnificence of his eternal love comes shining through, we wonder why we never noticed its beauty before. As we truly see God’s divine love and begin to grasp his greatness, our whole desire in life will change. Nothing will be more important to us than “to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.”

We are risen (Sunday, March 31)

In churches throughout the world today people will greet one another in hundreds of different languages. “He is risen,” one parishioner will say. “He is risen, indeed,” will be the response. Yes, Easter reveals the wonderful truth over and over again. We have eternal salvation because of his resurrection.

There always will be a tinge of sadness in the proclamation. The great miracle over death comes just three days after the greatest tragedy in history. We cannot easily forget the beating Jesus endured and then the suffering he bore as he hung on the cross for six hours.

When it was all said and done, his body was dead and defeated. But not his spirit. "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit," he said just before taking his last breath (Luke 23:46).

His spirit could not be killed. Nor can our spirit be slain—all because of him. Knowing what he did for us, perhaps we should declare on this day: “We are risen.” “We are risen, indeed.” He accepted the pain and sin to give us his victory over death.

Look everywhere for Jesus (Saturday, March 30)

Jesus appeared to the disciples many times after his resurrection. On at least one occasion, they did not recognize him. Nor did they recognize his voice.

Several of them had been fishing all night, but caught nothing. A man suddenly appeared on the shore and told them to drop their net on the other side of the boat. “When they did,” writes John (21:6), “they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.” It was at that moment that John realized the stranger was Jesus himself.

We might wonder how they did not know Jesus the instant they saw and heard him. Perhaps they were tired. Maybe they were distracted. Most likely, though, they were not even looking for him. They were intent on catching fish.

How many times each day do we fail to see or hear Jesus? It takes a miracle to get our attention; then we finally wake up to his presence. Let us look for Jesus everywhere we go. Not just when or where we need him.

Change your day (Friday, March 29)

What describes how your day began: getting up while it was still dark; complaining children; a barking dog; oversleeping by half an hour; nothing to eat for breakfast; the kids missing the school bus; the car failing to start; not feeling well; all of the above.

It does not take much to set us off in the morning. The slightest disruption can make us angry and edgy. Even listening to the news, weather or traffic on television can send us into despair.

We do not have to stay that way for the rest of the day, though. We have the ability to snap out of it. Most of the time we prefer to remain miserable rather than making an effort to change.

No matter how your day started, it can always end in perfect peace. What you need to do is to seek your happiness outside of the world of everyday troubles. Look up to heaven and see God’s gladness. “Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength" (Nehemiah 8:10). May the sheer power of his goodness and love change your day in a dramatic, wonderful way.

Your heavenly reflection (Thursday, March 28)

How do you see yourself? I saw a picture of a kitten on Facebook. He was looking at his image in a mirror. The reflection was an enormous lion with a huge mane! That’s how this little guy saw himself.

The same should happen when we look up at God. We should see ourselves as mighty children in a glorious kingdom, robed in the majesty of heaven and the glory of God.

The world does not see us for who we are in Christ. People see us only as human beings with all kinds of flaws and frailties. To those around us, we are weak, forgetful and undignified. We may even appear downtrodden and worthless.

“But you are a chosen people,” says Peter the fisherman, who was later known as the rock. “A royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9). Through God, we are suddenly transformed into royal priests of the Most High. Look carefully at your reflection in the mirror of heaven. You will see how great you are!

Let him out (Wednesday, March 27)

St. Paul had written many times to the church in Corinth. He was trying to get people to resolve their differences among one another. At one point, he sounds like he is almost at the end of his rope. “Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you,” he exclaimed (2 Corinthians 13:5). Paul seems to be saying, “Stop fighting and arguing with one another. Can’t you understand that Jesus himself is living inside of you?”

One of the most difficult lessons in life is how to let Jesus out. He lives in us, but people have a hard time seeing him in our anger and anxiety. Instead, we push Jesus aside and release ourselves. Our base emotions come pouring out as we tell everyone what we think and feel.

Why do we keep Jesus buried deep inside and show the world our natural, untamed flesh? What a poor testimony to the one we profess to love and serve.

Learn to die to self. Put away your old nature and reveal the true nature of Jesus Christ. Allow him to come out. Let people see that he is, indeed, living in you. The only way they will know is if they see his compassion, his kindness and his gentleness in spite of who you are as a human being.

No more anxiety (Tuesday, March 26)

Our heads never stop thinking. We want to understand everything from the way people treat us to why God allows us to experience pain. Our quest for answers is part of our nature, but we must learn how to turn it off sometimes.

One day I received an email from someone I had not seen or spoken with in well over a decade. The woman referred to a time when we worked together. She wondered why, if I knew, she was treated badly by many persons in the office.

This dear sister in Christ still was struggling with an issue 10 years later. She was trying to make sense out of something that did not make sense. The truth is this woman did her job with great enthusiasm and passion. The students loved her! Not so for several of the teachers.

When I respond, I trust God will give me the correct words to help her rest, though she may not understand. I know the Lord can ease her doubt and uncertainty. What Paul the apostle said is true: “The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). He will keep her from any more anxiety as she slowly turns away from the past and sets her complete confidence in him. 

Decisive or divisive? (Monday, March 25)

Many times we misunderstand our role in the kingdom of God here on earth. Rather than being decisive for Christ, we become divisive to the kingdom. We invite people to accept Jesus as Savior, but then we push them away with all of our rules and regulations—the do’s and don’ts of our faith.

What we frequently forget in the zeal to serve is that Jesus came to set us free, all of us, from the devices of this world. Christian or not, we can easily make more out of religion than God ever intended. Although we may mean well as we explain to others the precise steps they must take to lead a righteous life, our words and actions can betray the real truth.

Jesus came that we might have life and have it to the fullest. To be decisive for the Lord, we need to preach the great commandment of love: first to love God and second to love our neighbor. If we add anything of our own, we run the risk being divisive.

The faith of a child (Sunday, March 24)

I asked my little granddaughter what she wanted to be when she grew up. Without any hesitation whatsoever she said, “A doctor and an artist.” What a marvelous goal! She proclaimed it with such determination, as if had already happened. To her, it was settled; there was no doubt in her mind.

What about you and me? Do we look at the future with the identical kind of resolve and tenacity? When we say we have hope in God, do we really mean it or is there a bit of reluctance in our voice? Maybe we are just hoping everything will work out by chance rather than actually believing it will.

We need to develop our confidence in God, having the faith to know he will take care of us. We must stand tall and firm like a tree that remains strong through any situation. “Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit” (Jeremiah 17:7-8).

Think about your future. You may not know exactly what will happen, but you know who has planned it. My granddaughter might never become a doctor or an artist someday. The whole point is that right now she believes she will. As grown-ups, we need to have the same child-like faith when it comes to trusting in God’s goodness for the days ahead.

Do whatever he asks (Saturday, March 23)

God speaks in ways that transcend human hearing and knowledge. It might be through a feeling, a tugging at the heartstrings or an unexpected thought. However it occurs, God will make himself known to us as long as we are open to his will and voice.

“For the word of God is alive and active,” Paul wrote. “Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

His desire is unmistakable. We know it the second it comes to us. The problem is we usually want three or four signs as a confirmation. He must wonder why we do not act the first time he prompts us.

Both his voice and presence are “alive and active” all of the time. There is something God wants you to do today. He could do it himself, but he wants you to share his work in this world. Listen carefully and follow him. You already have the ability to do whatever he wants; otherwise, he would not ask. 

Something much better! (Friday, March 22)

Disappointment leads down a path that goes nowhere. It is a road that never ends and never stops. There is neither happiness nor satisfaction along the way.

Perhaps you were not selected for some honor or award. Maybe someone else was chosen over you for a specific position. You might have been turned down to be on a special committee or team. Possibly you experienced the sting of rejection in a number of other ways.

No doubt you already know the journey you are on—this flight of despair—is wrought with loss and regret. You feel as though you are missing out on something, that your life is somehow incomplete, because the richness of what might have been is gone.

God tells us not to be downhearted; he has something greater for us. “Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up” (Psalm 71:20). God will restore whatever you think you have lost. Look at disappointment as being temporary. In no time at all, God will turn your earthly disappointment into a divine re-appointment to something much better!

Don't second-guess (Thursday, March 21)

How often have you asked yourself this overwhelming question: “Was there something more I could have done?” It may involve a person or situation, but we usually think we could have changed the outcome.

The disciples must have wondered if they could have done something else to stop Jesus from being arrested and crucified. Perhaps they should have taken him out of town or fought against the Roman guards. They might have been able to hide him, too, or take his place. When they saw him on the cross, they probably thought of all kinds of possibilities.

We are no different. When something goes wrong – someone dies or a set of circumstances turns out badly – we wonder what else we could have done. In the end, though, we have to accept the results and realize we cannot control each and every action that occurs. Life is simply too big for us to handle alone.

But God is much larger than the world. “The mountains quake before him and the hills melt away. The earth trembles at his presence, the world and all who live in it” (Nahum 1:5). Although we may question our actions from time to time, we need to understand that things happen according to God’s will. Avoid the temptation to second-guess. After you have done your best, he will take care of the rest.

Grace or disgrace?
(Wednesday, March 20)

Believers are great at accepting grace, but not so good at giving it. We expect God to give us his grace freely and unconditionally. Yet, we do not share or extend grace very well even to other Christians.

You and I often behave like the person in the parable of the unforgiving servant. A certain man pleaded with his master to be patient with him because he could not repay a debt of 10,000 talents. “The lord of that servant, being moved with compassion, released him, and forgave the debt” (Matthew 18:27). This same servant then put another person in prison for a debt of 100 denarii. The forgiven individual was unwilling to extend the same grace that was given to him.

When we get into positions of authority or leadership, we suddenly forget all of the grace that God and others have given to us through the years. We become the unforgiving servant who feels justified for not excusing or forgiving people.

Maybe it would help us to revise a common phrase. Rather than saying “they will know we are Christians by our love,” we should say “they will know we are Christians by our grace.” May you have the kindness today to treat people the way you want them to treat you—with grace.

Remember this (Tuesday, March 19)

God knows what you are going through and he will see you through. He is our guide, our protector, our shelter and our fortress – the solid rock of our salvation. When nothing else remains, he stands. When everything else is gone, he is there.

We do not have to encounter great, catastrophic ordeals that make us wonder about God’s presence in our lives. Sometimes all of the little difficulties add up and make us just as anxious, just as hopeless. I am the type of person, for example, who can handle the big things. But I fall apart when three or four tiny obstacles get in my way. Suddenly, the world seems a forbidding and cold place.

On the other hand, there are those who march right through the small problems. They can take care of one trouble after another without the least bit of worry or defeat. We are all different; no two persons react the same way in the same trial. The important element for all of us to remember is that God does not change.

From the beginning, he has been the same. He does not waver like we do as human beings. His truth and his love are constant. He is the same whether we are going through something big or little. “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff,” was the title of a book published years ago. Good advice. But we should not fret the big things either. Through it all, large or small, God will see us through.

Gold through fire
(Monday, March 18)

The problem for most of us is that we want to be stronger in our faith, but none of us wants to be tested or tried. We want to be more trusting without doing anything to increase our belief in God. What we are seeking can happen only through hardship. The more we encounter, and overcome through the Lord, the stronger our faith will become.

An athlete does not become better merely by desire. The process involves hard work and an occasional injury. A scholar does not become wiser without years of study and research. Nor does a person become a writer by wanting to publish a novel one day.

There is always a vast difference between what we want and what we are willing to do to achieve our goal. We know that nothing will happen in our lives unless we push ourselves beyond ourselves. We have to be more committed to what we are doing than how we are feeling. Time after time, the great examples of our faith were tested. Peter, Paul, Stephen, and others experienced adversity; they became strong through suffering. In their personal weakness they learned that they could depend on God.

We can do all things through him who strengthens us. Today we will have many obstacles to overcome; the greatest may well be ourselves and our will. May we remember, in each trial, that God is building us up. He is not beating us down.

Wearing our faith (Saturday, March 16)

Various passages in the New Testament remind us to clothe ourselves with certain qualities, such as compassion, humility, love, patience, and understanding (Colossians 3:12). Do not misread what God (through Paul) is saying. He does not tell us merely to practice these so that we can become better persons. Instead, God instructs us to clothe ourselves in them.

Wearing compassion and being compassionate are quite different. When we wear a piece of clothing, it becomes a part of us much like a shirt or a pair of shoes. The items move when we move; we do not have to think about them. On the other hand, when we perform a certain act—say, being compassionate toward someone—we may do so only for the moment. Depending on our circumstances, we might not be kind and considerate all of the time.

We have to learn how to be compassionate, loving, and humble constantly. Our calling is to wear these virtues like a piece of clothing so that they become a part of our being. They go with us no matter where we go, what we do, or how we feel. When we wrap ourselves in the right way, we are covering ourselves with the eternal garments of heaven.

Our Father (Friday, March 15)

My prayer today is to accept your will. Father, I need your peace. I trust you Lord, though I don’t understand. I believe you, yet I am confused. I have faith in you God, despite my fears.

When I pause to consider how great you are, I wonder why I sometimes doubt at all. After all, you are the creator of the universe, the creator of all life, and the creator of me. Why is it that I so often lose my hope when I know you are all these things?

You are in control of each and every situation. No matter what occurs, you will not leave me or abandon me. You do not make me an orphan. You remain faithful, like a loving father who protects and cares for his children. You are ever-lasting all the days of my life.

Even now, if I have any reason or cause to question you, I ask your help. Forgive my weakness. Grant me your might and courage. On my own, I would surely give up. But with you, I can endure. Even more, I will overcome any difficulty because of you! 

Not by accident (Thursday, March 14)

To most of the world, circumstances and events occur because of good luck, bad luck or coincidence. For us as Christians, we know that everything happens for a reason. That reason is God’s will.

Nothing happens without God’s knowledge. We may be surprised, shocked, disappointed. But God is never taken unawares. Therefore, we do not have to fear what may or may not happen in the days ahead. All we have to think about is his care of us.

Like David, we can sing of the Lord’s constant love regardless of our condition. “But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever” (Psalm 52:8). We are similar to an olive tree, strong and healthy, thriving through winter winds, spring rains and summer heat.

No one can stop the fruit we bear because we are “flourishing in the house [and will] of God.” He protects us and also helps us grow through his love. We will blossom no matter where he decides to plant us. His plan is perfect even if he decides to move us and transplant us someplace else.

Using emotions right (Wednesday, March 13)

How often we misuse what God has given us. Occasionally, we use our emotions the wrong way. Instead of always having a loving attitude, we become angry and upset. Instead of being patient, we get anxious. Instead of helping others, we harm them.

It is easy to turn things around, like the woman I saw down the street who was using a push broom to pull dirt toward her rather than pushing it away. This type of broom can be used in either direction, but it works best when used in the manner it was designed. We sometimes use our passion, desire and persistence in opposite ways, too.

God did not imbue us with feelings to be destructive. His will is for us to use our emotions for good. What if Joseph would have been angry at his brothers rather than forgiving them? What if the father of the prodigal son would have been furious and not welcomed the boy as he did?

Every minute, we must safeguard how we act. The only way to use our emotions in serving God is to let him guide us. “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). He is only able to keep us in check when we keep our hearts and minds in Jesus.

A whole, new life (Tuesday, March 12)

Today is not the same. The world does not seem as beautiful or complete as it did last week. This past weekend, the mother of our seven-year-old granddaughter died. Liz was just 29. Much too young to leave us and this world.

We never know what will happen in the future to ourselves or our loved ones. There are no guarantees. We have only God’s promise that he will care for us. He will love us all the days of our lives.

We believe Liz is with our heavenly father and that her troubles are over. She is at rest now in perfect peace. Never again will she have to suffer or struggle through each day.

Still, we mourn our loss as we celebrate her life, short as it was. We will miss her and we have many wonderful memories to sustain us until we see her again. “When everything is ready,” Jesus said to his disciples, “I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am” (John 14:3). The Lord came much too soon for Liz, but now she is truly alive in a whole, new way for all of eternity.

Discover the good (Monday, March 11)

“It’s my way or the highway.” Perhaps you work for someone who lives by this philosophy. I once had a boss who constantly told people what to do, how to do it and when to do it. He even went as far as to say how long certain tasks should take. If something took more time, he berated the person openly in front of everyone.

Years after I left the daily newspaper as a reporter, this man lost his job. When I first heard the news, I was elated. Chuck got what he deserved, I thought. A short time later, I suddenly felt sorry for him. He did not deserve to be fired in spite of his shortcomings or attitude. He had a lot to offer and he would be missed.

Sometimes we have to give people a break. They may mistreat or belittle us, but we do not have the right to hate them. Maybe if we took more time to discover the good in certain individuals, we would pay less attention to our own feelings of anger.

Jesus asks us today, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye” (Matthew 7:3). Chuck was not perfect and neither was I. We both had our faults and failings. I have to confess that Chuck taught me how to write—and write well! His constant nagging actually helped me, but I was too sensitive and hurt at the time to know it.

Please pray for me (Sunday, March 10)

We are eager to share our joys with the world. We love to tell everyone if something fantastic happens. On the other hand, we are not so willing to ask people to pray for us when we need help. Our natural instinct is to keep our problems to ourselves.

God did not create us to live behind a veil or to put our heads in the sand when we experience difficulty. He wants us to share the happy moments as well as the sad. “Rejoice with those who rejoice,” wrote the apostle Paul, “and mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15).

Why is it so hard for us to ask for prayer, unless it is absolutely necessary? We should go to our friends whether we are up against a life-changing crisis or simply need courage to deal with a problem at school or work. The other day, I swallowed my pride and asked three people to pray for me. I awoke the next morning feeling wonderful. I was not troubled in the least by what occurred the day before.

All of us are on this journey of life together. Be honest with your friends and yourself. Don’t be afraid to let people know you are vulnerable. You can only witness God’s strength when you admit you are weak.

God's promise (Saturday, March 9)

All of us are beset by disappointment from time to time. The hurt is especially acute when it is something we wanted or something we thought was good. Maybe we were turned down for a job or passed over for an important position. The only way to handle our letdown is to let God turn it around.

When setbacks occur, remember what Joseph said to his brothers after he was reunited with them: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good” (Genesis 50:20). Looking back on being thrown in a well, sold to slave traders and imprisoned for years, Joseph was able to understand the good that God planned all along. God took the evil and made it good.

Hindsight is always 20-20. After the fact, we know the outcome. The difficulty comes when we are faced with a situation and do not know what will happen. All we realize is what we feel at the moment. In a very real way, however, we do know what the future holds.

We know that God intends everything for his good. Any disappointment we feel at first will disappear the second God takes matters into his hands. It is only a matter of when, not if, God turns everything around. Try to be like Joseph and never forget that God is a god of both goodness and promise.

For better or worse (Friday, March 8)

Change happens in an instant. We can be fine one moment and in pain the next. On the other hand, we can be suffering and all of a sudden we are well. We always turn to God when things go from good to bad, but we seldom look to him when life takes a turn for the better.

When we encounter difficulty, we look to God and wonder why. Why did I lose my job? Why did I get sick? Why wasn’t I chosen? Why did this happen now? We always think there is an explanation God can give us for our predicament. Chances are we would not understand even if he explained what was going on.

Do we ask the same kinds of questions when God blesses us? Why do I have this home when others are homeless? Why have you given me good health while others, especially little children, are sick and dying? Why have I prospered when others are poor? Why have you educated me while others are not. Time and time again, God has given us wonderful gifts and opportunities. More often than not, we have probably taken them for granted.

You and I have much for which to be grateful, despite the everyday tribulations of life. We cannot afford to be distracted by negative thoughts or feelings if we are truly the representation of Jesus Christ on earth. We must live as he did: with perseverance and persistence, giving thanks in all things (good or bad).

Waste of time (Wednesday, March 6)

Sometimes we learn only by learning the hard way. A case in point: last week I was extremely disturbed about an incident that occurred at work. I felt as though my thoughts were being completely overlooked. What I said did not seem to matter to anyone.

All of my anxiety was over a meeting that was being scheduled, whether I could attend or not. As it turns out, I found out this morning that the meeting had to be cancelled anyway. We would have to choose another day and time.

Everything I had put myself through, the frustration and anger, meant nothing now. Literally, I had become upset over absolutely nothing. Worst of all, I had forgotten to trust in the Lord. Instead, I was trusting in what I wanted.

How many times do we become swept away by our emotions and feelings? We make a decision without talking with God, and then get mad when things don’t turn out as we expect. We have to remember that God’s expectations are much different than ours. He wants what is best for us, but we want what is convenient. May we stop learning the hard way and begin to trust God in the first place. If we do, we will have more time to enjoy life because we will not have to be anxious over anything.

First aid (Tuesday, March 5)

Day after day, we hear of earthquakes, floods, and disease. Disaster is all around us. We can turn off the news on television or stop reading a newspaper, even keep from using the Internet, but the reality of life does not stop. The truth of suffering goes on.

We ask God to perform miracles in the world: to take away the pain of those with sickness or in need of food, clothing, housing, and medical attention. But maybe the real miracle we need is going on inside of us. What if God is working on our heart so that he can use us to help other people?

Yes, God can change any situation. He can save, help, or heal any person. Even an entire nation! Sometimes, for whatever reason, he does not. Instead, he wants us to do something.

Whatever we offer will provide some kind of relief. Something is better than nothing. The real tragedy in a catastrophe would be if we stood by and didn’t even try to help.

Using his time wisely (Monday, March 4)

In lives that are already too full and busy, we always try to do more. We want to accomplish one more task at work before we leave for the day, run another errand before we head home, and finish one more thing around the house before we sit down for the evening.

In all our activity and running around, we have little time for God. We may take a few minutes in the morning to think about him, but then we set out on our own. It is almost as if we have left God behind in the rush to make the most of our day.

What we often forget is that our lives should be spent following God, not having him follow us. Somehow, we think God chases after us, taking care of all the problems and difficulties we encounter along the way. He is always with us, but he is there to guide and direct our path. 

United in prayer and love (Sunday, March 3)

Sometimes we think and feel we are alone, that others do not care about us. But as we begin to pray for all those in our wide circle of family and friends, even acquaintances we do not know well, we realize there is no reason for our loneliness. We actually have more people who care for us than we can ever remember in prayer.

Those whom we pray for each day are with us, even though they may be apart from us. Their thoughts and concerns for our safety and happiness are present no matter how much distance divides us. They can be on the other side of the country or the other side of the world; yet, as they pray for us and we pray for them the spirit of God brings us together in unity. We all become one with him and in him.

Nothing can keep us from the love of God, nor can anything keep God’s love from working through us. This divine element transcends all time, place, age, generation, and space. Because of God’s love, others can be with us and we with them no matter what may come between us.

The love of God has the power to go beyond the things of this world because it is not of this world. It does not depend on earthly physics or human nature. Love exists over and above this world. We are held together with one another as we love through God. With his love there is no loneliness, only loveliness.

Humble to him (Saturday, March 2)

Never allow anyone to diminish what you are doing for the Lord. He is the creator of the universe. You must listen to him and do what he says.

Individuals will always tell you what they think you should do. A few here and there will talk behind your back. Some may ignore your achievements. Many will put their own accomplishments well above yours. Most will make you feel as though your work does not matter.

None of that should make any difference as long as you are following God’s will. If he has told you to start a new organization, do it. If he has told you to volunteer your time to teach children how to read, do it. If he has told you to study for the ministry, do it. There are no small jobs in the kingdom of heaven. Do what he says and he will protect you. He will keep you safe because you are following his plan.

When you let him work through you, there is nothing to fear. “For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13). He will grant you whatever you need to carry out his “good purpose.” Remember something else, too. God only chooses people who are big enough to humble themselves to fulfill his desire.

Good out of evil (Friday, March 1)

God is not blind. What bothers us about the world and the way people act bothers him, too. He sees everything and he knows everything. No one ever gets away with anything because the Lord is always watching.

Not only does God see the injustices that are done. He also realizes your commitment to him. When a supervisor favors certain individuals over you, when someone ignores you or mistreats you, when people judge you and mock you, God is aware.

In situations where we find ourselves a victim, we need to focus completely on God. Not on the wrong done to us. God will right the wrong for sure. “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him” (2 Chronicles 16:9).

He may not instantly punish those who hurt us. What he will do right away is give us greater might and ability to continue living for him. As you go through this day, let God bring good out of evil by concentrating on him alone.

All him (Thursday, February 28)

Nothing great can be accomplished for the Lord without his help. Nor can anything worthwhile be called into being unless it has been personally anointed by him. Still, we use our feeble strength and foolish wisdom to serve God without letting him lead the way.

We usually put the proverbial cart before the horse. We build a church, design a program or schedule a mission trip all before we ask God what to do and how to do it. “Lord, bless this work that we do in your Son’s name,” we say after our plan has been launched. Then we wait and wait, hoping against hope that he will grant our wish.

Remember what God once said to Zerubbabel. “’Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty” (Zechariah 4:6). It is not by our capacity. Not by our ability. It is only by the Holy Spirit who inspires, guides, blesses and completes God’s work.

Before you put everything you have into serving him, make sure you have everything you need from him, beginning with the Holy Spirit.

Your useable life (Wednesday, February 27)

I was startled by a message that popped up on my computer screen the other day. “Your battery is able to charge normally, however it is reaching the end of its useable life.” At first, I thought the battery had died overnight. Then I realized this was an automatic warning. The battery was fine.

What if we suddenly woke up one morning and received a similar message? “Your heart is able to charge normally, however it is reaching the end of its useable life.” We certainly would set our priorities and take care of the most important matters.

The thing is we should not live in constant fear of how much “useable life” we have left. Instead, we ought to go through each day with determination and purpose. We have to do the Lord’s will above all else.

Only God knows how long we will live here on earth. We do know, however, that he will not call us home until he finishes his good and perfect work through us. Until that day comes, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). 

Regular upkeep (Tuesday, February 26)

The Christian life is not maintenance-free. It comes only through constant vigilance, prayer and examination to make sure we are living properly.

We need to maintain ourselves much like everything else in life. Cars, roads, appliances, computers and houses require maintenance. So do our hearts and minds. We have to make sure we are being salt and light each day, no matter what the situation or how we are feeling. Our attitude, compassion and love must mimic the one we profess to follow.

When was the last time you took a close look at your lifestyle? Are you maintaining yourself as a Christian? Perhaps your patience needs work. Maybe you have to adjust your tolerance. You might even want to fine-tune your forgiveness.

The apostle Paul said that we must be “blameless and pure” so that we “shine like stars in the universe” (Philippians 2:15). The only way to make sure we are shining for the kingdom as well as possible is through regular upkeep. We have to keep up with the life that Christ set before us.

Control the day (Monday, February 25)

No two days in our lives are alike. Each one, like every individual person, is unique. Some days seem to go well, while others bring one problem after another. The difference is not in anything external. Instead, it all depends on what is going on inside of us: how we think, see, and feel.

Much hinges on our emotions, conscious and subconscious. We can be filled with joy on a rainy day, but experiencing depression when the sun is shining. Sometimes it is hard for us to be content or glad. Occasionally, we have to work on ourselves. We have to fight the thoughts and situations that keep us confined.

God knows our fickle nature. He wants to help us turn our circumstances around, and to discover the secret of being happy. The answer is inside our own hearts, not in outside things which are malleable. The spirit of God is not affected by the world; his nature is unchanging no matter what happens.

A great deal of our happiness has to do with us and on whether we are willing to live his way. Our way is not the answer. God can give us joy even in the worst of times because he cannot be moved. His love, his power, and his control are fixed. We need to center our lives on him instead of our shifting emotions. God sets us free and offers us the opportunity to have control over our day rather than the day controlling us.

Don't judge a book by its cover (Sunday, February 24)

Life is unpredictable. Sometimes good. Sometimes bad. We never know what will happen. It is like the line from the movie Forrest Gump: “Mama always said life is like a box of chocolate. You never know what you're gonna get." His mama was right: we don’t know what we are going to experience or see next.

The other day, I was completely surprised by a man who attends our church. I had thought of Dean as an ordinary guy like the rest of us. But the Lord has given him a remarkable talent. He has the ability to make handmade pens on a lathe. These objects are beautiful works of art, all turned out of imported wood, and worthy of being in a museum.

Just as life is full of surprises, so are people. There is usually a radical contrast between the person we see (or judge) and who that person really is. Jesus said, “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment." (John 7:24). The “right judgment” we are supposed to exercise, according to theologian Matthew Henry, is to view people “by their worth, and by the gifts and graces of God's Spirit in them.”

To the rest of the world, Dean may look like just another man. Now, however, I see him with all of the “gifts and graces” of God in him. There is certainly much more to him than meets the eye. The lesson is clear, like another adage: “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”

A nice person, but… (Saturday, February 23)

“Don’t get me wrong, I love so-and-so but she really has a lot of issues. You don’t want to get in her way.” Chances are you have heard people utter sentiments such as these. Many individuals think they are speaking out of love when, in fact, they are speaking out of judgment and condemnation.

What if God took the same approach? What if God said, “You know, I love Bruce, but he really gets angry when others don’t agree with him.” Or he might say something like, “I love Jeannine, but there are times when she becomes anxious over the least little thing.”

Declaring you love someone and, at the same time, complaining about the person is not really love at all. It is more of a verdict, much like a person proclaiming, “She has a big heart but….”

Putting “but” in the middle of the sentence turns everything around and cancels out any love. Try to go through this day without tempering or compromising what you say about your sisters and brothers. What is wrong with simply expressing, “I love her because of her dedication to the church” or “I love him because of his compassion for others.” Love is a two-way street. Always say what you would love to hear people say about you.

A city on a hill (Friday, February 22)

In every human being there is a yearning for God. The desire may be strong or weak, but it is there. Too many people, however, do not realize what this emptiness is all about. They do not know what is missing.

Vainly, they try to remove the desolation by spending money. They buy material possessions to replace a spiritual hollowness. But their efforts are useless. The darkness remains.

We have the answer. We know what others are seeking. As Christ’s disciples in the 21st century, we must share the good news with them. It does no good to keep it to ourselves.

"You are the light of the world,” says Jesus. “A city on a hill cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5:14). We have a habit of hiding our light and keeping quiet unless we are among our own kind. For Jesus’ sake, let us shine for him everywhere we go. The world desperately needs to see us like a city on a hill and realize the true light they need to make themselves whole.

Getting ahead (Thursday, February 21)

Do you ever feel as though the deck is stacked against you? You try to get ahead, but for every step forward you take three steps back; you can never win.

As Christians, though, the deck is actually stacked in our favor. We know where we are headed on this journey through life and we know what awaits us in the future. The rest of the world has to wonder and worry about what lies ahead. They have no peace. We do.

First, God knew us before we were born. Second, we know he is guiding our steps each minute. Third, we know he has a perfect plan and a purpose for us. Fourth, we know where we are going when we leave this planet. Fifth, we know where we will spend eternity.

The months and years in front of us may not be easy. But we do not face them alone. God will be right there, clearing the way and keeping us close at his side. Don’t be too anxious about getting ahead in this life. Getting ahead in God’s kingdom is much more important.

Too much to handle (Wednesday, February 20)

Most of the news these days is not good. The economy seems to be spiraling out of control. There are budget cuts in defense and education. Health care grows more expensive and less effective. Our elected officials in Washington don’t seem to be doing much of anything except fighting.

Add to all of these our personal concerns: having enough money to pay the bills; buying gasoline for our automobiles; keeping our children safe; and trying to keep up with a dizzying daily schedule.

Sometimes I want to give up. I would like to get in the car and drive off into the sunset, away from all of the common concerns and worries. How nice it would be to forget about the miserable state of our country as well as the mess of our own problems.

There is no reason to despair. We can cope with everything that confronts us without escaping to an island in the Pacific. All we have to do is realize God is bigger than our problems. “He views the ends of the earth and sees everything under the heavens” (Job 28:24). We may feel powerless to change anything, but he is powerful enough to change everything.

The company you keep (Tuesday, February 19)

Sometimes you and I put ourselves down, especially when we are feeling down. We conclude that we are nothing – that our lives don’t matter. We aren’t well-known. We don’t have an important job. We can’t preach, pray and sing like others. We aren’t even good-looking or smart. We might even wonder what God sees in us.

What we fail to realize is that God knows exactly why he created us. We have a specific reason and purpose, though we may not think we do. Just being a child of God makes us invaluable, and we are here because he deems we are important. He did not have to ask anyone whether we should be born or not. He chose us long before the world rejected us.

People will not always accept us for who we are, just like the Jews did not tolerate Jesus. "If the world hates you,” Jesus said, “keep in mind that it hated me first” (John 15:18). With Jesus as our savior and friend, there is nothing the world can do. We are protected by his love and spirit.

Don’t let people tell you who you are. They do not know you as God does. He knows what he is doing through you. People only know what they can see. So let them judge you by the company you keep; you have nothing to fear.

Key to the future is in the past (Monday, February 18)

The key to the future is remembering, in part, the past. From time to time, it is good to recall where we have been and what God has done in our lives. We do not need to dwell on each event and circumstance that has occurred, but we do need to see how God’s hand has guided us through many times of tribulation. Recounting what God has already done gives us strength for the journey ahead.

In the book of Acts, there are numerous occasions when the apostles and elders encouraged one another with accounts of God’s miracles and goodness. Over and over again, they told one another about the divine power of the Holy Spirit: Gentiles and Jews everywhere were converted, the sick were healed, demons were cast out, and prisoners (Peter, Paul, and Silas) were set free. These followers of Jesus never forgot the miraculous signs and wonders they had witnessed.

Most contemporary disciples forget the past entirely. Or, if they do reflect on previous events, they focus on the pain or suffering. They ignore the wonder of God’s constant protection and guidance. When faced with new and sudden difficulties in our lives, most of us question how we will endure.

We quickly forget that God has brought us through the past and he will bring us through once again. Yesterday gives us hope for tomorrow. But if we fail to remember what God has already done, we will fail to see what he can do in the future. 

He will sustain you (Sunday, February 17)

It came as quite a shock the other day when my wife and I had to spend more than $1,000 to fix one of our cars. We knew we needed brakes, but we had no idea many other parts had to be replaced as well.

We sat at the kitchen table wondering what to do. We could handle $300 or $400. This estimate was almost triple. There was no choice; the work had to be done. Otherwise, the car would not be safe to drive.

As we have done countless times before, the only conclusion was to trust the Lord and have faith in him to take us through this situation. Somehow he would provide a way for us to meet this unexpected expense and to pay our other bills as well. He has never failed us before and we knew he would not fail us now.

We could have easily gone the other way: giving up and wondering why this was happening now, when we really didn’t have any money to spare. Instead, we are making the conscious decision to trust what David said in Psalm 55:22. “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall” (Psalm 55:22). My wife and I are praying and believing, just like David did, that God will not let us fall.

You will know later (Saturday, February 16)

The apostle Peter was perplexed by the simple act of allowing Jesus to wash his feet. “Lord, are you going to wash my feet,” Peter asked. Jesus replied saying, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand” (John 13:6-7).

For whatever reason, Peter did not grasp what Jesus was showing him. Peter probably thought this was no task for Jesus. Such menial labor usually was done by the servants of the household.

Are we any different today than Peter? Over and over again, I can hear Jesus telling us, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” He is right. When we endure pain, loss or disappointment, we do not see the reason at the moment. All we know is the reality of our suffering.

To put it another way, a child cannot appreciate why she must know how to subtract and add before she goes to the market to buy something. She will understand once she pays the cashier. You and I need to believe that, in time, we will see the big picture. There is a purpose for everything Jesus does in your life. “Later you will understand” just as Peter did.

Believing above understanding (Friday, February 15)

Most of us have great difficulty believing in God when we do not understand him. But when it comes to the world, there are plenty of things we don’t understand yet we accept them anyway.

For example, I drive my car everywhere without knowing fully how it runs. I travel on airplanes, but I don’t know why they fly. I use a computer all of the time and haven’t the slightest idea what makes it work.

Why, then, do you and I demand to understand God before we accept his will? We can ill afford to live by a double standard: one for God and one for us. If we do not comprehend many of the simple devices we use daily, how do we think we can understand God?

Maybe we should stop trying to do so much rationalizing and do more believing. Let us trust God without understanding him. Our faith must take us beyond our intellect; if not, we are not going to get very far in this life or the next. While we are at it, we might as well stop driving our cars until we understand completely how they operate.

Community or disunity (Thursday, February 14)

How refreshing it would be to live and work with people who are completely open and honest with each other. We could talk to someone, even offer constructive criticism, with impunity. No one would punish us for being sincere and speaking out of love.

“How good and pleasant it is when brothers [and sisters] live together in unity,” David said (Psalm 133:1). We see the same theme in the Book of Acts when Luke talks about the fellowship of believers who “were of one in heart and mind” (Acts 4:32). Though you and I are Christians, we do not always value or appreciate one another.

I once heard of a woman who was trying to help her boss by telling him several employees were not doing their work; they were taking advantage of their positions by coming in late, taking two hours for lunch and leaving early every day. Instead of thanking her, this “man of God” looked at her and said, “If you don’t like it here, the door is right there.” I also knew of a dean at a religious college who complained publically that the faculty never took advantage of her “open door” policy. Everyone there knew what would happen if they shared their ideas or concerns with her.

Let us pray at all times we will one day dwell together in full harmony. May we become the postmodern community of believers so that Luke’s description will apply to us as well: “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:46-47). Amazing things happen when there is godly love for and among everyone.

Time heals all wounds? (Wednesday, February 13)

We should not be misled into our thinking that a certain number of years will take away the hurt in our past. Time may heal the wound, but what about the mark that still remains? How can we make it go away?

On our own, we can do very little. Even counseling may not erase the pain or regret. As long as we hold ourselves accountable for what happened, we will never be free. Only God can release us from the chains of our personal thoughts and regrets.

He promises to remove any sin, any guilt. Often, the problem is we will not let go; we rehearse over and over again in our minds what we would do differently. But there is no “do-over” as children are fond of saying. We cannot go back and, yet, we cannot move forward like we should.

Did you hurt someone? Were you ashamed of your behavior? Would you be horrified if people really knew the truth about you? Jesus forgave the woman who committed adultery. He also forgave the Roman soldiers who beat and murdered him. Can your indiscretions be any worse? Jesus has already forgiven you for your past. He has even taken away the scars of your sin. He no longer sees them so why do you?

Fighting with God
(Tuesday, February 12)

Have you ever argued with God? Maybe it was over something he wanted you to do or somewhere he wanted you to go. It didn’t make sense so you pleaded with God to change his mind. Perhaps the disagreement involved giving money to a certain organization or taking the time to attend a special event at church. Either way, you fought back hoping to get your way.

Habakkuk argued over why God was sending a warring nation to take over the land. Moses argued that he was not a good speaker and, therefore, could not lead the Israelites out of bondage. Job argued that his suffering made no sense. Jonah argued that it was hopeless for him to go to Nineveh. We could fill volumes listing all those who have argued with God for a myriad of reasons.

God understands our need to understand, and he realizes how our minds work. He is willing to listen to us no matter what we have to say, even if we are angry and mad. He is patient like a loving parent. He knows when we are hurting or confused and he tries to comfort us.

He can reassure you that everything will be okay. There is only one thing you need to do: trust him. “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him” (Nahum 1:7). You do not have to understand or even agree with God. All you have to do is trust what he is doing. If you do, then he will care for you as the prophet Nahum says. 

Divine sight (Monday, February 11)

The early church lived with expectancy. The people expected to see miraculous signs and wonders each day. Most of all, they looked forward to the moment when Jesus would return and they would see him once again. These dedicated followers “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done” (Acts 2:42-43).

After all this time, the church seems to have lost sight of Jesus’ return. We hope it will happen soon, but our logical and rational minds tell us otherwise. Because it has not taken place thus far, we reason, it could be another two millennia. Such a worldly perspective actually prevents us from experiencing the Lord’s presence right now.

Are we expecting God to do anything more than to help us through this particular day? The “wonders and miraculous signs” were not just for the first disciples of Jesus. Every day, all around us, there are miracles occurring. Yet, we fail to notice them because we are not looking for them. Our minds are set on what we are doing, not on the things above.

As we go through this day, we will see precisely what we are hoping to see. We may be satisfied with the usual, but God wants us to expect the unusual. Anticipating Jesus’ return allows us to see divine wonders and signs that go unnoticed by the rest of the world.

Servant or leader? (Sunday, February 10)

The term “servant leadership” is extremely popular these days. Leaders everywhere, especially in Christian circles, claim to practice this philosophy. Few really understand the approach and fewer still actually serve those whom they are leading.

Robert Greenleaf first introduced a unique style of guiding others in 1970 with his essay “The Servant as Leader.” Greenleaf believed that servant leaders should serve people by empowering them and, thereby, building a stronger sense of community.

Jesus set the model for servant leadership 2,000 years earlier. He turned the principle of being a leader upside down. Jesus was a servant to everyone, even the lowliest, in spite of being the most powerful of all. “So the last will be first,” he said, “and the first will be last” (Matthew 20:16).

Being a leader does not involve controlling people or calling all the shots in an organization; it means setting individuals free to be the persons God created them to be. You and I need to get to work at being better servants rather than always trying to be leaders. We cannot lead without serving. Our serving is what allows us, and gives us the ability, to lead.

Kingdom tools (Saturday, February 9)

Different occupations demand different tools and equipment. Carpenters need hammers and saws. Mechanics must have screwdrivers and wrenches. Secretaries need computers and printers.

Christians require certain tools as well. We need patience, kindness, understanding and compassion. These are the ways we accomplish our work in the world. We have to remember to take these tools with us wherever we go because we never know when the Lord will ask us to do something.

We cannot help the homeless without compassion. We cannot teach children without patience. We cannot share the good news without kindness, and we cannot love our enemies without understanding.

May you be ready and able today to serve the Lord with the tools he has given to you. He has equipped you to do his will. Use these gifts wisely and glorify him. 

Lord or lording (Friday, February 8)

Some people hoard information like collectors seek gold. Certain individuals in the workplace always seem to know every detail of what will or will not happen in the days ahead. And they guard what they know, almost holding it over everyone else.

Most of us have worked at companies where people talk only behind closed doors. They are secretive and esoteric about all business matters except with their friends. In reality, their actions are a form of control; they think they are in charge by being in the know.

Jesus was just the opposite. He was open and honest with everyone. He did not keep any information about the Father to himself. He always shared what God imparted to him. “Everything that I learned from my Father,” Jesus proclaimed, “I have made known to you” (John 15:15).

What if Jesus kept what he knew to himself? He would have been in control because he knew everything. The problem is he would not have saved or helped anyone. The only thing he would have done is to show his superiority. He would have been lording the good news rather than being Lord. 

Playing by the numbers (Thursday, February 7)

The world today is obsessed with numbers. Figures are everywhere: company sales, college enrollments, attendance records, populations and so on. But numbers don’t count when it comes to Jesus. Only the individual person matters.

Adding up the numbers sometimes has an advantage. Companies need to know how well their products are doing in the marketplace. Universities need to know how many students are taking courses. Churches have to know how many people are coming to weekly worship and Sunday school. The government has to know how many people live in each city and county.

To Jesus, though, statistics were not important. He did not teach or heal depending on the numbers or the size of the crowd. In fact, most of what Jesus did throughout his lifetime was one-on-one. He cured a leper, healed a blind man, taught Zacchaeus about being born again and explained to Peter the full meaning of love.

Sometimes we see numbers and forget about the living person. We put more value on size and we become more concerned with quantity than quality. “I tell you that in the same way,” Jesus said, “there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent” (Luke 15:7). In God’s kingdom, the most meaningful number is one.

In God’s right hand (Wednesday, February 6)

Keep trying and never quit. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. All of us have heard phrases like these from someone at one time or another. My junior high football coach used to say, “Don’t be a pansy.” When it came to my music lessons, my mother always said, “Practice makes perfect.”

Many things I would not have achieved if had I given up, such as running 12 marathons, climbing Pike’s Peak twice, writing several books, receiving a doctorate, being a church elder, publishing a monthly magazine, etc. To be sure, I did not do any of this on my own. The Lord gave me his physical, mental and spiritual strength. Left to my own devices and failings, I definitely would have thrown in the towel many times and on numerous occasions.

The point is not about gloating over our accomplishments; rather, the purpose is in being persistent, especially when it comes to the Lord’s work. Paul experienced persecution everywhere he traveled, yet he completed three extensive mission journeys throughout the Middle East. Moses went back to Pharaoh 11 times before the Israelites were set free. Joseph spent 14 years in prison waiting for God to rescue him.

Whatever you are trying to do today, stick with it and don’t give up. God will give you what you need to glorify him. Take a few minutes to memorize this promise from God himself: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10). God is always near to help you persevere.

He comes to our rescue (Tuesday, February 5)

In the story about Jesus calming the seas, we usually remember Peter the most. He eagerly jumped out of the boat and began walking on the water toward his master. A few steps later, though, he lost his nerve and faith. Suddenly, he started to sink until Jesus grabbed his hand and pulled him to safety.

This account does not tell us what the other disciples were thinking. No doubt they were scared at first, just like Peter, believing they were all going to perish. Their fear probably rose like the seas when Peter got out of the boat. But then they might have been a little jealous when he started to walk over the waves. Perhaps they wished they had been the ones to trust Jesus.

What would be our reaction today to such an event? Would our fear keep us in the boat or would our faith allow us to walk toward Jesus? Every day we have to make such decisions in our lives. What we decide to do says a lot about how much we trust God.

Even if we can only take a few tentative steps on the seas of life that threaten us, at least we have tried to obey. The important thing is that Jesus will never let us go under, no matter what happens. He will always reach down and save us from sinking.

Over and above (Monday, February 4)

All that we have and possess should help to sustain us in life, not be the end all of life itself. There are certain things we need—food, clothing, housing—to help us accomplish the work God has called us to do. Anything else, over and above the essentials, is a gift.

From time to time, we can be misled by what we want as opposed to what we actually need. In many ways, the world offers too much for our own good. We can easily be distracted by our desire to own more than we can ever use in one lifetime. The luxuries and comforts we see everywhere frequently make us think we are missing out on something.

We need to remember that our time here is temporary; this is a journey, not a home. Each day, we should be moving closer to our final destination, where we will spend eternity. If we try to carry too many of our earthly belongings with us, we will never arrive at the point where we finally accomplish God’s goal for us.

What we need to complete his work is radically different than what we want. The first pushes us forward, while the second holds us back. We should never regret what we do not have right now. Instead, we should be thankful there is nothing to prevent us from moving ahead. 

Pinky promise (Sunday, February 3)

Children, like adults, make all kinds of promises. Some they keep; others they forget about. But, when children make a pinky promise, they go to great lengths to make sure they follow through and not break the promise.

A pinky promise is made by linking pinky fingers with another person. Though it sounds silly to us as adults, a pinky promise is a physical symbol of a verbal pledge.

As mature Christians we made much more than a pinky promise with God years ago. Yet, how many times have we broken it and gone back on our word? Maybe we have not done all we said we would do or maybe we have not let the Lord use us as he desires. Either way, we have no excuse.

God will forgive us, for sure. Will we forgive ourselves, though? Perhaps that is all the motivation we need to be more committed when we make a promise with God. If children can keep a pinky promise, we can certainly keep our word when we make a promise with God.

Light over darkness (Saturday, February 2)

Jesus did not go immediately when he heard Lazarus was dying. Scripture tells us that he waited until his dear friend had been in the tomb for four days. Why?

Martha, the sister of Lazarus, blamed Jesus. “If you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21). We do the same today in all sorts of situations. We ask, Lord why did I get cancer, Lord why was this child killed, Lord why did I lose my job, and Lord why did my husband leave me? Certainly, God could have stopped each incident from occurring in the first place.

The answer to our question now is the same as Jesus gave back then to the disciples: “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you might believe” (John 11:14-15). All of them must have wondered, “You let him die to make us believe in you?”

From the very beginning, Jesus told the disciples that this event was happening “for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it” (John 11:4). In our struggles today, we may act like Martha because we cannot see God’s glory right away. But it is there. Out of every loss comes great gain, for God always turns wrong into right. Try to look through the present darkness to see his light shining. It grows brighter day by day “so that you [will] believe.”

Be fully awake (Friday, February 1)

Why is it so hard for us to do what Jesus commands? All we have to do is follow his instructions. There is no decision to be made, yet we frequently do the wrong things.

The apostle Mark tells us about Jesus in the garden the night before his crucifixion. He asked Peter, James, and John to stay near him and pray. Three times he returned and he found them asleep. The second time this happened, Mark says, “they did not know what to say to him.”

So it is with us. “The spirit is willing, but the body is weak,” Jesus said (Mark 14:38). There are always acts we commit without any intention. Our flesh takes over and, in an instant, we “fall into temptation.”

We must always be fully awake if we want to do the right thing. We cannot afford to let go of our focus on Jesus, not even for an instant. For in that brief second, Satan can distract us and make us follow his will.

Where do you stand? (Thursday, January 31)

If we want to get closer to God, we have to step back from the world. We do not necessarily have to get away from everyone and everything. We just need to look at life from a different perspective – from God’s point of view.

Essentially, we need to live like Jesus. When Jesus called the disciples to follow him, he was taking them to a higher, more divine life than they could experience on their own. He was showing them how to live in the world without being of the world.

As followers of Christ, we have the same ability to live above anger, hatred, harassment and discrimination. Jesus did not bother with any of these and we do not have to either. We can choose not to be upset or troubled by anything.

The next time you are tempted to become anxious or frustrated, remember what you need to do: “Cast all your cares on Jesus because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Jesus came to take away both our sin and our suffering with everyday life. As long as we stand with him, he will take care of what we cannot.

The real Father (Wednesday, January 30)

Try as he might, Jesus could not make the Jews understand. At one point, he even told them they did not believe in him because they did not believe in God, the Father.

“If God were your Father, you would love me,” Jesus said, “for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. Why is my language not clear to you?” (John 8:42-43).

We, too, are bound to face those who do not accept us. They do not agree with what we do or what we say. The reason is simple: they do not know the Father, though they think they worship and love him.

When the world does not understand us, let us be patient and not judge anyone. Let us show them who we are in Christ and maybe they will come to know the real Father.

The vine and branches (Tuesday, January 29)

I am guilty of not always serving Jesus as I go through each day. What I mean is not doing my part in his work. My purpose is to help him build the kingdom, but sometimes I turn my back on him.

My response to Jesus is critical. I cannot bear fruit if I am not connected to the vine; he is the vine and we are the branches. “If you remain in me and I in you,” Jesus says, “you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

Our entire lives must be grafted to Jesus, the true vine, to be productive and useful. How about Jesus, though? What can he do without us, his branches?

Both the vine and the branches are essential. Just as we are nothing without the vine, the vine needs us to bear fruit. When we fail to bond our lives to Jesus, we are doing much more than deserting him. We are actually preventing the world from seeing the fruit he can produce in his branches.

The storms of life (Monday, January 28)

We cannot escape bad weather. Sooner or later, rain will come. Most of us seek shelter and wait for the storm to go away. Ironically, when a storm comes into our mental and spiritual lives, we do not look for cover. Instead, we look around helplessly and wonder what we can do to make the trouble stop.

In the parable of the wise and foolish builders, Jesus said to build on a rock. “Everyone who hears these words of mine,” he said, “and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand” (Matthew 7:24-27). These words were not meant for what might happen in the future. They are for right now—what you are going through at this moment.

If your house—your very life—is built on Jesus, then the storms of life will not wash you away. You can feel secure. Jesus is your rock where you can find shelter and safety. He is a firm foundation and cannot be moved.

Have the sense to come in out of the rain today. God offers us both sanctuary and protection. Seek cover in his harbor and simply wait for the storm to pass. 

He knows your need (Sunday, January 27)

We always need God, no matter the need. Perhaps it is a little thing, like feeling better, or something much bigger, like needing money to pay all of the bills each month. But what happens when God does not seem to answer?

The psalms are full of laments and cries for help. “O Lord, the God who saves me, day and night I cry out before you” (Psalm 88:1). “My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living” (Psalm 84:2). Down through time, people of all nations and races have sought God on endless occasions.

My wife and I have been praying for years that our son would be able to find a better job. One after another, our hopes have been dashed against the rocks when he is turned down by yet another employer. Still, we keep praying and asking God to help him.

One day, we know that God will answer our plea. We have hope in him because he knows the need. He knows our hearts and he will see our son through this part of his journey until a new day finally arrives for him. Then we will all rejoice that we never lost our faith in God because he was always there, helping our son and us wait for the right time.

Dry land in water (Saturday, January 26)

God never abandons his people. When it came time for Moses to leave the Israelites, the Lord put Joshua in charge. He would lead them the rest of the way to the Promised Land.

They still had a long journey ahead of them, but the most pressing concern was right in front of them: the Jordan River. Everyone, including Joshua, remembered when God parted the Red Sea and they probably questioned if he would do it again now.

Just as God had prophesied to Joshua, the waters of the Jordan stopped flowing the minute the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant stepped in. The people crossed safely and continued on to Jericho.

If you are wondering whether God will help you again as you go through yet another trial, remember this account. The Lord always protects his people, even giving them dry land where there is water. He will also take you all the way to the place he has chosen. You have his promise and word on it.

Taking aim (Friday, January 25)

The epic story of David and Goliath proves what God can do with almost nothing. David was able to fell a giant with a single stone, but it was God who brought about Goliath’s death on that fateful day.

David did not need to overpower the Philistine with an army of men or hundreds of spears and swords. David needed only what God had given him already. As a shepherd boy, David had learned how to defend the sheep from wolves and lions with nothing more than a sling and a stone. God instructed David to use this same method to defeat Goliath.

Perhaps you are facing some sort of giant in your life today. You have dreamed of all sorts of machinations and ways to defeat this Goliath. But God may be telling you to use what you possess already: his patience, his understanding and his wisdom.

Whatever you are getting ready to fight, make sure you listen to God. Do it his way and you will be sure to be victorious. Do it your way and you will be the one who is defeated.

Sacrificial love (Thursday, January 24)

Jesus suffered the pain of dying on a cross. He also felt the agony of humiliation. He was pure and sinless, possessing power over everything seen and unseen. What meekness for the God of the universe to allow himself to be put to death by mortal men.

For all of his glory, Jesus hung on the cross for six hours. All the while, he could have come down. He could have unleashed all the fury of heaven. He could have changed everything right there and then. Instead, the greatest one who ever lived suddenly became the lowest of all.

Our pride as human beings never would have let us be killed if we had the power to live. We would have fought for all we were worth to prove that we were able to conquer those trying to defeat us. Most of us could not have endured the shame or ignominy of our loss.

But Jesus did it through love, the same way a parent loves a daughter or a son and will sacrifice anything for that child’s life. Jesus gave up his glory for us out of an element much stronger than anything in the physical world.

Trust without sight (Wednesday, January 23)

Blind faith is being able to move forward without being able to see. Trusting in God, no matter how situations appear, requires a faith that goes beyond sight or circumstance.

Moses walked in blind faith when he led the Hebrews out of Egypt. Joshua stepped out in blind faith when he fought the battle of Jericho. David came forward in blind faith when he challenged the giant Goliath. Joseph lived by blind faith for 14 years in a dark prison. Paul journeyed in blind faith to spread the Good News to the world.

All of these individuals believed in what they could not see at the moment. They dwelled in what they knew about the future. They trusted that God would be there with them and that he would triumph.

Faith can only be faith when there is spiritual knowledge of the power of God. It has nothing to do with physical reality, but everything to do with absolute reality – the constant presence and protection of God the father. 

Present in all ways (Tuesday, January 22)

What if Jesus were with us everywhere we went? He was with us at the store, work, the mall, in the car and in our house. Would we definitely act much different in front of him. The fact is he is with us at all times. The problem is we tend to think “out of sight, out of mind.”

“I am with you always,” Jesus told his disciples (Matthew 28:20). He wanted them to know he was indeed going away, but he still would be with them. He would not be there physically, but spiritually. His spirit would be a constant presence in their lives, no matter where they found themselves.

How many times have we thought that no one would hear what we said, what we did or how we treated someone? Probably more times than we care to remember. The truth be told, Jesus noticed each and every time we sinned.

He is with us always and he may not always be pleased with what he sees.

Hard or soft words? (Monday, January 21)

We have to train ourselves to become patient and understanding; this characteristic does not come easily or naturally. Only after years of practice can we learn to be calm and quiet when the world is raging all around us.

The room was full of administrators and professors, many of whom were chairs of large departments, when one person after another began to verbally attack the college’s provost. Each word spoken was harsher than the last. I felt embarrassed that people with doctorates could use such language.

Through it all, this quiet and confident gentleman sat there. He paid attention to each person and several times nodded his head knowingly. After about 15 minutes, he had a chance to speak. By that time, I was furious over the pomposity of some of my fellow believers. After all, this was a Christian institution.

All this man said was he was sorry people felt the way they did and then reminded everyone it was time to put aside our anger and accusations, and get to work serving the students at the college. It worked. A true proverb in action. “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).

An eternal struggle (Sunday, January 20)

All around us a war is raging. The battle is over our soul. Satan tries to pull us in one direction, but God offers the true way. Even as Christians there are times when we do not understand what is going on. We are much like the apostles who failed to comprehend Jesus’ final message. Because of our confusion and ignorance, we fall victim to evil.

When Jesus announced he was going away and that certain events would occur, he reminded the 12 not to be anxious. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. . . . You know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas, however, responds that they are unsure where Jesus is going, that they do not know the way. “I am the way and the truth and the life,” Jesus states. “No one comes to the Father except through me.”

There may be times in life when we claim we do not recognize the true way. We also may try to excuse ourselves by claiming we do not know what to do. But God knows better. He can see that we do understand, if only we will take time to listen to what he has already told us.

The $35 prayer (Saturday, January 19)

I had just dropped off a well-known Christian author at the airport. I helped him inside with several bags of luggage and told him to have a good flight. As I rushed back to my car just outside the door, the Holy Spirit prompted me to go back and pray with the man. I hesitated for a moment and then turned around. We prayed for a minute or two and I left.

By the time I returned to my car, there was a ticket on it. I had parked too long in a loading zone. All the way home I kept thinking about the fine. I did not want to pay it. In my mind, I kept blaming the police for not being a little more patient. Just two minutes would have made all the difference in the world.

I never told this writer about the ticket. When I think about the incident now, I realize what truly mattered is we had a chance to share a few minutes together in prayer with God. That was certainly worth much more than $35. In fact, it was really a small price to pay to be able to stand before the Creator of the universe and ask him to watch over this man.

Prove who you are (Friday, January 18)

If we say we are a Christian, what we really mean is we are like Christ. We do not merely tag along behind him and let him do all of the work. We follow him and do what he does.

We treat people with kindness and respect, even if they are yelling or shouting at us. We show compassion for those who are sick, even if we are not feeling well. We are patient with strangers, even if they frustrate us. We forgive our enemies, even if they deserve to be punished. Above all, we love everyone even if they hate us.

What most often keeps us from being like Jesus is not the world, people or difficult circumstances. It is us – our own self. We do not follow his way because we get caught up in being ourselves. In an instant, we can put our emotions first and forget all about being like Christ.

If he truly is the most important thing in our life, we need to live it. We live it by how we act, not just by what we say. Today, prove who you are. God is watching.

Hearing the right voice (Thursday, January 17)

The sound of Jesus’ voice is clear, firm and unmistakable. We know it well, though we do not always listen well.

He speaks to us daily and reminds us to be kind, understanding and forgiving. We turn a deaf ear, though. Instead, we attend to our own human nature telling us to be angry, upset and vengeful.

In the story of the shepherd and the flock, Jesus says the sheep listen carefully for the shepherd’s voice. “He calls them his own sheep by name….His sheep follow him because they know his voice….But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice” (John 10:3-5)

Be careful whom you follow today. There are many voices and sounds out there waiting to catch and capture you. Make sure you listen wisely and follow the right one: the shepherd who knows your name. Run away from any voice you do not recognize because your life could depend on it.

Blind forever (Wednesday, January 16)

Often, the solution is right in front of us but we do not see it. Jesus was trying to make this point when he healed the blind man near the pool of Siloam. Despite the miracle, the Jews refused to believe that Jesus was God.

The blind man told his neighbors what Jesus had done by putting mud on his eyes. Then he had to explain himself to the Pharisees. Twice they investigated the incident, in addition to questioning the man’s parents. Still, they would not accept the authority and power of Jesus.

In their ignorance they became blind to the truth. “I have come into this world,” Jesus said, “so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind” (John 9:39). Our belief in Jesus allows us to see beyond the physical dimensions of life in this world. It also gives us the spiritual vision to know who he is and what he can do.

But those who fail to recognize him as the Son of Man will become blind to the ways of heaven. These people will never see anything other than what that they can touch, feel or understand. Sadly, they will be blind forever.

Only God (Tuesday, January 15)

Over and over Jesus had to explain himself, even to those closest to him. “Don't you understand even yet,” Jesus asked the disciples. “Don't you remember the 5,000 I fed with five loaves, and the baskets of leftovers you picked up” (Matthew 16:9).

It took them a while, but they finally realized Jesus was not talking the fact that they failed to take bread with them on their journey across the lake. Instead, he was referring to the teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees – that their manmade doctrines and beliefs would have grave consequences over time. Jesus stood in stark contrast by displaying the Father’s righteousness and power.

How often today do we forget the true teaching of God and accept what seems right or proper to us? We need to live according to the standard that Jesus set for us and not that of the world.

Jesus us showed us what God is able to do when we trust him. Why, then, would we ever want to rely on what we can do by ourselves or with other people? No matter how great, there has never been a person alive who could feed 5,000 with five loaves and two fish.

A simple element (Monday, January 14)

Water, plain and basic, is what supports all of life. Plants, animals and humans must have water in order to survive. Without it, life cannot exist.

Water is what brings a seed to life. It also allows a seed to grow into a plant, bush or a tree. Without water, growth cannot continue.

Throughout scripture, water symbolizes new life. Baptism, of course, represents the eternal life we have been given through Christ’s death on the cross.

When we drink of the spiritual water of heaven, we will never thirst again. We receive what we need both in this life and the next. Water is a simple element, yet it is responsible for all of life. The same is true of Christ.

Making the connection (Sunday, January 13)

It is invisible, yet very real: the healing power of Jesus Christ. Luke made a special point to tell us about a woman who had been ill for 12 years and no one could help. Yet, she touched Jesus’ cloak and was cured instantly.

Jesus knew the moment it happened. “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me” (Luke 8:46). When the woman saw he had noticed, she confessed. But Jesus said, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace” (Luke 8:48).

Notice that Jesus did not chastise the woman for taking power from him. He merely said it was faith that healed her. He had the power to heal, but she had the ability to complete Jesus’s work because of her faith in him.

We need to picture this passage in our mind the next time we need Jesus’ healing. He has the power to cure us, no matter what our disease, but we have to believe he will. Our faith completes the connection.

In the end (Saturday, January 12)

How many things will you do today? Whether your list is short or long, chances are that not everything really needs to be done.

Someday we will be remembered for what we did rather than what we did not do. People will not say of me, “Well, he was a great guy, but he never climbed Mt. Everest and he never ran the Boston Marathon. He never sailed around the world on the Queen Mary 2 either.” Rather ridiculous examples, I admit, but the point is this: Too often in life we focus on the things we have not done as opposed to what we have.

I should be satisfied and pleased with being a good servant, husband, father and friend. After all, I will be remembered for what I did in the lives of others – my wife, children, relatives, sisters and brothers in Christ – not myself.

The same can be said when it comes to God. He will see the things I did for him and not what I did for me. Nothing else will matter in the end, least of all the little tasks I once thought I needed to do to be happy.

You are what you wear (Friday, January 11)

Paul makes no bones about it. He says that because we are “God’s chosen people,” we need to clothe ourselves with “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12).

We must wear all of these at the same time, as difficult as it may be. What is interesting, though, is how often we change what we wear. Sometimes we take off compassion and put on hardheartedness; we remove humility and slip on pride; we discard patience and get into impatience.

What happens when we change even one of the things we wear is that it clashes with the others. Hardheartedness, for example, does not go with kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Pride does not match either; nor does impatience or rudeness.

Just like we get dressed each day, let’s make sure everything goes together and that every item complements another. We have an obligation to clothe ourselves with all of the proper heavenly virtues because we are God’s chosen. A better way to say it is that we are what we wear.

Help the saints (Thursday, January 10)

My five-year-old granddaughter uttered a profound statement recently. “When you need help, you need help,” she said to her mother who was having difficulty with an online video game. We may smile or chuckle at what little Lexi said, but there is a great deal of truth in her words.

Think about the last time you really needed help. You probably did not put out your “Help Wanted” sign or tell anyone about your plight. Maybe the matter involved a trip to the grocery store, a ride to pick up your car at the repair shop or the need to borrow a neighbor’s lawn mower. I confess I am guilty on all three counts.

People, especially our sisters and brothers in the faith, are more than happy to help us. All we have to do is ask. The problem is that we have too much pride and vanity to admit we need help. We want others to think well of us so we hide our need and disguise it as a strength.

My granddaughter is right. “When you need help, you need help.” May you seek the courage today to do two things. First, ask for help. Second, look for ways to assist those around you. As the apostle Paul once wrote, “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality” (Romans 12:13). Let’s help our fellow saints by taking care of their needs as they take care of ours. 

Prove it (Wednesday, January 9)

We cannot call Jesus our Lord unless he is lord of our lives. Our entire existence must be ruled by what he says and what he commands. We are servants who have already promised to obey him.

One day, Jesus questioned the disciples about the strength and depth of their faith in him. “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not do what I say” (Luke 6:46). Jesus then speaks about the wise and foolish builders: the one who builds on the rock and the other on the sand.

Maybe Jesus is asking you and me the same question today. How can we say he is Lord if we do not listen to him? Rather than anchoring our lives on his divine wisdom, we build on earthly sand that offers no foundation during a storm.

We are only fooling ourselves if we call Jesus our Lord and fall apart each time something strikes us. Let us learn to say, with all the confidence in the world, that he is Lord. And then prove it by obeying him without question.

Like Peter (Tuesday, January 8)

In many ways, you and I have a little of Simon Peter’s temperament in us. We are quick to judge, but soon realize we have made a mistake.

Remember when Jesus was preaching by the Lake of Gennesaret? He climbed into Peter’s boat and asked to be pushed a little offshore so everyone could hear him. When he was done, Jesus told Peter to “put out into deep water, and let down the net for a catch” (Luke 5:4).

We can only envision the cynicism in Peter’s response. He was tired, dirty and hungry. “We have worked all night,” he said, “but I will let down the nets because you say so.” To his surprise, the nets became full to overflowing. “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man,” Peter replied.

In our shame and embarrassment, we utter the same words on occasion to our Lord. Still, Jesus responds to us in our disgrace, as he did to Peter, by saying with a gentle voice, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.” God’s incredible forgiveness right before our eyes.

Bearing fruit for him (Monday, January 7)

I have this idea of where I should be in my life right now. Somehow, I always fall short of that ideal place I have set in my mind. What I often fail to realize is everything I have accomplished for the Lord, not for myself.

A friend wrote to me and said that he had not done much last year. He resolved to do better in the new year. All of us can probably relate to his feelings of disappointment and inadequacy. When we look at ourselves, we frequently see the person we are not. We think of what we did not do. We did not lose weight this year. We did not get more exercise. We did not change our diet. We did not finish that project we were working on. We could go on and on listing all of the things we left unfinished.

God does not measure our lives in the same way. He values us for what we achieved for him. During this past year, maybe we were involved in missions. Perhaps we gave more of ourselves to his work overseas and in our own community. Maybe we donated more money to our church and various charities. We may have even spent more time in prayer or in reading the Bible. It could be that we were simply more helpful to others.

We need to remember the words of our Savior: “What you have done for the least of them, you have done for me.” He also reminded us of power of the widow’s mite. Jesus said she donated all she possessed, but the rich gave gifts out of their wealth.

The little things we do for the kingdom are great in the eyes of Jesus. In the end, both for this year and for our lives, that is what matters most. There is nothing small about God’s work. Let us take heart in knowing that we made a difference in countless ways during the past 52 weeks. We have allowed the Lord to use us for his purpose. “This is to my Father's glory,” Jesus added, “that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

Three in one (Sunday, January 6)

Watching an old Billy Graham Crusade on television the other night, I began to consider his words carefully. Do I have a personal relationship with Jesus, I wondered. Or have I accepted Jesus as my Savior only? Unless I can say he is my Savior, my Lord and my friend, I am missing everything that he has to offer.

First and foremost, Jesus died on the cross for my sins. His act of love and sacrifice for the whole world makes my salvation possible. Second, Jesus must be Lord of my life; he is master of all I am, all I have and all I do. Third, Jesus needs to be one whom I can count on as a friend; he is a constant companion each moment of the day.

Savior, Lord and Friend. He is all three. Yet, I have to admit there are times when I think of him as one or the other. I forget about his friendship, I lose sight of the salvation he offers or I overlook the fact that he is Lord. I take him for what I want him to be at the moment, not for who he is for eternity.

The only possible way I can share my life with Jesus is to accept him for everything he is, in the same way that he accepts me for all that I am. He does not take only one part of me and ignore the rest. He cares about my whole life and being. I must learn to do the same with him. Once I do, then I can say with assurance that I have a personal relationship with him.

Living elements (Saturday, January 5)

The genuine motivation for seeking Jesus should be to fill our hearts, not our desires. His direction and guidance must always be first and foremost; we should long for his will more than our own. It is easy to forget that Jesus came so we might have a more abundant life, both now and in heaven. He yearns to give us a life that is full and meaningful – one grounded in the spiritual world of eternity and not just in the physical reality of the present moment.

Jesus wants us to look beyond the here and now – to see that there is more going on than what we see or feel. Mark tells the amazing story of Jesus feeding the 5,000. The next day, Mark says, the people searched desperately for Jesus but could not find him. Finally, they traveled across the Sea of Galilee, where they discovered Jesus in Capernaum. “Rabbi, when did you get here,” they asked anxiously. The master knew why the people had come; they were looking for one thing only. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.”

What people seek is not always what they need. Jesus calls us to look not just for bread, but for the bread of life. In the same way, he tells us to seek not just water to quench our thirst, but for the living water that will satisfy our souls. “He who comes to me,” Jesus said, “will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” His life is there for us to live; he gives himself freely and openly to all who are willing to believe in him.

No time to waste (Friday, January 4)

What if we were too busy praying to argue with someone? What if we were too busy praying to hate someone? And what if we were too busy praying to judge someone?

In a letter to the sisters and brothers in Thessalonica, Paul said they should, “Pray without ceasing” (1Thessalonians 5:17). He was stressing the importance and necessity of prayer in our life. Prayer keeps us connected to God: it reminds us that he is in control at all times; it reminds us that we are never alone; it reminds us of our salvation; it reminds us that our wrongs are forgiven; and it reminds us where our strength comes from.

The noted theologian and preacher Albert Barnes explained in his commentary on this verse that, “We are not to allow this duty [of prayer] to be interrupted or intermitted by any trifling cause.” We are to keep praying right through the little things that beset us each day: traffic jams, angry people, long lines, phone calls, disagreements and hundreds of other petty annoyances.

We need to pray at all times and in all situations. May we set a goal to become too busy praying that we don’t have time to waste on trivial matters that only make us upset.

Exhort one another (Thursday, January 3)

Working to build the body of Christ on earth does not involve size or numbers. Nor does it have anything to do with huge churches, thousands of members or dozens of programs. These are easy. What really matters is living, working and taking care of one another because we are all sisters and brothers.

Just as God encourages and strengthens us each day, we are to do the same with others. Paul told the Thessalonians to continue to encourage and exhort one another, to build each other up. He realized how important it was to support those in our family of God. When we edify one another, we glorify God. We show the world what Christ-like love is truly all about.

In difficulties or hardship, we do not speak harshly to the ones we love. We do not forget about them either. We do not turn away when they need help or when we are too busy. Most of all, we do not go about our business when we know they are hurting or we believe (through the Holy Spirit) that something is wrong. Instead, we put their needs above our own at all costs, just as Jesus did. We think always of them first and ourselves last.

When we begin to encourage those around us, we will suddenly see and understand more intimately the many ways that God strengthens us each moment. Supporting those who also are children of God brings us closer to one another and closer to our Father.

Hope in the glory of God (Wednesday, January 2)

As we stand in the doorway of a new year, we need to see the hope that awaits us in the days ahead. We can have tremendous hope throughout the coming months because of Jesus. Our faith and acceptance of him makes possible our salvation and our salvation assures us of receiving God’s glory.

St. Paul said that it is Jesus “through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:2). Paul tells us that we can be assured of our hope in God since it has come to us from the Son.

The “hope of the glory of God” is a reality that exists just as Christ exists. It is not something to wish for, as we commonly do on earth when we hope for good weather, good travels or a good job.

Instead, the hope we have in God is solid and firm. It is a covenant from God that we can depend on his glory in the days, weeks and months ahead. His glory will be there through joy, sorrow, victory and disappointment. The hope of the glory of God will never change as long as we have faith in Jesus. Like Paul, we can rejoice no matter what happens in 2013.

The divine plan (Tuesday, January 1)

The essence of Christmas is found in spiritual transformation. Through the savior’s birth, our lives are made new – reformed and reborn – regardless of what we see with our earthly vision. The heavenly message, the very word of God, is proclaimed to all who will listen. Only those that are willing to believe what they hear, rather than what they see, will understand and be comforted.

Reflecting on my life – on what has brought me to this particular time and place – I realize I have been both a victim and a victor. I have fallen victim to the world’s problems and tribulations, yet I have experienced victory through God’s power and strength. Despite many hardships, I know my life is much more than an accident. Each of my days has been carefully planned by a loving Creator. He designed and ordered my years even before I was born.

So it was with Jesus as well. Before his birth in Bethlehem, God prepared each detail of our Savior’s life. Old Testament prophesies told and retold for centuries, many times over, about the coming of the Messiah. The Book of Matthew also recounts precisely the 42 generations from the time of Abraham to the holy birth. That Jesus was born at a certain time and place was no coincidence. All had been divinely structured even before the universe began.

We are alive today, living in this place, because of God’s will. He has a unique purpose for each one of us, just as he did for his only begotten son. As we celebrate the gift of the Christ child this season, let us recognize the new life we have through him. Not only do we have purpose and meaning through his birth, but we also witness the fulfillment of God’s perfect plan in our lives today.

Not to worry (Monday, December 31)

Live carefree in 2-0-1-3. Perhaps the New Year can be a time when we finally, once and for all, live without worry. Whether we do or not depends on what we choose to believe and how hard we are willing to pursue our peace of mind.

We will have to battle with ourselves many times throughout the year. Our first inclination whenever we encounter difficulty is to be anxious. We wonder about our health, our finances, our job. All sorts of things cause us to be troubled and lose sleep.

Scripture tells us to cast our care upon the Lord and he will take sustain us (Psalm 55:22). We need to cast our cares – throw them away from us – much like a fisherman casts out a line. Doing so takes effort and determination. There is nothing passive about it. In similar fashion, we must cast our worries toward God and let him take care of them. God can only take control when we give up control.

May we resolve to make some changes in this New Year. Maybe we can worry less and enjoy life more. With any faith at all we might be able to live completely carefree in 2-0-1-3.

Being victors
(Sunday, December 30)

Sometimes our best just isn’t good enough. Watching the World Cup in 2010 reminded me that there are times when we give our all, putting everything we have into something, and still come up short. Like the United States soccer team playing in South Africa, we can lose even though we have done everything we know how to do to win.

No one likes to lose, and it does not matter whether it involves a game or a matter more serious like a promotion or being turned down for a loan. We take our losses personally, even though there may have been nothing else we could have done. We think losing in one area or on one occasion makes us losers in every respect.

We should never give up our value and dignity simply because we did not get what we wanted. What we lost is one thing. Our lives are another. The only thing that matters in life is our life. If we lose our soul then we have lost everything. But if we lose a soccer match, a baseball game or even a job, the defeat will not matter in the long run. Yes, the pain of a loss is intense and immediate. But so is the joy of victory. Who will still be suffering or celebrating in five or ten years?

The whole point is that we never lose with God. We do not have to worry about being overcome by any enemy. He keeps us safe and secure. In him, we remain children of the king in spite of the world’s difficulties; we are always victorious. Nothing can conquer us as long as we trust and believe the conqueror.

Keeping one day holy (Saturday, December 29)

For Jews, today is the Sabbath. For Christians, Sunday is the Sabbath. No matter when it is celebrated, the Lord’s Day is a holy time. It is a day to set aside all but the essential elements of life. We honor the Creator with devoting one day of the week completely to him.

As we do so, we are changed. We are pulled away from the daily activities of the world: away from work, away from errands, away from meetings, away from the newspaper and, maybe, even away from watching television. The day seems to slow down as we calm down. We begin to feel the beauty of being alive.

I was a young boy when there where Blue Laws on Sunday. Nothing could be open except for businesses that provided the most essential services. Even restaurants were closed. There are times when I wish we could return to those days to restore the peacefulness that we so desperately need today.

Each one of us can, if we want, give this one special day back to God. We can take care of everything we need in six days and set aside a holy time – both for God and for ourselves. Now, more than ever, we need to be quiet and listen to him.

Changing (Friday, December 28)

The rebellious nature of the human condition is hard to understand. More difficult to comprehend is how to stop it. St. Paul wrestled with this issue as he attempted to resolve the vast difference between his desire and God’s will. “I do not understand what I do,” he wrote. “For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. . . . For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing” (Romans 7:15, 19).

So it is with us. We keep on doing those things we do not want to do. At times, it seems as though we are powerless to change in spite of how hard we try. The truth is that we cannot change ourselves. Only God can alter our spirit.

We have to let go of everything that holds us captive to our own will. Until we do so, we will remain in bondage to sin and wrongdoing. We will never stop doing what we hate to do unless we replace the evil in our hearts with the complete love of God.

Renewed knowledge (Thursday, December 27)

Christmas never ends. Nor does Easter. The birth and death of our Lord and Savior are present each day of our lives as constant reminders of the expanse of our own lives. Like Jesus, we are born to serve God and we will one day return to our heavenly place.

Our time on earth is measured by the spiritual values of love, dedication, commitment and persistence. What we do for the Lord is all that will matter on the day when we stand before him. God will see the true nature of our hearts as we changed through the years. He will judge us by his heavenly standards, not by those of man.

God will not be influenced by what has happened to us at the hands of our fellow human beings – even our own. His one and only concern is how much we have trusted and believed in him. Our faith and works will tell him all he needs to know.

Though our sins throughout all of life will be “like scarlet,” Isaiah 1:18 also reminds us that “they shall be as white as snow.” In his eyes, we will be pure and spotless. Our iniquities will be gone. “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12). May this renewed knowledge give us new confidence and hope today as we live for him.

The unexpected (Wednesday, December 26)

In the birth of Jesus, we find the unexpected. There are no huge gatherings, no royal proclamations and no grand festivals. Instead, we find humble shepherds who are suddenly startled by a host of angels.

The men are terrified by the sight of these strange apparitions in the night sky, but they are profoundly comforted by the simple message. They did as they were told and went to see this savior who had been born.

What do we expect to find as we come to the manger this Christmas? Are we shocked or confused by what we see? Are we like the shepherds who, at first, do not understand the significance of what has occurred? The point that truly matters is whether we are willing to believe what we are told, even though the truth defies all we know and have experienced about life itself.

We are shepherds (Tuesday, December 25)

On the night of Jesus’ birth, the shepherds were the first to know. God sent an angel to them to announce that a savior had been born. Suddenly, they left the fields and hurried off to see this baby in a manger. These common men at once understood the message and began spreading the word throughout the countryside.

Sadly, too many people today still do not comprehend what occurred more than 2,000 years ago. The story of the virgin birth remains a myth – nothing more than a tale to create a peaceful and pleasant backdrop for the Christmas season. In most cases, the truth and essence of this heavenly miracle is obscured, overshadowed, by the rush of holiday shopping.

We can only ponder what might have happened if the shepherds were too busy or concerned over their flocks. Who would have told the world what happened? In the same way, you and I have to ask ourselves if we have become too caught up in the busy-ness of Christmas. Perhaps we have failed to tell others the message of the birth.

The men in the fields on that eventful night in Bethlehem have long since left this world. Now we must be the shepherds who spread the word. We have to let people know that the savior’s birth is more than a story. The gospels, each in their own way, record the reality and facts for us today. Let us, as contemporary watchmen and followers, declare the divine message so that all who hear are amazed, just as those living long ago.

He is our hope (Monday, December 24)

How incredible that the hope of the universe was given to the world in the form of a child born in Bethlehem. God chose the sublime rather than the obvious to announce the birth of a savior.

In this single act, we see the gentleness and compassion of our father. Jesus became flesh so that we might see both the beauty and the frailty of our very lives. We can only imagine the wonder and awe felt by the shepherds and, months later, the three wise men who had traveled hundreds of miles. What must they have thought as they beheld this tiny child?

As we reflect on their experience, we need think about how we might have reacted. We must ponder the meaning of what we see in front of us. The image is much more than a baby in a manger. In this small child, we must recognize our own salvation and be willing to praise God for what we do not totally understand.

The light of the world (Sunday, December 23)

Perhaps the reason why Christmas seems one of the most beautiful times of the year is because we take time to appreciate what God has given us. In spite of the shopping, decorating, baking and traveling we pause, ever so briefly, to celebrate being alive.

The birth of a child reminds us of the simple gift of life. No matter what we may be experiencing, Christmas focuses our attention on people. Friends and family become more important than all of the richest gifts under the tree. What shines most in our hearts is the treasure of memories we unwrap over and over in our minds. With each passing year, the remembrances are sweeter and more fragrant. They fill our life with meaning and purpose.

A tiny babe lying in a manger is the perfect symbol of Christmas. There, among the rustic surroundings, our attention is drawn to life itself. He is the light of the world that took away the darkness both now and forever, and his light shines through us to give us eternal and everlasting life.

Following our star (Saturday, December 22)

After seeing the heavenly star in the east, the wise men began a journey that lasted months and covered more than a thousand miles. They traveled from Persia to Jerusalem just to see this special child that had been born.

How far are we willing to go today to follow the light that points the way to our salvation? Often we lack the patience and strength to last a few days, not to mention several months or even a year. We are tempted to give up too soon, to lose hope because we are tired or weary. You and I easily lose sight of the real reason for our journey.

We are headed to see our king – to honor, adore, praise and worship him. Before we reach that holy and eternal place, we must cross many hardships through storms, deserts and seas. On the way we also will encounter those who would rob of us of our purpose and goodness. If we are serious, we will continue on no matter what we have to endure.

We may be tired, weak and worn, but what matters is to reach the holy city. Once we behold his face and see him with our own eyes, all the past trials and tribulations will suddenly disappear. Then, at last, we can say our journey is finished.

Mary and Joseph (Friday, December 21)

Mary was ecstatic to be chosen by God. She, among all the women in the world, would give birth to the Christ child. The first chapter of Luke captures her awe and wonder over what was about to happen: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. . . . From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me. Holy is his name.”

Joseph, however, did not share her joy. Not in the least. Matthew 1 says that, “Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace. He had in mind to divorce her quietly.”

Mary praised God; Joseph wanted a divorce. Mary was proud; Joseph was ashamed. Mary was honored; Joseph was dishonored. She trusted the Lord; he did not. After an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream, he finally did what the Lord commanded. He took Mary home to be his wife.

We will never know, of course, what might have occurred if an angel would have met Joseph before he learned the news about Mary. The point is that he was not willing, on his own, to trust God and continue to be “faithful to the law.” Where will we find ourselves this Christmas? Are we willing to believe what happened long ago or are we, too, waiting for an angel to appear? May we use our faith this season much more than our sight. Then, at last, we will be able to see and appreciate this heavenly miracle for ourselves.

Peace through pain (Thursday, December 20)

Even during inconsolable times, God offers peace. He is there when we lack understanding, faith and belief. But just being in his presence, crying out to him, can still our hearts and minds.

When Thomas A. Dorsey wrote one of his greatest gospel songs, he was going through the lowest period in his life. He was suffering tremendous tragedy. His wife Nettie had died while giving birth to their child. The next day, the infant son died as well. Dorsey was left alone in grief and despair.

Through the tears, he wrote “Take My Hand, Precious Lord.” The words are simple, but powerful: “Precious Lord, take my hand / Lead me on, let me stand, / I am tired, I am weak, I am worn; / Through the storm, through the night, / Lead me on to the light: / Take my hand, precious Lord, / Lead me home.”

You and I have much to be thankful for this day, no matter what we are going through. God is with us. He is there to take our hand and lead us on. He will not let us fall in spite of our weakness and weariness. His strength is constant and sure when ours is not. He is light even in the darkness of night. All we need to do is look up to him. He will touch us with his love and take us all the way through the storm.

You and John the Baptist (Wednesday, December 19)

Our work for the Lord in the 21st century is not so very different from that of John the Baptist. He was sent to prepare the way for Jesus the first time. We are to make the world ready for the Second Coming.

The birth of Jesus was foretold by the prophets for centuries. So, too, was the coming of John the Baptist. Isaiah said this chosen one would be “a voice calling in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way for the Lord and make straight paths for him’” (Matthew 3:3).

John lived in the wasteland of Judea, calling all to be baptized and repent. “The kingdom of heaven is near,” he warned. When the Pharisees and Sadducee came to mock him, John called them a “brood of vipers” and admonished them that, “Every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”

As we draw closer to celebrating the birth of Our Savior, let us remember what John was commanded to do. Now we have the same responsibility. You and I must prepare the way for Jesus’ triumphal return. It is up to us to tell others, in the words of John the Baptist, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

Time to rejoice (Tuesday, December 18)

Pure joy is found in God. No place else. Rejoice in the Lord always, Paul wrote, for he learned there was no lasting joy in what did not last.

Be grateful for God’s grace. Be thankful for his forgiveness. Be at peace because of his love. Be glad for his gift of salvation. All of these are eternal. They will never fade away. Nor will they disappear during times of difficulty.

Beyond the trials of life, God is always there – always faithful. There is joy in him even when there is sadness all around. Paul could rejoice in the Lord at all times because he rejected worldly situations and circumstances. To him, life was a spiritual matter.

He had joy through God, not through himself or what he was going through at the moment.

Thy will or my will? (Monday, December 17)

Often we settle for less than what God has planned because we give up; we quickly become impatient and accept what we are able to have right now rather than what will come tomorrow or next week. We find it hard to wait for the promises that God has for us, but easy to accept what we desire.

A case in point is looking forward to a vacation. We may make our plans months, sometimes even years, in advance. Each day we gain more hope because we are getting close to realizing our vision. Waiting for God to work in our lives is quite another story. We expect him to change situations and events overnight. If he does not, we grow discouraged. We lose hope. We think God has forgotten us and so we start to take matters into our own hands. We give up a divine plan for a worldly one.

As human beings, we frequently forsake the perfect for the imperfect, much like Adam and Eve who gave up a future in paradise for what they wanted at the moment – exchanging all of eternity for a simple, small apple.

God can help us from making the same mistake, if we take a moment to stop and turn to him. He will give us his patience and his persistence for what is best. Left to our own devices, we will surely fall and surrender to our own will.

Our prayers (Sunday, December 16)

All the prayer in the world will not bring back those tiny children and teachers who died at Sandy Hook Elementary School two days ago. I confess that I feel like Mary and Martha at the death of their brother Lazarus. Remember what Martha said to Jesus: “If you had been here, Lord, my brother would not have died.”

I keep thinking if Jesus had been at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday that the boys and girls and their teachers would not have died.

No, Jesus was not there physically. But he was there spiritually. He was standing with each one of those who died, with his arms wrapped tightly around them. And he was there to welcome these precious souls into heaven where they will suffer no more. Now they will live in peace and love forever in paradise.

Still, we mourn for them – that they had to die at such a young age with their whole lives on earth before them. Let us take at least some solace in knowing that they are now praying for us as we pray for them. We are separated physically though we are one in the spirit of God. They will always remain in our hearts and minds even as we will forever remain in theirs. God will care for all of us together as we are held together in his love.

Where was God? (Saturday, December 15)

Dear Friends,
Please click on this link to see the special devotion for Saturday, December 15.  It is about yesterday's shootings and is published on the Christian Broadcasting Network website:
http://www.cbn.com/spirituallife/Devotions/Swaffield-why-didnt-god-stop-it.aspx.
Blessings,
Bruce

Pleasing him first (Friday, December 14)

We do not want to disappoint people, especially those whom we love. We try our best to please those at home, at work, at church and in our neighborhood. We will do all kinds of things to make others think well of us. Many times, we go far out of our way to help someone, even complete strangers.

But how often do we think about pleasing God? Is he on our mind? Are we thinking about him in everything we do? Probably not. Our first thought should be to make God happy – to please him, no matter what the world might think of us. We should realize by now that we cannot satisfy both God and man. You and I have to make a choice. Chances are we usually side with those around us rather than God because we know he will forgive us while people will not.

That is not the point. We should want to delight him so much that we do not care about the consequences of people rejecting us. Think about all of the saints who put him first, ahead of everything including their own lives.

Jesus came to earth not only to offer us salvation. He also came to serve as an example. As we go through this day, let us follow his way in pleasing the father despite the price. In the long run that is all that really matters.

Today's gift (Thursday, December 13)

Each day is like a gift—a present from God especially for you and me. Every package is different and unique. No two are alike, yet they will bless each one of us with exactly what we need.

What will make this gift most meaningful and extra special, though, is our reaction. How many times during the day will we stop to think about what God has given us? How often will we ponder the miracle or price of it? How much will we look at our gift and be overwhelmed with joy?

We can be happy because today is a completely new day with new opportunities and new blessings. “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24). What happened yesterday is gone forever. It is almost as if this is the first day of our lives, that we were born the very minute we opened our eyes this morning.

If we live today as we believe then we should be both cheerful and thankful. God has given us this good gift and he is in control of everything he has planned for us.

Who isn't answering? (Wednesday, December 12)

Have you ever asked the Lord for something and wondered why he did not answer you? Perhaps God did respond; however, it was not exactly what you were seeking. The whole problem could be you and me, not God. We might have had our heart set on our needs, and we did not hear his reply.

You and I are like the rich young man who came to Jesus one day, asking how he could receive eternal life. Jesus told him simply to obey the commandments: do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself. “I have kept all of these,” he said. “What do I lack?”

Jesus answered with words the wealthy man did not want to hear: “If you want to be perfect, sell your possessions and give to the poor. Then, come and follow me.” Jesus did not tell him what he hoped. Sadly, the man turned and walked away, even though Jesus showed him the true way to heaven.

Are we guilty of being like this? Do we turn away from God because we do not hear what we want to hear? We claim God has not answered us because he did not give us our way. Jesus said what was best for this young man. He does the same for us as well, telling us the truth in each situation. Before we rush to judgment and claim God isn’t answering our prayers, let us make sure we are not the ones who fail to respond.

Changing (Tuesday, December 11)

When we have acted up and acted badly, facing ourselves and those we have hurt is one of the hardest things to do. There is nothing we can say after the fact except “I am sorry.”

But apologizing does not take away the embarrassment, the hurt and the shame. The guilt hangs heavy in our heart. We wish we could erase our words and actions, especially when we should have known better.

Thank goodness for love, both God’s love and the love of others. Knowing that we are loved, in spite of ourselves, eases a bit of the regret. What we really need to do is to stop ourselves before we go beyond the point of no return, the line we cross between living for ourselves and living for the Lord.

We should realize anytime we get angry that we have left our reason far behind. Eventually we will have to get back to where we belong, and going back is never easy. Perhaps that return should be difficult so it will force us to change once and for all.

False fear (Monday, December 10)

Fear is a natural human emotion. Trying to conquer our fear is not so natural. Whether we experience the fear of being alone or of doing something new, we can make the obstacle seem almost overwhelming. Before we realize it, we are paralyzed by worry and anxiety.

The Lord knows there are times in life when fear will come against us. “So do not fear,” God says, “for I am with you” (Isaiah 41:10). Realizing that God is with us should make us feel less afraid. But it is not as simple as merely reading a verse of scripture. We have to convince ourselves God truly is with us. We need to know, without any doubt, that God is larger, more powerful, than any fear we face.

We must shift our focus and change our perspective. Instead of wasting time thinking about some fear – which actually reinforces our feelings – we need to look at God. Contemplate his power, his love and his miracles rather than dwelling on the imaginary situation that is prompting our fear. Once we compare the size, greatness and truth of God to our fear, we will understand how irrational it is to be afraid.

Fear is actually an emotion that tries to manifest itself in reality. But God is our true reality.

Older and wiser (Sunday, December 9)

You and I are not as mature as we might think. If only we could claim these words of St. Paul: “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became an adult, I put childish ways behind me” (1 Corinthians 13:11).

I wonder how many of us have really put away childish things. Do we always act with justice, wisdom and righteousness? Or maybe there are occasions when we act up. We have what we might call a temper tantrum. Maybe we are prone to be selfish. It could be we even pout and whine. Yes, we are older now, but we still have those child-like tendencies within us.

That is Paul’s point. He says that he has put his childish ways behind him. Before we think that Paul had mastered the ability to control himself completely, let us remember he was human, too. He is writing a letter to his sisters and brothers in the church at Corinth because they are acting up. They are quarrelling with one another and there are various divisions. In essence, Paul is telling them to grow up and stop acting like children.

We don’t know how they reacted to his chastising. Sometimes, whether we admit it or not, we need to be reprimanded. It does not always feel good, but it is necessary. As you go through today, try to put those childish feelings and behaviors behind you. You are, for the most part, grown up now. Time to be older and wiser for your own good.

Tell the world (Saturday, December 8)

To get their message to people, all kinds of business advertise on television, radio, billboards and the Internet. Some also send out brochures and flyers announcing huge sales and discounts—anything to generate more customers.

What do we do in our churches, though? Occasionally, at special times of the year, we might put an ad in a newspaper or have an item inserted in a community calendar. We try to get the word out, but we really fall short of the mark.

All of us have good intentions about spreading the good news of salvation. Thoughts and wishes alone will not bring more people into our building. We have to think of better ways to help people learn about the grace and love of God.

Jesus said, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). We cannot wait for the nations to come to us; we have to go to them. We have the greatest thing in the world to share and we need to tell everyone we meet what they are missing. They will never know until they experience it for themselves.

Soon now (Friday, December 7)

We are beginning to feel the excitement build. The time is near. Very soon, we will celebrate the most important event in the history of the world: the moment when the Creator of the universe came to reunite all creation with himself.

Without the birth of Christ, our lives would have little meaning. There would be no reason for hope or joy. We would not be able to endure through our suffering and pain. There would not be any future beyond tomorrow, and there could be no purpose for our journey.

When Jesus came to earth he brought with him eternity. He gave us time without end to spend with him. What happened in the manger on Christmas morning made possible all of heaven for each one of us.

God’s gift to the world was much more than his Son. It was ever-lasting life.

Look for the treasure (Thursday, December 6)

There is so much good in the world, but it is usually overshadowed by evil. News outlets constantly tell about deadly accidents, robberies, murders and shootings. Then there are the political and financial situations that threaten us at every turn. Paying too much attention to all of these negative reports can make life appear almost hopeless at times.

These incidents are just a very minute part of what occurs each day compared to all of the goodness around us. Everywhere people are helping others and working hard, yet we seldom hear about their acts of kindness and service.

The only sure way to see the good in life is to look for it. We must make a point to seek it out daily. Observe the people around you: those at the store, at work, at school, at church. See the person who picks up a piece of paper off the floor in the hallway. See the person who stops on the road to let someone pull out of a driveway. See the person who goes across the street to check up on a neighbor.

Sometimes we need to focus more on enjoying the life the Lord has given us rather than dwelling on the problems. Let us learn to cherish what is most important. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). May we put our hearts in the right place by valuing what is truly right and good.

Abide and bear with us (Wednesday, December 5)

During Advent, we lovingly sing the hymn “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” Seldom do we ponder the total meaning throughout the song, especially the last verse: “We hear the Christmas angels, the great glad tidings tell; O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!” In essence, we are asking the Savior to be with us forever.

The phrase “abide with us” can mean much more than standing or being with us. Abide also can mean to accept, bear with, endure or put up with. What we are pleading is for the Lord to accept us, to bear with us, to endure us, to put up with us. The emphasis is on us. We desperately want Jesus to bear with us and accept us in spite of our sinful nature.

This psalm of praise for his birth puts us squarely where we belong. It places us under him, where we are at his mercy and grace. He is the king and we are the servants. We serve Emmanuel, the “God with us” who accepts us by his blood.

May you and I give thanks each time we sing “O Little Town of Bethlehem” for it reminds us exactly why he came to earth.

A gift for you and me (Tuesday, December 4)

There is no telling how much time, energy and work will be spent this Christmas to make everything bright and cheerful. Stores, houses and businesses will be decorated with colorful lights and festive displays. Each year, though, there are fewer angels, mangers and wise men; instead, Santas and snowmen dominate the seasonal landscape.

It is easy for any one of us, even Christians, to get caught up in celebrating like the rest of the world. But our celebration needs to be different. Our remembrance of the Savior’s birth should be solemn and sacred, far from the revelry of songs, presents and trees.

Unlike those living 2,000 years ago, we understand the full meaning of Christmas. We know why Jesus was born and what he would have to endure for our sake. As we give gifts to one another this year, may we recall what Jesus gave to us: the miraculous present of his divinity so we would be able to spend eternity with him. His own birth made possible our re-birth, the greatest gift of all.

God's joy (Monday, December 3)

Having the kind of joy God wants us to enjoy is different than the happiness that is all around us. Our joy may be found in a successful career, being financially secure, having people look up to us, living in an exclusive community, traveling overseas or receiving recognition for our accomplishments. God’s joy is just the opposite. His joy has little to do with feeling happy or successful.

There can be joy in our hearts even though there is trouble in our lives. When our joy is rooted in God, we find true pleasure and peace in the things that cannot be measured by earthly standards. Knowing that we are loved each day by God brings us joy. Realizing that nothing happens in our lives without God’s knowledge gives us joy. Believing that all things work together for good offers us joy.

Too often we seek personal pleasure rather than divine joy. We find enjoyment in what satisfies us for the moment. We eagerly trade the temporal for the eternal, giving up the heavenly for the human. After all is said and done, and the thrill is gone, we are back where we began.

Being filled with God’s joy has nothing to do with how we feel from day to day. His joy transcends all human emotion. The delight we find in God is in knowing, beyond any single doubt, that nothing anywhere happens to us without God’s awareness. We find joy through his constant presence and protection.

A star in the East (Sunday, December 2)

How many times have we heard the Christmas story? Over and over again, from the time we are little children, we are told how Jesus came to earth as a tiny babe in a manger. He was born in a stable because there was no room for him in the inn. There is always a certain mystery to the events that captures our wonder and imagination. The details of that morning never seem to grow old.

Perhaps the reason is because it is something unexpected—something we could not have predicted or guessed. We never would have anticipated that God might send his only Son to be born quietly, without much fanfare at all, among lowly animals and a few shepherds.

We seldom think about how God chose to give us our salvation, but if we pause long enough we may understand more of his purpose and meaning. We might also begin to realize that his ways are above everything else we think or know. His quiet power transcends anything else we experience throughout our lives.

God is always there, yet he will never force himself upon us. He offers us the opportunity to choose: to accept his precious gift or not. He points the way with a star. Whether we draw near to the manger is up to us.

The divine plan (Saturday, December 1)

The essence of Christmas is found in spiritual transformation. Through the savior’s birth, our lives are made new – reformed and reborn – regardless of what we see with our earthly vision. The heavenly message, the very word of God, is proclaimed to all who will listen. Only those that are willing to believe what they hear, rather than what they see, will understand and be comforted.

Reflecting on my life – on what has brought me to this particular time and place – I realize I have been both a victim and a victor. I have fallen victim to the world’s problems and tribulations, yet I have experienced victory through God’s power and strength. Despite many hardships, I know my life is much more than an accident. Each of my days has been carefully planned by a loving Creator. He designed and ordered my years even before I was born.

So it was with Jesus as well. Before his birth in Bethlehem, God prepared each detail of our Savior’s life. Old Testament prophesy told and retold for centuries, many times over, about the coming of the Messiah. The Book of Matthew also recounts precisely the 42 generations from the time of Abraham to the holy birth. That Jesus was born at a certain time and place was no coincidence. All had been divinely structured even before the universe began.

We are alive today, living in this place, because of God’s will. He has a unique purpose for each one of us, just as he did for his only begotten son. As we celebrate the gift of the Christ child this season, let us recognize the new life we have through him. Not only do we have purpose and meaning through his birth, but we also witness the fulfillment of God’s perfect plan in our lives today.

Our song of hope (Friday, November 30)

One of the most beautiful passages of scripture is Mary’s song in Luke 1:46-55. Here, Mary gives thanks to the Lord for all he has done in her life, especially for the wondrous birth of Jesus that is about to take place. “The mighty one has done great things for me,” she confesses, “holy is his name.”

At this season of the year, we need to think about these same words. Indeed, the Lord has done great things for us as well. In spite of our many sins, our thoughtless actions and our unkind words, we have been blessed. We have been given much more than we truly deserve.

Out of love and mercy, God has selected us to be his humble servants. He has touched us in a special way, for his purpose, and he will not let us fall. Just as he did with Mary, he will do great things for us because we have been chosen by him.

The unexpected (Thursday November 29)

In the birth of Jesus, we find the unexpected. There are no huge gatherings, no royal proclamations and no grand festivals. Instead, we find humble shepherds who are suddenly startled by a host of angels. The men are terrified by the sight of these strange apparitions in the night sky, but they are profoundly comforted by the simple message. They did as they were told and went to see this savior who had been born.

What do we expect to find as we come to the manger this Christmas? Are we shocked or confused by what we see? Are we like the shepherds who, at first, do not understand the significance of what has occurred? The point that truly matters is whether we are willing to believe what we are told, even though the truth defies all we know and have experienced about life itself.

We are shepherds (Wednesday, November 28)

On the night of Jesus’ birth, the shepherds were the first to know. God sent an angel to them to announce that a savior had been born. Suddenly, they left the fields and hurried off to see this baby in a manger. These common men at once understood the message and began spreading the word throughout the countryside.

Sadly, too many people today still do not comprehend what occurred more than 2,000 years ago. The story of the virgin birth remains a myth – nothing more than a tale to create a peaceful and pleasant backdrop for the Christmas season. In most cases, the truth and essence of this heavenly miracle is obscured, overshadowed, by the rush of holiday shopping.

We can only ponder what might have happened if the shepherds were too busy or concerned over their flocks. Who would have told the world what happened? In the same way, you and I have to ask ourselves if we have become too caught up in the busy-ness of Christmas. Perhaps we have failed to tell others the message of the birth.

The men in the fields on that eventful night in Bethlehem have long since left this world. Now we must be the shepherds who spread the word. We have to let people know that the savior’s birth is more than a story. The gospels, each in their own way, record the reality and facts for us today. Let us, as contemporary watchmen and followers, declare the divine message so that all who hear are amazed, just as those living long ago.

The message of the manger (Tuesday, November 27)

In a few weeks, millions of people all over the world will be marking Christmas without any knowledge or recognition of Christ. Persons will exchange gifts, sing songs, watch parades and share meals together, yet the real essence – the true heart and purpose – of the day will be missing.

As Christians, we might see the irony in observing a holiday that has no meaning. Such a false and empty celebration seems almost silly. But how many of us will remember Christmas in much the same way, without a single reference of the holy birth to our loved ones or even reading the gospel story once again for ourselves?

There is no excuse or reason for forgetting what Christmas is all about. We must force ourselves to be more conscious of what really happened 2,000 years ago – in essence, our salvation depends on it. In addition, we should not condemn those who fail to understand the significance of Christmas.

As we take time to thank God for the miracle on that starry night in Bethlehem, let us also pray for people everywhere who need to hear the story for the first time. Rather than to judge those who are oblivious to the message, perhaps we can be the messengers for their understanding and salvation.

The light of the world (Monday, November 26)

Perhaps the reason why Christmas seems one of the most beautiful times of the year is because we take time to appreciate what God has given us. In spite of the shopping, decorating, baking and traveling we pause, ever so briefly, to celebrate being alive.

The birth of a child reminds us of the simple gift of life. No matter what we may be experiencing, Christmas focuses our attention on people. Friends and family become more important than all of the richest gifts under the tree. What shines most in our hearts is the treasure of memories we unwrap over and over in our minds. With each passing year, the remembrances are sweeter and more fragrant. They fill our life with meaning and purpose.

A tiny babe lying in a manger is the perfect symbol of Christmas. There, among the rustic surroundings, our attention is drawn to life itself. He is the light of the world that took away the darkness both now and forever, and his light shines through us to give us eternal and everlasting life.

Twice seen (Sunday, November 25)

At the birth of Jesus, the shepherds came twice to see the miracle which had happened. The story in Luke tells us that a heavenly host appeared to them and then, “they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”

We can only imagine their excitement. How amazed they must have been to see and hear angels praising the Lord. Then to witness the tiny child who would one day save the world from sin and death. Almost immediately, they ran off to tell everyone they could find about the good news. They returned later “glorifying and praising” God for this divine act.

The fact that the shepherds came back to the manger is significant. The first time they saw the miracle. The second time they offered their worship and adoration.

As we come to the manger this Christmas, will we return to glorify and praise God after we have spread the wonderful news to others? Regardless of our demanding schedules, let us take time to ponder these things in our hearts, just as Mary did. The longer we think about the birth of Jesus, the more we will understand what his coming means for all of us.

Our birth through him (Saturday, November 24)

Christmas symbolizes the very beginning of who and what we are as Christians. This special time of the year marks the origin and hope of our lives, both here on earth and for all eternity. In the birth of the tiny Christ child we see all the power of universe as well as the unconditional love of a benevolent creator. The same God who brought light out of darkness and form out of chaos also was meek enough to dwell among his creatures.

We think only of a manger because we are unable to grasp much more. Our human perceptions allow us to see only the physical. But what we are able to experience with our eyes and ears should be proof enough that there is a greater, higher state. We can feel it, if only a little. Beyond the dirty and crude stable is a spiritual realm where God dwells in all his magnificence and glory.

Christ came to earth to give a glimpse of that place – to show us the unseen through the seen. If we look at him, we can start to understand what our years here are all about. We find our whole being in God, through him.

Following our star (Friday, November 23)

After seeing the heavenly star in the east, the wise men began a journey that lasted months and covered more than a thousand miles. They traveled from Persia to Jerusalem just to see this special child that had been born.

How far are we willing to go today to follow the light that points the way to our salvation? Often we lack the patience and strength to last a few days, not to mention several months or even a year. We are tempted to give up too soon, to lose hope because we are tired or weary. You and I easily lose sight of the real reason for our journey.

We are headed to see our king – to honor, adore, praise and worship him. Before we reach that holy and eternal place, we must cross many hardships through storms, deserts and seas. On the way we also will encounter those who would rob of us of our purpose and goodness. If we are serious, we will continue on no matter what we have to endure.

We may be tired, weak and worn, but what matters is to reach the holy city. Once we behold his face and see him with our own eyes, all the past trials and tribulations will suddenly disappear. Then, at last, we can say our journey is finished.

Thanks-giving (Thursday, November 22)

The day of Thanksgiving in the United States is a chance to remember how much our nation and our lives are blessed. But this special holiday should be about much more than our special favor by God. We should pause to actually give thanks to the Lord for all he continues to do in our lives.

Psalm 107:1 says, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.” Day after day, year after year, God is by our side. He guides us, he protects us, he comforts us and he even encourages us. Our circumstances do not matter. Nor do our emotions and thoughts; “his faithful love” continues.

As we celebrate this day of thanks-giving and of giving-thanks, may we be grateful for the greatest gift of all: our salvation. Christ came into this world to take our sins upon the cross. Soon we will observe both the day of his birth and then the day of his crucifixion.

This very day of Thanksgiving begins the whole season that spans his entire life on earth. From beginning to end, we can see “his faithful love” over and over again. In turn, may he see our thankful hearts praising him today as well as day after day.

An open heart (Wednesday, November 21)

The faith of children is remarkable. They trust openly, willingly, without hesitation. We as adults, on the other hand, are skeptical and hesitant. We do not always accept and believe. We often look for proof on which to base our hope.

As we grow up, we seem to leave behind our confidence in and dependence on others. We begin to turn to ourselves, to rely on our own abilities and resources. We even build mental walls in order to protect and insulate ourselves from other people and from the difficulties of the world. We think such invisible barriers as distrust and pessimism offer security.

What we fail to see, however, is that the same fences we construct in our minds to keep ourselves safe can actually prevent God from reaching us. He cannot penetrate our feelings of anger, prejudice, distrust and doubt, even when we say we are willing to depend on him.

Our hearts must be open and exposed, much like a child. We need to be willing to trust both God and others, realizing that at times we may be hurt or disappointed. The alternative is to continue to distance ourselves from life itself, and from the very calling that God has placed on us.

Too many wonders (Tuesday, November 20)

How does it happen? A Sunday school lesson, planned four months earlier, dealt with the same subject as the pastor’s sermon during the worship service. Both examined the topic of forgiveness.

This was no planned effort. Nor was it a coincidence. It is the sort of thing that God does all of the time. We do not always make the connection because we forget or too busy to notice.

Time after time, all over the world, God plans events to happen in perfect harmony with his will. He brings two people together from different backgrounds, he saves a teenager from a fatal crash, he puts a college graduate in the right place at the right time to get a job, he unites a church with a new pastor, he stops a mother from committing suicide.

He has been caring for his children for thousands of years, never taking his eye off any one of them—not even for a second. If you want proof, look at some of the things he has done in your life recently. Look at the “coincidences” and know that everything was done on purpose. “Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare” (Psalm 40:5).

The light of the world (Monday, November 19)

Perhaps the reason why Christmas seems one of the most beautiful times of the year is because we take time to appreciate what God has given us. In spite of the shopping, decorating, baking and traveling we pause, ever so briefly, to celebrate being alive.

The birth of a child reminds us of the simple gift of life. No matter what we may be experiencing, Christmas focuses our attention on people. Friends and family become more important than all of the richest gifts under the tree. What shines most in our hearts is the treasure of memories we unwrap over and over in our minds. With each passing year, the remembrances are sweeter and more fragrant. They fill our life with meaning and purpose.

A tiny babe lying in a manger is the perfect symbol of Christmas. There, among the rustic surroundings, our attention is drawn to life itself. He is the light of the world that took away the darkness both now and forever, and his light shines through us to give us eternal and everlasting life.

Your heavenly favor (Sunday, November 18)

There is usually a certain group of individuals who receive most of the attention wherever we go. It could be at work, in an organization, at church or school. Everyone goes out of the way to celebrate their birthday, praise their achievements or their accomplishments, and ask for their advice.

Life does not always treat us fairly. We are quick to feel injustice and inequality when we see it. We also are likely to become jealous when other people garner more notice or consideration than we do. We all want to feel special in some way.

Never forget that you are special. The world may forget you or overlook you, but God never stops loving you. Remember, he chose you from the beginning and he created you for a specific purpose. The place he has for you in this life can be filled only by you.

If you are doing what is right – what God has asked – you need not feel alone, lonely or ignored. You have the marvelous company of a great multitude of heavenly hosts who are cheering for you. Being the apple of God’s eye is worth more than the adulation of millions of people. The attention of others does not even come close to the divine attention of God. The world will always praise its own and so will God. 

Trying to bless ourselves (Saturday, November 17)

People do the dumbest things. A multinational corporation has just announced it is closing for good after being in business for more than 80 years. The company warned union employees that a continued strike demanding more money would spell disaster—for the company and for everyone who worked there. The strike did not end. Now the doors are closing forever.

Back in the 1980s, I worked for Eastern Airlines and the same thing happened. Employees in the union kept wanting more money and better benefits. Finally, the company filed for bankruptcy and everyone was laid off permanently.

This all sounds much like a 21st century parable. People seem to feel no job is better than one that pays less than they think they are worth. The lesson is clear: not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought but, rather, with sober judgment (Romans 12:3).

There is only one who realizes our true value and worth. God knows us better than we know ourselves. Whenever we are tempted to think we deserve more, let us remember St. Paul’s advice to use sober judgment. Let God determine our worth and let him bless us as he chooses.

Follow the directions (Friday, November 16)

Whether you are baking a cake, assembling a bicycle, fixing a car, repairing a faucet or restoring furniture, you need to follow the directions. Each product comes with specific instructions to achieve the most successful results.

What we often forget is that these directions are based on hundreds of tests and trials. Researchers have spent countless days and weeks to come up with the best way to use the product. Ignore the steps and you will end up with less than what you expected.

How about our lives? Do we follow the directions? Do we eat right, exercise, and rest as we should? More important, are we following God’s directions for our life? We need to go where he leads and do what we are told.

Think about the last time, other than Sunday, when you opened God’s book of instructions: the Bible. Scripture is God’s word to us today as he speaks through the past. Remember, he never changes. That is why he instructs us the same as he did Abraham, Isaiah, Elijah and millions of others through the years. But we have one distinct advantage—we see what happens when people ignore his directions.

Ask Jesus (Thursday, November 15)

The narrow two-lane road was blocked because a pick-up truck had gone into a ravine, and a tow-truck was trying to pull it out. There was nothing to do but wait in the long line of traffic. In my rearview mirror, however, I noticed an 18-wheeler trying to turn around.

After repeated attempts, the driver gave up. He was trying to make a 53-foot trailer turn completely around on a road maybe 23 or 24 feet wide. Do the math, including the length of the cab as well, and you realize it can’t be done.

As foolish as this act seemed, I suddenly realized that we do the same thing each day of our lives. We try the impossible and then wonder what went wrong. We try to be two places at the same time. We try to accomplish six hours of work in two. We try to get through our day without having any clear plan or schedule.

Sometimes we just need to stop trying all of the time, and let God help us. We are so busy trying that we aren’t allowing the Lord to do anything. “What do you want me to do for you,” Jesus asked the blind man (Mark 10:51). “Rabbi, I want to see,” he replied. And so Jesus healed him. No matter what you are trying to do today, ask Jesus. He wants to help.

D + anger = ? (Wednesday, November 14)

There is too much anger. Despite where this day takes us, we will probably experience anger in some form or another. We might be the ones who are angry or it could be someone else. But, we are almost guaranteed to see it.

Whether we realize it or not, anger is contagious. We can quickly become upset even when things are going our way. Do you recall the last time a person made an off-handed comment to you? What was your first reaction? Mine usually is, “You can’t talk to me that way.” Then my anger comes out.

On the surface there is nothing wrong with feeling angry. It is a natural human emotion. What we do with that anger makes all the difference, both for us and others who are involved.

No great intellect is needed to understand why scripture tells us: “Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil” (Psalm 37:8). Anger will never resolve a situation; instead, anger makes matters worse. If you think about it, the letters in anger actually spell: “A No Good Emotional Reaction.” May you remember this sentence the next time you feel your anger rising. Plus, put a D in front of anger and look at what it becomes: Danger.

Are you a part-time servant? (Tuesday, November 13)

It is peculiar to see children riding down the street on bicycles and talking on cell phones. What can be so important they have to talk with someone while they are playing? Adults are no different. They talk and text while they are driving; many also text while walking.

Trying to do too many things all at once can land us in serious trouble. When we pray, are we really thinking about God or on what we are going to do later in the day? Perhaps we are in the middle of a worship service and we are planning what to have for dinner. Maybe we are at work, but we are working on our own business on the Internet.

“Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you,” says Proverbs 4:25-26. “Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.” To be steadfast means to be set, mentally and physically, on where you are going.

The world tries to trip us up with one distraction after another. Multitasking is not all it’s cracked up to be. How can we devote ourselves to something when we are giving it only half or one-quarter of our time, particularly when it comes to serving God or loving others. Doing God's work is a full-time job and it requires our full attention. A part-time servant is only there part of the time.

No time to waste (Monday, November 12)

There I sat as the minutes ticked by slowly. There is nothing more frustrating, for me at least, than waiting for the doctor. I had to talk myself out of being angry and upset. How rude, I thought, for wasting my time.

I wondered if my impatience was because I didn’t want to be kept waiting or because I had nothing to do? I hate to admit it, but the latter was the case. I was bored and did not want to do this anymore.

Did I stop to think there might have been an emergency earlier in the day? No. Did I wonder if maybe the doctor wasn’t feeling well? No. Did I consider that maybe the staff was one or two persons short? No.

Has that ever happened to you? Have you ever thought only of yourself? The next time you have to wait, remember the reason has nothing to do with you. No one is purposely trying to inconvenience you. Remember, too, this verse from Psalm 31:15: “My times are in your hands; deliver me from the hands of my foes and those who pursue me and persecute me” (Psalm 31:15). We also might ask God to save us from our selfish thinking as well.

Out of season (Sunday, November 11)

Our Christmas cactus is blooming and Christmas is seven weeks away! At this rate, the flowers will be gone by the time we get to the holiday.

Many things seem to blossom at the wrong time, at least as far as we are concerned. From a Christmas cactus to an Easter lily to an African violet, we are always surprised when these plants bloom out of season.

Such unexpected occurrences should remind us that we cannot control nature. Plants do not bloom when we expect them; they bloom according to the natural laws of the universe.

We need to apply the same lesson to our lives. Our days do not go by our plans; instead, they go according to God’s plan. He is in control. He knows what is best and when it should happen. We need to be more open and receptive to God’s path so we do not miss the surprises he offers us out of season.

What is your lion’s den? (Saturday, November 10)

The world does not always turn the right way. There are times when people are rewarded for doing something wrong. On the other hand, there are probably plenty of occasions when persons are punished or chastised for doing what is right.

Daniel was thrown in the lion’s den because he continued to worship God. Three times a day, Daniel paused to pray to the Lord, in spite of an official decree that no one was to pray to any man or god for 30 days. Daniel knew he was doing the right thing in God’s eyes. No matter. King Darius sentenced him to death in the lion’s den.

As followers of Christ Jesus, we will often be thrown in the lion’s den of tribulation for doing what God commands. Time after time in our lives, we will follow his way and be punished by the world. Our penalty, however, is not final.

In the end, the Lord will be the final judge. Others will be sentenced by God himself. It will be similar to what happened to those who cajoled the king to make the degree against prayer just so they could trap Daniel. Right after Daniel walked out of lion’s den, King Darius ordered all of the other priests to be thrown in.

An open prayer (Friday, November 9)

Dear Lord, you have blessed us with so much in our lives: two children and four grandchildren, friends and relatives, a house, two cars, clothes, food and money. Yet, we come to you day after day asking for more. We want you to help our son find a job, to heal our daughter of the flu, to grant peace to a student, to change a relative’s attitude, to take care of several persons with Alzheimer’s. Our list of needs and wants goes on and on.

We ask you for all these things because you are good and we see our petitions as creating good out of bad. We know you have a great and perfect plan for everyone. We want you to heal and care for people because it seems good in our eyes. Forgive us, though, if we do not understand. Forgive us if we are praying for the wrong solution. Know that in our hearts we want what is truly best for each person and for every situation.

Grant us your constant mercy in all we ask. Forgive our weakness and our complaining. Most of all, give us strength and courage to trust everything you do. We need you to build our faith so it is greater than our desires.

Choosing his way
(Thursday, November 8)

In a radio sermon, the Rev. Chuck Swindoll once spoke on the subject of whether we are guided by God or those around us. “There is nothing as wonderful as freedom from intimidation,” he said. His whole point was not letting people control us.

Perhaps you know certain persons who like to manipulate others and tell them what to do. All of us, for example, have worked for individuals who told us what was best for us and what to think. It’s their way or the highway; there is no room for compromise or discussion.

This juncture is where we need to make a decision, says Swindoll. We have a choice: either we do as we are told or we do as God has planned. We cannot listen to both man and God. Will we allow someone else to intimidate us or will we set ourselves free by following God’s desire?

Most of the time, we know which is the right path to follow. The problem is we allow ourselves to be controlled by people. At such times, we need to reconsider our commitment to God. Better yet, we need to remember his commitment to us: “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). No matter what others may do to us, he will never forsake us for choosing his way.

Jesus for president? (Wednesday, November 7)

The 2012 presidential election is over and life will return to normal for most of us. As the country begins to reflect on what went wrong or what went right during the campaigns, one fact is true: 2,186,986 persons wrote in the name of Jesus for president.

A popular evangelist in Florida convinced his followers to cast their ballots for the King of Kings. He labeled one candidate as satanic and the other as a cult member.

Sadly, more than two million Christians chose to follow this man’s advice. Some 2,000 years ago, Jesus spoke about the radical difference between this world and the kingdom of heaven. In answering a question about whether it was right for those who believed in God to pay taxes to Caesar, his reply was simple. “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s” (Luke 20:25).

Voting for Jesus for president might be a nice gesture, but isn’t it a lot like what happened when Jesus rode into Jerusalem for the last time? Over and over again, everyone shouted “Hosanna!” The word means “Save Now,” and they wanted him to be Jesus of the moment rather than Jesus of eternity.

Listening better (Tuesday, November 6)

They say “silence is golden.” So why don’t we spend more of our time being quiet and still? We often run away from silence and, instead, chase after noise of all varieties: the radio, television, our cell phone and computer.

Perhaps we want to fill the empty minutes with some sort of clatter. Maybe the absence of sound makes us feel too much alone. We have a hard time dealing with nothingness; it makes us uncomfortable or uneasy.

We have the wrong idea about the sort of silence God intends when he says, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). He does not mean for us to be completely passive—to sit alone in a dark room and do nothing. His definition of being still is an active yearning and seeking to hear him, to recognize his voice, far above the distractions and disturbances of everyday life.

How well do you know the Lord’s voice? Is it familiar enough that you would hear it in spite of all the noise around you? If you are not sure, you are probably too caught up in listening to everything else. Take a moment right now to be quiet and turn all of your thoughts toward him. You will be surprised by what he says.

What we produce (Monday, November 5)

Bearing fruit for the kingdom is not simply being busy for God. Nor does it mean bringing soul after soul into the kingdom. We must bear the marks of a good and faithful servant more than anything else.

Kindness. Gentleness. Helpfulness. Graciousness. All of these determine the fruit we produce. Do those who meet us and know us want to be imitators of us just as we are imitators of Christ? Or, do our words and actions merely look good from the outside when, in fact, our hearts are hardened and stale.

You and I can only bear the right kind of fruit if we are connected to the true tree. I am the vine, Jesus said, and you are the branches. To be productive, God’s love and compassion must be living and growing in us, so much so that he is one who produces the fruit that we bear.

Revealing the glory (Sunday, November 4)

The first persons to hear about the birth of Jesus were not kings. They were not the wealthy or powerful. Nor were they religious leaders or rich merchants. Instead, they were simple shepherds, who were out in the fields, protecting and caring for their flocks. All was ordinary and routine that night. They could not have imagined what was about to happen.

The fact that God revealed the greatest miracle ever known to these humble men makes the event even more meaningful. God could have chosen anyone, yet he proclaimed the Savior’s birth to common shepherds. They were the first to hear the good news. Their eyes saw what their minds could not imagine.

In much the same way, God appears to us. He uses people like you and me to tell others about the authority and power of Jesus. He declares his word to us so we, in turn, can tell the miraculous story to all we meet. He allows us to share in his joy and glory.

Declaring the Savior’s birth is the most important part of Christmas. We can only celebrate when we reveal what has been revealed to us.

Blessings count (Saturday, November 3)

Think of all the little things you were able to do this morning: wake up in a comfortable house, turn on lights, take a shower, put on clean clothes, make breakfast, talk on the phone, check your email and watch the news on television. Maybe there are other things you were able to do as well.

All of these are gifts from a kind and loving God. He gives to us out of his care and concern for us. And his supreme desire is for us to use these blessings to bless others we know and will meet today.

Jesus said, “When someone has been given much, much will be required in return” (Luke 12:48). Look at how much we have, not just in our homes but everywhere we go. We drive nice cars, shop at large stores and malls, and eat at clean restaurants.

If the Lord has blessed you in some way, use that blessing to bless someone else. At the same time you count your blessings you can make a blessing count in another person’s life. Think of the many ways you can pay your blessings forward.

Don't eat your words (Friday, November 2)

Sometimes we are forced to eat our words. We utter something in haste and then we have to take it back. We must swallow our pride and admit we were wrong.

What we say might be about someone else, a situation or our own life. James 1:26 reminds us to keep a tight rein on our tongue lest we deceive ourselves through wrongful and judgmental thinking.

I recall in 1974 when I graduated from a university in Ohio with a bachelor’s degree. As I drove away from the institution for the last time, I expressed my joy and relief at not having to go to classes anymore. “I will never set foot on another college campus again in my life,” I told my wife, and I meant it.

Little did I know that nine years later God would guide me, as well as give me the intense desire, to go back to school for more studying and learning. I thought I knew what I wanted, but God knew what I needed. He had a better plan for my life than I did.

Seeking our spirituality (Thursday, November 1)

Being spiritual in a secular world requires patience and wisdom, the ability to step back from the intensity of the moment with complete confidence. Knowing God is in control of each situation should make a difference, no matter the situation.

But such faith and trust does not come easily. It must be built from day to day, one experience after another, until the struggles of daily living are barely visible in the brilliance of God’s glory and fullness. In the end, at the close of our life journey on earth, the only thing that will matter is God. The pain, humiliation and suffering will all cease and a new journey in eternity will begin.

You and I are learning, at this very moment, how to prepare for our spiritual life in heaven. God is teaching us slowly, step-by-step through each hardship and need, the way to depend on him. Each tiny seed of faith eventually grows to maturity, but will ripen only when nurtured by divine light. His light shows us the path to trusting him in everything.

The journey (Wednesday, October 31)

The apostle Paul was passionate about being a missionary. In his three journeys, Paul is known to have traveled to at least 38 cities. Some of these (Antioch, Derbe, Troas, Philippi, and Thessalonica) he visited two and three times. When he wasn’t preaching the gospel, he was writing letters to congregations he had already seen or to those worshippers he wanted to see: the Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, etc.

Few persons today can rival all that Paul did for the kingdom. Even when he came to the end of his journey in Rome, Paul still was serving the Lord. Confined and seemingly alone, Paul pressed on. The last verse in Acts tells us that, “For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 28:30).

We should remember Paul today not for what he did, but for what the Lord did through him. Actually, Paul did a simple thing: he followed the example of Jesus Christ by allowing the Lord to use his life. Giving our life to God is not complicated, but often we make it difficult because of our own stubbornness and desires. If we are serious about spreading the good news of salvation, we will let the Lord use us in his way.

God has our journey already planned, just as he did with Paul. We can either follow his direction or wander through life on our own. It is a simple decision that can have profound and lasting consequences.

Eternal purpose (Tuesday, October 30)

A warm smile can melt the coldest heart. A soft word can dissolve the hardest attitude. A gentle touch can soften the toughest feelings. And a loving approach can disarm the harshest behavior.

The ways to reach others, deep inside where it truly matters, are always with humility and meekness. Out of our submission comes the living demonstration of God’s grace and mercy. By blessing those around us we become a blessing to him.

Being kind does not come naturally, at least not to me. It requires great strength, perseverance, and persistence to be mild. There must be a driving passion to serve and please the Lord more than our own human emotions. We must allow him to be first, others second, and ourselves last.

In the end, what we do for someone else in God’s name is all that matters.

Tried like Job (Monday, October 29)

Sometimes we sound and feel like Job. We complain to the Lord that what we are going through is not fair. We grumble about our condition. In fact, we may even blame God for our circumstances.

What does God have to say to us about our complaints? Look at God’s response to Job. God does not chastise him. God does not punish him. God does not attack him.

Instead, God asks Job a series of rhetorical questions: Where were you at the creation of the world? Did you make the mountains and all the creatures? Did you make the heavens and the valleys? What part did you have in all of this?

In the end, Job realizes the true power of God. He understands that God is the creator of all life, all goodness and all mercy. Job finally sees that God is in control of everything – not only the beginning of the world but the final outcome of his small little life. With all of God’s might and perfection, Job knows that his future depends on a loving and caring Lord. He is a God who loves and protects what he has fashioned. He will not let it be destroyed.

Keeping one day holy (Sunday, October 28)

What we do or do not do on the Sabbath affects the other six days of the week. If we want to live each day with calmness and peace, we need to receive it during our time of worship and praise. If we want to reach out to others throughout the week, we must reach out to God on the day he has set aside for us.

We should not spend this special day like all of the others. God did not set aside this time of rest for us to do more shopping, more traveling, or more working. All of these things can leave us physically and emotionally exhausted. Instead, God wants us to use this day to build up ourselves. He wants us to gain strength, power, and peace by meditating on him.

God offers us so much more than the world. But it is up to us to accept it. We can use all of our energy running around on Sunday or we can receive God’s divine strength by spending our time with him. If we seek him as we ought on this one day, keeping it holy as he commands, he will be sure to take care of us the other six days.

What God does for us (Saturday, October 27)

Much of the beauty in our journey through the years lies in all that God has done for us: the loving people he has brought into our lives, the many times we were kept safe from harm, the unexplainable comfort we felt in the midst of anxiety, the opportunities that helped us grow, and the occasions when our hope was suddenly and inexplicably renewed. As we look back on everything, we realize God’s hand and plan at work.

We should not dwell on our past, but we at least need to stop long enough to remember all of the good things that have occurred. Too often we fail to see how far we have come and what God has truly accomplished for us. He has taken us through some tight times and, yet, he has been there time and time again to keep us steady and strong.

All we have gone through thus far has led us to this particular time and place. Though we may feel somewhat out of place, perhaps because of where we live or the job we have, we need to realize that God has a reason for each event and activity in our life. We are where we are for a purpose.

Reflecting on God’s divine guidance up to this point can give us the assurance and hope we need to keep moving forward, closer to him each day. Each step should take us ever nearer to where we will spend eternity. Only God knows the way and we must follow where he leads us.

Trust what you know
(Friday, October 26)

The more I see and experience of life, the less I am able to make sense out of certain events. When I have to fight my way through the day, combatting one difficulty after another, I wonder about God’s purpose. What is he doing or how will he manage to bring good out of adversity?

The truth is that I will never understand, at least not fully, how God works. It should be sufficient for me to know that he does. When I am unable to make the leap from accepting life’s circumstances to trusting God, I complain like Job: “I cry out to you, O God, but you do not answer; I stand up, but you merely look at me. You turn on me ruthlessly; with the might of your hand you attack me” (Job 30:20-21). With every fiber of my emotions I seek some relief from God, yet he seems distant and far off.

At such times, I need to remind myself of the rest of the story concerning Job. In the end, God speaks to Job and informs him through a series of questions: “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?...Who marked off the dimensions?...Who stretched a measuring line across it?...Have you ever given orders to the morning” (Job 38:4-12).

All Job can answer is that he did not comprehend the ways of God. “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand; things too wonderful for me to know” (Job 42:3). How often I must echo these same words. I do not know the Lord’s plan, nor do his actions make sense to me. Still, I can trust him. I should have the faith to know that God’s order and purpose is beyond the chaos and confusion I see daily.

Completly free (Thursday, October 25)

What if you and I were put on trial for all of the things we have done wrong: the angry words, the crude remarks, the hateful hits, the vengeful actions. We are being tried for all of it, knowing that we are indeed guilty of every act and thousands of sins.

The jury foreman stands and confirms our guilt by unanimous decision. But just before the sentence of death is pronounced, Jesus enters the courtroom. The room is silent and every eye is on him. He walks toward the bench.

Then Jesus turns. He looks directly at us. He smiles gently and says, “Your sins are forgiven.” Shocked and stunned, we struggle to understand what has happened. We suddenly realize we are free. We can walk out of the courtroom like anyone else and continue our lives. We do not deserve our freedom, but we have it.

And it is there each time we fall short. No exceptions. No conditions. No excuses. “Your sins are forgiven,” Jesus says, just as he did to the woman who wiped her tears from his feet with her hair (Luke 7:37-48). We no longer have to keep looking backward with regret or shame. We are completely free to move forward.

Listen up (Wednesday, October 24)

Joshua fought the Battle of Jericho, but it was God who brought the victory. God told Joshua what to do each step of the way. He would fight the battle for Joshua. All Joshua had to do was listen to the Lord.

God’s instructions were clear and simple: “March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams' horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have all the people give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the people will go up, every man straight in” (Joshua 6:3-5).

How often do you and I make things more difficult? We come up with all kinds of machinations and schemes when we are up against a problem or predicament. We plan our strategy, carefully calculating every move and countermove. We believe we are prepared to overcome the enemy when, in fact, the only thing we have done is to convince ourselves we are mightier than we think.

God has the answer and the victory in all circumstances. He will fight the battle for us if we are willing to listen to his commands. What he tells us to do may seem silly or ridiculous, but there is a reason. The only thing we need to understand is that it makes sense to God. All we have to do is listen and obey.

Beating the giants (Tuesday, October 23)

The giants of this world loom large in our lives today, just as they did to the Israelites who were afraid to enter the Promised Land. But the giants all around us are often more than people. Sometimes they are things like anger, jealousy, anxiety, and regret. These emotions exist inside our minds and cause us to become our own worst enemy.

We can easily become crushed by our perspective, what we think, rather than by physical objects. We believe we cannot do something or we become afraid. We can feel discouraged even when there is no logical reason to fear.

We create giants out of all sorts of things: our jobs, our schedules, our chores, maybe those in our neighborhood whom we do not like. We are good at convincing ourselves that we have been defeated already; we are fighting a losing battle no matter what we do.

Let’s remember that everything is small when compared to God. There is nothing large in his eyes. As long as he is with us, and working through us, we can overcome anything, especially our own gigantic thoughts and emotions.

Walk free
(Monday, October 22)

My life is an open book. We might say this from time to time and really mean it. We have to admit, though, that there are chapters we will not let anyone read. Perhaps it is out of pain or regret, but maybe because we are simply too embarrassed.

We are human beings and we do stupid things, especially when we are young. Each one of us carries around a lifetime of memories. The problem is that we rarely get rid of them – any of them. Sooner or later, we have to let go. Eventually, we have to release everything negative in our past before we are overcome by what we cannot change.

Peter talked about the forgiveness of God right after he healed the crippled beggar at the Gate Beautiful. Addressing the Israelites who witnessed the miracle, he said, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord” (Acts 3:19).

His words reflect what happened to the lame man. He could now walk and his days as a paralytic were completely gone. The same happens when we ask God to forgive us: the past is gone and our sins are vanished forever. We can walk free. Never again will we be paralyzed. 

No fret zone (Sunday, October 21)

What to do when everything goes wrong? My morning began with a sore back. Then I knocked a large glass off the kitchen counter and it shattered all over the floor. Next, the scrambled eggs stuck to the bottom of the pan. Finally, I snapped at my wife for some stupid reason. By the time I got done with breakfast, I was ready to go back to bed and not go anywhere.

Clearly, I had forgotten the second half of Psalm 37:8: “Do not fret—it leads only to evil.” Early in the day, one thing led to another until I wore myself out from fretting. What began with simple back pain ended with me being angry about everything. My own negative attitude dramatically changed how I acted and reacted.

How many times in life have we worked ourselves up into a complete frenzy? One thing sets us off and we are off in the wrong direction. We are headed down the proverbial path of no return, far from the road the Lord wanted us to take.

We would do well to create a “No fret zone” in our minds so we do not park ourselves there and stop living. We need to get away from worry and evil rather than spending time with them.

Making the choice (Saturday, October 20)

The physical problems of life can be extremely tiresome. Far more difficult, and more dangerous, are the emotional struggles. Worry, anxiety, and nervousness have tremendous power over the body. Fear over what may never happen can cripple even the healthiest and strongest individual.

God’s own words remind us repeatedly not to fret. “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10). “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you” (Psalm 55:22). “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life” (Matthew 6:25). “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life” (Matthew 6:27). Need we hear more?

We talk a lot about obeying God. We want to do those things that please him and serve him best. But we are never much good at following what he tells us not to do. If the God of the universe tells us not to worry or be upset, there is a reason. Perhaps, most of all, he is protecting us from ourselves and from our propensity to worry ourselves to death over nothing.

Each time we worry or become anxious, we waste time and wear ourselves down. Whatever you are fussing about right now, ignore it. Don’t go down that path. Stop right where you are and think of how people might look at you with your heavy suitcase full of angst and anxiety. “If you really believed in God,” I can hear others say somewhat ironically, “you wouldn’t worry so much.”

Which one is stronger in us today? Is it our faith in the known (God) or our fear of the unknown (the world)? Faith and worry do not go together. Instead, they challenge one another and force us to choose.

Why me? (Friday, October 19)

How many times in life have we asked, “Why me?” Why did I get sick when I had so much to do? Why are all these things happening at once? Why do I do all of the work and get none of the credit?

Instead of feeling like a victim, we should see opportunity in our obstacles. If we are stuck in traffic, for example, we can use the time to relax rather than being upset. If we have to add another errand to our already busy schedule, we can take advantage of doing something different. If we dread going to a job we dislike, we can stop to consider all the things our work allows to do in life.

There is a great deal of truth in the saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” A much better adage is this: “Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him” (Jeremiah 17:7).

Instead of always asking “why me,” we can take the chance to say “bless me.” As long as we trust God we will be blessed.

Seasons of change (Thursday, October 18)

The chimes on the neighborhood ice cream truck are beginning to fade as the breezes turn cooler and stronger. The falling leaves foreshadow the winter that soon will be here. Everywhere nature is changing and evolving in a miraculous cycle of seasons.

Our lives go through seasons as well. We have seasons of prosperity, difficulty, joy, hardship and success. No matter the many physical transformations that occur, one thing never changes: the unwavering and unconditional love of God.

He is with us through storm, sun, darkness and light. He knows the way and what we must go through. The Lord is both our guide and our Savior.

No matter what season you are in today, remember these words of Paul: “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:2). Many scholars believe Paul wrote this letter to the church in Colossae while he was, in fact, in jail. He did not let his season of imprisonment stop him from serving.

Trading the past for the future (Wednesday, October 17)

The past can haunt us, but it also can help us. If we look back on our lives with complete clarity and honesty, the person we were before this moment can urge us into becoming more like Christ.

It is in personal times of reflection when we realize what we were not. We see our faults as others have seen us. For perhaps the first time, we recognize the anger, jealousy and hatred that drove us into places where we did not want to go. Yet, we followed our emotions anyway.

Now is the time to change. We do not have to live with or by our feelings anymore. “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles,” wrote St. Paul the apostle. “And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

May we see ourselves becoming more like his perfect example today and less like our sinful selves of yesterday. Jesus took care of our past on the cross. Now he waits for us to follow him into the future.

Safe in the center (Tuesday, October 16)

All around on every side, life goes on. The traffic, schedules, meetings, appointments and shopping threaten our peace. The business and turmoil of everyday can rapidly steal the pleasure of living.

Life can feel like we are stuck in the center of a hurricane. The winds of trouble swirl fast, completely surrounding us. It is like being in the eye of a fierce storm. But the eye of a hurricane can be wide and quiet. Intense rain and wind are gone. There is an eerie stillness that is hard to describe. One minute is tranquil and the next is violent.

Each day has the potential to engulf us. We can become caught in the powerful bands of the storm or at rest in the center. Our position matters, both in our minds and in our relationship with the Lord.

Everything turns on faith. Do we trust him to keep us protected or do we become unnerved by the approaching eye wall? Let us not forget that he is greater than anything on earth. In truth, he is greater than anything in the universe, seen or unseen. God can keep us safe in the center because the world revolves around him.

In his name, go (Monday, October 15)

Do you realize how much power you have through Jesus Christ? First of all, nothing in this world can defeat you. Absolutely nothing!

"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me,” Jesus said. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:18-19). We can do whatever Jesus calls us to do because he is above all else: our fears, our weaknesses and our inabilities.

Not even evil can come against us and win. Once we believe that God is in control, evil has been defeated. The problem is that much too often we give evil a foothold in our thoughts. Then we quickly talk ourselves out of the victory that is just around the corner.

May we learn to listen to God more than our doubts. Jesus has “all authority in heaven and on earth.” If he says “go,” then nothing can stop us!

Keep on keeping on (Sunday, October 14)

Turn on the television on any Saturday afternoon in the fall and you will see hundreds of definitions of the word perseverance. From one channel to the next, football teams are battling and fighting to win the game each second of the clock.

Look at the determination of these college players: they push and strain for everything they are worth. All this work and effort just to claim a victory in one single contest.

Are we as determined as Christians? Do we keep fighting in the face of failure? Do we keep driving forward even when the chips are down and it seems like we are going to fall?

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess,” said the apostle Paul, “for he who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23). Paul means we cannot lose in anything because God is faithful. We have his promise. Therefore, why would we ever want to give up on anything the Lord is doing with us or to us? At the very least, we should be as persistent as youngsters playing a football game.

Quick to anger (Saturday, October 13)

Most of us go through life doing just the opposite of what we are told. We are quick to anger, quick to speak and slow to listen. You and I should turn things around. We need to be “quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger” (James 1:19-20).

It was a small thing really. I made a comment to my brother, my true brother, that embarrassed me after all was said and done. I kept waiting for a check he owed me. After several days, I sent him an email asking about it. Turns out he never sent it when he said he did. “Thanks, Pinocchio,” I wrote, not sure if he would understand the allusion or not.

Day after day, while I waited for the check, I was tempted to taunt him again. But I planned to be even stronger and more direct. Thank the Lord, though, I never said anything.

When the check finally arrived, I remembered what I had said earlier in the week. I could not take back the words. All I could do now was to thank him, apologize and vow (as well as pray) to be “slow to speak and slow to anger” next time.

A complete waste of time (Friday, October 12)

Guilt and anger can take years to dissipate even when we are the ones who did nothing wrong. That is exactly why forgiveness is so important to us. We need to get over our ill feelings so these harmful emotions do not infect other parts of our life.

I had just started working at a new company when I was confronted by what someone said about me. Prior to accepting the position, I had asked a supervisor about the health of the business. What I wanted to know was how people got along. Sadly, this person used the information to report what another individual told me during an informal interview lunch.

For many years, various people at the company hated me, although I was nothing more than a victim. Each day, I struggled to get over the pain and resentment. It took almost a decade for me to come to grips with forgiveness. I often look back on all those many months and think of the hours I wasted harboring hatred. In the end, my enmity made absolutely no difference at all.

In all that time I had forgotten one important principle: “Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13). It took me a long time to learn my lesson. Much too long!

Going through the motions (Thursday, October 11)

You can tell when people are merely going through the motions. They seem to be on automatic pilot; there is no inner joy or happiness that we can detect.

Maybe there is a stock boy at the store who is stacking cans of vegetables on a shelf. Does he look bored or could he be thinking about how many people will be able to enjoy this food? Perhaps a teacher is going through a lesson. Does it sound like she has done this a thousand times before or is she enthusiastic and excited? What about the cashier at the 7-11 or McDonald’s down the street?

We can easily lose our joy and go through the motions of daily living. You and I have to rehearse over and over again what we are doing and why. Every act or action is for Jesus whether we are taking out the trash or texting on our cell phones. “I tell you the truth,” Jesus reminds us, “when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me (Matthew 25:40).”

The next time you do anything, do it for a reason. Do it for Jesus! Find your purpose and pleasure in pleasing him.

What is your average? (Wednesday, October 10)

Baseball players rise and fall depending on their batting average. The higher the better. To determine an average, the total number of times at bat are divided by the total hits. A player is considered a true star if the average is 50 percent (.500) or better. I wonder what would happen if we applied the same formula to our “hits” as Christians.

Maybe during our first time at bat this morning we had a bad attitude about getting up. On our way out the door, we ignored a neighbor who was waving hello. Then we saw someone who needed help and we walked right by. And then we felt prompted to encourage a friend, but decided to keep our thoughts to ourselves. So far, we have missed four chances to show God’s glory to others.

Our goal each day should be to do our best for the Lord. Yes, there will be occasions when we strike out. But there should be plenty of times when we get a hit and give the credit to God. He is the source of our gifts and success, and we should want to do better with each opportunity he gives us.

May we strive each moment to make the most of each chance we have to serve God. Not to impress him or anyone else. But to prove to the world what he can do through one single person like you and me.

Taking cover (Tuesday, October 9)

These days it sometimes seems as though we are obsessed with the weather. We want to know the forecast not only for tomorrow and the next day, but for the next 10, 20 or 30 days. Occasionally, we want to know what the weather might be like in three or four months when we take our summer vacation. Turn on the television or radio any time of the day and night, and you will hear the forecast.

The reality is that people want to prepare for what is ahead. We want to be ready if there is going to be rain, wind, snow, heat or frost. Even if we are not ready when we are caught unaware by a sudden storm, we can immediately run for shelter. We do not stand outside, without an umbrella or raincoat, and get wet. We go inside to prevent ourselves from getting soaked.

We do not do the same thing when the storms of life come our way. We know we should run to the Father and take shelter in him, yet we stand alone outside his protection and allow ourselves to be overcome by tragedy, disappointment, illness and sorrow. We let these things weigh us down instead of seeking divine cover.

God is our refuge, our fortress, our harbor. He is our safe place. If we have enough sense to come in out of the rain, we should have enough faith to come in out of the trials of life. God will care for us and look after us no matter how bad things seem to us. He knows the way when we can no longer see through the storm.

All for one (Monday, October 8)

I did a lot of praying the other day as I drove to and from my job. I prayed for the old man riding a bicycle on a narrow two-lane road. I prayed for the city workers picking up trash right next to the highway. I prayed for the construction crew building a new development. I prayed for the woman crossing the busy street. My prayers were for God to keep each person safe from harm.

It does not matter if we know the people for whom we pray. We are all daughters and sons of God. He created each one of us and we are his children. We are one family. He is counting on us to help him take care of each member, not just those we know well or those who are closest to us.

The apostle Paul said to the Colossians that whatever we do, we do for Jesus. “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Though it may feel strange at first to pray for people we see but have never met, we can learn to reach out – in word or deed – to everyone no matter where we find ourselves. The alternative is to look away or not pay any attention to them. We certainly would not ignore a friend, so why would we close our eyes to one of our siblings in our Father’s family?

Trick or treat (Sunday, October 7)

The stores are full of a myriad of colorful costumes every October. Children can dress up like their favorite character and, for one night, become a pirate, superhero, princess, actor or cartoon figure. They have fun playing make-believe and receiving candy at every house.

But there also is the adult version of Halloween that, in many cases, may last year round. On any given Sunday, in any church, you will find those who are all dressed up. There is Danny the Worship Leader, Carol the Choir Director, Eddie the Elder, Sam the Sunday School Teacher, George the Greeter, Annie the Organist and dozens of other characters.

They all look nice, neat, pleasant and happy. What we do not see is who they are when they remove their costumes, when we see them throughout the rest of the week. Danny sends threatening and intimidating emails to those who work for him. Carol yells constantly at her three children and husband. Eddie takes office supplies to use at home. Sam never smiles at anyone or says hello. George talks about others to make himself look better. Annie always takes a two-hour lunch.

Perhaps you have seen some of these personalities at your church. But before we all start pointing out the real person behind the façade, we have to willing to take off our own mask. Most likely, there are many things we are hiding as well.

The process of renewing
(Saturday, October 6)

Change is not easy. Some of us fight back for all we are worth while others simply sit down and give in. It is one thing to talk about making adjustments in our lives, but following through is another story. We have to be serious and completely committed to what needs to be done.

God can do very little with us until we make the first move. As much as we would like to wake up some morning and be a new person, there is no magic cure. God does not wave a wand over us and, in an instant, we are transformed. In order for us to change, we need to do what he tells us and stick to it.

We need to remember that we are not on this journey of change by ourselves. We have God, first of all. He will be with us to strengthen and encourage us. We also have family and friends who love us and want the best for us. Many of them pray for us daily. They pray for our safety, our protection and our care. We are not alone even though we think so.

If you need to make a change in your life today, whether it involves your way of thinking or a way of doing something, turn it over to God. That is the first step. The next step is to listen to him. Do what he says and focus on him. Soon you will be a different person because you allowed him to renew you.

Pleasing him first
(Friday, October 5)

We do not want to disappoint people, especially those whom we love. We try our best to please those at home, at work, at church and in our neighborhood. We will do all kinds of things to make others think well of us. Many times, we go far out of our way to help someone, even complete strangers.

But how often do we think about pleasing God? Is he on our mind? Are we thinking about him in everything we do? Probably not. Our first thought should be to make God happy – to please him, no matter what the world might think of us. We should realize by now that we cannot satisfy both God and man. You and I have to make a choice. Chances are we usually side with those around us rather than God because we know he will forgive us while people will not.

That is not the point. We should want to delight him so much that we do not care about the consequences of people rejecting us. Think about all of the saints who put him first, ahead of everything including their own lives.

Jesus came to earth not only to offer us salvation. He also came to serve as an example. As we go through this day, let us follow his way in pleasing the father despite the price. In the long run that is all that really matters.

100 times 2 (Thursday, October 4)

Can we possibly fathom getting a hundred times as much in return for what we have given up for the Lord? But we will receive much more, according to Jesus. Not only will we gain a hundredfold in this lifetime, but in eternity as well.

Jesus stated that, “No one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life” (Mark 10:29-30).

The next time we are called to do something or to sacrifice anything for the kingdom, may we remember what Jesus promised both now and in the next life. The kindness we share, the encouragement we offer, the time and money we give, the suffering we endure will all come back to us one hundred times two!

We will be blessed far more than we can conceive, and certainly much more than we deserve.

Everything is possible (Wednesday, October 3)

Jesus always had a way of making a point so people would remember. Imagine what one father thought when he brought his son to Jesus to be healed from demons. The man asked for help saying, “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

If I can, asked Jesus, probably with some irony and surprise. “Everything is possible for one who believes,” he added (Mark 9:20-23).

I can almost hear Jesus saying the same to you and me today. We come to him with our petitions and prayers, asking Jesus to help if he can. Help me find a new job, Jesus, if you can. Help me with my pain, Jesus, if you can. Help me with my finances, Jesus, if you can.

To each request, Jesus answers, “If I can? Everything is possible for one who believes.” When will we learn that Jesus can do anything? And he will do everything for those of us who believe. The point is that we have to believe that he can before he will.

More like him (Tuesday, October 2)

Because of our experiences yesterday, we are not the same today. We have changed, if only in very subtle ways. God has been busy in our lives even as we were at rest last night.

All throughout the past 24 hours, God has been helping us, guiding us and protecting us. We may not realize the amazing work he has done, but our hearts and minds have been enlarged with his compassion and love.

We are not the same person right now because he has brought us closer to him and to his ways. Slowly but surely we are becoming more like our Father each minute of every day. 

 Strength in our joy (Monday, October 1)

What do we mean when we say “the joy of the lord is my strength” (Nehemiah 8:10)? Are we implying that our strength comes from our joy, or that our joy comes from our strength in God? Perhaps there is a double meaning in this phrase that we sometimes miss.

It could be that our joy comes from what we have in God, from his power and might. We could also say that our strength comes out of our joy in the Lord.

Suppose I begin praising the Lord because of his great mercy and love for me? In thanking him, I gain spiritual strength. Likewise, I have power to trust him because of the joy I find in him.

Either way we say it, God gives us what we must have in order to serve him with gladness. We can proclaim “the joy of the lord is my strength” and “the strength of the lord is my joy.”

Lip service (Sunday, September 30)

No matter where we live we have our traditions, especially when it comes to celebrating certain holidays and seasons. Tradition is what connects us to our past and to the ways of our family. It also establishes a routine that makes us feel comfortable because we know what we need to do in each situation.

One day Jesus told the Pharisees that, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions” (Mark 7:9). Several of them were questioning Jesus about why his disciples ate with unclean hands; they did not wash their hands as instructed by the ancient elders of the temple.

Jesus was quick to see their hypocrisy. The Pharisees followed their own customs and traditions more than the laws of God. The ceremonial washing of hands was important to them, yet it did not matter that they now were judging others—one thing God had said not to do. This was but one example of what Jesus meant when he quoted from prophecy: “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” (Isaiah 29:13).

What about you and me? Do we follow Jesus with our speech, but pay more attention to our ways and habits of doing things? We must learn to be who we say we are: followers of Jesus. There is no place for lip service when we serve him. He demands both our service and our hearts.

Shallow or deep? (Saturday, September 29)

Faith must go much deeper than sight. It has to be rooted in the heart and exercised by the mind; otherwise, faith becomes little more than an empty word.

Immediately after feeding the 5,000 with five loaves and two fish, Jesus put his disciples in a boat to go ahead of him to Bethsaida. He then went up a mountain to pray. Many hours later, says Mark in his gospel, they saw him walking on the lake. “He was about to pass by them” when they cried out, thinking he was a ghost.

According to the account, “they were completely amazed for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened” (Mark 6:52). What happened the previous afternoon, the miracle of the fish and the loaves, did not change how the disciples looked at Jesus. Their hearts were still like many of the people who merely wanted him to heal them.

Once we truly realize who Jesus is we no longer think of him in the same way as we do an ordinary person. When we recognize him as the Son of God, we can release our faith completely in him, knowing he is able to do anything. We also will see that walking on water is a small thing even though it seems huge and impossible to us.

Change in and through us (Friday, September 28)

What God can do in a person’s life is nothing short of amazing. Paul is proof of how God can turn evil into good. One day Paul was persecuting Christians, the next he was protecting them.

Paul’s miraculous conversion came after years of opposition and torment against the followers of Jesus. He despised these people and everything they believed. He even watched the stoning of Stephen, “giving approval to his death,” writes the apostle Luke (Acts 8:1).

Just a brief time later, though, Paul is radically changed forever. Saul becomes Paul, a completely different person. He is a new creature, reborn in Christ. Soon, he will travel to the ends of the earth to spread the good news of salvation to all who are willing to listen. He will see, with new eyes, the power and authority of God himself as he is guided each day by the Holy Spirit.

What God did then he continues to do today in the lives of people everywhere. He can use us just as he did Paul, if we accept the change he wants to bring about through us.

The little things (Thursday, September 27)

If there are times when we forget about some of our responsibilities as followers of Christ, we can be sure God will bring it to our attention. We are prone to ignore our manners as Christians and we occasionally need a small nudge to wake us up.

A woman recently moved in across the street. I knew I should go over and welcome her to the neighborhood. I kept putting it off, though, thinking I would do it later.

I finally talked to this young woman, but not at her new townhouse. I encountered her at my dentist’s office; she is the hygienist whom I had met a year earlier. Imagine my surprise. She was cleaning my teeth when she said she bought a house in the same development. It turned out to be right across the street.

Needless to say, I was embarrassed. I would have acted much differently had I realized someone I knew moved in. God gave me a subtle reminder: "Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much” (Luke 16:10). I learned not to ignore the little things I should do. Next time will be different.

Beautiful day (Wednesday, September 26)

I once knew a man—his nickname was Binky—who would fill his small doughnut shop in Roanoke, Virginia, with more than great-tasting doughnuts and fresh coffee. No matter what day it was, Binky would walk among the tables, pouring extra coffee for everyone. As he went from person to person, he would always exclaim, “Beautiful day, beautiful day. Great to be alive.”

From time to time, I would repeat the same phrase in our house at breakfast. When our children were little, they delighted in joining in with me. I would say “Beautiful day, beautiful day.” And they would shout joyfully, “Great to be alive!” The game got old, though, as they grew up. I would have to repeat my line several times before they would even respond; and then their voices sounded tired and weary. The youthful excitement and energy was no longer there.

How often do we as Christians lose our enthusiasm for life? We go through the routine of being happy, but we might feel bored or worn out inside. We allow our emotions to dictate what we think and do, even though we know better.

Each day is a “Beautiful day” and it is “Great to be alive.” God has blessed us with so much, from each breath we take to our family and friends. Most of all, though, God has already given us eternal life. We have a special place waiting for us in heaven. We can truly rejoice today because of paradise. With Binky, we can say, “Beautiful day, beautiful day. Great to be alive!”

Planning ahead (Tuesday, September 25)

What are you and I trying to do today? Maybe something ordinary or routine. Perhaps a task that is extraordinary and unique. Either way, God must be at the core of any action, thought, or words. He is the basis on which we build our lives. Without him, little of what we do matters.

Not only is God the architect who conceived and created us, but he also is the one who knows how everything is supposed to fit together. He designed all of the pieces and he planned where they belong. But many times, we want to build our own life. We think we understand what needs to be done. We go about adding all kinds of things to the design and then wonder why we are having problems.

What good is a blueprint if the contractor does not follow it? The structure is sure to fall. Our lives are like houses. They must be built on a firm foundation; otherwise we will fail.

“Unless the Lord builds the house, the workers labor in vain” (Psalm 127:1). There is a master plan for each one of us to follow. We need to make sure we take the time to read it carefully and do what it says. If we do, we know how everything will turn out in the end.

A future full of wonder (Monday, September 24)

The mystery of God’s divine plan can never make sense to our human minds. We look at the world from an earthly perspective, but God sees the universe. He controls both the seen as well as the unseen, the known and the unknown. His ways are far above all of our logic and physics. Rather than being dismayed by the workings of God, we should take great delight in knowing that he can accomplish anything at any time.

How long have people wondered about the reason for daily events and circumstances? For thousands of years people have tried to understand God. The prophet Habakkuk, living in the 7th century before the birth of Christ, struggled to comprehend why the wicked often seem to flourish while the good suffer. Despite his complaints and pleas to God, Habakkuk found no relief. In fact, God’s answer made him even more perplexed.

The Lord announced that he was sending the Babylonians to judge and rule over the people of Jerusalem. But “how can you, the all-good, the just God, use such a vicious instrument of judgment—you who cannot bear of the sight of evil,” Habakkuk questions. God responded simply and resolutely: “Look at the nations and watch—and be utterly amazed” (Habakkuk 1:5).

Like Habakkuk, we need to stand back and watch with confidence, knowing that our God will help us. But he will not rescue us according to our human designs. The Lord of all creation will save us in a way that we could not dream or even imagine. He delights in surprising and satisfying us with his incredible power and plan. Let us always anticipate, rather than fear, the future that will most certainly come without warning and with wonder.

With him (Sunday, September 23)

All of us have a particular handicap. It might be visible, but it also may be deeply hidden. We know we have a weakness, whether it is physical or mental, and we must face it each day. The good news is that we do not have to deal with the problem alone, no matter how much we seem to be limited.

Paul had some sort of “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7). He never revealed his difficulty to the world, yet he prayed earnestly for the Lord to heal him. Three times! The miracle he sought never came. Still, he continued to serve the Lord. Peter, too, had a handicap; he was always impetuous, ready to react at the first sign of trouble. Then there was Thomas who doubted even Jesus. We are no different today. Each one of us has a certain impediment in our life that we want God to remove. Did we ever stop to consider, though, that our “thorn in the flesh” actually may help us by bringing us closer to God?

With him we have more than what we need to accomplish anything. In the name of Jesus, we can heal, prosper, succeed, and overcome. There is nothing that can hold us back from accomplishing the Lord’s will both for us and for others. God told Paul that, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). In other words, the weaker Paul was in himself the greater the grace and strength from God.

Yes, we may have a handicap, something that seems to hold us back. But we also have God’s grace, his divine ability, to give us complete success and victory. With him, we cannot fail. Without him, we cannot win.

His battle (Saturday, September 22)

The occasional battles we face in life belong to the Lord, yet we take them personally. We want to get involved and solve the problem on our own. What we fail to realize is that much of what we encounter is bigger than us, more powerful than one person alone. Still we strike out and wonder why we cannot defeat the enemy.

God is always ready and willing to help. He can fight our battles for us, if we can step out of the way. Like a parent who protects his children at all costs, God will keep us safe from harm. He will not allow a single arrow to wound us. “For the battle is not yours, but God’s” (2 Chronicles 20:15).

When circumstances overwhelm us, we need to repeat this verse over and over again until we accept and believe it. God can do incredible things in impossible situations. As creator of the universe, he will create a way for us through any trial. With him, we are victorious even before the battle begins.

The gift of time (Friday, September 21)

What Jesus taught us is the importance of sacrifice: putting the needs of others before our own, helping someone even though we need help, giving away something we value, caring for a loved one who is demanding, calling friends and neighbors to encourage them. All of these acts require discipline and strength. But they also require our time.

As human beings we have a tendency to squander time. We want to keep it to ourselves, to make sure we have time to do the activities we need or want to do. We think about the time required each day just to accomplish the routine tasks, let alone anything extra. We often say we need more than 24 hours to get everything done. What we need, however, is not more time. What we need is more discretion and better judgment.

We must get in the habit of exercising caution and prudence when it comes to spending our time wisely. We need to get to the place where we look for opportunities to sacrifice our time for the sake of someone else. Then and only then will we understand what Jesus tried to show us. He gave up every minute of his life for others so that they could live a more abundant life.

Our calling is to follow his example: to sacrifice a part of ourselves in order that those around us can experience a better and more meaningful life. The precious time we have is not ours to keep. It is a gift from God. He gives us time so we can spend it serving him by helping others, not ourselves.
 
Realizing his power (Thursday, September 20)

How many times do we think we know everything about another person only to find out we are wrong? The 12 disciples thought they knew Jesus. Even though they had been with him only a short while, they saw him heal the sick, cure the blind and cast out demons. But they had never seen him overcome the tremendous forces of nature!

They were in a boat one evening, writes Mark in his gospel, when a furious squall came up. Fearing for their lives, the disciples cried out to Jesus sleeping in the back of the boat: “Don’t you care if we drown?” Instantly, he got up and commanded the winds and the waves to cease.

At this, the faithless followers became “terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him’” (Mark 4:41). They were stunned and horrified at Jesus’ incredible power. It must have taken many days to process what they saw. And even then they could not fully comprehend the miracle.

Like them, we know Jesus can do anything, but we are surprised when we see him perform wondrous feats. Somehow our minds fall far short of our faith when we actually witness his authority. The next time we doubt whether Jesus is watching over us, let us remember what Jesus can do. He may have been asleep in the boat, but he was more than able to take care of them. Jesus knew he was greater than anything on earth. Now they were beginning to realize it, too.

The open door (Wednesday, September 19)

God opens doors. We close them. When difficulties arise, we turn to God for help. We ask him to show us a way out and what to do. We want to know where to go next. God is constantly faithful. Each time, he responds to our needs and guides us forward.

Often, however, we refuse to go with him. The open door is there in front of us, but we do not like where it leads. We don’t like what we see. It is not what we expected or not the answer we were seeking. So we try to close the door, hoping God will change his mind and give us another choice.

God will not wait for us. Nor will he suddenly adjust his good and perfect will to do what we think is best. He knows where each door leads. He knows exactly what is at the end of every path, whether good or bad. What looks inviting to us, at first, may take us where our lives will be even more difficult and painful.

When we go with God we follow the road of least resistance. The only way we will know for sure, though, is to step through the open door rather than trying to close it.

Choose life (Tuesday, September 18)

Most of the time, our perspective about life is wrong. We tend to think God is always here to help us and serve us. Throughout the day, we spend time in prayer asking God to do all sorts of things: take care of our family, help us be more patient, show us which way to go, keep us safe, give us wisdom. God surely wants us to look to him for all our needs, but he expects more.

He desires that we will come to him each day, asking with an earnest and open heart what we can do for him. We can easily forget that we were designed and created for his purpose, his pleasure and his need. The “life” we have been given is not ours alone. It is God who imparts this gift to us and it is his to control. Too often, though, we tend to think we make the decision about whether we go right or left, remain where we are or move on. There is where we go wrong. Doing God’s will for our life is paramount, no matter how we feel or think, if we are going to be a faithful follower. We must be able to set aside our will for the greater will of God.

God tells us clearly, “This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19). His way is the kind of life we are seeking; our way is surely a dead end.

Once we realize that God always wants what is best for us, in each and every situation, we become more willing to release control of our lives. God grants us the freedom to choose our path each day, and he loves us so much he tells us which is the right direction. We can only find meaning in the ways of God.

The word made flesh (Monday, September 17)

The spiritual and the physical intersect at creation. This precise point is where we find “the word made flesh.” All that is seen today – the earth, the seas, the heavens, our bodies – began as thought in the very mind of God. With his divine and holy breath, God spoke the world into being. The invisible substance and spirit of God coalesced to become physical matter.

As human beings, we do not perceive the eternal dimensions of the universe. We know only of life with its beginning, middle and end. We understand little of the spiritual elements that are at work throughout the world. We can experience them only in subtle, sublime ways, using the limited abilities we possess as human beings. We can feel the power of the Holy Spirit, for example, or hear the voice of God. We can even see God working in our lives. But the true essence of God is completely beyond our finite comprehension.

The physical nature of God – that which we encounter as human beings – reflects only a fraction of His totality. God cannot be represented fully by the physical alone, for His greatness cannot be contained in one dimension. God surpasses all that we can see, feel or hear. God has no beginning or end; he is both spirit and flesh yet neither one nor the other; he is the past, present and future on all levels; he is everywhere at every time. Put simply, he is. Trying to understand God by relying on our paltry senses is to diminish His eternal form and power.

God is far beyond our comprehension, yet he reveals a part of himself through creation. This act alone should show us just how important we are to Him. We were created in His image; our lives, and all that is in the earth, are physical reflections and reminders of His infinite being and love. 

In control (Sunday, September 16)

The closer we get to the Lord, the more we are able to overcome the little problems and difficulties of everyday life. Our perspective changes dramatically when we rise above our earthly plane. Suddenly, we are no longer bothered by things that once had such an impact on us. Even our own feelings of anger and self-pity no longer have a hold on us when we are close to God.

“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:2-3). Focusing on God and his ways lifts us up out of the ways, and ordinary troubles, of the world. We become more concerned with eternal “things” than those which are temporal. Our values change: we practice love rather than hate, acceptance rather than rejection, willingness rather than stubbornness, and tolerance rather than impatience.

It is hard, at first, to distance ourselves from the world because we are so much a part of it. Every day we have to deal with angry people, bad drivers, inconsiderate co-workers. In addition, we are surrounded by sickness, poverty, homelessness and disasters. The Lord tells us to “set our minds on things above” so that we will have the strength and the hope to cope with what we see and experience. God wants us to learn to trust him more, and our own emotions and feelings less. He is, after all, in control and he is high above everything else. 

Seeing God’s fullness (Saturday, September 15)

The most important time to go to God is not in a crisis, but when everything is going well. Then we can be sure we are thankful to him in the right way. We are able to reach out with a free and grateful heart. We seek him for himself rather than for ourselves—what we may want or desire.

It is easy to get into the habit of going to God only when we need something. Through the years, we develop a pattern of forgetting about him until there is a specific need in our lives. We suddenly run to him when we have failed or if we require more than we can do for ourselves. When we have finally given up, we look up to him in prayer.

We can see and understand so much more of God if we are not weighed down by the ordinary difficulties and cares of life. When our hearts are open and unburdened, we have a chance to experience his full nature, his complete greatness. During times of praise and thanksgiving, he can reveal himself to us in all of his glory, not just in his power to answer our pleas.

It makes little sense to settle for part of God when he wants to give himself completely to us.

Christianity (Friday, September 14)

There is nothing worse than a hostile Christian. You and I have to be on our toes each moment so we do not lose our temper or composure. We constantly need to keep in mind that our actions and words should bring honor to the Lord. “Let your light shine before men,” Jesus said. “That they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

The other day, I fell victim to my own emotions. I was waiting at a stop light when it turned green. A young man on his cell phone was crossing in front of me. I blew the horn. He immediately began shouting and shaking his fist. Before I had time to restrain myself, the words flew out of my mouth. “It’s a green light,” I yelled. “Get off the phone!”

My light was not shining for the Lord that morning. This individual now knows nothing about me except that I am a vengeful person. As I drove off, I felt embarrassed over what I had done and said. But there was no going back; no second chance to undo the situation.

All of us make stupid decisions as we go through life. Thank goodness God is there to forgive us. Thank goodness, too, this young man did not know I consider myself to be a Christian. If he did, he would not have wanted anything to do with my particular brand of angry Christianity. I should have kept my mouth shut and my hand off the horn if I really desired to bring praise to my Father. Instead, I was concerned only about myself.

Praying to hear (Thursday, September 13)

How many times have you prayed today? Maybe I should ask, instead, how much time you have spent in prayer so far this day? Whatever the answer, I am sure we do not spend nearly enough time communing with God.

We may be fairly good at following Jesus’ example when it comes to feeding the hungry, helping the homeless and caring for the sick, but we seldom think about Jesus’ standard for prayer. Praying was the single, most important element of his life, far greater than any teaching or healing. Without prayer, he would not have been able to do anything.

Luke 6:12 tells us that, “One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.” Most of us have a difficult time praying for an hour, let alone all through the night. We run out of things to say. But the genuine substance of praying is found in the hearing – listening for God to tell us what to do, where to go, when to help, and how to minister.

We, like Jesus, ought to do nothing before or without prayer. We have to hear God before we can do his will.

Shore up your faith (Wednesday, September 12)

Doing good for others is great. If we are not careful, though, we can become so caught up in good works that we throw our lives completely out of balance. Concentrating solely on doing good all of the time can come at the expense of our faith.

A dear brother in Christ told me he believed God was proud of all he has done for other people. He cited helping the youth ministry at church, supporting a mother and daughter who would have been homeless, leaving a tip whenever he goes out to eat and buying books for a struggling college student. He never said anything about his faith. The more he mentioned about good works, the more I began to wonder about my own life. Perhaps I am so busy trying to do good everywhere that I do not have time to work on my faith.

James wrote that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:17). Paul, however, held that we are “justified by our faith” and not by our works (Romans 5:1). According to Paul, faith alone is what matters. James seems to be saying just the opposite by emphasizing works. Who is right?

The answer is that neither one is wrong. Faith and works go hand in hand, though our faith in Christ is what saves us. In accepting Jesus’ death for our sins, we naturally want to spend our lives on earth pleasing and serving him. As we do, let us not forget or neglect our faith. May we shore up our faith in the same manner, and with the same kind of determination, as our good works.

Forgive forever (Tuesday, September 11)

What good can there be in digging up the past, especially feelings of anger or resentment. Jesus says we are to forgive others in the same way he forgives us for whatever we have done. I have learned, the hard way, that it is best to put the past behind us instead of letting it decide our future.

For years my mother and her sister did not speak or see one another. They lived only one street apart and would go to great lengths to avoid a chance encounter. Perhaps they both felt they were justified and had made their peace with God about the situation. The problem is, God probably did not make his peace with them. The silence and separation continued to the day they both were dead.

I can only imagine the reunion that eventually took place in heaven. When God forgave them, they were finally together at last and forever. I know my grandmother, their mother, cried for joy at the sight.

We have God’s promises no matter what has happened in our lives on earth. “My peace I give to you,” Jesus said. “Forgive one another just as the Father forgives you.” This is what life in Christ is all about.

Seeking happiness (Monday, September 10)

Happiness does not always fall upon us as we would like. Sometimes we have to seek it out. We must push ourselves, fighting our own thoughts, in order to see the peace and comfort that awaits us in the distance.

The tribulations of daily living sometimes can be more than we can bear. We are so small that we wonder how we can survive the enormous storms that assail us. But no one, not even God, expects us to struggle alone. We have friends and family who are always there to help. More than that, though, we have God himself! In fact, he is all we need.

He is more loving, more powerful, more caring than a thousand persons who might pledge their support and encouragement. God remains, no matter our distress. What he says, he will do. We have his promise.

We can count on him to give us the comfort we so desperately need. We only need to ask, and he will give us a far greater peace than we can find on our own. What he gives is forever; what the world gives is only for now.

Heaven and earth (Sunday, September 9)

The other day, I heard a preacher on the radio put an interesting spin on a common phrase. Usually, people say that Christians are so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good. This minister, however, turned the sentence around. Perhaps we should say, he said, Christians are so earthly minded that they are no heavenly good.

He is right. How often are we filled more with the thoughts of the world than the thoughts of heaven? We get caught up in where we are living now that we forget about where we will be living tomorrow. All of who and what we are at this moment in our lives on earth should somehow find their purpose, their fulfillment and meaning, in God’s heavenly kingdom. If not, we are missing the mark.

We are human beings but we do not have to be so human. God gave us the ability to think and the guidance of the Holy Spirit so we could rise above our humanity. We need to learn how to be more heavenly minded before we run out of time – for both ourselves and the people God wants us to reach. Let’s set our sights on heaven as we accomplish our work on earth.

Beliefs + behavior = You (Saturday, September 8)

The truth be told, I confess that I am sometimes guilty of separating my faith from my conduct. I have been able, like most people, to act as I felt and still think my faith was true. What I failed to see is that my beliefs and behavior are part and parcel of my Christianity.

Many of us want to say that what we do is one thing and our commitment to God is another. Not so. There is no separation. We have to change our perspective on how we view ourselves. We need to see ourselves as God does.

We could not argue, for example, that David’s affection for Bathsheba was apart from his faith in God. Nor could we say that Judas’ lust for money did not affect his love for Jesus. Who we are is what we are. Whatever we do is related to our beliefs; likewise, whatever our beliefs are determine what we do.

The next time we are tempted to step out of our responsibility as Christians, may we think about who we are first so we do not regret what we do next.

Use it or lose it (Friday, September 7)

A popular expression people utter in all kinds of situations is: “Use it or lose it.” The phrase can apply to exercising, driving, learning or thinking. It also can pertain to our faith, and whether we use our faith as much as we should.

When we have doubt we are not using our faith. When we fail to wait for an answer from God we are not using our faith. When we fall apart during a time of difficulty we are not using our faith.

Using our faith is actively practicing what we know and believe about God to give us the ability to trust him. It is like the game you might have played when you were younger: you would fall backward and the person behind – the one you could not see – would catch you. Do you trust God enough to believe he will not let you fall?

I wonder if we are able to declare with the psalmist, “But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ 
My times are in Your hand” (Psalm 31:14-15). Unless we use our faith daily, we will probably lose it.

Desiring the best (Thursday, September 6)

The Lord promises that if you delight in him, he will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4). You have to be careful, though, what you wish for or desire.

I was recently on the other side of the city and drove by the townhouse my wife and I wanted to buy 10 years ago. It was spacious with a huge kitchen and an enormous dining room. We fell in love with the unit the minute we walked in the front door. The only problem was the cost; it was expensive. We managed to convince the bank, though, that we had the funds for both the monthly mortgage and the association dues. We made an offer and waited. Our bid was rejected.

Weeks later, we bought almost an identical townhouse in another part of the city: for $60,000 less and no homeowners’ fees! We finally realized this was the house the Lord was leading us to the entire time. In many ways it was better than the one we saw initially: we live on a cul-de-sac, the park is just 50 yards away and there are young families everywhere. 

Sometimes we don’t always know the true desires of our heart until God shows us. We thought we knew what we wanted, but God planned something much better for us. Thankfully, we were not able to buy the first townhouse. God was watching out for us the whole time, and we learned not to trust our heart too much until we knew what God wanted for us.

Time to rejoice (Wednesday, September 5)

Pure joy is found in God. No place else. Rejoice in the Lord always, Paul wrote, for he learned there was no lasting joy in what did not last.

Be grateful for God’s grace. Be thankful for his forgiveness. Be at peace because of his love. Be glad for his gift of salvation. All of these are eternal. They will never fade away. Nor will they disappear during times of difficulty.

Beyond the trials of life, God is always there – always faithful. There is joy in him even when there is sadness all around. Paul could rejoice in the Lord at all times because he rejected worldly situations and circumstances. To him, life was a spiritual matter.

He had joy through God, not through himself or what he was going through at the moment.

When God is silent (Tuesday, September 4)

When we have a decision to make, we may not have a clue of what God wants us to do. What happens in the quiet times, on those occasions when God seems to be silent? What about when we do not hear from him no matter how much we pray or beg for an answer?

Perhaps God wants us to be patient and to wait until he is ready. But why doesn’t he tell us so? Why can’t he say “wait,” instead of saying nothing at all? We do not understand.

We will never comprehend God, at least not until we are with him in heaven. If God thought and acted like us, we would have no need for him. He would be no different than the person down the street or our neighbor.

The Lord had to remind Isaiah of something we often forget: “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9). Rather being annoyed when God does not respond right away, we should be thankful he is not like us as human beings. He has a better way to resolve our situation than anything we can imagine. Let us trust him enough not to do anything until he is ready to respond.

Growing the word (Monday, September 3)

The epistle of James explains that the word of God is implanted in us from the beginning. “He chose to give us birth through the word of truth,” James says, “that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created. . . . Humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you” (James 1:18-21).

God’s love, compassion, wisdom and all the other divine truths are part of us because we are created by the mind of God. We know that we are made in his likeness, but this likeness, this image, is entirely spiritual.

The great question, then, is whether we are nurturing his goodness and holiness that dwells in us? As we grow from day to day, are we allowing these seeds of God’s word (his very truths) to develop and flourish as they should? We have to make a choice. Either we are growing or we are dying.

James says we should accept the word, with deep humility and gratitude, because will save us. We are God’s “firstfruits” of all creation: the first offered up to his greatness. We show his glory and majesty when we produce the spiritual fruit that grows from the word implanted in us at birth.

Provide the faith (Sunday, September 2)

The headlines spell out the lamentable condition of our country these days: “Sex Charges Cast a Pall on a College Town,” “Campaigns Play Loose With Truth,” and “Harvard Students in Cheating Scandal Say Collaboration Was Accepted.” The sad fact is that there is much sin and trouble all around us. Sometimes it is enough to make us want to give up and give in to the world.

But when all else seems lost, God is still there. He is still healing the sick, feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless and caring for the needy both physically and spiritually. He does all of this through you and me. He empowers us with his strength, his might, his love. He gives himself to us so that we can show his glory to others.

God works today as he did in the past. Nothing has changed in thousands of years: from Adam to Abraham to Moses to Jesus to us. Time after time, scripture tells what he is able to do. No example is more well-known than Jesus feeding the multitudes. When the disciples wanted to send the people off to find their own food, what did Jesus say? “They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat” (Matthew 14:16).

Though they probably did not understand fully, they saw what he meant when he took the fish and loaves, looked up to heaven and gave thanks. Jesus relied on the Father for the miracle to provide for each person that day. In the same way, we are here to help others, not drive them away. We are here to offer whatever God wants to do through us. He will always provide the miracle as long as we provide the faith and the thanks.

The captivity of anger (Saturday, September 1)

Out of our pain we learn more about ourselves and our God. We find out how much he can comfort us when others hurt us. Only he can give us the strength and the hope we need to heal the wound.

Unlike us, there is nothing he cannot overcome. The problem is that we do not go to him as we should. When people come against us or attack us, for one reason or another, we retreat into ourselves. We crawl into our own feelings and become upset. We might even think of ways to get even.

Jesus says that what we need to do is to forgive. Forgiveness is the only way we can free ourselves from the captivity of anger. Maybe you have heard persons say, “I can’t forgive; You don’t know what they did to me.” That may be true, but we do not have a choice. We have to forgive if for nothing else than for our own sake. We have to rise above any offense, just as Jesus did, and put the matter in the past.

First, we have to be open to letting him help us. Then, and only then, can God restore our health and happiness. We will never get over the anger until we can get over our own feelings. God knows what happened and he will take care of everything just as he promised.

We need hope (Friday, August 31)

Physical and mental pain can wear us down, even change our attitude and behavior. Each new day seems more excruciating than the last when we are suffering from disease, injury, sorrow or grief. In our anguish, we cry out to the Lord for help. We beg God to take away the pain, perhaps just for a few minutes. Ironically, the word pain comes from a Latin word meaning penalty or punishment. At times, pain does seem like punishment because of its severity and intensity.

But before we question or doubt God, we need to realize that he is not the cause of our pain. Instead, God is the answer to it. He can comfort us in many ways. He heals today just as he did in the past. His miraculous power has never changed, and he delights in taking away our distress. But his plan is not always to remove the pain. During the agony, though, God is there with us to offer consolation, reassurance and, most of all, hope.

Like a mother who comforts a hurting child, God consoles us by taking away the anguish; he reassures us by saying he loves us; and he gives us hope by telling us we are strong enough to endure. There will be periods in life when we cannot seem to conquer the physical presence of pain. Yet, we can always rise above our bodily suffering by concentrating on God. In him, we find our purpose, our power and our potential both for today and tomorrow. We can have hope with God because God is with us.

Taking it personally (Thursday, August 30)

People try to help us at times. They want to console us by saying things like “don’t take it personally” or “just forget about it” or “don’t worry.” Easier said than done.

Remember the story of Job. His three friends tried to convince him that he had wronged God in some way. He offended the Lord; therefore, he was being punished for his sins. But Job knew himself. He knew he had been an upright and faithful man. Yet, what could explain his calamity? Nothing. So what good would it have done for Job to blame himself over and over for his own suffering?

Often, we think people do or say things against us and we take it to heart. Our feelings are hurt because we feel the wrong was done intentionally. “Don’t give them too much credit,” my wife always says. The truth is that others usually are not out to get us. It just seems that way when we take it personally. God knows our righteousness and he knows our goodness.

The cross (Wednesday, August 29)

Even before Jesus was taken to Pontius Pilate, he was beaten in the temple courtyard. The chief priests stood by as an angry mob seized Jesus. “Some began to spit at him,” writes Mark. “They blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, ‘Prophesy!’ And the guards took him and beat him.”

Still, the worst was yet to come. Jesus realized it was now his time and he understood what he would endure. The pain and suffering of being crucified – the complete decay and destruction of his physical body – would have to occur before his soul could be raised triumphantly in eternity. He knew it all, yet he willing to give up his life for ours.

The question we should ponder today is whether we are now willing to sacrifice our lives for him.

Use it or misuse it (Tuesday, August 28) 

From what we have to what we have been given, everything has a specific purpose. Phones, for example, allow us to communicate with one another, microwaves cook our food and televisions entertain us. We would never think about using any one of these devices for a different reason. The gifts from God are the same; each one has a particular purpose. Yet we try to use them for our own designs.

First, we have love. We have been shown how to use it. Jesus taught us how to love one another. Somehow, we take love and keep it for ourselves. We love material objects rather than human beings. We love cars, money, houses and vacations more than the ones who live next door. Similarly, we have hope. But we use our hope to look forward to what we want in life rather than what awaits us in heaven someday. We also possess persistence. We use it by being stubborn or holding grudges instead of fighting for the kingdom.

There are many other blessings given to us by God: understanding, faith and forgiveness, to name a few. Unfortunately, we misuse each one. We understand only what we want; we put more faith in people than in our Father; and we want God to forgive us without our forgiveness of others.

The question we must contemplate, on a regular basis, is whether we are doing what we are supposed to do with what we have been given. God gave freely to us in order that we would give freely as well. Each separate blessing is a gift from him; we either use it or misuse it.

Waiting for change (Monday, August 27)

When will God do something in my life, a friend asked. I know God is there and that he is watching me go through all of this, he said, yet I don’t understand why he isn’t doing anything. When will things change?

The more I pondered his question, the more I realized the dilemma that faces us daily. We always want to know when our present trial will end, when we will be finished with this set of problems, when our difficulties and troubles will cease. We allow the past to haunt us, the present to confuse us and the future to threaten us. We can take a bad situation and make it even worse. Without much persuasion, we can easily convince ourselves there is no hope at all.

We would be much better off to forget our feelings and regrets, to realize that we are wasting time by taking time to worry. All of our anxiety will never change a thing, especially the individual plan that God set in place long before our birth. Everything must go according to his will or it will not happen. That fact should be our comfort whenever we think about our plight.

God is with us on the journey he has made for each one of us. Having him next to us is more important than anything else. Without him we have no future, no matter how many “good” changes seem to take place in our lives. The goodness of his presence alone is better than any blessing the world can offer.

The good news (Sunday, August 26)

Our task is to tell others how to repair the brokenness in their lives. Jesus came to restore our relationship with the Father. Now it is up to us to lead others toward that reconciliation – to tell them they can have hope for the future and that they do not have to live in despair.

The world is desperate for the message of salvation. If only we will take the time to share what we know, we will see lives changed before our very eyes: the poor will become rich, the homeless will have shelter, the sick will be healed and the lost will be found. People will discover the hidden purpose and meaning of their lives. No longer will they have to look to those around them to find joy and satisfaction; they will have the peace and comfort of the Father within them at all times.

Sometimes you and I take for granted all that God has done in our lives: the many times our health has been restored, our finances have been repaired, our prayers have been answered, our emptiness has been replaced and our losses have been returned.

What God has done for us, he wants to do for others. Incredibly, he can use our brokenness to show the power of his word. But the world will never understand until we tell them the “good news.”

Forgiving (Saturday, August 25)

Looking at my life – my failures and mistakes – allows me to be more tolerant of others. By acknowledging my shortcomings, I am able to accept my neighbor and to realize that we are very much alike.

But as much as I see my faults in those around me, I frequently do not excuse them as I excuse myself. I judge them without giving any thought whatsoever to the things I have done wrong. I dismiss my anger, my impatience and my abruptness. I convince myself that I have good reason to act in a certain way; I am not as forgiving of my family and friends, or even strangers for that matter. That person should know better, I think to myself.

You and I can find it much easier to blame the world than to admit our own sins and weaknesses. Each day I use the wrong words, think the wrong thoughts and commit the wrong deeds. I know that God forgives me. Even so, I am not willing to extend the same kind of mercy and grace to my sisters and brothers. At such times, how far the words of the Lord’s Prayer are from my heart: to forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

If I want to be forgiven for what I do, I must forgive others for what they do. I need to make the first move to accept people just the way God accepts me – faults and all. What happens in the end is all up to me.

Lighting the way (Friday, August 24)

What people do or say often surprises us, especially when it goes against what we might imagine from a fellow believer. We may become offended or upset by someone’s unexpected actions and words. But before we judge too harshly, we have to consider our reaction. Are we considerate and forgiving? Or do we respond in kind, exhibiting the same sort of behavior we have witnessed?

We need to remember that we are not created to be mirrors, reflecting images of the world. We are made to be lights – beacons of hope that shine bright even in the darkest of circumstances. Jesus told us to turn away, to turn the other cheek, whenever we are attacked. We can never overcome evil with evil. But we can overcome wickedness by goodness. Nothing can hide the pure light of God that shines through us unless we bury it.

The power to choose is up to us. We can decide to be mirrors or lights. One imitates. The other outshines. It all depends on the source. A mirror can only reflect what is in front of it. But a light can remove the darkness and change everything it touches.

A temporary trial (Thursday, August 23)

If Jesus is the vine and we are the branches, what happens sometimes when we don’t feel like a branch? Maybe we feel cut off from God. Perhaps we are not producing as much fruit for the kingdom as we want. What can we do to become vital and alive again?

The answer is to close your eyes and look at God – with the insight you have in your heart. You know he cares for you. You know he loves you. You know he watches over you. Concentrate on what he is doing in your life and block out everything else that is rushing at you. Even though you are tempted to become angry or upset if things don’t go your way, push those thoughts away and meditate only on God’s will.

His plan is perfect. God is slowly but surely turning everything around, in spite of how you feel right now. Romans 8:30 says, “And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” What Paul means is that God chose us. Then he gave us a purpose and a call. As we follow his will for us, we become justified (and saved) through our faith in him. The result is that we are “glorified” by him both now and forever.

The bottom line is that God has chosen you, placed a calling on your life and has already granted you eternal life. Right now you are in the middle; you are going through the process of living out your calling. It is not easy, I know. But I also know that God is with you at this moment. Do you know that David spent years struggling in the wilderness between the time he killed Goliath and when he became king? He was living out his calling just as you are now. Keep moving forward with the knowledge that God will take you safely through this temporary trial.

Not fearing fear (Wednesday, August 22)

Adverse situations create anxiety and fear in our minds if we are not firmly fixed on who God is and what he can do. Fear comes to us naturally, but it does not come from God. His nature is peace, comfort, calm and confidence – everything that we are not.

God never promises that we will live free from all fear. He does promise, however, that he will enable us to overcome all feelings of worry, concern and even panic. The apostle Paul reminds us, in his letter to the Romans, of the tremendous power we possess through God: “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship; and by him we cry ‘Abba, Father’” (Romans 8:15).

We belong to God. We are his children, his very daughters and sons. We have the right to call on him during times of great stress and confusion. As we do, we need to place our complete faith in him to bring about his good in each and every circumstance in our lives. And whenever we are tempted by fear, we need to turn away and turn to God. We cannot allow ourselves to be slaves to human emotion at the cost of losing our “sonship” in Christ.

In receiving God into our lives, we also received his spirit and nature. But, it is up to us whether we accept our freedom or not.

What we produce (Tuesday, August 21)

Bearing fruit for the kingdom is not simply being busy for God. Nor does it mean bringing soul after soul into the kingdom. We must bear the marks of a good and faithful servant more than anything else.

Kindness. Gentleness. Helpfulness. Graciousness. All of these determine the fruit we produce. Do those who meet us and know us want to be imitators of us just as we are imitators of Christ? Or, do our words and actions merely look good from the outside when, in fact, our hearts are hardened and stale.

You and I can only bear the right kind of fruit if we are connected to the true tree. I am the vine, Jesus said, and you are the branches. To be productive, God’s love and compassion must be living and growing in us, so much so that he is one who produces the fruit that we bear.

Are we fit? (Monday, August 20)

Many organizations use the word “fit” when interviewing prospective candidates. They want new employees to fit into the scheme of things and to be like the many others who already work there.

Being fit for the kingdom of heaven is much different than being fit for a company or business. When it comes to God, we do not have to worry about fitting in and being accepted by everyone else. The only one we need to please is God. He alone decides whether we are fit for service.

He gives each one of us a different role to play. No two are the same. To God, it is more important that we fit together to complete his divine will than if we fit in with everyone. Chances are, if we are doing his will here on earth, we will not fit in. We will seem out of place and even unfit.

What the world thinks should not matter as long as we fit the mold God has in mind for us.

Born again (Sunday, August 19)

Being born again means having a new life. The old person is gone, dead, and a new person comes forth. We receive a new nature, not a new body.

Often, we confuse the two. As Christians, we wonder why we have to face pain, sickness and trouble. Somehow we think we are supposed to be immune from the problems of this world. But Christ never promised us a perfect life. He promised us eternal life.

What he came to give us is far more than we can either think or imagine right now. Our new life in him guarantees us new life in paradise—forever.

Once we begin to realize what awaits us in heaven, we no longer will be so upset with what we are going through right now. Now will not last, but eternity will.

Wisdom from above (Saturday, August 18)

How easy to overlook the wisdom of Jesus as he traveled from town to town. It is understandable that Jesus healed the leper who once came to him. “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean,” the leper said to him (Matthew 8:2). “I am willing,” Jesus said. “Be clean!” And it was done.

But the next words of Jesus must have truly puzzled the man. Despite the excitement and joy this healed leper felt, Jesus turned to him and said, “See that you don’t tell anyone. But go and show yourself to the priest . . . as a testimony to them.” One can only wonder what the man thought. Now completely cured from a fatal and painful disease, he is to keep quiet and go directly to the temple.

The Lord knew exactly what he was saying. He did not want others to hear about the miracle and then rush to him to be cured as well. Jesus came to offer much more than healing alone. Also, he wanted those in the temple to recognize and understand that he was the son of God that prophecy described. He had come to fulfill the law and give salvation to all.

Let us think about the things that Jesus said and did during his brief time here on earth. May we start to glimpse the meaning of true heavenly wisdom today and learn to rely more on him than we do ourselves.

Casting stones (Friday, August 17)

Many people watched Jesus as he went from town to town. They observed his every move closely. The religious leaders even kept a close eye on his disciples.

But these watchers were looking for the wrong things. They did not delight in the healings, marvel at the teachings or find comfort in the forgiving. Rather than being grateful and amazed at what Jesus was able to do, they became angry and upset. They found pleasure in condemning him for healing on the Sabbath, for pardoning sins, for feeding the poor, for giving hope to the hopeless and for eating with outcasts. They saw what they wanted to see in him. They saw what they did not like and judged him.

We are not so different today, are we? We look at certain individuals or particular races and we decide what we want. Our verdict in many cases has little to do with the good, and everything to do with the bad. You and I focus on what we think others are doing wrong rather than on what they are doing right.

The next time we jump to conclusions about someone, may we hear these 12 words of Jesus ringing loudly in our ears: “Let he who is without sin among you cast the first stone” (John 8:7). Simply drop your stone of judgment on the ground and walk away. The person you want to condemn is no worse than you.

The second command (Thursday, August 16)

We understand the first and greatest command: to love God with all of our heart and mind. What we don’t always get is the second command: to love our neighbors as ourselves.

What Jesus wants us to do is to treat others as we treat ourselves. Do we accept everyone in our community? Do we show respect and dignity? Perhaps we keep our distance because some people are not like us. Maybe their skin is a different color, their accent is strange, their clothing is unusual or their sexual preference is atypical.

All of these disparities should not make any difference. What should matter above all else is that we love each person, regarding every individual with the same regard we have for ourselves. We are all creatures of a kind and gracious God, and we need to act like it!

I remember when my six-year-old granddaughter saw a tall man in a white robe and black turban on her first visit to New York City. He was getting on the hotel elevator to go up to his room, too. He noticed her staring at him. “Ah,” he said in a thick Middle Eastern accent, “she sees something different.” He was talking about his wardrobe and dark skin, of course. That is the point. These two things made him appear quite different. Deep down he was the same as the rest of us on the elevator that day. As our neighbor, we should not have any difficulty loving him as we do ourselves; that is, if we take Jesus’ words to heart.

Under control (Wednesday, August 15)

The odd thing about accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior is the freedom that comes from letting him govern our lives. When we follow him, we are immediately set free from everything in this world that tries to control us.

We often take our freedom for granted. I am not speaking about being residents of a certain country. I mean the spiritual freedom that liberates us to live as citizens of heaven.

Think for a moment about all of the physical elements that actually dictate how we act. When was the last time your temper got the best of you? Have you recently said something you later regretted? Can you say in all truth and honesty that you never get angry? Each one of these emotions has the power to dictate what we do.

But by giving ourselves to Jesus, we receive a new life. He does not rule us as the world does. Instead, his dominion over us places us under his care. There we can enjoy the life he offers – a life without the trappings of our human nature. When we are able to set aside our instincts and behavior, we allow ourselves to live under the control of God's heavenly nature.

With him (Tuesday, August 14)

All of us have handicaps. These might be visible, but they also may be deeply hidden. We know we have them and we must face them each day. The good news is that we do not deal with them alone.

Paul had some sort of thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7). He never revealed his problem to the world, yet he prayed earnestly for the Lord to heal him. The healing he sought never came. Still, he continued to serve the Lord. Peter, too, had a handicap; he was always impetuous, ready to react at the first sign of trouble. Then there was Thomas who doubted even Jesus. We are no different today. Our handicaps keep us from many things. Most importantly, from moving forward in our lives and making the most out of what we have been given.

In some sports, individuals have a handicap, a special number that evens the playing field. It makes up for our lack of ability and allows us to compete with those who may have better skills. When it comes to God, we have more than what we need to do anything. In the name of Jesus, we can heal, prosper, succeed, and overcome. There is nothing that can hold us back from accomplishing the Lord’s will, both for us and for others.

Yes, we may have handicaps—those physical or mental impairments that hinder us—but we also have God’s handicapping, his divine ability, to give us complete success. With him, we cannot fail. Without him, we cannot win.

The reality of God’s spirit (Monday, August 13)

The mystery of the Holy Spirit—how God works in supernatural ways—is not as hard to accept as we make it out to be. True, we do not see God or the things he is doing. That does not mean he is not there or that he has left us on our own.

We possess the capacity to believe in God’s constant presence and guidance, in spite of what we cannot see. For example, we often reflect on our memories (both good and bad). These experiences exist within the mind, but give us the illusion that they are real; we think they are occurring right in front of us.

As a result, the present moment is affected by what we no longer experience with our eyes. The past is gone, yet it takes shape once again in images, sounds and smells. These sensations are as authentic as physical reality.

In the same way, God is no less real because he is not visible. We make the mistake of always trying to look for him with our eyes only. We should seek him with our heart as well. When we do, our mind will show us all he is doing, even though it will not be seen by the rest of the world.

Trusting the way (Sunday, August 12)

Each day requires more trust than the last. Like being on a long journey, there is always a tendency to wonder if we are indeed headed in the right direction. When we travel, we rely on a map. For our life, the one sure way to know we are on the proper path is to trust God’s word.

He explains he will take care of us, that he will protect us and guide us. The Bible offers promise after promise from God, yet we often doubt because the signs all around us tell us something different. We find ourselves experiencing difficulty when God assures us we will have his peace. Or we encounter trouble when God says we will have tranquility.

We fail to understand what God means. We think in real terms while God is speaking spiritually. Like looking at a map, we need to know how to interpret the symbols and signs. The key to comprehending God is in realizing that he is giving us much more than something physical. He offers a greater gift than what is quickly forgotten tomorrow. He gives us what is lasting and eternal.

Though we may want the things of this world, what we need are the things of heaven. The only way to receive them, though, is through trust.

Moving with God (Saturday, August 11)

From the window next to my writing desk, I watched a new family move into the house behind us. For two entire days, they carried in beds, dressers, tables, chairs, couches and box after box, including one with a state-of-the-art television. A young boy cut the grass for the first time as his parents brought out the empty containers that once were full and heavy with the family’s treasures. Everyone in the household moved quickly to settle in and become a part of the neighborhood.

All of this made me think about serving God. When we move, we take everything we own with us and then spend days and weeks preparing our new home. But when we move with God, we are always equipped. We do not have to take any time at all getting ready to tell about the good news of salvation or to help someone who is struggling. God has prepared our way in advance.

He knows what we can and cannot do even if we doubt ourselves. He will give us the right words to say although they may sound awkward and clumsy to us. What we need to do is learn to rely on him, on his judgment and on his Holy Spirit. God also will show us what needs to be done, no matter the task or the work. All we need to do is to trust him when the moment is right.

When we move, we take all of the physical things we have on the journey. When God moves, he does so through the Spirit. His burden is light and his yoke is easy. With him, we do not have to strain ourselves with heavy loads or boxes full of our belongings. All we have to do is share what we already know about him: his love, his grace and his guidance. These things do not weigh us down at all; in fact, they lift us and empower us to do his will at any time and any place. 

One way (Friday, August 10)

God’s plan for our lives is simply that: a plan. He knows what he has planned and created for us, but we have the choice whether to follow his will or ours. We can easily be distracted and go off in the wrong direction because of how we feel or how we think. Satan knows our weaknesses and he will always attack us there, especially when it comes to making decisions. The devil whispers in our ear, just as he did with Adam and Eve, and convinces us that we are like God.

Looking back on our lives, we can all remember times when we made a wrong turn. Maybe it was in our finances, our job or our relationship with others. It only takes a second for us to become lost and to forget our true purpose in life. The lesson of our past is that we need to go to God before we do anything or take any action. Before we begin our day, write an email, call someone on the phone, visit a neighbor or even go to the store, we must pray.

God is in all things, not just those times when we have to endure trials and tragedies. God did not make the universe, for example, and then walk away. He took great delight and pleasure in creating even the smallest of things – those barely visible to the eye. He made each blade of grass, every grain of sand and all the hairs on our head.

He has numbered each of our days and he knows what will happen to us even before it occurs. Why, then, do we try to take off on our own? Everything we do is important to God because he created everything we are. He knows what is best for us. He will tell us, but only if we take the time to ask him first, before we take one step.

Eternal will (Thursday, August 9)

There must be those occasions when God looks down and shakes his head in disappointment. He has chosen us and shown us how to love one another. He has demonstrated how we should act. He has told us over and over again through Scripture what to do with our lives. He sent his Son to live among us and even die for us. Yet, we still don’t get it. We continue to act according to our feelings and desires, almost as if God did not exist.

No matter if we are guilty of forgetting about God or if we are the victim of worldly attacks, God sees what is going on. He does not turn a blind eye to what his people are doing. Nor does he ignore our individual cries for help. He is there in every circumstance, and he is always bringing about his will in spite of what occurs here on earth.

In time, in his time, God will judge those who disobey. He also will reward those who are faithful. We may have to wait years – much like Moses, Joseph or Habakkuk – to see what God is doing. But it will come. His purpose will be revealed to all, just as surely as the morning’s light follows the darkness of night and the sun comes after the storm.

God never fails. He observes every thought, every action and every intent that happens every day. Nothing escapes his omniscience. So, too, nothing escapes his omnipotence. God will always have the last and final word in each situation. And his will is forever, for all eternity. Not just for today.

Standing up (Wednesday, August 8)

Many times I am guilty of trying to save the world. I want to tell others what to do and how to live their lives. I find myself wanting to do all sorts of things as I go through the day. I want to tell people how to drive, how to change their lives, how to find happiness, how to be successful, how to manage their time, how to act, how to dress, how to look. And so on. I even think about how the Church needs to change and what we, as Christians, should be doing to further the kingdom here on earth.

Now there is nothing wrong with having a desire, a heart, for change. But it is God who is in charge; he must bring about the change. I cannot control any of the circumstances around me. All I can do is to change myself. If I can focus on his will for my life, two things will happen. First, God will begin to change me. Second, God will take care of the things that need to be corrected both in others and in the world.

But there is, I think, another important element in the equation. I must be willing to pray without ceasing and to stand. Both are essential. I need to turn everything over to God and I need to take a stand for him. To do anything less is going only halfway. For what can God accomplish, through me or anyone else, if we pray but are not willing to follow his way? The apostle Paul emphasized that after we have done all we can, through prayer and individual works, we must continue to stand up for God’s righteousness. We must not allow hatred, greed, covetousness, contempt, jealousy, misunderstanding, pride or anything else to tear down the body of Christ.

Jesus came so that we would have life and have it more abundantly. There is a cost, though, that we must pay. We must be willing to let God take charge and, at the same time, defend his laws and principles. When we do, we will not always be popular or even accepted by those around us. In fact, we may even be rejected. But, the reward is we will be able to know the greater life that rises above everything else on earth.

Constant praise (Tuesday, August 7)

Everything we do is worship. We worship as we rise in the morning and think about God. We worship as we prepare breakfast. We worship as we go about our daily routine. We worship as we relax in the evening. We worship as we go to bed at night.

Our entire life consists of individual acts of worship. We do not have to be in a sanctuary on Sunday morning in order to praise God and offer thanks to him. All through the week, in whatever we do, we can show our love and devotion to God. Being grateful for the food we have to eat or being thankful for a beautiful house are the same. God does not weigh our appreciation based on size or value. We worship him when we give thanks for a glass of water or a brand new car.

Often, though, our enthusiasm and passion depend on what we have received. We tend to be more excited over something grand than in something simple. The level of our excitement and thanks frequently depends on cost of the gift. God does not see it this way.

Jesus said we can only be faithful in the big things if we are faithful in the small things. Clearly, what is most important to God is whether we worship him and give thanks to him. If we have this perspective, then our lives will take on new meaning. We will no longer depend on our great hopes and desires in order to show our love and appreciation to God. Instead, we will be thankful and content in all things. At all times, his praise will continually be in our hearts and mouths.

He knows the way (Monday, August 6)

When God makes a way, we may not always move forward with confidence and assurance. We tend to doubt what will happen next, even though we know God will protect us.

God showed the Israelites which way to go when he brought them out of bondage. Still, at times, they thought they were going to die in the desert. When they were being pursued by Pharaoh’s army, God again showed them which way to go. He parted the Red Sea and held back the waters. As they crossed, they must have wondered if they were going to drown. When God at last showed them the Promised Land, they were afraid to go in.

We are no different than the Israelites. Even when God leads us in the right direction – both by closing the door behind us and freeing us to move forward – we are full of doubt, fear and confusion. Sometimes we feel lost because we do not know what is out there or what we will face in the days and weeks ahead. We want to know the outcome, the future, even before we go through the desert, through the Red Sea or into the Promised Land.

God says “Trust me, and I will take care of you.” But we do not hear him because we keep asking, over and over again, “Where are we going and what are you doing to us?” Our faith should be built on trust in God’s way. He knows the future because he created it. He certainly knows what is best for us.

What we notice (Sunday, August 5)

Today is a day full of miracles. Yet, many of them will go unseen and unnoticed; they will be taken for granted, lost in the activity of daily life. We will never see God’s incredible works if we are not looking in the right direction. Like traveling the same roads each day, or following our normal routine, we become used to the familiar. We observe and experience nothing different because we are not expecting anything new.

I go the same way to work all of the time. I long for a change, but I am comfortable with a certain path. I know each intersection and each stop sign. I pass the same houses, the same buildings, the same stores, the same schools and the same gas stations. It seems nothing has changed in years, not even the trees along the road. But each moment, everything around me is changing, whether I notice or not. What is not any different is my outlook. I do not observe anything out of the ordinary because I have chosen to ignore all but the usual.

My prayer must always be for God to open my mind and heart – to discover what he is doing right now, right in front of me. I desperately need his help to uncover what I have not seen before. How often do I pass through the same neighborhoods until one day I finally notice something that has been there all along? I see a house without shutters, an empty storefront or a street sign right next to the road.

God’s miracles are all around. He reveals himself everywhere, in a new way, if we take the time to seek him. It is up to us to open our eyes and not go blindly through this day.

Time or tasks? (Saturday, August 4)

A unique and wonderful privilege awaits us each morning. God gives us the gift of this day. It is up to us to decide, however, how we will use this precious present. We have to determine what to do with what Our Father has given us. We will not have a chance to go back and change what we do this day. Once evening comes and it is time to rest, we will either look back on the hours with satisfaction or regret. The question in our minds must always be: Is God pleased with what I did today?

The number of minutes in a day is the same for each person on earth. No one is given more time than another. Some people will be more productive than others, yet all are limited by 24 hours. Frequently, we complain that we do not have enough time to accomplish everything on our list. Perhaps we are focusing on the wrong issue – the element of time – instead of the tasks at hand. Which one is more important to us: time or tasks?

In our humanness, we sometimes think that the more we do the better. We are happy if we finish everything on our schedule for the day. We can easily forget that God does not share our worldly perspective. He looks at what we do from the standpoint of eternity. We are reminded of the woman who gave two small coins. Her meager gift was nothing compared to the lavish offerings of silver and gold that others were bringing. But she gave more than anyone else, Jesus said, because she gave everything she owned.

An even greater example is the life of Jesus. In less than three years, he changed the world forever. After 2,000 years, billions of people throughout the ages have been influenced and impacted because of what Jesus did during his short time on earth. Likewise, what we do today matters. The tasks we undertake are more important than the time in which we have to do them. How we value the gift of this day will be seen by what we do, not by how much we do.

Proving God (Friday, August 3)

One of the primary purposes of our time on earth is to share our life with others. God put us here to help one another, yet many times we simply want to be left alone. We desire to enjoy quiet lives, away from the noise of daily conflict and difficulty. We seek to escape, to find a place where we can have peace and solitude. Time spent in prayer and meditation is good, for it is the foundation of our day. But time spent serving others is better because it allows us to put our faith into action.

Jesus is our great example. He taught of love and preached about the kingdom of heaven. Yet, he also healed the blind, cured the lame, ate with sinners, touched the lepers, raised the dead, fed the poor and cast out demons. Jesus did more than talk about the grace of God; he demonstrated the Father’s love and care to the world.

As followers of Christ – for we are called Christians – we need to show how God changes lives. Through our actions, our conduct, our words, we serve in the kingdom by serving others.

During this day, devote some of your time to helping someone else. Invest in what you cannot comprehend or understand right now. In the long run, because you are serving a God of miracles and greatness, you will see that you get more in return than you can ever give away!

Casting judgment (Thursday, August 2)

The right to judge is not ours. It is God’s alone. Even when we have been harmed by others, we still do not have the privilege to condemn them. Jesus never sentenced his accusers. To the end, his life reflected what he said on the cross: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:24).

Despite being tormented and taunted for years, let alone what was done to him on Calvary, Jesus resisted the temptation to judge. “As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them,” he said, “I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it” (John 12:47).

It is easy to judge the world. All we have to do is look around us and think about certain people or specific incidents. There are many I would have liked to condemn through the years and I know many could have condemned me as well. I have had my share of sins and so have they. Still, Jesus did not have the power to judge and neither do we. To do so, in any situation, means we think more of ourselves than of Jesus.

Our purpose, like that of our master, is to save people. We will not be popular and we will face extreme opposition. The world hated Jesus and it will hate us, too. The Father will decide what to do on that final day when all will be judged, including you and me.

Overcoming all anxiety (Wednesday, August 1)

Knowing the truth about who we are in Christ sets us free from being held captive by the world. Everything changes as we come to realize we have been given the gift of eternal life. Suddenly, we are released from all doubt, worry, and anxiety. The things of this mortal life lose their power and sway over us because they no longer matter.

Our nature takes on a new perspective as we understand what it means to live forever with God. What sense, therefore, is there in worrying about each incident or problem? Why are we always so anxious over a job, money, friendships, or the future? We know where we are headed. This knowledge alone should cancel any worry that might threaten our joy.

During times of great turmoil in our lives we need to look past the moment. We must think and live beyond the disturbances and tribulations. Our sight must be firmly fixed on what awaits us at the end of this earthly journey, not on what is in front of us right now.

No matter what our emotions may try to tell us, God tells us the truth. He declares to us over and over again that we have been set free. By God’s authority and sovereignty, we no longer have to be controlled by common, everyday feelings. We have his word that he will help us to become overcomers of the world.

Doing our job (Tuesday, July 31)

I am no good to God the way I am. He cannot use me if I am resentful, if I am angry, if I am anxious, or if I am upset. He can use me only when I conform to what he wants.

The principle is simple. I am able to serve God if I am willing to accept his will. This is not much different than what we do each day in the world. We work for someone or some company and we must do what is expected of us. If we strike out on our own, following our own agenda and ideas, chances are we will be let go. We are of little use to the people and the company we serve if we do not live up to our responsibilities.

As Christians, there are certain duties that God demands of us. We are to love our enemies, pray for those who attack us, reach out to people who push us away, forgive sisters and brothers who hurt us. If we do not, we cannot serve God in the way he expects. Simply put, we are not doing our job; we are not whom we profess to be and God knows it.

He has every right to let us go and find someone else to do our work. Instead, he forgives us and gives us another chance. Maybe it is high time we think more deeply about God’s grace—how he gives us a second chance hundreds of times. He has a particular job for us. To him we are irreplaceable. Let us remember that the next time we want to do his work our way.

God is in his heaven and with us (Monday, July 30)

We are seldom moved, or even give thought to, the many things that go right each day. Millions of people will travel by plane today and arrive safely. Others will go by car, bus, or train without incident. Patients all over the world will be cured of disease and illness. So, too, the homeless will find a place to rest and the hungry will receive food. Thousands of children will be born healthy and well. Countless lives will be turned over to Jesus.

What we tend to notice or think about most are not all of these. What we see are the small problems here and there, those things that make us question our faith. We are tested each time we are touched by our own suffering or that of others. We wonder about death and destruction whenever storms occur. We want to know why God allows terrible pain, and where he is in the middle of a crisis.

But God does not move in and out of our lives on a whim. He is not with us one moment during joy and then far away the next when we encounter difficulty. God is ever-present, and his presence is all around us. All we need do is to look at all of the good he provides each minute.

Yes, there are many difficulties in the world. But instead of wearing ourselves thin by the weight of daily disappointments, we need to pay more attention to the goodness and beauty that do exist. God’s hand and mercy are everywhere. Billions of people will experience his love and mercy today, even though they may not know it. They will go about their business without interruption or difficulty—all because God cares for each one of them.

When we are tempted to think that all is hopeless, it is time for us to pause and remember the great hope we have through Jesus. The proof that he is with us always (and in all ways) is evident in everything that will go right today.

Different and alike (Sunday, July 29)

You and I belong to a diverse body of servants. We are all unique. We are each special. We work in various places, in different occupations, doing all kinds of things. Each one of us has a distinct purpose and gift. We were all made by the same Father to be individual, yet only in our oneness and unity are we able to experience the full beauty of his world.

As we look around, realizing our separate abilities, we begin to realize the true greatness of the one who created us. No two of us are exactly alike, from our appearance to our clothes, our vocation, our thoughts, our ideas or our background. Sometimes our perspective on similar situations is different. We can see one incident or go through the same circumstance and still have two separate stories to tell.

Despite our unique characteristics and features, though, we are children of the same God. We have the same Father, the same Creator. The same Holy Spirit flows in each of us, and the same Jesus guides us.

When we come together as one body, the more fully we can appreciate the complex nature and love of God. He is the same; he is never-changing. Still, he manifests himself in multiple ways through each one of us. Even though we are unlike one another, we are alike in him. That is the beauty of our difference.

Our debts (Saturday, July 28)

The depth of our love for Jesus can be seen in our thanksgiving. The more we realize how much he has done for us, the greater our gratitude. All of our many sins were removed by his one sacrifice on the cross, and our love for him grows in direct proportion to what his death means to us personally.

Jesus tells the story of two men who owed money: one had a debt of more than a year’s worth of daily wages, and the other a debt of only 50 days of wages. Neither one could repay the money so the lender removed both debts. Which one, Jesus asked Peter, would be more grateful? Which one will love the lender more? “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled,” Peter replied (Luke 7:43).

How large is our debt to Jesus? We owe him for his life and ours, but we owe him for so much more. He has taken away our entire debt—the sins, large and small, that we can never repay. We could not even return all we are given in one day, let alone an entire life of 60, 70, 80, or 90 years.

We do not need to add up all our debts, as if we are keeping score. All we need to do is to be more grateful when we remember his death for us. The more we think of him, the more we will love him.

Enjoying more with less (Friday, July 27)

What do we want more than anything else: good health, a better job, more money, or a larger house? Most of us think in terms of acquiring something rather than getting rid of something. What about having less stress, less worry, less anxiety, and less pressure? These are lasting qualities that can change our lives dramatically.

Jesus came to give us a fuller life. He wants only what is best and good for us. He offers us what will endure, not what will satisfy for the time being. All of what we think we want initially will only make us happy for the moment. Cars, houses, vacations, and even a better job do not last. These pass away as quickly as they came.

We can have more in our lives by having less. We do not need all that the world says is important. The beauty of life is found in simple ways. Certainly peace and comfort do not depend on great wealth or vast resources.

The joy that Jesus offers is available to everyone, both the rich and the poor. It does not matter who we are; all of us can have what he offers. That should be the most important thing. Everything else in life should be second.

Releasing our hurt (Thursday, July 26)

Praying for those who have harmed us in some way requires discipline, obedience and, most of all, love. We must love God enough to do as he asks, not as we feel. Our love toward him must be stronger than any anger we harbor toward others, even someone who has destroyed our career, our credibility, our future. To go forward in our lives, we need to love as God loves.

If I am hurt by a certain individual, for example, my first response is to get even – to seek revenge and retribution. I want this person to experience the same kind of suffering and pain that have been inflicted upon me or my family. My human mind tells me that vengeance will settle the score and I will feel better. But nothing could be farther from the truth, God’s truth.

What will I accomplish when I strike back? Will I level the playing field, so to speak, and regain what I think I have lost? No, never. I cannot change what has happened no matter what I do. I have two choices: I can either spend my time attempting the impossible (to undo the past), or I can use my time and energy in meaningful and productive ways. To do so, though, I must stop looking back and thinking about what might have been.

I need to look ahead with the knowledge that God’s love will right the wrongs that have been committed. Out of love, God will make my way straight. Out of love, God will deal with the wickedness of others. Out of love, I will eventually learn to say with Jesus, “Forgive them for they know not what they do.” When we reach the point where we are able to love “them” as God loves us, then we can forgive. Then we move forward through God’s love, which cancels out any and all desire to wound those who have wounded us.

Reflecting God's light (Wednesday, July 25)

Our words speak the truth of God. Our acts show the love of God. Our hands do the work of God. What a responsibility and privilege we have to serve him. All that we do displays God to the world.

Just as the moon reflects the light of the sun, we as Christians reflect the light of the true Son. People are able to see his mercy, care, kindness and compassion everywhere we go as we live for him.

Because we are chosen by God for his purpose and will, we have an obligation to replicate his likeness. So, too, we have the opportunity to demonstrate God’s greatness. Our face should illustrate the loving face of God by revealing his divine radiance in the darkness.

As we go through each moment, we need to remember that our lives must be turned toward God in order to reflect his light. If we turn away, he is no longer visible. The world will not see all he offers because we are not shining as we should. 

Love one another (Tuesday, July 24)

There is no room for harmful words, hateful thoughts or harsh actions in the life of a believer. Moreover, there is no excuse for any of these. When Paul exhorted the Hebrews to keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters, he was reminding them of the one great commandment. His letter was intended to instill in them that the power of love was superior to anything else on earth.

A person cannot practice love on certain occasions and be angry at other times. It is one or the other. Either we love or we do not. Love and anger cannot exist simultaneously. They are opposites and there is no middle ground between the two. Nor do we have the right to decide whom to love and whom to ignore. God does not grant us that choice. He tells us clearly to love one another – to love everyone, even those who have hurt us.

I might argue that not everyone is lovable, that some people are not as amiable as others. Frankly, the matter has nothing to do with liking someone. I am called to love as God loves. He may not like what I do at times, but still he loves me unconditionally. He loves me in spite of myself or my actions.

As a follower of Christ, I must strive for the same type of love toward others. I must go beyond the remarks and deeds of those around me. I need to look at others as though they are, indeed, my sisters and brothers. They are my family, a part of me, and we are all related. We have the same Father, Savior and Holy Spirit. We were created by the same God and we are all loved in the same way by him. He shares all he has with us and he wants us to share all we have with one another – something only love allows us to do.

Be determined (Monday, July 23)

We spend a great deal of our lives fighting. I do not mean wars and battles. I am talking about ourselves, and how we must constantly push ourselves to go beyond our feelings.

My mother was not a strong woman, physically speaking, but she was a determined woman. Time after time, she would fight her way through illness and fatigue. Her resolve to keep going enabled her to go in and out of the hospital countless times during her last years.

Our will can give us the strength to do things when our bodies fail or deceive us. How many times have you felt down and did nothing about it? Maybe you were sick, tired, worn out, or just plain lazy. Tell someone you are not feeling well and you will feel even worse.

We have the capacity to put all of our faith and trust in the Lord, if we so desire. We can use his great might by totally relying him. “I guide you in the way of wisdom,” says the Lord, “and lead you along straight paths” (Proverbs 4:11). May you take his straight path and stop following your crooked ways. Will yourself to go where he leads. Forget about your feelings once and for all.

Saving or sentencing? (Sunday, July 22)

People need our compassion, not our condemnation. Everywhere in life there are those who commit all kinds of sins. Our attitude toward them needs to be like that of Jesus, who came to earth to save and not to judge.

If the only thing we do is to judge other people for their wrongs, then we are adding to the problem. We are allowing hate and anger to fill our hearts. We become no better than them because we give evil a chance to prosper and grow. God wants nothing to do with it.

Remember the story of Jesus in the garden the night before his crucifixion. Peter boldly tried to defend Jesus by attacking a servant of the high priest and cutting off his ear. But Jesus rebuked him. Even in his darkest hour, Jesus showed love and concern.

If we want to be like Jesus, then we have live like Jesus. We are here to help save others. Not to sentence them.

Wait for him (Saturday, July 21)

Sometimes the best way to handle a situation is for us to do nothing and to let God do everything. He does not need our help when it comes to changing people or circumstances. He is more than able to accomplish anything, if we let him.

No doubt there were many believers who sought to change the ways of Saul. But nothing could compare to what the Lord did in an instant by taking away his sight and speaking to him through the Spirit. Once Saul could see again, he was a new person in Christ. He became Paul the apostle.

God is transforming all sorts of things today. Some involve people. Some involve situations. You and I need to be patient while God does what needs to be done. We have to give him room and time to work. If he needs our help, he will certainly let us know. Until then, we must wait.

Right thinking (Friday, July 20)

We have a natural tendency to focus on the negative aspects in our lives. Even when we are blessed with a loving family, enjoy good health and possess confidence in the future, our thoughts always seem to center on a minor problem or issue. Maybe the matter involves a task we don’t like to perform or a chore that we have been putting off. Perhaps it has to do with something someone said to us or that we said to another person. We could even be angry with ourselves for not being a better Christian.

If we are not careful, we can indeed make mountains out of molehills. Little things can become major obstacles. It is similar to a teacher who has a class of 20 students. All of them are attentive and excellent pupils, except one. One child continuously disrupts the class and refuses to learn. In no time at all, the teacher will suddenly turn her complete attention to the one bad student and forsake the other 19.

We do the same in our daily lives. We forget about the good and concentrate on the bad. Several times each day we have to make a conscious and concerted effort to overlook the negative elements that suddenly appear: getting a flat tire, being stuck in traffic, an appliance that breaks down, a child who spills milk at breakfast. In a few minutes, our entire day can be ruined. Before we throw away the rest of day, we should take another few minutes to re-focus our thoughts.

Look at all God has given to us. When we truly see how much the good in our life outweighs the bad, then these little distractions become nothing more than a rut we step over rather than fall into.

To worry or not (Thursday, July 19)

For most of us, we are guilty of always worrying about or planning for tomorrow. While we are going through one day, we are already dwelling on the next. We think about the meeting we have to attend, the shopping we need to do and the many things we want to complete.

Much of the time, we are not where we are. Physically, we may be living in Thursday, but our minds have moved on to Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Not only are we missing many important details of our journey today. We also are using up ourselves on things that have not happened yet.

“Do not worry about tomorrow,” Jesus said, “for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” We spend and expend too much of our time and energy on the future. We have more than enough to deal with today, and yet we add the troubles of tomorrow. So, too, we have enough strength for this day and we use much of it worrying about the next 24 or 48 hours.

Let us not wear ourselves out by trying to take care of situations before they occur. Remember, God has prepared us for what he has asked us to do today. He is confident about tomorrow and we should be as well.

Preparing ourselves (Wednesday, July 18)

Today is all before us. God created us for this day and this day for us. As the morning begins, God is already watching over us and greeting us. He is there in the darkness as we arise. He is present as we prepare ourselves for the many things that need to be done. He waits patiently for us to be with him – to spend time in prayer, talking to him and reading his word.

The greatest opportunity we have every day is to be with God during the first moments in the morning. Yes, we can turn to him throughout the hours ahead. But how pleased he must be when we put him first, before anything else. He must delight in our life as we dedicate ourselves daily to his will.

Jesus went to the Father often. Even in the midst of teaching and healing, the Son spent time with his Father. We have the same chance to be with our Father. We can seek his face in the peace and solitude at the beginning of a new day, long before we get caught up in the world’s activities.

Every morning we get our physical bodies ready. Yet, how much time do we spend preparing our hearts and minds? How long do we take to talk with him and to re-commit ourselves to his will? This day does not belong entirely to us. God created this time for us; he planned that we would use it for his glory and completely for his sake. 

Living our beliefs (Tuesday, July 17)

When we say that we believe in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we are doing much more than acknowledging their existence. We mean that we actually accept the divinity, authority and eternity of the one triune God. We willingly receive all that he has made, visible and invisible.

We also are confessing that God is our Father and Our King. He is the beginning and the end, the giver and hope of all life. Through faith, we recognize his sovereignty in all things, including the power to heal, restore and comfort. We put our trust in his ways, replacing our will for his.

Letting God take control of our entire being is what belief in the trinity is all about. When we no longer know who we are without God, then we are living an active belief that changes us today, tomorrow and for eternity.

A matter of trust (Monday, July 16)

Your steps and mine are ordered by the Lord. We walk according to his path and plan. We should not be surprised then, not in the least, when we encounter problems.

Satan will attack us time and time again as we take each step. He will throw all kinds of obstacles in our way. Anything that distracts us or keeps us from our ordered movement is his sole objective.

The devil’s machinations are many: getting us to think we are worthless because we have made mistakes; telling us that God does not love us, for if he did, he would help us; making us believe our lives do not matter; saying we are not as good as others; bringing up all of our weaknesses and sins from the past.

These are all lies. They are simply attacks to make us doubt God. But what does God say? “The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand” (Psalm 37:23-24). Whom are you going to trust today? The one who hates you, or the one who loves you and takes you by the hand?

Greater than gold! (Sunday, July 15)

One thing I have learned – or I should say God has taught me – is that my earthly feelings will always conflict with his heavenly principles. I should realize by now that when I feel ignored by the world, I am loved by my Father. When I feel rejected by those around me, I am accepted unconditionally by him. When I am not preferred by others, I have already been chosen by the King.

Too many of us live today with the pain of isolation and loneliness. We feel disrespected, underappreciated and belittled. The sharpness of our suffering is especially acute when it is caused by those who claim to be faithful followers of Jesus.

Who knows why some people attack us or, worse yet, ignore us. The ways of mankind are far from the ways of God. Most of the time we can understand God a whole lot easier than human beings. At least he never acts out of jealousy or anger or prejudice.

Trying focusing all of your attention on the Lord instead of how you think people view you. Your worth to him is everything, while your value to the world amounts for very little. God says he makes each one of us “more precious than fine gold” (Isaiah 13:12). At the current price of gold, $1,588 per ounce, a person weighing 200 pounds is worth $5,081,600. God says our value is much greater still! Do the math. What are you worth to him?

Release from bondage (Saturday, July 14)

Prayer can offer us deep comfort during times of trouble and crisis. When we pray, we feel close to God; we know that he is listening to our hearts. Sometimes, however, God does not answer our prayers and petitions as we ask. When this happens, prayer can leave us frustrated. Over and over again, we continue to ask God for help. Still, our pain seems to grow worse.

Our finite minds suddenly think God does not care, that he does not love us. We beg, plead, cry, and yet our situation does not change. Often, we feel worse because of the added confusion over God’s purpose for our suffering. “What are you doing, Lord,” we ask. “Don’t you see what we are going through? Please, Father, help us.”

We are human and we want the pain to go away. What we do not understand or see, at least for the moment, is how God is using our present grief to strengthen us for the future. Each minute more that we can endure means we will not be susceptible to the same kind of earthly hurt again.

God is always by our side, teaching us how to overcome such trials. As our loving Father, he is teaching us we are stronger than we think and that having faith in him can help us deal with any temporary pain. Faith lasts for eternity, but physical suffering does not. Once we learn this truth, we will be set free from the bondage of our own pain.

God provides (Friday, July 13)

Giving each one of his disciples the power over evil spirits, Jesus sent the 12 throughout the land. In groups of two – carrying no bread, bags or money – they went from village to village to preach the gospel. With little more than the clothes on their back, they did exactly as the Lord had commanded.

“They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them” (Mark 6:13). God granted them special favor in spreading the message of repentance; he was the one who provided them with food, water, lodging and open hearts.

The Bible is full of examples that demonstrate God’s protection and help. We need look no further than our Sunday School stories about Noah, Moses, Jonah, David and Daniel for proof. Time and time again, we see that God looks after his children. He shelters them, feeds them and blesses them in ways we cannot explain. Nonetheless, we know we are sustained by his great love.

God continues to send us out into the towns and villages of our part of the world. He wants to use us to reach the lost, the dying, the homeless and the hopeless. He also wants to show us what he can do through us when we allow him to lead the way. Not only will he heal others, and bring them to salvation, but he also will grant us the joy of sharing with him in the process.

Accepting the miracle (Thursday, July 12)

Many people, especially the Pharisees, refused to believe that Jesus healed a man who had been born blind. John explains how even the neighbors of the man claimed it was not really him. “No, he only looks like him,” they said. “I am the man,” he replied. Then the Pharisees proclaimed that Jesus was a sinner because he did not keep the Sabbath. “How can a sinner do such miraculous signs,” they asked.

The Pharisees even questioned the man’s parents, but they could not explain the miracle either. “He is of age; ask him,” the mother and father said. So the Pharisees examined the man a second time. “Give glory to God,” they demanded, not to Jesus. “We know this man is a sinner.” The once-blind man looked at them and said, “Whether he is sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”

How often during the day do we question what Jesus is doing in our lives? How many times do we, like the Pharisees, seek an explanation? We need to be more like the man who was healed. We must forget trying to analyze the situation and just accept what Jesus has done for us. All we really need to say is “I was blind but now I see!”
 
Pleasing God
(Wednesday, July 11)

Our acts of love toward Jesus are holy and consecrated even though people may not always understand. Often, the world fails to comprehend because our works of kindness and devotion find true meaning only in the pure, eternal light of heaven. Whatever we do for Jesus is never lost, no matter what others might think or say.

The apostle Mark writes of a woman who was harshly criticized when she showed her love and devotion toward Jesus. Mark explains that the woman broke open an alabaster jar and poured expensive perfume on Jesus’ head. Immediately, the disciples complained; they rebuked the woman for her senseless act. “Why this waste of perfume,” they asked indignantly. “It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.”

The woman offered all she had, yet she was condemned. To her, Jesus was more precious than anything she possessed in life; his worth and his life far exceeded even the finest, most fragrant, oil on earth. Jesus alone recognized gift. ”She has done a beautiful thing to me,” he told his followers. “Why are you bothering her?”

Others may not always grasp what we are doing for the Lord. But their lack of understanding or recognition should not keep us from what we know is right. We must follow our hearts, doing whatever is pure and holy in God's sight.

Wholly devoted (Tuesday, July 10)

The journey of our life is not over until we reach the destination. Where we find ourselves right now – going through hardship, experiencing pain or reliving the past – is merely a stop, a temporary interruption, on the way between the past and the future. We will be here for only a while.

Making a commitment to Christ is entering into a covenant, a promise, with God himself. It is no different than the blood covenant he made with us on the cross. He gave himself completely for us and we must, in turn, give ourselves completely to him.

The journey with him continues in little steps: going to Sunday School each week, attending church regularly, serving on a committee, helping with an event. Gradually, we become more involved. We spend more time praying and less time complaining; we find peace and comfort in reading the Bible; we enjoy being in the presence of others who love the Lord; we look for ways to serve him; we reflect on those in need and how we can help.

Eventually, our devotion to Christ becomes a lifestyle, something that is seamless and natural. All that we are is shaped by his example. Our life revolves around him. We say the kinds of things he would say; we do what he would do; we think as he thinks. We gain new sight of the world as well as our purpose and place. We observe not by our human sight, but we begin to see as God sees: through the lens and perspective of eternity. For the first time, we realize there is much more to living than what we feel and touch each day.

A full commitment to God starts in the mind but must always grow in the heart, for that is where he completes the good work he has already begun in us.

We confound the world (Monday, July 9)

God uses us in impossible situations to prove his power to the world. Moses took the Israelites out of bondage even after he killed an Egyptian. Peter became the rock of the early church despite denying Christ three times. Paul was the first great missionary in the face of previous persecutions against the Church. No matter where we think we have failed, God wants to use these circumstances. He wants to show the world that he is still in control.

Only by using a broken and contrite heart can God make his point. When we have been defeated by the world, we have a different outlook on life. We, more than anyone else, realize that most of what occurs around us each day is out of our hands. We learn to trust God and have faith that he is protecting us from harm. We reach the realization that only God can change our circumstances. It is at that point when God suddenly steps in to prove his might and power. He shows the world that what was rejected by man is most treasured and valued in the Kingdom.

Despite our shattered past or our damaged reputation, God wants to complete the good work he has begun in us. We can either follow his path toward glory or continue to let the world use us. God is waiting for us to decide.

Self-sacrifice (Sunday, July 8)

You must be willing to give up all of your crutches if you are serious about serving God. You have to let go of those things that gratify your flesh but do little for the kingdom. You need to quit pleasing yourself by always trying to satisfy others; you must forget about doing only those things that are easy or comfortable; you must cease from judging others; you need to refrain from thinking of yourself more highly than you ought. In short, you must quit being selfish.

Only if you do all these can you really know that God is enough in all situations. You do not have to worry about what you give up. God will come in to fill the empty and anxious spots that are left vacant – the places where you are left most vulnerable.

No one can serve both God and man. As long as you have certain behaviors or attitudes on which you depend, God cannot be fully present in your life. You must give up everything in order to have everything. You must first die to yourself before you can live for God.

Lasting treasure (Saturday, July 7)

We are physical beings in a very physical universe. All around us, tangible property – money, cars, clothes, houses, stocks, boats, pools, home theater systems, jewelry, motorcycles, vacation homes – dominates the cultural landscape. People acquire more as they earn more. Our society goes round and round each day, buying more and accumulating greater wealth.

Jesus warned about being deceived by the world’s many treasures. After 2,000 years, people still are not listening to his words: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).

There is nothing wrong with owning a house. The problem begins when the house is three times as large and lavish as what we need. Owning a car is fine, but buying dozens of antique vehicles to admire their beauty is another matter. Having a television is okay, too, but do we really need a $10,000 home theater system? Jesus was deeply concerned that such objects could easily capture all of our time and attention. As a result, we would be distracted from the true meaning of life: the spiritual treasures of heaven that can never be destroyed.

Money, houses, cars – all material objects – can be destroyed or stolen. The possessions of this world do not last. But the spiritual virtues we cultivate are stored up in heaven for all eternity; they will never rust, be destroyed or taken away. Thinking more about the lasting treasures of the spirit, and less about the transient things of life, will give us a right and proper perspective. We need to be able to place both our hearts and lives in the treasure house of God’s kingdom.

For him (Friday, July 6)

The rewards of our earthly labors are little compared to the great wealth and beauty that God has for us. Yet, so often we work to gain the world’s gifts and recognition. We use our strength in vain and waste our days on things that do not last. We concern ourselves with the here and now instead of the everlasting and eternal.

How easy it is to forget we were called by God long before all that we see around us. Before our birth, the Lord knew our name and fashioned our lives. He saw what would happen in each and every situation. He knew the plans he had to keep us safe and to protect us from harm.

Even though our life and our future are guided by him, we look for man’s approval. We will never find what we are seeking, though, because we were created to serve God, not the world. Our purpose is in him; therefore, our reward is in him as well.

Isaiah 49 reminds us that what is due us is in the Lord’s hand. There, too, is where we find all the greatness we will ever need in life. We exist for his glory alone. Not for ourselves. 

Pray for his way (Thursday, July 5)

Sometimes the best way to handle a situation is for us to do nothing and to let God do everything. He does not need our help when it comes to changing people or circumstances. He is more than able to accomplish anything, if we let him.

No doubt there were many believers who sought to change the ways of Saul. But nothing could compare to what the Lord did in an instant by taking away his sight and speaking to him through the Spirit. Once Saul could see again, he was a new person in Christ. He became Paul the apostle.

God is transforming all sorts of things today. Some involve people. Some involve situations. You and I need to be patient while God does what needs to be done. We have to give him room and time to work. If he needs our help, he will certainly let us know. Until then, we must wait.

If we feel the urge to do something, let us pray – pray earnestly and fervently for his divine will to be done.

Your day of independence (Wednesday, July 4)

On the Fourth of July, people all over the United States celebrate Independence Day. There are cookouts, fireworks, parades and even parties in honor of freedom. But what about our real Independence Day, that personal day when we were set free from the bondage of sin? What about the day when we accepted Christ as our Lord and Savior?

Most of us can probably remember where we were, if not the exact date and time. For me, it was at a Youth for Christ rally in downtown Cleveland, Ohio. I believe it was 1965, when I was 15 years old. The memory remains vivid and clear. I left my seat in the huge auditorium and walked up on stage. There, along with dozens of others, I asked Christ to forgive my sins and I committed the rest of my life to him.

The past 40-plus years of my life have been full of ups and downs; I was “up” when I remembered what Jesus could do and I was “down” when I tried to live on my own. Too often I forgot about my true Independence Day. Many times I became overwhelmed by everything going on around me and stopped thinking about who was living inside of me.

Each one of us has an Independence Day. Every moment of our lives should be a celebration as we rejoice in what God has given us through his Son. We have been set free, not only for this one day but forever.

Keeping us safe (Tuesday, July 3)

The act of communing with God is a holy rite. It should be treated with dignity, honor and humility. It should not be something that we take for granted. God, in his infinite power and wisdom, grants us the gift of being able to converse with him at any time of the day or night. We must not take that privilege lightly.

Whenever we go to him in prayer, let us take our concerns, questions and cares. But let us not forget to listen. What can we expect if we merely pour out our hearts to him and do not wait to hear him speak to us?

A person once said to me that God always answers our prayers. He says yes. He says no. Or he says wait. Most often the reason we say we do not hear from God is for one of two reasons: because we have not taken the time to listen or because he gives us an answer we do not want to accept.

Either way, we must trust him to know what is best for us. If he merely gives us what we want at the moment, he would not be the kind of Father who protects and loves his children more than making them happy. Our happiness is important to him, but our safety is even more critical.

Seeking righteousness (Monday, July 2)

There is hardly a person living today who does not long for righteousness, whether individually or corporately. The truth of the matter, however, is that few are willing to commit their lives toward such a goal. Most people would rather complain about all of the problems in the world than to pursue the calm they are so desperately seeking. As a result, their hearts remain restless and their minds frustrated over what they see and hear daily.

Each moment, as we experience the problems and injustices around us, we grow more disillusioned about the present. Our despair may even erase any hope we might have for the future. Half-heartedly, we try to remind ourselves that God is in control, hoping our hollow words will make us believe.

There should be no doubt about God’s presence and power. He is in complete control. Not only does he want us to learn to trust him during every tribulation, but he yearns to give us his spiritual and mental comfort as well. In Matthew 5:6, Jesus says that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled. Moreover, these people will be blessed because they have put the ways of God above all else.

What we are really doing when we seek the righteousness of God is putting him before everything else: before our desires, our hopes, our plans, even our frustrations and worries. As we seek his truth both for our personal lives and for the rest of world, we are filled with the knowledge that God reigns supreme in each and every situation.

Perfect vision (Sunday, July 1)

I suspect there are a great many people – Christians included – who claim to know God, but fail to see him clearly. When they peer into the distance to make out his will, all of the details appear blurry and out of focus. Perhaps the future is too far away from them to be seen at all.

Those who have myopia cannot see more than a few feet away without wearing glasses. Corrective lenses allow them to observe what they could not discern before. If we lack proper vision, then we need to do something. Otherwise, we will never catch sight of things as they are; objects will always seem hazy.

The apostle Peter said that it is possible to be nearsighted and blind when it comes to actual knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. We cannot, though, simply put on a pair of glasses and see God better. But we can put on certain qualities that will make us clear-sighted followers. In addition to our faith, we need to add such things as goodness, self-control, perseverance, godliness, kindness and love. These virtues, Peter says, will keep us from being ineffective and unproductive in our lives.

As we add each quality to our faith, God will gradually come into focus. We will see him better and know exactly what lies ahead. In short, we will realize his purpose for us. No matter where we find ourselves right now, we have his perfect vision to see beyond the present moment.