Devotions for Life: New Ideas from Old Ways

Scroll down for today's devotion

The million dollar question (Wednesday, February 3)

There is a sign in our doctor’s office that says, in part, “Appointments cancelled less than 24 hours in advance will be charged a $25 fee.” The funny thing is the notice starts with these words: “Beginning in February 2007, . . . “ Time after time during the past nine years, I have wondered why they no one has updated the sign.

In a way, though, the poster is a metaphor for our lives. Rather than making changes and moving forward, we tend to look back on the past. We fail to release what happened long ago and return to that point in time. Then, we wonder why we are upset or anxious. Our current attitude has nothing to do with today, but everything to do with yesterday.

How many times in 40 years did Moses wish he hadn’t killed an Egyptian guard? Or how often in more than a decade did Joseph think he could have done something different not to end up in jail? But all of the wishing and hoping cannot change the past. It is done and over.

The great news is God has forgiven us. We know that, but the hard part is forgiving ourselves and forgetting what we did. God does not expect us to live with guilt. So if God has set us free, why would we want to live in bondage to the past? That is the million dollar question.

Learn to go willingly (Tuesday, February 2)

It was obvious the little boy did not want to go. His his mother continued to pull him by the arm. As she reached the front door of the store, he got away and ran behind a railing. He thought he was safe. She grabbed him once more. He dropped to the ground, but she picked him up and took him in.

Sometimes God has to do the same with us. He has to take us, kicking and screaming, to where we need to be. We always have our own ideas, and we think we know what is best. We want to do big things for the Lord and so we sign up for a mission trip to the other side of the world. Maybe all God wants is for us to help the neighbors down the street.

Perhaps he wants us to spread the good news to the people at work when we think we have to go to Papua New Guinea. Or it could be we want to be in charge of property care at our church, but he merely us to participate in a workday.

Whenever God leads us, let us not try to get away to do what we want. A small boy knows very little compared to his mother. As adults, we know almost nothing compared to God. He will have his way. It is up to us whether we go willingly or not.

Remove those roadblocks in your life (Monday, February 1)

Roadblocks are frustrating. We can be moving along fine, say on our way to the store or the doctor, and suddenly we encounter a roadblock. We have to wait or go around it. Either way, it sets us back.

Not all roadblocks in life are physical. There are mental and spiritual roadblocks as well. For instance, when was the last time you said “I can’t do that” or “God won’t heal me.” These roadblocks slow us down on our road of life. They make the journey much harder and longer.

A woman I know is trying to get her aging father to sell his five-acre farm and move into a condominium on one floor. He has many excuses. “It is too small.” “I don’t think I would be happy there.” “Your mother and I built this house—it’s been in the family 60 years.” Each time he says why he can’t move, she responds by saying “Roadblock.”

Sooner or later this father will get the message. He will see that only he has the power to remove these roadblocks because he is the one who is putting them there in the first place. Jesus came to set us free from roadblocks and all other limitations. He wants to give us life. Not take it away.

You can finish the race (Sunday, January 31)

Doing most anything these days requires perseverance, and a great deal of it. Even with God on our side the journey can be difficult. So much threatens to steal our resolve, from our own doubts to the remarks of others.

“Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles,” wrote Paul. “And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1).

I have participated in 12 marathons. After 15 to 20 miles, the body begins to break down. Muscles hurt, fatigue sets in, the mind begins to wander. All thoughts turn to giving up and giving in to the pain.

But there is no reward for those who do not finish; in fact, your name will be listed in the Did Not Finish (DNF) column. Whatever race you are running, do not give up. Keep pushing, knowing that God is with you. Know, too, that he would not have given you a race you could not finish.

Moving a mountain is nothing (Saturday, January 30)

We made it safely through last night. The temperature was 30 degrees while inside the house it was 63 degrees. Quite a difference. Our furnace went out around 7 p.m. on Friday and the technician was unable to fix it.

No matter. God helped us through last night and he will help us through the whole weekend if needed. He is able to do things we cannot understand, even keep a house warm without a furnace. Look at what he did to the walls of Jericho, the Red Sea, three boys in a fiery inferno and Daniel in the lions’ den.

Why, then, could he not keep us safe and warm in our tiny little house? His ways are not our ways. He proved what he could do by protecting the Hebrews in the desert; in fact, for 40 years they did not need shoes, clothing, food or shelter. Miraculously, he provided everything they needed.

The next time you need help, look up to God first. Say to yourself, “I will lift up mine eyes unto the mountains, from whence cometh my help” (Psalm 121:1). Remember, God even has the power to remove that very mountain if necessary. If he can do that there is no telling what he cannot do.

“If I can do it, you can do it” (Friday, January 29)

Whatever the Lord has called you to do today you can do it. Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). We are able to accomplish anything he desires because our strength comes from him.

Right now you may be suffering from a cold, the flu, depression or fatigue. How you feel has very little to do with what you accomplish. These things may slow you down, but you do not have to give up and do nothing.

What if Job would have given up on God after a few months? He never would have seen the great reward coming down the road. What if Noah would have given up on building the ark? He would have drown like the rest of the world. And, what if David would have turned away from Goliath? The Hebrews never would have defeated the Philistines.

Don’t let physical circumstances dictate how you are going to act. Know that you are able to move forward through Christ who strengthens you. I can hear Paul saying, “If I can do it, you can do it.” But we will not know until we try.

We have no excuse (Thursday, January 28)

The adage goes that, “You can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.” This phrase has been attributed to many people, most notably Abraham Lincoln and P.T. Barnum. What if we make a slight change in the wording: “You can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool God any of the time.”

Yet, how many times have we tried to fool God? Moses said he could not face pharaoh because he was not a good speaker. Adam said it was Eve’s fault he took a bite out of the apple. Then there was the man who told Jesus he would follow him after he took care of matters at home.

Excuses. Excuses. Excuses. The world is full of them. Everywhere we go, people try to pull the wool over our eyes. They hope we can’t see the truth.

God knows the truth and he will not be mocked, according to Galatians 6:7. Do yourself a favor today. Don’t try to fool yourself, others or God. Be honest. Stop using excuses to justify your actions. You will feel much better when you humble yourself before the Lord.

Cleaning our hearts and minds (Wednesday, January 27)

Temporary Internet files, cookies, add-ons, recently typed URLs and saved searches can cripple a computer if not removed on a regular basis. Taking the time to run security scans and cleaning software enables the system to run smoothly and efficiently.

We also have to pause daily, if not several times each day, to clear our mind of unwanted thoughts and feelings. Anger, impatience, anxiety, etc., can slow us down and prevent us from serving the Lord as we should.

Perhaps one of the greatest examples of someone being weighed down by his own emotions is Jonah. It was clear he was supposed to go to Nineveh. “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it,” God said. “Because its wickedness has come up before me” (Jonah 1:1-2). Instead, Jonah went in the opposite direction and boarded a ship for Tarshish. He did not stop to think about what he was doing or why. He reacted solely out of fear.

May we learn from Jonah and not have to spend three days and nights in a dark, disgusting place until we realize what we have done. “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up” (James 4:10). God will clear our hearts and minds of unnecessary clutter but only if, and when, we turn to him.

Changing our expectations (Tuesday, January 26)

Never in my wildest thoughts did I expect to be suffering from an injury more than three months ago. I had walked into a trailer hitch on the back of a pick-up truck and punctured my shin all the way down to the bone. It sounds worse than it was, but I am still battling the infection.

The question for us today is what do we do when things do not turn out the way we expected or hoped? Paul probably never expected to be stoned nearly to death. He got up the next morning and walked right back into the city. Moses most likely never thought he would be going back to Egypt, yet he did what God told him. Stephen never imagined he would be stoned to death for the sake of Christ, but he stood boldly and gave his testimony.

So often in life we have to make adjustments in our thinking. We think we are healthy, but the doctor tells us otherwise. We believe we have a steady job, yet we are let go. We depend on our car, but it just broke down; the repair will cost hundreds of dollars we do not have.

First of all, God tells us not to be anxious. Second, not to worry. Third, to trust him. He makes sure we get the message by telling us exactly what not to do and what to do. If we listen we will not have any trouble getting rid of what we thought would happen and start looking forward to what God will make happen.

Draw closer to him (Monday, January 25)

Whether we still are in school or not we are learning each day. Once our formal education ends, the practical and spiritual study begins. We start to apply what we have been taught in the past to situations in the present.

When I finally defended my doctoral dissertation, my director took me back to his office. He sat me down and said, “Now your education really begins.” I was shocked. I couldn’t believe he would say such a thing, especially when I had spent the last six years of my life doing nothing but going to classes and writing research papers.

As I began my full-time career in the classroom, however, I realized he was right. Everything I learned had to come into play if I wanted to become an effective professor.

May the Lord “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). Day by day we are growing in our faith. We also are growing in our knowledge of God. We need to use each experience, good or bad, to draw closer to him. Our education in the ways of heaven never ends.

Going through the motions (Sunday, January 24)

Every day, everywhere, people are simply going through the motions without any emotions. They appear to be robots, mechanically doing their job, driving a car, talking on the phone or working out.

What separates us from the rest of world is that we cannot just go through the motions. Whatever we do, as Christians, comes out of our desire to be caring and loving. We genuinely want to help others and we want to please God.

“For the Spirit that God has given us does not make us timid; instead, his Spirit fills us with power, love, and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7). We have the Lord working through us so it is impossible not to have compassion for whatever we do—no matter if we are at work, at school or at home.

May we find joy in knowing we are a blessing to others everywhere we go. After all, we have his Spirit within us. We cannot help but be happy!

Following our faith rather than our folly (Saturday, January 23)

Thousands of motorists were stranded last night on roads and freeways in the Northeast because of winter storm Jonas, “The Beast in the East.” Up to two feet of snow fell in places. Everyone was warned for days not to drive anywhere. So what went wrong?

We know the answer. People thought, “It won’t happen to me. I won’t get stuck. I know how to drive in snow.” Sadly, we frequently underestimate our ability.

In one story after another in the Bible, we see the mistakes people made. They thought they knew what was best only to discover they should have listened to God.

“I will listen to what God the Lord says,” says Psalm 85:8.  “He promises peace to his people, his faithful servants—but let them not turn to folly.”  As we go through this day, may our foolishness not get the better of us. May we, as “faithful servants,” listen to common sense and to God. The lesson is clear: our own folly always leads us in the wrong direction.

Why don’t we listen? (Friday, January 22)

When there is a winter storm approaching, officials warn people not to drive or travel. The advice is to stay home and stay safe. But there usually are individuals who try to defy the odds. They think they will not have an accident or get stuck in the snow.

We do not always do as we are told. Children have a hard time learning this lesson, and we are no better as grown-ups. In fact, adults may be even worse than children when it comes to listening. The reason is because we use our minds to rationalize our actions.

Job, Jonah, Adam and Eve were just some in the Bible who learned the hard way. They eventually realized it does no good to argue with God. He has heard all of the excuses before and he has not accepted even one.

The Lord means it when he says “I know the plans I have for you.” He knows what is best for us and he knows what will happen if we do not listen. What don’t we understand? When will we stop listening to ourselves and begin listening to him? We don’t have to learn everything the hard way.

Putting the pieces together (Thursday, January 21)

Our lives sometimes seem like a jigsaw puzzle. We have a few pieces here, some there, and others in a pile off to the side. It is difficult to imagine the final picture. But slowly, one by one, it comes into view.

We may wonder what God has in mind as our life unfolds. We lose a job we really loved. We are forced to move to another city. We have to find a new church. We suffer an illness. We have to take care of an aging parent. A myriad of events, like the pieces of a puzzle, gradually fall into place and form the totality of our life.

Most of the time the segments do not seem to fit together. We have difficulty imagining how everything will fit together. As we get older, though, everything seems to make a little more sense.

Throughout our time on this planet, we need to trust God. We have to have faith that each event and situation, somehow, has a particular purpose. It may not have much meaning on its own. But when put together with the thousands of other pieces, the picture is clear. God knew all along what he was doing.

Equal to the task (Wednesday, January 20)

You are a masterpiece, and you are worth more than any Van Gogh, Picasso or Michelangelo. According to God’s word, you are priceless.

“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).

What makes us so valuable is we are God’s personal handiwork and also that we can do good works for him. We may not know what lies ahead today, but we do know God has prepared all of these good works. That means we will be able to accomplish each one because he made them just for us. In other words, we are equal to the task through Christ Jesus.

Slow down; prayer zone ahead (Tuesday, January 19)

There is a radio station that announces throughout the day that “school zones are prayer zones.” They encourage listeners to pray for the school, students and teachers anytime they drive through a school zone. It is a neat concept. Not only does it remind people about the power of prayer, but it also gets them to slow down even when they are in a hurry.

This same idea could be applied to other places as well: church zones are prayer zones; hospital zones are prayer zones; business zones are prayer zones. Think how different the world would be if people spent more time praying everywhere they went.

According to 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, we should “rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

Paul knew what he was talking about. When we pray we not only help ourselves, but we help others as well. Remember those “prayer zones” and to “give thanks in all circumstances.” You will find yourself happier and healthier because you are pleasing the Lord.

The need to be free (Monday, January 18)

Many people have today off from work or school. Some will spend time seriously thinking about the life and work of Martin Luther King while others will not even give it a second thought. What is important to remember is that Dr. King stood for civil rights for all persons, not just African Americans.

Too often we have the wrong idea about individuals and events. Two thousand years ago, people thought Jesus came to be their earthly king. He came, however, to show them a greater kingdom. Unfortunately, their minds could not comprehend because they saw what they wanted to see.

We do not have to be black to understand or appreciate the significance of this day. We can be of any race or color to celebrate the spirit of this holiday. At various times in our nation’s history those who are Chinese, Hispanic, Latino, Italian, German, Irish and many other nationality have been victims of discrimination.

As we go through this day, let us celebrate first and foremost the freedom we have in Christ from the things of this world. Then, let us celebrate the freedom from prejudice that we have because of people like Dr. King. He had the vision to see people from all walks living and working side by side. May we pause long enough to share both his optimism in humanity and his faith in God. 

Having divine sight and insight (Sunday, January 17)

Watching the news can be extremely depressing: a boy killed in a sledding accident, a family dies in a house fire, a gas station is robbed. On and on we hear of one sad event after another.

We need to be careful to put everything into perspective. For each negative situation that we hear about there are dozens of things that have gone well: people have recovered from terrible diseases, babies have been born happy and healthy, the homeless have found shelter, missing children have been found.

Let us not become overly discouraged and lose our hope as we go through this day. Let us not dwell on what has gone wrong. May we concentrate, instead, on all that has gone right. Much of life depends on our perspective—whether we look at the world from our position or whether we see through the divine eyes of God. Our way is dark while his is bright.

He is forever (Saturday, January 16)

Where do you put your trust? Is it in this world or in something much greater? David wrote that, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses. But we trust in the name of the Lord our God” (Psalm 20:7).

We do not think in terms of chariots and horses today. We have moved on. People now put their trust in money, houses, cars, businesses, land. Some even put their trust in winning the lottery or in an inheritance someday.

None of these comes even close to what we have in God. In him we have love, mercy, grace, forgiveness, strength, power and, most of all, eternal salvation. The name of God is superior to everything in the universe.

The next time you think about placing your hope in something that does not last, remember all that God offers. Just saying his name transcends all we see around us. He is the alpha and omega; he is forever.

His throne of grace (Friday, January 15)

Years ago a man left after Sunday worship and never returned. He called the pastor the following day and said he was leaving the church. The man’s closest friends were stunned. They knew nothing about his decision until after it happened. They felt confused and betrayed.

To this day I still wonder why. He was a good member, involved in the choir, Sunday School, Bible study, special events and the men’s group. Yet, he suddenly walked away from all of it.

All of us do strange things. Our actions don’t always make sense. On occasion we may not understand ourselves. Despite what we have or have not done, Jesus is there. “We do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses,” wrote St. Paul. “But we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16).

Christ knows well the temptation, confusion and uncertainty of daily living. He came to show us there is hope and help in every situation. Through him, we can “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence” even when we do not understand what is going on around us.

Safe [and calm] under Christ’s wing (Thursday, January 14)

The small plaque reads “Keep calm and fish on.” There is a little fish in the center and it was a Christmas gift from Lexi, my nine-year-old granddaughter. I love the sign even though I haven’t fished in years. For me the phrase applies to most any situation. “Keep calm and work on.” “Keep calm and drive on.” “Keep calm and move on.”

Most individuals have a hard time remaining calm. For one thing, we try to do too much each day. Then, when everything does not fall into place we get anxious and upset. Second, we often go out of our way to find a problem or two or three to fret about. Third, we forget who is in control. Instead of relying on God, we take matters into our own hands.

There is a reason why Jesus said, “For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light" (Matthew 11:30). The Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary explains this paradox: “That rest which the soul experiences when once safe under Christ's wing makes all yokes easy, all burdens light.”

The next time you are tempted to get upset and nervous, remember to “Keep calm and fish on.” In other words, don’t let your uneasiness distract you from what you are supposed to be doing. Why? Because you are “safe [and calm] under Christ’s wing.”

Something new is ahead (Wednesday, January 13)

A friend was talking about the days he had to spend in the Navy some 40 years ago. He said he had little choice: it was either join the Navy or be drafted by the Army. Ken explained he did not harbor any bad feelings now, but I was hearing something quite different. I was hearing how hard it is at times to leave the past behind.

Each one of us has baggage. We carry the past with us as we go through the present. In a strange way, too, we know we will keep the past with us as we go into the future. We tell ourselves that our past has made us who we are and that we can deal with or accept what happened years ago.

What we forget is we do not have to “deal” with the past. We do not have to explain it, rationalize it or even understand it. God tells us to leave it behind and move on.

He says, "Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past. Behold, I will do something new. Now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it?” (Isaiah 43:18-19). When we stop looking behind, we will find the future looks so much brighter and better. The reason is because we have a chance to experience “something new” rather than always reliving the same old thing.

It is all about love (Tuesday, January 12)

Snow was falling everywhere throughout the city. Each house, store, church and car was covered with at least two inches of white, fluffy flakes. It would have seemed silly if a person walked outside and exclaimed, “why is it snowing on me? I didn’t do anything to deserve this.”

Yet, this is exactly what we do when difficulty arises in our lives. We look up to God and cry out, “why is this happening to me?” Jesus told us God “causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45). In a sense, the Lord treats all of us in the same way. But the whole point of what Jesus is saying has nothing to do with what kind of a person we are.

He is talking about love. God loves everyone whether she or he is good or bad, righteous or unrighteous. The Father loves each person in the same way, especially when it comes to his grace and compassion.

Let us throw away our faulty logic and thinking. May we not be like Job’s friends who accused him of doing something wrong and so he deserved God’s punishment and wrath. Let us stay focused on the fact and knowledge that God loves all of us unconditionally. He does not reward some and harm others based on how people act. Instead, it is all about how much he loves everyone.

Different because we are made in his image (Monday, January 11)

There is an enormous difference between who we are and who we want to be. We want to be smarter, better looking, more talented, more popular, richer and healthier. For most of us, the list of wants is long.

As we get older, though, the list should shrink. Time will help us accept who we are and who we were made to be. Sometimes, it takes years to grow into the life God planned exclusively for us.

What a wonderful feeling to finally discover who we are in Christ rather than who we wanted to be. Suddenly, nothing else seems to matter—not our job or our appearance. Not even our status.

We know, without a doubt, that God created us to be a special person with specific gifts. After all, we are made in his image and made to be very different than anyone else. What should make us the happiest is knowing we are pleasing him. Let the world say what it wants about us. In the end, his opinion is the only one that will make any difference.

The winning treasure of heaven (Sunday, January 10)

For the past few days everyone has been asking, “What would you do with $800 million?” The answers range from buying a new house to traveling to paying off bills to donating a lot of money to charity. People from all walks of life, rich and poor, are suddenly getting in on the action. They all want a chance to win the largest Powerball drawing in history.

The mantra of the day is, “You can’t win if you don’t play.” The odds of winning are staggering, but no one seems deterred.

I am not sure what I would do with the money; probably give most of it away and keep only a small amount for myself and family. In a very real sense, I have everything I already need in life. Most important of all, I have salvation and eternal life. Not even $800 million could buy the precious gift of heaven.

"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field,” Jesus said. “When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field” (Matthew 13:44). Life certainly will change for the person or persons who win the Powerball drawing. But the change will be nothing compared to what awaits each one of us in heaven.

Our spiritual Fitbit
(Saturday, January 9)

Millions of Fitbit Trackers have been sold throughout the world since they were first introduced a few years ago. These amazing wristbands can do all sorts of things, such as measure the number of steps we walk or run, how many calories we burn and the intensity of our personal workouts.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a similar device that could tell us our spiritual fitness? In an instant, we would find out how well we are doing at serving God, loving others and helping those around us. We could then make adjustments and change.

God has given us something much better than a piece of plastic we wear on our arm. He has filled us with the Holy Spirit—his very breath and being. What we often call the “still, small voice of God” is inside of us; it can guide us and strengthen us. It even has the power to change us in remarkable ways!

Think about the spiritual Fitbit you carry with you wherever you go. It is with you at all times giving you all sorts of information, especially how well you are doing at fulfilling God’s purpose for your life. The problem is we have to take the time to listen to what he is telling us.

Make the most of your gifts (Friday, January 8)

Computers are great—when and if they are working properly. In many respects, they have made our lives easier. But in some ways computers have made life more difficult. They seem to have a mind of their own at times, especially when we search for information or websites.

Therein lies the problem: computers are not capable of thinking. They do not use logic or reason; they can only perform what they are programmed to do, nothing more.

Thank goodness God did not create us to work like a computer. Instead, he gave us free will and the ability to think. He even gave us emotions to allow us to feel things like love, kindness, compassion and generosity.

The point is that when we are working properly, as God intended, we can accomplish amazing feats. “Heal the sick,” Jesus said. “Raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give” (Matthew 10:8). We have been given incredible gifts from the Lord. May we make the most out of each one!

The miracle of one purpose
(Thursday, January 7)

One man was in his 70s. The other barely 25. For more than an hour they worked side-by-side to fix the main door of the church. They hammered, chiseled, pounded and drilled—each one doing a separate job until the repair was completed.

As we go through life, we are much like these two men. God calls us from different backgrounds, ages, cultures and races to join together for one common purpose: to further his kingdom both in heaven and here on earth.

Churches everywhere are proof of his great plan. Wherever we look we find diversity, difference and great variety. No two individuals are the same. Yet, they all have a common bond and goal.

Take some time today to notice those around you. See how the Lord has chosen us and placed us in various places to accomplish his will. We are sisters and brothers in the same family with the same Father, Savior and Spirit. Who cannot marvel at the miracle of how God has united us with one another through love, service and commitment?

We are the Magi (Wednesday, January 6)

Today is Epiphany, yet there are very few signs left that mark the Savior’s birth a little less than two weeks ago. The neighbor across the street began dismantling his outdoor display yesterday. The scene is much the same throughout the neighborhood. Lights, inflatable characters and ornaments are coming down.

Many people believe Christmas is over. The time of gifts, presents and parades has passed; now we move on to the next holiday. But, in fact, Christmas is not a one-time celebration that happens only on December 25. For us as Christians, each day of the year is Christmas. Without Christ’s presence in our lives the world would be a very dark place indeed.

One online dictionary defines Epiphany as “a Christian festival, observed on January 6, commemorating the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles in the persons of the Magi; Twelfth-day.”

The physical appearance of Christmas may be gone, but the spiritual effect and impact remains. It continues during the entire year through us. We need to share “the manifestation of Christ” each day of 2016. You and I are the modern-day Magi who can tell everyone what we have seen.

A simple answer for two huge questions (Tuesday, January 5)

Our lives are full of questions. Why doesn’t the Lord help me get a better job? Why won’t the Lord help me make more money? Why isn’t the Lord making me feel better? Why can’t the Lord tell me which way to go? Perhaps the bigger question is not why, but when?

The problem with us is we are both curious and impatient. First we ask why. Then we ask when. Coupled together, these two characteristics can make us think the Lord has forgotten us at times.

We need to give God a chance to work in our lives. We cannot expect him to respond to our every need as soon as we pray or ask. Why and when are enormous questions with vast dimensions. Plus, would we understand even if God explained the why and when to us? For example, would Joseph have understood if God revealed to him that he was going to be the second highest leader in Egypt, but first he would have to be thrown in a well, sold into slavery and suffer in prison for more than a decade. And what about the case of Job?

Think about your own life. Would you have comprehended God’s plan for where you are right now if he would have explained himself 20 or 30 years ago? Probably not. Let us stop trying to figure everything out and, instead, spend our energy trusting him. He has the answer we are seeking in each and every case; of that we can be sure. If we believe in him we will be able to wait for him to show us his plan. It’s that simple.

The great days ahead (Monday, January 4)

For most people, today is the first day back to work or school in this New Year. The holidays are over and it is time to move on. As we do so, may we look forward to what lies ahead rather than thinking that our days of relaxation and enjoyment are over.

Because our lives are in Christ, we know that what is in the future is greater than what is behind. It does not matter if we have endured illness, financial or personal loss, and any number of other difficulties. God always brings us through hardship and gives us more than we had before.

The Bible is proof of his tremendous goodness and grace. Look at what he did for the Israelites, for Job, for Joseph, for Abraham, for Jonah, for Esther and Mary. Need we go on? How many times, too, have we also seen his glory in our own lives and those around us?

Let us look forward with anticipation to the wonderful days ahead! May we be excited about seeing what God will do next. He loves to surprise us and to show up when we least expect it. That alone should stir our faith as well as build our hope. This year promises to be the greatest we have ever seen. Watch and know that he is God.

Making good on our promises (Sunday, January 3)

It was still dark outside when I opened the church for Sunday morning worship. It was quiet and still, and I was the only person there. Slowly, going from one room to another, I turned on the lights and made sure the heat was working. All the while I kept thinking what might have happened if I did not follow through with my promise to open the main doors that morning. Eventually, people would have been able to get in, but it would have been much harder for them.

How often do we make it more difficult for people to get to know Jesus or to come to him because of how we act or talk? Perhaps we cut someone off in traffic and they notice the fish sign on our bumper. Or maybe we are wearing a cross around our neck or on our jacket when we say something derogatory. Certainly, people don’t want any of that particular brand of Christianity.

Remember what Jesus said? “Jesus called the children to him and said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these’” (Luke 18:16). He was talking about children, of course. But he was talking about all those who, through no fault of their own, do not know about the kingdom of heaven. They are innocent. They need to be taught and nurtured. No one should stand in their way or discourage them from coming to Christ.

Let’s make sure we make good on our promises to serve, obey, love and lead others to Jesus. May we never be found guilty of hindering anyone from coming to him—especially not by our words, actions or attitude.

One single purpose (Saturday, January 2)

Some people are good at multitasking. They can watch television, talk on the phone and read a newspaper all at the same time. Research varies on the effectiveness of doing any one thing well. Many contend that doing one task at a time is always best.

When it comes to serving God or praying and meditating, we need to focus on him alone. We cannot be stuck in traffic, angry at the stupid drivers in front of us, while we are praying for the Lord to give us strength and patience. That kind of multitasking never works.

Jesus said, "No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other” (Matthew 6:24). Either you are mastered by your own emotions or by the master of the universe.

As you begin 2016, may you keep your heart and mind on the one thing that matters most in this world: serving God and showing his love to others. There is no multitasking in his kingdom. We have one single purpose for our time here on earth.

A hope-filled New Year (Friday, January 1, 2016)

The first day of the new year begins with a bang throughout the world. People celebrate the countdown with fireworks and festivals as one nation after another begins 2016. Everyone hopes this year will be better than the one we have left behind.

As Christians, we are hopeful as well. But our hope is different. Our hope is in the Lord. We trust that he will guide and protect us on this journey through a new year. No matter what trials or obstacles that come our way in the next 12 months, we can be sure God is there. He never leaves us alone, not even in the worst of circumstances.

St. Paul wrote to the sisters and brothers in Rome asking, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” We know the answer: Nothing in the world or the vast universe shall separate us from the love of Christ.

Each and every day of this new year we need to repeat over and over again, “Nothing shall separate us from the love of Christ.” He is there through illness, loss, tragedy, temptation and hardship. Nothing anywhere can come between his love for us when we place all of our hope in him.

Proving God (Thursday, December 31)

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!

In his name, go (Wednesday, December 30)

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!

Climbing higher (Tuesday, December 29)

Whatever stands in your way right now should not matter. Jesus said we would encounter trials and tribulations. He experienced much trouble and he wanted to prepare us for life in this world. Jesus never wasted time worrying or fretting. He knew God was in charge.

Maybe you are concerned about your health, money, school, work or a person you love dearly. Rather than suffering, let God lift you up out of doubt and anxiety.

Occasionally, I feel like a plane going through heavy turbulence. I am knocked about by forces I cannot see or control. The only way for me to find peace is to go higher, above the storms and clouds. We have to do the same in our personal lives – to rise above the obstacles that threaten our safety and security.

As long as we listen to Jesus, and follow his example, we will find the comfort we need. He will always help us climb above the confusion and turmoil of everyday difficulties.

A Bible in New York (Monday, December 28)

God uses whatever we give him, large or small: our time, our service, our work and our hands. He can even use what we own if we let him.

I often wonder where my old pocket Bible is today. I took my favorite Bible on a mission trip to New York City about 15 years ago. At a soup kitchen, I met a homeless man who asked for something religious to read. I said I would find brochures or tracts, but there was nothing anywhere in the tiny Chinatown church.

After I told him the sad news, I heard the Holy Spirit whisper: “Give him your Bible.” “But this is my Bible,” I argued. “Give him your Bible,” I heard again. “You can get another one. He can’t.”

My Bible, with all of my notes and annotations written over the years in the margins, is someplace in New York. Who knows who has it now or how many souls it has brought to the Lord. As one person said after hearing this story, “Because of all your notes inside, whoever reads it will understand the scriptures better.” That was my prayer as I returned home and started writing in a new Bible. 

Deep belief (Sunday, December 27)

People are quick to believe, but also quick to forget. During his time on earth, Jesus acknowledged that one of our human weaknesses is a tendency to be fickle. Our nature is mutable and inconsistent. We may trust what we see one moment and then suddenly, the next second, change direction in our thoughts or actions.

Jesus spoke of our capricious behavior, as John recorded in the second chapter of his epistle. “Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs he (Jesus) was doing and believed in his name. But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man.”

The crowds saw that Jesus had the power to heal, yet they were unwilling to accept him as their savior. The miraculous works were one thing; accepting Jesus as the Messiah was quite another. Their trust did not go beyond the miracles Jesus performed, and their faith had little substance because it was based entirely on transitory and fleeting moments of awe.

How often does our own faith revolve around amazing signs and wonders? We are fine as long as we see and feel God’s hand constantly at work. But when the miracles cease, so does our trust. Our confidence in the Lord needs to be grounded in a firm knowledge of his full authority and power. The deeper our belief, the less we will be swayed by the transitory and fleeting thoughts of our own indecisive nature.

All for our sake (Saturday, December 26)

The day after Christmas seems to be more meaningful, for me at least, than the actual day when we celebrate Christ’s birth. I suspect that many people feel the same. After the gifts, the decorations, the meals and the television shows, we have a chance to rediscover our Lord and Savior.

Somehow, on Christmas Day, Jesus seems to be lost in all of the confusion. Of course, he is the reason we have Christmas. But he seems to blend in with the flurry of activity on December 25. Our family was so busy yesterday that we failed to say a blessing before dinner. In our haste to eat, we forgot the whole meaning and purpose of the day.

I wonder how we can get back to the simplicity and essence of Christmas. How can we focus solely on the tiny baby being held and soothed by his mother? There must be a way where we can set aside everything else and meditate on the birth that also gives us life.

Perhaps we can spend today thinking about the gift we can bring to Jesus: what we can give him to show our respect, adoration and gratitude. More than gold, frankincense and myrrh, we can give him our very lives—just like he gave to us by coming to earth and being born in a tiny manger. It was all done for our sake.

The perfect gift (Friday, December 25)

We dash from store to store, search countless websites and scan dozens of brochures and catalogs looking for the perfect gift. We want to find just the right item for each person we know. Every individual is special and the gift needs to be unique as well. No “one size fits all” will do.

In the same way, God planned a perfect gift for each one of us. Yes, we all have distinctive and exclusive talents; no one else can do the things we are able to perform. But our true gift is even greater. God gave each one of us a personal savior. Jesus has a special, intimate relationship with every individual. Like the 12 disciples, he chose us to be with him and to share in his kingdom.

In last night’s Christmas Eve service at St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis proclaimed that the real message of Jesus’ birth is that we are not alone. He is with us each moment and he is with everyone who will answer his call.

As we pause today in front of the manger, may we see the Christ child for who he is: our savior, guide, strength and creator. His birth, in so many ways, represents our birth in him. He came into the world to serve each one of us, no matter our race or culture. He is the perfect gift for and above all nations. He is the perfect gift for you.   

Born again (Thursday, December 24)

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.

Having a glad heart (Wednesday, December 23)

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.

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.

What we know (Tuesday, December 22)

The day can be gray and dreary, yet above the clouds the sun is shining. Which one I choose to see depends on my perspective. Although I may be walking in rain or snow through the wet streets, I can be thinking about the beauty that lies overhead just beyond my sight. A thin layer of clouds is all that keeps me from seeing what is really there.

Our life in Christ is similar. We may not be able to see him with our eyes, still we know he is there above the difficulties of life. Despite what we are experiencing today – not feeling well, disappointment, worry, concern, fatigue or perhaps boredom – we know the truth. Jesus is right next to us. All that separates us from him is the physical limitation of our sight.

Whether we believe what we cannot see depends on us. Like the sun that shines beyond the clouds, we can set our minds on what we perceive with our earthly senses or what we know with our minds. Jesus told us he is with us always – even to the end of the earth. We should not need to touch him to know it is so.

In the same way, I should not have to fly in a plane above the clouds to realize this day is clear and sunny. I know it, even though I feel the rain as soon as I step out of my house.

We are victors (Monday, December 21)

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.

Being healed (Sunday, December 20)

I need open heart surgery. Not the sort that is done by a cardiologist. But the kind that is done by the Lord.

Only God can mend the things that are wrong with us. From the thoughts that we sometimes think to the words that we speak to the actions we commit, God is the great physician who can perform miracles. He can repair whatever is wrong and make us new again. He is able to give us a new lease on life.

He cannot help us, though, if we do not go in for the operation. We must be willing and ready to allow him to examine and work on us – to do what needs to be done in order to fix our broken hearts. The surgery will not be easy, but his hand is steady and his skill is perfect. He knows precisely what he is doing. After all, he has done this kind of thing countless times before.

If we want to be healed, we have to trust him. How soon we schedule our open heart surgery depends on how soon we want to get better. God has time right now. Do you?

His desire for us (Saturday, December 19)

As much as I hate to admit it my wife and I sometimes argue, even after 43 years of marriage. What we disagree about usually is something silly. The next day, we have our peace once again and we move on.

I know that we are still adjusting to retirement. Two years ago, we had notions of relaxing all day and not having any responsibilities. We would not even have to go outside or to the store if it was cold or snowing.

The Lord, however, had different plans. He brought us back to Ohio from sunny Virginia Beach for some very important work: to babysit our two-year-old grandson and allow our 10-year-old granddaughter and son to live here with us. There are numerous other things we never thought we would be doing. All in all, our lives have been rocked by change since 2013.

On occasion, we fight our own ideas of what we should be doing at this time in our lives. We get caught between what we want and what God wants. In the end, when the petty bickering ends, we realize that serving him is much more important than serving ourselves. He knows what is best and all of us need to trust him more.

Facing our fears (Friday, December 18)

What do we do when opposition comes our way? It could be a person or a situation. Maybe there is someone who has been mean toward us or there is a problem at work. Our natural response is either to fight back or run away. But there is another way.

When Paul was in Ephesus, he wrote to those in Corinth about the difficulty he was up against. “But I will stay on [here] until Pentecost because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me” (1 Corinthians 16:8-9). Paul used a different approach other than fight or flight. He opted to stay exactly where the Lord had put him.

No doubt he wanted to spread the good news of salvation to the very people who accosted him with angry words and hurtful hearts. It might have been the only chance they would ever have to learn about Jesus.

Paul did not let his fear get the better of him. He put it aside for the greater glory of God and we need to live the same way. We need to remain steadfast whenever adversity arises, knowing that God will help us stand just as he did with Paul.

The good all around us (Thursday, December 17)

The clerk at the snack food kiosk was gone for at least 10 minutes. I watched curiously as hundreds of travelers went by in both directions of the airport terminal. Surprisingly, no one took advantage of the situation to grab even a bottle of water or a candy bar.

Deep down, the majority of people in this world are good. They are honest and trustworthy. They do not lie, cheat or steal. In fact, probably 99 percent of the seven billion individuals are decent, law-abiding citizens. It is the less than one percent who cause harm and destruction for the rest of us.

Our nature is to focus on the evil in society rather than on the good. The news each day—in papers, on television, radio and the Internet—consists primarily of fires, shootings, arrests and robberies. There is so much going on that we tend to overlook the good being done by folks everywhere. Look at the millions of dollars donated each year to help those who are homeless and hungry. Think of the many non-profit organizations that pay for the thousands of children who need treatment or surgery for a variety of illnesses. And remember all of the churches that do mission work in their community as well as around the world.

During this holiday season, let us focus on the good instead of the bad. Let us not lose our peace or our happiness by being distracted by all of the negative things we see and maybe experience for ourselves. May we spend these precious days dwelling on the true meaning of Christmas and why Jesus came to earth in the first place.

Looking ahead (Wednesday, December 16)

Unlike us as human beings, God does not worry. He is not anxious. Nor is he concerned about time – whether or not events happen according to the circumstances 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.

Our shame (Tuesday, December 15)

We do not talk much about shame these days.  There are all sorts of shame we feel from time to time: disgrace over a loss of our reputation; embarrassment from something we have done or said; dishonor because we have lost respect; humiliation due to being arrogant or proud.

It is interesting to observe that the Bible begins and ends with the subject of shame.  In Genesis, we see Eve and Adam hiding because of their shame.  In Revelation, we find the seven churches living in shame for one reason or another.  In a very literal way, the Bible is a book of shame – our shame and sin as human beings.

But the Bible is also a book of forgiveness – God’s forgiveness.  Over and over, no matter what people did or did not do, God never stopped loving them.  He never quit loving Eve and Adam, Moses, David, Jonah, Peter, Job. The list goes on and on through the centuries all the way up to us.  We are included in God’s continuous and unconditional love.

Nothing we ever do will make God love us any less.  Nothing at all.  Not our mistakes, our doubts, our anger, our fears, our many, many faults.  God’s love remains the same in spite of ourselves.  He will always love us, even in our shame.  

Connected to our source (Monday, December 14)

Up and down the streets everywhere are lights, decorations and inflatable figures cheering the Christmas season. From Santas to angels to snowmen, these blow-up characters come to life at night but go down quickly during the day when they are not plugged in.

From time to time, we can feel like these deflated decorations. Things go along smoothly and then, suddenly, it is like the wind has been knocked out of us. We become unplugged, so to speak, and we fall to the ground. We feel drained and lifeless.

On such occasions, we need to look up to God. He will fill us with life and hope once again. “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth. He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber. Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:1-4).

God provides the energy and power we need to keep going and serving him. We might fall down, but he is able to pick us up and help us stand tall once again. He is our source and strength. Nothing can hold us back as long as we remain connected to him.

Pure grace (Sunday, December 13)

The real greatness of God is seen in all that he has done for us, not for himself. He formed an enormous world out of nothing. He created every living creature. He came to earth in the form of a child. He works daily through the Holy Spirit. All of these things are completely and totally for us.

We do not truly comprehend God’s care and devotion. If we did, we would willingly give up everything to serve him. We would offer our lives in the same way he has offered himself to us. We would do anything or go anywhere he asks. We would gladly allow ourselves to be broken for his sake rather than to be made whole for the world.

We must constantly remind ourselves of all that God has done for us. Our lives, and everything we will ever do, are the result of his humility and grace. He blesses and loves us even though we do not deserve it. All he asks in return is to let him do more for us.

Ready to believe (Saturday, December 12)

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.

The priceless gift (Friday, December 11)

Two weeks from today we will celebrate the birth of our Savior. We will exchange gifts with one another, enjoy a wonderful meal together and maybe even sing carols. But let us not forget Jesus in all of our jubilee. He should be the center and focus of everything we do on that special day.

May we remember that each present we give or receive represents the life that Jesus gave to us. Let us think, too, about sharing a meal together: it is much like the supper that Jesus had with his disciples on his last night on earth. Afterwards, they sang a hymn together and went with him to the Mount of Olives.

Both now and on Christmas day, we need to pray for those who do not know or perhaps understand the true meaning of Christmas. May their eyes and hearts be opened so they can see the real light of the world rather than just the colorful lights on our houses and trees. May they come to a realization that there is a deep and living significance behind all of the decorations and presents.

Let us spread the good news to others as Luke did for us: “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ’Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.’” Most of all, let us share the peace that we have as Christians—the peace of knowing that the Lord came to earth to give us the precious gift of eternal life with him.

Our souls can rest (Thursday, December 10)

The Lord watches over his children. Not just sometimes. But in all times and in all places. A case in point: my wife and I recently traveled to Italy. We missed our connecting flight in London, but God gave us a chance to have a traditional English breakfast in a wonderful restaurant at the airport and relax after an all-night flight. Coming home our flight from Rome was canceled, but we had a chance to stay another night and to enjoy a good night’s sleep before a nine-hour flight the next day.

Also, my wife’s purse had been stolen in Rome, but all the thief got were three credit cards and $150 in cash. The day before, however, she had more than $3,000 in her wallet from collecting registration fees at the conference we attended. And her passport was not taken because it was locked away in the hotel safe.

The saying is true—that bad things do happen to good people. Evil is always trying to steal our peace. God’s protection and love, however, are much stronger and much greater. Despite our difficulties, we kept our eyes on the Lord and he kept watch over us. This trip was one of the best we have ever experienced!

“Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; yes, our God is compassionate. The Lord preserves the simple; I was brought low, and he saved me. Return to your rest, O my soul, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you” (Psalm 116:5-6). His grace and care allows our soul to rest in any situation. Amen!

Winning the battle (Wednesday, December 9)

I wonder why it is that I still become anxious during periods of difficulty. Is it a matter of my unbelief in God? Haven’t I learned yet that everything always works out? Perhaps there is something missing in my make-up or my intellect. I frequently experience doubt despite the fact that I realize God is in control.

The odd thing is that we know we are protected by his love and care; still, we fall apart at the least sign of trouble. Does this mean that we do not trust or have faith in God? Maybe the answer has little to do with our confidence in God. Instead, it could be that we become upset and worried due to our loss of control. It is not easy for any of us to relinquish our ability to handle each situation in life. We simply have difficulty in letting go.

Even when it comes to God, we have a tough time of stepping away. Deep down, we understand God is watching over us – that all things work together for good to those who love him. We also believe in his power to heal and to guide. In spite of everything, though, we struggle. We carry on this battle inside of ourselves; we war over what God is doing and what we want to do.

God says that the battle is not ours. He will fight for us if we just step aside and stop trying to tell him what to do. Surely, he knows what must be done. The only way he can prove himself to us is if we stop trying to prove ourselves to him.

Emmanuel (Monday, December 7)

Advent is a season when we prepare to celebrate the Savior’s birth. We await his coming with great anticipation. People everywhere put up lights and decorations that remind us of the beauty of what God did 2,000 years ago.

In our hearts, though, we do not have to wait until December 25. Jesus is with us always. He was there when we woke up this morning and as we began our day. He goes with us as we work, go shopping, attend meetings, do routine errands and when we pause for lunch. He remains present throughout the afternoon, through dinner and into the evening as we relax at home. We may not always see him at our side, but he is there.

As we approach the end of another day, many hours from now, the Savior continues to protect us and watch over us during the night. He never leaves us nor forsakes us. He is good, loving and gentle in all he asks us to do for the Father. Sometimes we miss his tender touch because we become hardened by the world.

We must learn to receive him in the same way in which he was sent: as a meek and mild child who is the King. He came to serve us so that we could serve others. Let us take on his humility, knowing that the meaning of life is found in divine grace. Emmanuel. God is with us each moment.

His reflection (Sunday, December 6)

We do not always see our real image when we look in the mirror. If you are like me, you may see what is not there. Many times I picture someone younger, stronger and more handsome. I do not notice the tired eyes, the balding head, the gray hair and the flabby cheeks.

The apostle James said that we should be careful not to deceive ourselves. We ought not to think more of ourselves than we are. Jesus told the temple priests that they were like white-washed tombs, that they had eyes but could not see, that they could swallow a camel but choke on a gnat.

What did you see this morning in the mirror? I wonder how we would look if we used the Bible as our mirror. No doubt it would not give us the image we are seeking. Let us take more time to look at ourselves with eyes wide open and see how we can improve as God’s reflection here on earth.

Born again (Saturday, December 5)

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 being 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.

Confusion (Friday, December 4)

What must Jesus have been thinking when he rode into Jerusalem on that Palm Sunday? People cheered, men placed their cloaks on the ground, and children waved palm branches. Everyone was filled with joy. All perhaps except for Jesus.

Jesus knew why he had come to earth. Yet, the crowds saw him as their new king – one who would stand up against the Romans; one who would restore power to the Jews.

Deep in his heart, Jesus must have been disappointed. After all he had said and done, most still did not understand. After the miracles, the healings, the teachings and the caring, there remained much confusion over who he was.

Make no mistake, my friend, Jesus can to be the Savior of souls, not of earthly bodies or nations. He desires that we live forever in heaven rather than a short time here below. And he showed us what he meant by going to the cross. We must follow him if we want to receive his reward.

The church (Thursday, December 3)

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 calls to 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.

Routine or risk? (Wednesday, December 2)

On occasion, I have difficulty going beyond myself. I tend to become comfortable with the way things are and I get used to a certain routine. But I believe the Lord always wants us to reach higher than ourselves. He calls us to leave our life of safety and security – to take risks in his name.

Peter did not realize what the Lord could do through him until he stepped out of boat. Moses did not know how God could use him until he arrived in Pharaoh’s court. Noah had no idea what the Lord was about to do with him until the rains came.

Whenever we step forward in the name of God, we may at times fall a little short. We never fail, however, in God’s eyes. He can use us even when we think we are useless. He will show what he is able to accomplish if only we let him work through us. All he asks is our willingness to trust him.

I can think of many things in my own life that prove what God can do through one small person. The fact that I am who I am today is because of him. I know he wants to accomplish even more through me and through you as well. The end result depends on how much faith we have in him. The greater our trust, the more he can do.

Peace (Tuesday, December 1)

You and I usually seek the wrong kind of peace. We long for earthly content rather than heavenly peace. We want people to like us more than we want God to love us. We look for acceptance, recognition, encouragement, support and strength – all in a worldly way. In essence, we are looking for the impossible, something we will never find.

The only lasting peace we can have comes from Jesus. My peace I leave with you, he said. My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. What we often call peace is nothing more than temporary tranquility, a calm for the time being. Eventually, things will change and this peace will vanish. It will disappear as quickly as it appeared.

God’s peace never changes. Nor does it ever leave, fading away without a trace. His peace remains deep inside of us and does not depend on other people or outside circumstances. We can be at peace, if we will our minds to do so, even when our flesh is in pain. The reason is because what Jesus gives us is spiritual, not physical.

Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid, Jesus reminds us. He is talking entirely about our heart and not our body.

Do it (Monday, November 30)

James the apostle did not mince words when he told us how to live. He stated emphatically and unconditionally: Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says (James 1:22). There are no exceptions, no excuses, no exclusions and no explanations. Do what the word says at all times.

If someone offends us, we must walk away if we have truly heard the word. When people conspire against us, we must pray for them. Should persons hurt us, we must forgive them. We need to do these things, according to James, so we will not deceive ourselves into thinking that we know the word of God.

Hearing and knowing are not necessarily coexistent. One can be present without the other. Most of the time we equate hearing the word with doing the word. We assume, rather falsely, that there must be a cause and effect relationship here. We read the 10 commandments; therefore, we obey all of them. If the truth be known, most of us have broken all of them in one way or another.

When it comes to following God, there is no room for cavalier or careless attitudes. God’s word is there to help us. If we merely listen, we are only fooling ourselves. The word can do no good until we do what it says.

At a crossroads (Sunday, November 29)

Intersections are dangerous places. Paths converge. One way intersects with another. We must make a decision: we can go right, left or straight ahead. Which we choose depends, of course, on our destination.

At every nexus, there is usually a warning of some sort. There is a stop light where two roads meet, and there is God’s prompting when it comes to our lives. He points the way to life; plus, he tells us the safest and surest route.

The decision, though, is up to us. We can keep going down the same road. Or we can make a left turn and go the right way, following the directions that lead us closer to God. Even if we make a mistake, we can still make a U-turn and get back on the proper course.

God is always ready and willing to help us correct our direction. We cannot do it alone. His love and concern are like a personal GPS. If we do what we are told, we cannot go wrong. On the other hand, if we go our way we may be entirely on our own.

The season (Saturday, November 28)

Thanksgiving now is behind us for another year. No doubt we have already put away the brightly colored displays of turkeys and cornucopias. In many homes, these were quickly replaced the day after with Christmas trees and miniature mangers.

In our rush to get everything done, we move rapidly from one holiday to the next. Sometimes we do not pause long enough to catch our breath or ponder the significance of what we are celebrating. All that seems to matter is that we take care of everything on our list. Somehow we feel the season will not be the same – that it will be incomplete – if we one little item.

But there is where we miss the point and purpose. When we place more importance on what we do rather than how we feel, we have overlooked the true meaning. Each holiday, especially Thanksgiving, is a chance for us to take a break from our busy lives and to remember things we tend to forget the rest of the year. What good does it do, for example, if our lives are blessed but we never take time to consider all God has done for us?

For many of us, we make the season between Thanksgiving and Christmas the busiest time of all. I wonder what would happen if we suddenly forgot about all of the decorations, meals and parties? How much more time we would have both for ourselves and for others. Perhaps we would see, after all, that people really make the holidays meaningful. It has nothing to do with food, gifts or even bright lights.

Shake it off (Friday, November 27)

Evil and wrong-doing command our attention, but they do not deserve our contemplation or concentration. When we see something wrong – whether it is a person speeding by us on the highway or someone who never has anything good to say – we need to ignore it and move on with our lives. We should not give the matter a second thought.

All of us are familiar with the story of Paul who was bitten unexpectedly by a poisonous snake. Scripture tells us that he simply shook it off and continued on. He did not allow the incident to get the better of him.

We, too, must learn how to shake off anything and everything that threatens to beset us in some way. If you are feeling a little under the weather this morning, shake it off and do what God has set before you. If you are so busy you don’t know what to do first, shake it off and let God tell you where to start. If you are experiencing anxiety for some reason, shake it off and remember that God did not give you a spirit of fear.

Let us focus our time and attention on what God is doing in our lives rather than on what Satan is trying to undo.

Great monuments (Thursday, November 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.

Our seasons (Wednesday, November 25)

Each year has its seasons, and every season has a purpose. So it is with us; we have our seasons as well. We may be going through a season of change, one of prosperity, a time of sickness or a period of tragedy. Whatever the experience, we can be sure there is a reason.

Placing complete trust in God is essential to our growth and endurance during various seasons. We have to know God will take care of us. Over and over again, God reassures us in his word: he says he never leaves us; he takes care of all our needs; he guides us; he gives us his strength; he loves us; he is our refuge; he is our helper; he is our hope. It is up to us to believe these promises, even when we do not see an answer or the end of a season up ahead.

Some of us have an easier time of trusting God than others. Occasionally, we have to convince ourselves that God will come through for us. The only way to satisfy our doubtful minds is to look at what God has done in the past. Hebrews 11 gives us a reminder of how God helped people like Abraham, Noah and Moses. Our individual lives and experiences are another reminder of how God has brought us through various seasons in the past.

We can be deceived by what is going on right now, such as how we feel physically or mentally. Rather than to trust what we see, God tells us to put our faith in what we cannot see. He says to have faith for “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Trusting God, through our faith in him, gives us the hope we need to weather any season. Ironically, our blind trust often allows us to see God’s hand at work in our lives.

Difficult decisions
(Tuesday, November 24)

Sometimes we question the Lord’s path for our life. We find it almost too hard to follow him. Along the journey, we encounter conditions that are difficult and painful: sorrow, anguish, disappointment, rejection, illness, death and a multitude of everyday problems. We often want to deal with tough situations by going the opposite way. But running away is not the answer, especially when the Lord is leading us in another direction.

Speaking to a large crowd one day, Jesus explained the right way to go in life was the truest and easiest. “Come to me,” he said, “all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 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 tells us to follow him and he will lift our burdens.

Each day we are forced to make decisions; most are small but some can have long-lasting consequences. Our emotions and desires push us in one direction while, at the same time, God is telling us to go a different way. We wrestle with what to do. In the end, we may think we know what is best for us because we have spent time considering every detail and effect. We may even reach the point where we can rationalize our decision – it makes perfect sense to us and to others. Still, God seems to be leading us somewhere else, someplace that seems unreasonable or irrational.

But God does not show us which way to go based on our reason or emotions. He imparts his will for us, regardless of what we might think or feel. He tells us that if we do go with him, we will find both rest and relief. However, we have to make the decision. Once we make the choice to go in his direction, and to be yoked with him, he will step in to help us. Not only will he show us the way, but he also promises to guide us gently and bear all of our burdens.

Die to self to live for him (Monday, November 23)

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 people. 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 your self before you can live for God.

Pray like this (Sunday, November 22)

Not only are we made in the image and likeness of God, but we are told to imitate Jesus when we go to God in prayer. “This, then, is how you should pray,” Jesus says in Matthew as he begins the Lord’s Prayer. Luke also writes about Jesus instructing the disciples in the proper form and format for prayer: “When you pray, say: ‘Father, hallowed be your name….’” Jesus has given us these specific directions for a reason.

The most obvious, and yet the most overlooked, reason is the fact that we may address God as Father. We can come to the God of the universe and call him Father because we have a unique and special relationship with him. We are his family, his children, his sons and daughters. We are heirs of his power and might. As a father, he has promised to take care of us, to provide for us, if we will only place our lives in his hands.

Allowing God to be our Father is both simple and difficult. We want him to help us and, at the same time, let us do what we think is best. But we cannot follow God and ourselves. We must make a choice. That is why we say “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” God can only be our Father if we let him.

Cherishing the unknown (Saturday, November 21)

The mystery of the gospel. Paul used this interesting phrase in his letter to the Ephesians. He was in jail, thinking of his brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ, when he wrote, “Pray for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given to me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel” (Ephesians 6:19-20). A mystery implies the unknown and unexplained. But Paul knew the teachings and gospel of Christ as well as any of the apostles. He experienced the physical power of the Lord on the way to Damascus, and he saw the spiritual power of God through many miracles and healings.

What he could not make clear, however, were the divine designs and plans of the living God. The vast mystery of the unseen power of the Holy Spirit, the creation of the universe, the resurrection of Jesus – all of these can be explained only by faith and belief in the gospel.

Without these two elements (faith and belief) we could never even begin to ponder the mystery and wonder of God. It is this inexplicable concept that we must tell to the world. Like Paul, we need to ask for the right words in order to help others appreciate and cherish the unknown. Through the unknown, God becomes known.

Our complete restoration (Friday, November 20)

Job lost his family and fortune. Moses lost the kingdom of Egypt. Paul lost his sight. In each case, the Lord restored life and blessings far beyond what any of these men could have ever dreamed. Certainly, we know that God can and does restore money, prominence, reputation, influence and health to all sorts of people. The Bible tells of the many times when God restored kingdoms, nations and individuals.

But the real question is, “Will God restore me?” There should be no doubt that he will. No matter what we have done, God promises to restore us and to finish the work he began in us if we are willing to do all he asks. We do not know how long the process will take because we are all different. Job suffered for many years. Moses had to wait an entire generation before God brought him back to Egypt. Paul was blinded for a few days.

We are always concerned about time, just as people living centuries ago. Writing to the Christians in the northwest section of Asia Minor, Peter reminded them that God’s restoration surely will come. “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast” (1 Peter 5:10 ). God promises to restore all we have lost or given up in his name.

Still, we worry about how quickly it will come. We wonder how long we will have to suffer. Peter was emphasizing the everlasting truth of God’s word. The pain and anguish last only “a little while.” Instead of always thinking about what we have lost, we must focus on what we have in God and in our loved ones. God knows us inside and out; he sees our heart and he loves us. Family and friends know us as well; they know who we are and they love us, too. The only way for us to get through this short time of suffering is to place our full hope in the eternal love that comes from God. Such love surpasses anything we will ever have to endure in life, and it can give us the earthly restoration we need as human beings to press on.

The root of the problem (Thursday, November 19)

The other day, while putting up a 20-foot ladder to clean the gutters, I accidently broke a plant. I must have hit the top of it with the ladder and severed it from the roots. I took care to dig a hole and put the plant back in the ground. I also tied it to a small stake to keep it upright.

The plant is still green, but the leaves are drooping. I am not sure the plant will survive. In fact, it would be a miracle if it did because it was cut off from the roots.

Our lives are no different than this plant. If we are cut off from our source of nourishment and energy, we also will die. Jesus said, "I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Remember, too, that Jesus cursed the fig tree with the withered roots because it was not bearing fruit (Mark 11:20-21).

Focus today on the fruit you are producing for the kingdom. If you stay connected to the source of all life—your roots—you will spread God’s bounty and goodness wherever you go!

Bondage of pain (Wednesday, November 18)

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.

Listening to hear (Tuesday, November 17)

In a world constantly blaring with the raucous sounds of daily life, it is difficult to hear God. Everywhere we go we encounter noise from traffic, cell phones, computers, airplanes, television, ipods, radio and even people talking or yelling. Our society seems almost obsessed with sound, as if there is something distasteful about silence.

We often think we are wasting time when we sit quietly in a room. We feel like we should always be busy, running from one place to another. Periods of silence, though, can be some of the most productive times in our lives. When we are quiet, we refresh our mind, body and spirit. By relaxing, we have a chance to renew our perspective and remind ourselves what life is all about. We can focus on the true essence and meaning of being alive: God.

Psalm 46:10 tells us to, “Be still, and know that I am God.” Only in the stillness can we come to know our Creator. Only through our silence can we develop a deeper relationship with him. We want his ways to become our ways, his will to become our will and his purpose to become our purpose. These qualities take time and must be nurtured over hours, weeks, months and years. We are building an everlasting relationship – a bond that transcends anything and everything we have ever experienced.

Like our ties between family and friends, quiet time together strengthens our love and affection for one another. It would be impossible to really know others if we never spent time with them or we never listened to their thoughts, feelings and ideas. When we are still, we listen and come to know. God wants us to know him intimately, but we have to be willing to be quiet and hear what he has to say.

No darkness can hide his light (Monday, November 16)

The recent events in Paris make us keenly aware of the evil that threatens not only our very lives, but our souls as well. When tragedy strikes we turn to God for strength, understanding and hope. What we need to do, above all, is to remember these words from the hymn “My Hope is Built on Nothing Less” by Edward Mote: “When darkness veils His lovely face, I rest on his unchanging grace.”

We cannot allow the darkness of this world, however evil and sinister it may be, to keep us from seeing the true light of the world. Far beyond the deaths and injuries of hundreds of persons, there is hope. Hope for those who have perished. Hope for those who are in critical condition. Hope for those who need healing and consolation. Hope for those of us who want peace. Even hope for people who right now want revenge and retaliation.

Naturally, we ask where was God was on that horrific and dark night in Paris, fondly known as the City of Lights. Why didn’t he prevent the senseless murders and injuries? Why didn’t he intercede and stop the assassins and suicide bombers? Why did he let evil triumph?

But that is where we are wrong. Evil did not win, for we know that God has the last and final word in all things. We know, too, that God always is the victor. He proclaimed it more than 2,000 years ago when his son was murdered on a cross. No doubt Mary, Martha, John and dozens of others were asking the same questions we ask today: “Where was God?” “Why didn’t he do something?”

He did! He raised Jesus from the dead and gave salvation to people through the ages and throughout the world. God’s “unchanging grace” was sure and steady then just as it is today. Since the time of Adam and Eve, he promised that a savior would one day be born to bring light and forgiveness to all who would believe. In his Concise Commentary of the Book of John, Matthew Henry said that “Christ is the Light of the world. God is light, and Christ is the image of the invisible God. One sun enlightens the whole world; so does one Christ, and there needs no more. What a dark dungeon would the world be without the sun! So would it be without Jesus, by whom light came into the world” (John 8:12-16).

We must never permit the dark deeds of some to blot out or extinguish the one great light of the universe. In him, rests our hope and in us rests his grace.

Weak yet strong (Sunday, November 15)

Often, we are dismayed by what we notice going on around us. We see injustice, inequity and inequality almost everywhere we turn – from the workplace to our schools to our communities. As caring Christians, we try to correct the problems we encounter. Occasionally, we are successful. Most of the time, however, we are left frustrated and confused because we feel like we are alone in our fight. No one else seems to be concerned.

The Bible offers us guidance on how to act when we come up against opposition. We are told to be strong yet gentle, firm but compassionate, wise as serpents though harmless as doves. To our way of thinking, we must be one or the other, but not both at the same time. What at first seems like a paradox is really a profound truth. The reason is because we are not alone in trying to right the wrongs in the world. God is always there, giving us guidance as well as his strength.

The people of Judah were not alone when they faced the Moabites and Ammonites. Before the battle, the spirit of the Lord came to them saying, “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s” (2 Chronicles 20:15). At a time when King Jehoshaphat and his people were the weakest, they were made strong through the Lord. “You will not have to fight this battle,” the spirit assured them. “Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you.”

We have to realize that there will be many occasions in life when we appear defeated, at least in the eyes of the world. At such times, we need to let God fight the battle. Even though we are weak, he is strong. God knows our heart. He realizes we are not standing by and accepting all the evil we see. He knows we did not want to give up. That is why the spirit reminds us “the battle is not yours, but God’s.” With God’s help, we can be weak and strong at the same time. We can appear harmless, yet wise, because we are letting God take care of the problem.

Celebrating each day (Saturday, November 14)

We naturally celebrate special occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and family gatherings. But every day in our lives is extraordinary because of who we are in Christ. Today marks another day when we are loved and protected by the creator of the universe.

When we pause to think about the fact that God fashioned this very day and made us for this day, we begin to see our lives from a new perspective. Suddenly, we feel a part of the universe rather than apart from it. Too often we as Christians think that we are estranged from the rest of the world. Our purposes and goals seem to be out of step with post-modern society. Nothing could be further from the truth, however.

The universe was created by God and it is controlled by him. We are his creation and we were put here for his glory. We are not out of step with his design at all; rather, it is the world that has chosen to turn away from God. One of our primary purposes in life is to point the way back to God – to show those who are not believers what they are missing.

Realizing the importance of our work here on earth, as well as all that we possess through Christ, we can shout with joy and assurance that “this is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it!” We celebrate each day because we are living in him, from this moment on and forever for all eternity.

Living for the future (Friday, November 13)

Nothing in life is truly ours. All that we are and have belongs to God. For a brief time, we use what has been given to us – finances, house, cars, our vocation and even our physical bodies – in order to do God’s work on earth. These things came from God and they belong to him. They are merely tools to make our work for the kingdom easier and more efficient.

Unfortunately, many people place all of their joy in temporal objects, such as a large house or a particular type of car. Some people are extremely proud of pieces of furniture, a boat or a painting. The reality is that everything we see around us will perish eventually. Decades from now, the house in which we live or the car we drive right now will not matter in the least.

What will make a difference, however, is what we cannot see right now. The love we have for our family and friends, our dedication toward God, our work for the church, the hours we spend in prayer and meditation – these will last clear into eternity. These are the kinds of things that bring us closer and nearer to God. A new house or car does little to develop our relationship with God.

We can easily be caught up in the values of the world. But we need to tell ourselves, as well as the world, that as Christians we have a higher purpose in living. We are placing all of our hope and sights on eternal life. In order to reach our goal and to finish the race, we are living for the future. We are exchanging the earthly for the eternal, the finite for the infinite, the un-lasting for the everlasting.

Pleasing him above all (Thursday, November 12)

Whether people persecute us or praise us, we should always remember the promise of Jesus. “Great is your reward in heaven,” he says in Matthew 5:12. Christ is speaking, of course, especially of those times when people accost us for who we are in him. But his word also holds true when we receive recognition from others for our service. The fundamental reason we do anything for the kingdom is to bring glory to God and not to ourselves.

There are persons everywhere, in all walks of life, who want to be respected for their greatness and acumen. They seek to be known for their wisdom, knowledge and generous spirit. They receive an immediate reward for their labor and goodwill as they are honored by others. In short, they have been given their trophy.

Our prize, however, is in heaven. God will give us an eternal reward for our earthly work. He alone will acknowledge what we have done with our lives; it is not for man to decide. We must never allow others to distract us from the goal. No matter if people criticize or commend us, we need to remember the reason for our actions or activities. Our only purpose in all things should be to delight God.

Pleasing him should please us. What the world says about us will no longer matter when we are wholly focused on heaven.

You are special (Wednesday, November 11)

We can easily forget who we are. Because we live in a world that is directed by human principles and thoughts, we often allow people to define our worth and usefulness. When we let people put labels on us, or to decide where we belong in society, then we have a tendency to overlook who we are in Christ.

As each new day begins, we need to take a moment to remind ourselves we are made in the image of God and that he loves us unconditionally. God does not examine us or judge us as the world does; rather, God encourages us, strengthens us, guides us and protects us. We are so much more than the world sees. Yet, those around us do not accept us because the world recognizes and acknowledges only its own.

When we feel out of place or out of step with the rest of society, we need to remember that belong to God. We follow his plan and his purpose. We are living for eternity, not for the ephemeral ways of earth. Knowing who we are in God, we can go through our short time in the world with confidence, assurance and boldness. We have been set aside for a reason, despite what others might think or see.

Thinking about what we do and say (Tuesday, November 10)

You dial the phone number. Almost immediately you hear, “This call may be recorded for quality assurance purposes.” How many times a day do we hear the same message? Two or three, or dozens? Seems like every company everywhere is taping our conversation for some reason. Is it to check up on their employees or on us?

Maybe we need a similar reminder every day that the Lord is watching and listening to us. He sees us and hears us even when there is no one around. We might wonder what God does with all of this information. Does he use it to reprimand us or change us? Does he reward us in some way? We do not know for certain.

What we do know is that God does not hold it against us. He forgives us, time and time again, just as he expects us to forgive others. We are not to hold grudges or turn away from anyone. We are not to record the incident in our minds where it remains forever. We are to forgive—not just once, but over and over again.

The next time you hear “this call may be recorded for quality assurance purposes” remember that God is right next to you all of the time. Everywhere you go. Imagine how proud he is when you say and do the things that bring glory to him.

Time for a change (Monday, November 9)

In Northeastern Ohio this time of the year the birds and squirrels are in a last-minute frenzy. From early in the morning until just before dark they are scurrying around in search of food. They look like people do during the holidays, dashing from one store to the next to find everything they need to celebrate the birth of our savior.

Maybe this year will be much different for many of us. Perhaps we will slow down and think about what we are doing. The last thing we need to do is to be rushing all over the place. We should not be so preoccupied and busy that we forget what Thanksgiving and Christmas are all about.

Think of what Jesus said long ago. "If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why do you worry about other matters? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you? You people of little faith” (Luke 12:26-28).

May you take more time this year to meditate on the true meaning of the upcoming season: peace, love and patience. Jesus came to give us all three. Let us show others that we belong to his way of living rather than the way of the world.

Keep fighting (Sunday, November 8)

The yard was spotless. There were no leaves at all after I went over the entire lawn with our mulching lawn mower. The next day, however, the yard was full of more leaves. I mulched again. I had no sooner finished when a gust of wind shook the remaining leaves on the branches. Down they came.

Often in life we think we are finished with something, only to find out we have to keep working at it. As much as I would like to get rid of the leaves once and for all, my wish will never happen. There are always more and more leaves. The best I can do is to keep on mulching until the snow begins to fall.

Evil is the same way. We conquer one battle and think we have defeated Satan for good. But he keeps coming back. The war never ends as long as we are on this earth. We are always going to be tempted and challenged.

St Paul reminded us that we must be diligent and keep fighting. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). Remember, too, 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).

No matter how many times evil comes against us, we know who will win in the end. Jesus went to the cross to give us the victory—not just for a day or week—but for eternity!

God’s creation (Saturday, November 7)

Perception can make a world of difference. The earth looks much different, for example, from a plane at 25,000 feet. Peacefully and serenely, the ground below glides by. We marvel at all of shapes and shades of landscape scattered here and there. For miles, we see dark blue rivers that twist and turn; forests and fields that are outlined by roads and highways; and large sprawling cities that suddenly seem small and insignificant.

Sometimes we need to get above the clutter and noise of daily life in order to appreciate the world that God made for us. The true wonder and beauty of this life is found in God’s creation, not in the many works of man.

When we start to see the world through the eyes of God, we begin to notice the little things we miss each day. We need to spend more time focusing on what God designed rather than on what man has developed.

Being protected (Friday, November 6)

Each day as we go about our activities, God protects us. He is with us as we drive in traffic, when we are at work or at home, as we visit the doctor for news about recent tests, while we are eating and when we are watching television. No matter where we go or what we do, we are surrounded by the Holy Spirit.

We may never know how much has been kept from us because of God’s protection. We can probably recount numerous examples when we should have been harmed in a traffic accident or some other incident. Perhaps we narrowly escaped permanent injury from an illness or operation. Then there are attacks of spiritual forces that we do not see – the evil that is constantly at work all around us.

God keeps us safe, much like our earthly parents when we were small. We did not realize it at the time, but our mothers and fathers took great care to make sure nothing harmed us. God does the same on a much grander and divine scale. We are his children and he watches over us each second of the day and night.

Jesus gave us the words of the Father so that we would not fear anything. “Surely I am with you always,” he said, “to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). We have God’s mantle of protection over our lives. His covenant keeps us safe through any trial.

The union of love (Thursday, November 5)

There is pain and hurt everywhere. We cannot escape it. If we take the time to look deep into the eyes of our neighbors, we will see their suffering. Too often, though, we look away – afraid of what we might see. Perhaps their grief reminds us of our own. Tucked away in their hearts are the same human miseries that touch us as well. We are alike in our anguish.

We are similar in another way, too. We are the same in our capacity to love. We can reach out to one another in love and bridge the chasm of pain that keeps us apart. By sharing our lives, we can experience the love that Christ tried to show us on the cross as he died out of his love for us.

“God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son.” In turn, his son loved us so much he gave up his life. Now we are called to love one another enough to give away our hearts in tenderness and compassion. Through the Holy Spirit, we are bound together in divine unity through love. We must help each other at the same time God is helping us.

Waiting on God (Wednesday, November 4)

We often spend a great deal of our time waiting on God. We wait for him to answer our prayers, to give us direction, to fill us with peace and to comfort us with his very presence. While we may think we are simply wasting time because we are not moving forward, God is doing an important work in us.

There always is a purpose and a reason for waiting. During this difficult time, God is teaching us many things. He is helping us learn the act of patience. He also is showing us how to be persistent at the same time we are waiting.

When Jesus left the apostles for the final time, he told them to wait before going out into the world. They were not to do anything until they were filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. What thoughts and emotions must have gone through them as they anticipated the time to move out into the world. Surely, they wondered why God was holding them back from doing their work.

God was preparing their hearts and minds during this period of waiting. He was preparing them spiritually for the journey ahead. We need to remember their example and experience as we wait for God. Though we may think nothing is going on during this critical period, God is using the time to make us ready for what lies ahead.

Learn to focus (Tuesday, November 3)

Events of the past can haunt us, but what is going on today can have the same impact. Maybe we are not getting along with a family member. Perhaps we are struggling with someone at work. We might not agree with a person or group at church. Maybe we are having difficulty understanding what God is doing, or not doing, in our lives.

Whatever the reason or the situation, we can find peace and calm. We do not have to be anxious and upset. What we need to do is to look to God. We have to look at him and nowhere else. Focusing all of our attention on him is similar to looking through a telescope. Scientists use telescopes so they can peer deeper in space and not be distracted by everything else in the sky.

Concentrating solely on God is hard at first, much like looking through a telescope. As we learn how to close the other eye, though, we will see him come into view. When his image is all we see, then everything else will fade away. “Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always” (1 Chronicles 16:11). His face is all that matters.

Looking ahead (Monday, November 2)

Unlike us as human beings, God does not worry. He is not anxious. Nor is he concerned about time – whether or not events happen according to the circumstances 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.

Being like our Father (Sunday, November 1)

Many things are contagious. Look at what happens when one person starts cutting the grass. Suddenly, three or four other people in the neighborhood are out there doing the exact same thing. At the store, if you pass someone who is smiling you feel happy, too. It can go the other way as well: anger spreads like wildfire. Road rage is a perfect case in point.

Jesus told us to, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). What we do and say influences individuals, especially children. They learn from our example. They model our behavior and often, to our embarrassment, repeat what they hear us say.

Let us remember that someone always is watching us. People notice if we return the grocery cart, allow another driver take the parking space we wanted and leave a good tip at the restaurant. They can observe the happiness or anger on our faces. We must make sure we are reflecting the grace and goodness of God. We need to strive to be his shining light, to be perfect, so others will see and know who he is.

Serving with a glad heart (Saturday, October 31)

There are dozens of meanings and interpretations of the word service. Through the years, companies have used the word to build consumer trust. “Service with a smile,” “We service what we sell” and “Your service is our business” are just three of the many mottoes. For the most part, the service we receive today is far from what it used to be.

Anyone old enough to remember 50 or 60 years ago knows the definition of service. Back then, a service station provided real service; drive in and a platoon of attendants would run out to pump gas, clean the windows, check the oil and battery, put air in the tires and bring you the bill. Today, we have to do everything ourselves. It was easy, too, to call a company to complain about a product; you could actually talk to a person. Now we have to navigate a myriad of menus and promps, and wait forever.

I hope our Christian service, both to the Lord and to others, is much better. In fact, we need to have a perfect record. When we say we will be at a meeting at church, we need to be there. When we promise to teach Sunday School, we need to do it. When we tell someone to call us for help, we need to say yes when he or she phones. There is no room in the Kingdom of God for half-hearted souls.

Jesus said, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few” (Matthew 9:37). We have a big job to do and God has given us everything we need to complete the work. Remember, people are counting on your commitment to serve. And so is God.

Thy will or my will? (Friday, October 30)

Often we settle for less than what God has planned because we give up; we can 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.

Proper alignment (Thursday, October 29)

Who cannot marvel at the fact that God creates life, and then allows us to decide how to use it. We have been given an amazing body with a mind, hands, ears, eyes and a voice. But do we use these to serve him or ourselves?

All of our faculties must be in line with one another in order to do God’s will. We cannot have our minds focused on the world, for example, as we study his word. Our thoughts need to agree with what we are saying, seeing, hearing and doing. It is not possible to serve God fully if we are double-minded or if our actions do not reflect his love.

We must live for him with our entire being. Our mind, hands, ears, eyes and speech work together to glorify him – one depends upon the other. If one is missing or going in the wrong direction, the result will be far less than what he expects.

Each day we need to align ourselves with him, not with what we experience and encounter all around us. Jesus is our standard. He showed us how to live on the earth without being of the world.

One person (Wednesday, October 28)

God has a way of doing big things in little ways. In Calcutta, India, God was able to comfort tens of thousands who were sick and dying through an old woman. On a dairy farm outside of Charlotte, North Carolina, God raised up a boy who would tell millions everywhere about the good news of salvation. In Agoura Hills, California, God is using a quadriplegic to minister to the world. Mother Teresa, Billy Graham and Joni Eareckson Tada dedicated what little they possessed so that God could make a big difference in the world.

David was a shepherd boy before he became king. Peter was a fisherman before he became a fisher of men. Matthew was a tax collector before he gave up everything to serve the true kingdom. Abraham was asked to sacrifice his only son before he became the father of many nations. Joseph was abandoned and sold off by his own brothers before he became pharaoh’s adviser.

Where you and I have been in our lives before does not matter. All that is important is where we are going, where God is taking us. He can do incredible, miraculous things through one person. History has proved his authority time and time again. How much more do we need to see and read before we believe in what he is going to do in our lives?

We do not know how God plans to use us in the future. Even though we might think there is nothing he can do through us – perhaps because of our smallness or weakness – we would be wrong. God says he has begun a good work in us. He will certainly finish what he started. If we give up on ourselves, we are actually giving up on the power and greatness of God himself.

Nothing is greater than love (Tuesday, October 27)

We are prone to forget sometimes that our rituals of worship and praise mean little to God if we do not love as we ought. Spending countless hours at the church—working, cleaning, attending meetings—are all well and good. But, if we do not share the love of God everywhere, then we have failed miserably. Why? Because we have tried to serve God with our hands only rather than with our entire heart.

Jesus was pleased with a teacher of the law in Jerusalem. He was the one who said to Jesus that it was more important to love God and his neighbor “than to offer on the altar animals and other sacrifices” (Mark 12:33). “You are not far from the Kingdom of God,” Jesus explained. Jesus was telling the teacher that the Kingdom of God turns on love. The acts of love, both toward God and neighbor, move heaven more than the physical realities of servanthood here on earth.

Let us not be fooled into thinking that the more deeds we perform the closer we are to God. Jesus’s message is clear: nothing in the entire universe is greater than love.

God’s mighty army of angels (Monday, October 26)

The Lord’s angels are round about us, whether we see them or not. They are constantly keeping us safe and protecting us from harm. Psalm 91:11 says, “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.”

Just yesterday, as I was painting the front of the house, I missed the bottom step on the ladder. I fell back and hit my head on the house as I landed safely on the ground. I was dazed, but unhurt. Somehow, I did not fall into a three-foot, brick-lined basement window well. My body went completely over the hole. I also missed a metal spigot where the garden hose was attached.

There was no one around. Yet, there is only one way I missed being seriously hurt. Someone carried me several feet past the window well.

There should be no doubt that God always is watching over us. He charges his angels with guarding us as we go through life. This incident was not the first time I was kept from harm and, I am sure, it will not be the last. But no matter what Satan tries to do to us God’s love, and his angels, will keep us safe.

What if… (Sunday, October 25)

Our thinking can get us into trouble at times. We can be fine one minute and then be completely upset the next. What happens is that we have a tendency to say “What if_______" (fill in the blank with your circumstance). Rather than dealing with things as they are, we look at situations as we want them to be: What if… it wouldn’t have started to rain, then I would have gotten the rest of the grass cut. What if… I would have cleaned the house yesterday, then I would be able to rest today.

The list of "What if…." is long. There is no telling how many times each day these two words enter our heads. As soon as we utter them, either verbally or silently, our thinking takes a turn for the worst. Immediately, we fill our thoughts with regret and anxiety. We approach our situation from a negative perspective instead of with positive thinking. Norman Vincent Peale was a pastor who always stressed the power of positive thinking. He is right. The power of positive thinking can help us overcome anything that stands in our way.

The secret is really in the power of God. He can help you accept any obstacle and turn it into an opportunity. May you not allow your own thinking hold you back from moving forward today. Keep your heart and mind on him always, and he will show you how to make the most of every minute.

Having hope
(Saturday, October 24)

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.

Living for the kingdom (Friday, October 23)

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 e-mail take 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.

Now and later (Thursday, October 22)

The world’s yardstick is contrary to the one God uses to measure the importance of a person. Stature, standing, prominence and reputation – all of these matter to people. God, however, does not care in the least for any of them. Such standards are worthless in his kingdom.

God values the level of love in the heart, the willingness to follow him and the commitment to his word. He also treasures the joy of serving, the happiness of being used and the delight in doing his will. These are how he weighs worth and significance in his world.

Jesus taught us clearly. There is no mistaking his words or his meaning. To be first, we must be last. Either we can be first here on earth and last in the kingdom of heaven. Or we can be last on earth and first in paradise. We cannot be first in both places; we must give up one now for the other later.

Each day we have an enormous decision to make. We have to choose A or B: A) We can let the world measure our value; B) We can let God tell us what we are worth. Which one we select will determine how far we want to go in the future.

Go by the book (Wednesday, October 21)

Lawyers swear by it. Cities count on it. Police most certainly go by it. What is it? The Book. Attorneys, cities and police all go by the book. But what about us as Christians? Do we go by our book—the Bible?

Do we always live by it and do what it says? The book tells us to be patient, honest, compassionate and loving. It says to strive for peace wherever we go. The Bible also points the way we must go and the path we need to follow.

We already know what happens to those who do not go by the book. Think of people such as Adam, Eve, David, Samson. The list could go on and on with millions of names and situations. Sooner or later, individuals who do not go by the book feel the weight of their disobedience.

May you go by the book today and every day. Perhaps you need to take the book—the Bible—along with you to remind you of what to do and how to act. You will find it much harder to lose your way when you are carrying the book with you.

Reading our life (Tuesday, October 20)

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 opportunities 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.

The crown of life (Monday, October 19)

How do we really know we are Christians? We are saved merely by asking Christ to forgive our sins and become our savior. But doing so does not automatically make us a Christian. To be a Christ-ian, we must follow the ways and teachings of Jesus Christ.

To be a disciple of Christ, we must prove our faith and trust in him. In other words, we need to do more than receive God’s salvation. We have to be tried and tested. We need to demonstrate our sincerity as well as our commitment. We cannot be proven as Christians if we have no way to show who we are.

The setbacks in our lives set our future. Each problem, every obstacle (small or large) is an opportunity to verify who we really are. The working out of our faith requires us to provide the hard evidence of what we believe.

Very quickly, in a moment, we can receive salvation and eternal life. But it takes a lifetime to confirm that we are, indeed, worthy to be called Christians. Jesus suffered many tribulations during his time on earth and we will, too. The apostle James reminds us, though, that we will be exalted when all is said and done: "Blessed are those who persevere under trial, because when they have stood the test, they will receive the crown of life that God has promised."

Our shadow (Sunday, October 18)

An object in the air, depending on its height and proximity to the sun, can cast either a huge shadow on the ground or almost nothing at all. Our lives in God are much the same. Depending on how close we are to God will determine the personal affect we have on the world around us. The result of our individual actions can be enormous or very little. If we rise high enough in our spiritual lives, then we as human beings will be barely visible. But we will bring tremendous glory to the Lord because the world will see him rather than us.

As a hawk flew overhead the other day, I observed the immense shadow on the ground which covered an area the size of a house. If the bird would have been a hundred feet higher, though, there would have been no shadow whatsoever; it would have been only a small speck, barely discernible, against the giant light of the sun.

Often, we come between God and what he is trying to do. We rise up in our humanness just high enough so that we interfere with his plan and his will. Our selfish desires create a large shadow in every direction, blocking out God’s brightness on the earth below.

In any situation, we must make sure we get as close to God as possible. The world needs to see him, all of him, and not be shaded from him because of our tiny presence and influence.

A divine eclipse (Saturday, October 17)

Much like a solar eclipse, the world tries to blot out the divine light of God. Each day we are confronted with things that prevent us from seeing what is truly important. All kinds of objects get in the way: cars, houses, shopping, careers, even simple errands like cutting the grass or doing the dishes. We become easily distracted by what we think has to be done without giving thought to God’s priorities.

Our emotions also can stop us from seeing God. Frustration, anxiety, anger and regret hide the love of God. Although these feelings are small, they can cast a shadow over everything we do. A careless word or a simple gesture can obscure the great light that is in our hearts.

The closer we hold our possessions, passions and thoughts to us, the more they cover God. An object as small as a penny can obscure the sun when we hold it close enough to our eye. It is the same with God. If we hold on to our will and keep it close to our lives, we will not see God’s will.

His light is always true and bright. But it only takes something little to block his radiance from shining down on us.

Made perfect (Friday, October 16)

God’s love for us and through us allows us to live each day with faith and hope. No matter what we are facing, we know that his divine love is there to heal, comfort and guide. As he loves us, we can love others. As we love them, they are able to see God through us.

The love that comes down from the Father is unlike anything we commonly call love. His love transcends both our capacity and our capability. But he is able to use us to show the world a higher way. When we sacrifice our needs and our desires for another person, even someone we do not know, we display the love of God. When we give up our time or money to help the helpless and homeless, we demonstrate the love of God. When we forfeit our earthly possessions to serve the church, we reveal the love of God. When we surrender our lives for what is unseen in the future, we prove the love of God.

What we do because of his love makes little sense to many people. Yet, some are able to see and understand. They realize they are looking at something that far exceeds anything here on earth. Through us, as imperfect and insufficient as we are, God shows the world his perfect love.

Going beyond impossible
(Thursday, October 15)

“Don’t sweat the small stuff,” says the author of a well-known book. “Love your enemy as yourself,” says the Bible. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” says the Golden Rule. There is an appropriate phrase for all of these sayings: “It is easier said than done.”

How do we not get mad at the little things? How do we love others, especially our enemies, as we love ourselves? And how do we treat people fairly when they have mistreated us? The real question is how do we live a heavenly life while still here on earth?

The truth is that we cannot—at least not on our own. But, with God anything is possible. Even the impossible of this world. Jesus proved it over and over again by his life. In fact, he was able to perform the ultimate act: to forgive those who did not deserve forgiveness in the least.

Jesus said, “The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him” (John 8:29). Therein lies the secret. First, we have to realize God is with us each minute. Second, because of his constant presence we can do what is right in all circumstances. He is with us, he is watching us and he empowers us with his divine spirit. Therefore, nothing is beyond his ability.

Pleasing to him (Wednesday, October 14)

Whether people persecute us or praise us, we should always remember the promise of Jesus. “Great is your reward in heaven,” he says in Matthew 5:12. Christ is speaking, of course, especially of those times when people accost us for who we are in him. But his word also holds true when we receive recognition from others for our service.  The fundamental reason we do anything for the kingdom is to bring glory to God and not to ourselves.

There are persons everywhere, in all walks of life, who want to be respected for their greatness and acumen. They seek to be known for their wisdom, knowledge and generous spirit. They receive an immediate reward for their labor and goodwill as they are honored by others. In short, they have been given their trophy.

Our prize, however, is in heaven. God will give us an eternal reward for our earthly work. He alone will acknowledge what we have done with our lives; it is not for man to decide. We must never allow others to distract us from the goal. No matter if people criticize or commend us, we need to remember the reason for our actions or activities. Our only purpose in all things should be to delight God.

Pleasing him should please us. What the world says about us will no longer matter when we are wholly focused on heaven.

One in Christ (Tuesday, October 13)

There are different races, cultures, countries and continents. Each one of us has varied traditions, customs and practices. Jesus came not that we should be apart from one another, but that we should be a part of one body, one kingdom and one life. He unites us as one people. Yet, how often do we think of our sameness, not only to one another but also to Christ himself?

It is our nature to dwell on difference – the many aspects that separate us from our neighbors. We frequently distance ourselves from Christian brothers and sisters because we do not agree with them or their conduct. In doing so, we decide that our ways are right, theirs wrong. Our place is not to judge. Instead, we are to draw together under one God, the divine ruler and Savior of all.

We need to remember that we are one, under One and for one. Until we accept this single universal truth, we will never understand the unity of our life on earth as it is in heaven.

No thing happens by chance (Monday, October 12)

We know God makes everything work together for our good, but we are usually amazed and surprised by what he does. Our refrigerator stopped working yesterday morning. On a Sunday of all days. We missed church and headed out to visit several local appliance stores. The first one we went to just “happened” to have the perfect refrigerator. It also “happened” to be on sale for the Columbus Days weekend. Plus, the unit “happened” to have another $100 in rebates.

Unfortunately, the model we wanted was on back order—unavailable for deliver for another two weeks. We then went searching for a store where we could rent a refrigerator. It just so “happened” that all of the places were closed on Sunday. When we returned home, we discovered that our old unit just “happened” to be working again! Now we have a working refrigerator until the new one arrives.

Time and time again, God shows he is always watching over us. What might seem like a coincidence is really part of his divine plan. Things do not just happen out of happenstance or luck. They occur because God creates them.

Revelation 4:11 proclaims, "Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.” He is creating new things and new opportunities each second. Look and see what he is doing in your life right now!

Are you ready? (Sunday, October 11)

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.

We get to tomorrow by going through today (Saturday, October 10)

Christmas is more than two months away. Yet, the local Kmart already has aisles of Christmas trees, decorations and ornaments on display. The holiday season is in the air although we have not had Halloween or Thanksgiving.

Like the stores, we can get ahead of ourselves. We start thinking or dreaming about a vacation half a year away, while we let the present pass us by. It is good to anticipate something in the future, but not to the exclusion of what is going on here and now.

Every day has its own purpose and meaning. We cannot get to tomorrow without going through today, and we cannot mark the birth of our savior without going through Columbus Day, Halloween, All Saints Day, Thanksgiving and all of the other days in between.

Each day of our lives should be a celebration—not just one special day or time far off in the future. Let us rejoice and give thanks for this day. We are alive, God loves us and he has given us another day to spend with those who love us as well! May we not waste a minute of today dwelling on tomorrow. Tomorrow will be here soon enough. Much sooner than we realize.

Your burning bush (Friday, October 9)

Day after day passes in our lives with little change. Suddenly, it seems, God tells us that he is going to use us in a remarkable way. Our time of rest, peace and healing is over and he is sending us forth to change the world. Such was the case with Moses, who spent 40 years as a shepherd before God used him to free the Hebrews from Egypt. In an instant, Moses is transformed from a man living in exile to the leader of a nation.

You and I have to understand that the miraculous change in Moses’ life did not occur because of anything he did. Moses was not preparing himself for four decades to free God’s chosen people from bondage. The encounter with the burning bush made all the difference. Even though Moses at first drew back from both God and his commands, he finally accepted what he knew he must do.

No matter how hard, how difficult or even how painful God’s instructions seem to be, we must accept them. We have no other choice. We must obey. To do otherwise is to condemn ourselves to a future that is empty and meaningless. In a way, we would be like ancient nomads wandering around in the desert searching for food and shelter.

We can be sure that when we listen to God, and do as he directs, we will be inexplicably changed through his power and strength. He sends us forth by his might, not our own. Once we meet our burning bush, we must yield ourselves to God. There is no room for our will if we want to do his will.

Finding our future (Thursday, October 8)

The hope of eternal life sometimes seems so far off for the Christian that it is easy to feel defeated or even lost. Doubt arises in our lives from time to time. Fear creeps in. Anxiety slowly replaces cheer. We can become depressed without knowing how we ever got there.

On such occasions, we wonder how we can recover our sense of hope, how we can be restored and be happy once more. What can help us jump over the huge chasm between our despondency and the peace we once possessed? Paul offers the answer in his letter to the Romans. He reminds us that we should “never be lacking in zeal, but keep [our] spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” We can renew ourselves through service to God.

When we get busy doing the work the Lord has planned for us, we forget about our loneliness, our selfishness and our sadness. With our thoughts directed entirely on him, we suddenly discover our hope again. We have everything to gain and nothing to lose when we devote our lives to God. No matter where we look in the world, we find both our being and our hope only in him.

Our common bond (Wednesday, October 7)

In our pain and suffering, we sometimes cut ourselves off from one another. We tend to keep our hurts between God and ourselves. We fail to tell others. Perhaps we are ashamed or embarrassed. Maybe we think people will not understand.

More than likely, we do not want to show our vulnerability or weaknesses. Whatever the reason, though, we must realize that we are called to share our lives with one another. We are a family, a community, a colony, a fellowship of believers precisely like those described in Acts.

If we allow trials and tribulations to keep us apart, we become a house divided; we are not living as Christ taught. He preached unity and harmony, a oneness in mind and purpose through him. He intended for us to live together, not in spite of each other.

The times we need one another the most are when we want to be left alone – when we don’t want anyone to bother us because of how we are feeling. Our emotions often can mislead us and send us fleeing in the wrong direction: away from our sisters and brothers rather than toward them. They want to help us, but we have to be honest with them and ourselves. We desperately need one another, especially when we are going through difficulties that we cannot handle alone.

We are God’s children. He created us to live as a family in his house.

Resetting ourselves (Tuesday, October 6)
Too often, we do not take time to reset ourselves – to realign our lives with what God has in mind for us. We can quickly become caught up in what seems to be necessary now but means little in the long run. Answering e-mails, making phone calls, attending meetings and running errands all have their importance.  Yet, we frequently fail to put them in their place. Instead, we make these a priority and forget about what matters most.

In order to be the servants we were created to be, we have to step back from time to time to re-examine what we are doing. We must ask ourselves if we are making the greatest use of our days. We also need to consider if we are using our talents wisely. Perhaps our daily schedules do not go according to what we should be doing; rather, they revolve around what we think is critical and necessary.

The problem with our lives is that we try to accomplish too much. We attempt to live for ourselves and for God at the same time. In addition to all our Father has planned for us, we add all of our personal activities to the list. We may be able to cope for a while. Soon, however, we may become overburdened with too many things to do in too little time.

Our spiritual compass always must be pointed in the right direction. If it is not positioned properly – with a true heading toward the kingdom – we can easily get off course. Like a ship sailing across the ocean, we must take our bearing from what is above and not from what we see around us. If we are reaching for heaven, then we must plot a course that will take us there and no place else.

His work never ends (Monday, October 5)

The sanctuary of the 120-year-old church is now quiet. The thousands of voices that sang and praised God through the years have ended. Six generations of families have worshipped there, but now the church is closed. A dwindling congregation and growing expenses are the main reasons. The last service was yesterday.

It was only fitting that the members had communion one last time. In a sense, it was their Last Supper there. Just as the Last Supper some 2,000 years ago was not the end of the story so, too, the Last Supper at Calvary Presbyterian Church is not the end. In three days, the remaining people will move to another church a few miles away. There they will share space in another Presbyterian Church. The remaining followers at Calvary Presbyterian will have their own worship, choir and activities. They will continue to serve God as a family, just as they have done from the beginning more than a century ago.

My wife and I were there for the last service, the last hymn, the last sermon and the Last Supper. As we left the service, a man in his late 70s proudly said his parents were founding members. They are gone, but God’s work goes on through him and all of the others. Even though a church closes, the people remain.

Similar to the crucifixion of Jesus, when the Jews thought they had silenced him forever, he rose from the dead. After his ascension, the disciples carried the good news of salvation to the ends of the earth. We witness the same power of God today. All around we see him working through his faithful servants to bring about the sort of world he planned from the start, and it will not end until he comes again.

Time to rejoice (Sunday, October 4)

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.

Seeing or believing? (Saturday, October 3)

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.

Giving in to get control (Friday, October 2)

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.

Left behind (Thursday, October 1)

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 should not go through life 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 way 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.

No God? (Wednesday, September 30)

I suppose that in every time and place there have been people who either questioned the existence of God or disbelieved altogether. They claimed there was no God without considering even the tiniest bit of evidence and proof.

The Bible cannot be dismissed on a whim. There are 66 books that verify the power and presence of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Not just once, but over and over and over again. What about all of the prophets, miracles, eyewitnesses and writers? Who would waste time recording all of these stories – accounts, by the way, that are remarkably similar through the ages – if they were falsehoods? What would be the point and the purpose?

One of the greatest minds of our time, physicist Stephen Hawking, recently proclaimed again that there is no God. He told the Guardian newspaper in the United Kingdom that, “I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”

How sad and pathetic that someone with such knowledge and intelligence would try to make an analogy between a finite computer and an infinite God. His comparison makes no sense. Following his childish logic a step further, though, I wonder who or what made the computer. For that matter, who made the world? Isn’t that the real issue here?

Complete us (Tuesday, September 29)

People everywhere are seeking joy. They want to be happy and cheerful. It seems the entire world is obsessed with finding gladness. A recent search at an online bookstore revealed there are 36,990 books for sale on the topic of joy.

Going to 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.

The narrow gate (Monday, September 28)

It occurs to me that I may sometimes take grace for granted. That is to say I take God’s mercy and forgiveness for granted. I know he will always forgive me, no matter what I do wrong, and so I sin without worry. I may not even consider the consequences of my behavior.

There is a narrow path that I drive everyday to and from work. This stretch is perhaps seven or eight miles long and there is absolutely no shoulder on either side of the two-lane road. Within inches of the concrete, there is a steep drop of four to five feet. Needless to say, I pay special attention as I travel along. In fact, I do not take my eyes off the pavement in front of me for a second. I don’t even look over at the radio for fear I will get too close to the edge. I realize what would happen then.

As we journey along the course that God has set before us, we need to pay attention and remain alert. We cannot afford to become complacent, not even for a second or two, because the effects could be disastrous. Yes, God will always forgive us when we make mistakes, but he desires that we not harm ourselves in the first place.

Remember what Jesus said about eternal life: "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it” (Matthew 7:13). The same can be said about our lives here on earth, too.

Encourage one another (Sunday, September 27)

Of all the qualities we need to practice these days as Christians none is more necessary than that of offering encouragement. Not just to those whom we know or love. But to anyone and everyone. Most of us live on the other side of the fence: we tend to be discouragers. Either we say something negative or we don’t say anything at all. We usually have a propensity to see the worst in people rather than the best.

Our purpose here on earth is to please God. Nothing gives him greater pleasure than when we take the time to support others, just as Jesus did. Our Savior always offered encouragement wherever he went. He gave hope to the woman at the well. He told Peter to walk across the water. He stood by the prostitute who was about to be stoned.

Encouraging our sisters and brothers is not easy for us. We fear all sorts of things. Maybe people will think we are a little odd. Perhaps they will misunderstand. Possibly we will seem weird. There is nothing wrong with telling the mail carrier, “Keep it up. You’re doing a great job.” There is no harm in saying to a coworker, “I admire your creativity.” We have nothing to lose by allowing someone to pull out in front of us in traffic. We constantly encourage children, but we forget about adults.

God can give you and me the courage to speak up and encourage individuals in all walks of life. See how many individuals you can encourage today. In just a few hours, you will be surprised at how easy it is, not to mention the blessings that come from being an encourager. What we are doing makes God happy and it will change our lives as we encourage one another.

Man-made vs. God-made (Saturday, September 26)

I wonder why it is we always want to know God’s 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.

Building or destroying (Friday, September 25)

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.

One universal message (Thursday, September 24)

There is one central theme throughout the 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. When we dwell in love, we live in God and he lives in us.

Being disconnected (Wednesday, September 23)

Most everyone these days has a GPS, a Global Positioning System that tells us which way to go, how far, when to turn and even when to turn around. It is one thing to have a GPS for our cars. What we actually require is a GPS for our lives. In essence, we need a God Positioning System that keeps us on the right path.

This divine GPS could tell us all sorts of information: what to say in every situation; how to react, especially in tense discussions; where to go to help someone; whom to encourage; why to do something that does not make sense at first. We would never make any mistakes or errors in judgment ever again when it comes to God and what he wants us to do.

The real question, though, is whether we would listen to and follow each command by our new GPS. When it says “love your neighbor,” would we forget our anger? When it says “turn the other cheek,” would we do so? When it says “go the extra mile,” would we keep going? When it says “pray for your enemies,” would we offer holy pleas for them?

Chances are eventually we would turn it off. Either we would get tired of hearing what to be told to do every minute or we would want to make the decision ourselves. Come to think of it, we have had a God Positioning System for years. But we don’t always take the time to read the Bible and do what it says. Let’s make a regular habit of using what God has given us for our benefit. He is always trying to help us. Yet there is little he can do if we pull the plug or fail to pay attention.

According to his time (Tuesday, September 22)

Little by little, day after day, the Lord is preparing us for his future. Sometimes we are not aware of the changes going on in us. On occasion, we may experience a shocking shift in our lives – as if the rug has suddenly been pulled out from beneath us and we fumble around trying to remain upright. We reach to hold on to anything, but we fall down anyway.

All the while, God is getting us ready for the next step. He knows where he wants to take us and he knows what needs to be done before we get there. He must make sure we are ready. We will not reach the point he has planned until the right moment when he decides we are equipped for the task.

For years, I wanted to write a book. I did not care what kind or how long; I just wanted to write a book. Twenty years later, the Lord made it happen. I always wanted to be recognized for my professional work. The honor came 30 years later. For some time, I have desired to do something permanent and lasting for the Lord. He now is preparing me for that to become a reality; it involves a project that began seven years ago.

God’s work in us takes time. We cannot expect a microwave experience when it comes to serving God. Today is a preparation for tomorrow, and tomorrow is a preparation for next week. Next week is a preparation for next year, and so on decade after decade. Jesus said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). It requires long periods for God to be perfected in us. May we be patient and let God prepare us for perfection one day at a time. We will get where he wants us to be in his time and when we are ready.

The real news (Monday, September 21)

Every morning and throughout the day, we hear news of all kinds of events and incidents. The news seems to be everywhere: on television, on the radio, in newspapers and magazines, and on the web. I sometimes feel overwhelmed by all of the so-called bad news about accidents, shootings, fires, burglaries, robberies and stabbings. Whenever I grow weary of what is going on around me, I turn to the news found in scripture.

The New Testament is full of good news. The headlines should be familiar to each one of us: “Peter converts thousands.” “Two followers heal lame man.” “Barnabas becomes a disciple.” “Believers speak out in Samaria.” “Leaders establish church in Antioch.” “The Council meets at Jerusalem.” “Paul sets out on second missionary journey.” Page after page, we read the wonderful news of our faith.

On occasion, it is necessary to forget about the temporal and get away from the things happening around us. We need to contemplate the good news from above – the lasting news of God’s word and world. The headline reads: “Jesus offers salvation to all.”

The heart of the matter (Sunday, September 20)

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 may 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. As God begins to live in us, his holy love is made manifest to the world.

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 visible by each one of us.

Cleaning out the past (Saturday, September 19)

Sometimes we may wonder about being reborn and having a new life in Christ, especially when we don’t feel new. Many times the problem is us. We don’t let go of the past. We allow what happened before to make us feel like the same old person.

Recently, my computer began going slower and slower. I had to wait up to 20 seconds or more for a browser to open. A new security and protection program I installed hardly helped. The real problem turned out to be what was already in the computer—before the security software was added. In addition to built-up dust inside the computer, there was other software that was slowing down the operating system.

Like my five-year-old laptop, we expect to everything to go smoothly because we have a new life in Christ. What we fail to remember, though, is that we have to clean out all of the old stuff from the past. We keep it there, inside our heads and memories, hoping that somehow it will go away.

It is long past the time to start living the new life that Christ came to give us. We can’t, though, unless we clean out the dirt and debris from the past.

We will never fall (Friday, September 18)

For a birthday gift one year my eight-year-old granddaughter gave me a clear plastic bag full of pebbles, two pieces of chocolate (leftover from Valentine’s Day two months earlier) and a tiny, handmade card on notebook paper. In and of itself, the gift had no value. But to me it was worth more than thousands of dollars! What gave it such precious worth was that my granddaughter took the time to think of me.

Our gifts and work for God are much the same. Even the smallest service brings him great delight. Saying hello to a stranger, holding the door for someone at a restaurant, waving to a neighbor as we drive by—all of these little acts make God smile. He loves to see us share the joy of life with one another.

Never overlook the modest things for, when done daily, they add up to a grand masterpiece of servanthood for him. “The Lord makes firm the steps of the ones who delight in him; though they may stumble, they will not fall, for the Lord upholds them with his hand” (Psalm 37:23-24).

We may trip or stumble today, but we will not fall. God will hold us up with his hand and allow us to stand through anything because he treasures everything we do for him. 

Finish the race (Thursday, September 17)

A small city in Northeastern Ohio has a unique tradition. At the beginning of each school year, the city hangs player banners on the street lamps along Main Street. Each colorful banner bears the name and picture of a high school athlete along with the sport. What a wonderful way to build community spirit and, at the same time, encourage the young people who live there.

As Christians, we also need to celebrate the accomplishments of one another and encourage all those who serve others. In a sense, there are heavenly banners lining the path we travel each day. There is a crowd cheering us on even though we cannot see them.

“Therefore,” said St. Paul, “since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. 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).

This “great cloud of witnesses,” the saints who have gone on before us, now cheer us on just as others did for them. It is our turn to run the race for our faith. The only way for us to finish is to fix our eyes on Jesus and not let anything, or anyone, distract us.

The secret of our happiness (Wednesday, September 16)

The windows of the day care center at the church were wide open and the children were singing “If You’re Happy and You Know It.” Their voices were full of enthusiasm and excitement as they clapped, stomped and shouted amen.

Perhaps we can take a lesson from these little ones. We, too, have every reason to be happy today. Nothing should hold us back from celebrating what we have in Jesus Christ.

No matter what issues we are facing, we also can sing: “Praise the Lord, my soul. I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live,” proclaims Psalm 146. “He is the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them—he remains faithful forever.”

If something threatens your joy on this Wednesday, just think of the children singing “If You’re Happy and You Know It.” It might even be good for us to sing along with them.  "If you're happy and you know it, then your life will surely show it."  Amen! 

Climbing the ladder (Tuesday, September 15)

The meaning of the journey is in the struggle. For struggle produces perseverance; perseverance develops persistence; persistence builds strength; strength evolves into hope. Each step takes us higher and closer to our Lord and savior.

The Christian cannot escape the difficulties of life. We are called to work out our salvation even though it is given freely. Step by step our lives are transformed from humanity to eternity. The metamorphosis occurs slowly, gradually, until we reach maturity in God.

Life on earth prepares us for where we are headed. The more we learn and grow each day, through each situation, the more we are able to treasure what we have been given. Only through our hardships do we become nearer to the things of heaven. We are drawn to God’s side as we fix and set our minds on him – on the ways that last forever, not just a lifetime.

Breaking through (Monday, September 14)

Many people talk about “getting a breakthrough” or being able to “break through.” The allusion is, of course, that there has been success at last. The time of bondage is over. The person has been set free – broken through, as it were, the wall that has kept her or him captive to some specific pain or suffering.

The real problem facing the Christian today is what to do when the breakthrough does not come for days, weeks, months or possibly years. How long must we wait? Our time on this earth is finite and measured. Our days are numbered and it is natural to think about when a change will come. What are we to do?

Perhaps our approach is all wrong. Rather than always dwelling on when we will break through, maybe we should tackle the issue from a different point of view. That is, when God will push through the mountain in front of us. These two perspectives are radically different. One view is human; the other divine. One puts the burden on us; the other places the task on God.

Too often, I think, we try to do what only God can do. We tend to feel as though we need to do more – to pray harder, be more righteous, become better stewards, act less judgmental and work toward being kinder. The list goes on and on. But none of these will make God act any quicker or treat us with any greater mercy. God’s will is perfect, and so is his timing. He knows when to move us forward, giving us the breakthrough we seek.

In the meantime, as we wait, we need to enjoy and appreciate this time. All too quickly the respite will be over and we will need every ounce of the faith we are developing right now. At this very moment, God is preparing us for the breakthrough that will surely come.

What he did for us (Sunday, September 13)

The final week of Jesus’ life was one the world would never forget. The joy of the crowds as he rode into the city, the beauty of the final supper with his disciples, the last hours of prayer in the garden, the betrayal of his own followers, the arrest and false trial, the beating and, finally, the humiliation and suffering of being nailed to a cross. The events leave us feeling weak, bewildered, lost and confused.

We see God’s ultimate plan for our salvation as it unfolds before our eyes. Yet, in our humanness, we ask if there could have been an easier way. We wonder why God, in all of his greatness and power, did not choose a path without pain, agony and death.

Perhaps God willed all of these things because of us, so we would understand what our lives are worth. Maybe this was the only way for us to realize the magnitude of God’s love. Whatever the divine reason, God allowed the world to crucify his own son. In doing so, he made the ultimate sacrifice for our lives. Jesus’ blood was shed for us. The very least we can do is to live for him.

False impressions (Saturday, September 12)

Becoming like Christ means following him. Looking at other people, no matter how pure and holy they appear, in the hopes of learning how to be more godly, cannot take the place of Jesus himself. In similar fashion, well-meaning disciples do not represent the totality of Christianity when they behave badly. Looking directly at Jesus offers the only true example of how to live. Anything else is merely an imitation, a counterfeiting.

Paul and Barnabas were hailed as gods when they healed a crippled man in Lystra. The gods have come down to us in human form, shouted the people. Paul was crowned Hermes; Barnabas was lauded as Zeus. The chief priest and the crowds even brought bulls to offer as a sacrifice.

Like those in Lystra, we often react to what we see around us. We venerate some because of their goodness and denigrate others because of their wickedness. Either way, we are deciding how to act by looking at people just like us.

The one sure way to model our lives is to learn from Jesus. Being like him requires looking only at him, and not being misled by the world’s impression of Christianity.

Needing his strength (Friday, September 11)

St. Paul believed he could do anything because of Christ, not because of his own power. “I can do all things,” he wrote, “through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

What about us? Do we want to do everything through Christ or through ourselves? Why is it we often attempt to fight illness, get through the day or meet all of our responsibilities to everyone—by ourselves? All the while, Jesus is right there saying, “I want to help you. Just take my hand and I will give you my strength.”

No matter what you need today—whether it is physical, mental or spiritual strength—Jesus is the one who can help. All we have to do is to take time to ask and he will be there. We have his promise because he gave his own life for us.

More than we ask (Thursday, September 10)

When we ask for Jesus, we receive the universe. We get the gifts of salvation and eternal life. But we also accept his love, his grace, his peace and his mercy. All this and more is what comes each time we call on the name of our Lord and Savior.

Despite our faith and knowledge, though, we often look for something plain and simple. We aim too low. We look hopefully to earth when we can receive heaven. Our loving Father opens the doors and windows of heaven and gives us everything – nothing is held back.

If we are truly servants of the King, why do we ask for a drop of water when we can have the ocean, for a crumb when we can have a banquet, for a job when we can have a vocation, for shelter when we can have a mansion, for money when we can have wealth untold?

We are members of a royal family. We need to start thinking of ourselves as heirs of the kingdom of the entire universe. It is time for us to take our rightful place, knowing with full and complete assurance that God will always give us more than we ask in his name.

The answer is way over your head (Wednesday, September 9)

When was the last time you heard someone say “I love to lose weight” or “I can’t wait to have root canal.” Things that cause us pain or difficulty send us running in the opposite direction. Yet, they are very necessary in our lives.

There are situations we must encounter as Christians to become stronger and more useful. Being sick or in the hospital can make us more compassionate. Being rejected by an individual or a certain group can draw us closer to God. Even having a tough time financially can make us more understanding of those who are homeless and poor.

Most of the time, we do not look on the bright side of our circumstances. Instead of trying to discover what different events will teach us, we think of how bad we feel or how unfortunate we are. We feel sorry for ourselves rather than being stirred into action because God is molding us into better person and servant.

Remember this verse of scripture whenever you are down: “Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens” (Isaiah 40:26). Your answer is in heaven above, not in the earth below.

Serving for him (Tuesday, September 8)

Our true value and worth does not depend on the world. In fact, it has nothing to do with how great we are in the eyes of others. But it has everything to do with how great others appear in our eyes – how much we are willing to serve them.

Many people in today’s society want to be first. They seek recognition and respect for all that they do or think. Soon, we too can be misled by our desire to be known and admired. What we fail to realize, though, is that we will never find the greatness we long for from the world. We find our importance and purpose in being humble in what we do.

Like Jesus, we must learn how to serve. As we meet the needs of those around us, we begin to discover there is more satisfaction in feeding the homeless than in being honored by our peers and colleagues. The accolades and acclaim of this world are temporary while the acts we do in the name of God are eternal.

We were never created to be served. We were created to serve. When we fulfill our purpose here on earth we will become known in heaven, where it truly matters. The world does not see our quiet deeds of kindness and compassion because it is busy honoring its own. God always sees and he always blesses what we do for him.

Doing the right thing even when it hurts (Monday, September 7)

As I opened my email early one morning, I was greeting by a message from an individual who accused me of being completely ignorant of a certain matter. You can imagine my reaction. I felt I had every reason to be upset. First, this person was coming to a professional conference that I was directing. Second, an issue had developed several days earlier because of a problem she created. Third, the fact that a person with a doctorate felt she could talk this way surprised me. The more I thought about it, the madder I got.

Everything changed a few minutes later when I posted the devotion for the day. A line I wrote softened my heart immediately: “We have the capacity to love anyone, if we want. Most of the time, though, we choose to forsake others rather than to forgive them.”

In the natural, I wanted to hurt this person as much as she had hurt me. In the Spirit, however, I could not exact revenge and live as I should.

In the end, I apologized to this professor for any misunderstanding on my part. I added that I was looking forward to meeting her and in hearing her presentation at the convention in Rome, Italy. My emotions still were in an uproar, but my conscience was content. I had done the right thing even though it did not feel good at the moment.

Loving God’s way (Sunday, September 6)

God asks us to do something simple. He tells us to love. But we are not to love as the world does. We are to love as our Father has taught us. We have seen what we must do through the example of the son. Jesus made it perfectly clear.

We must be willing to give to others what we want to keep for ourselves, able to face rejection rather than reward, ready to pardon when we would like to punish, and prepared to love when we want to hate. The kind of love that God wants us to show transcends all logic and sense. In fact, it has nothing to do with what seems right to us, but everything to do with what is proper in God’s kingdom.

No amount of human reason can rationalize the infinite principles of God. Try as we might, we can never rationalize – at least not on a human level – why we need to pray for those who hurt us and love those who are our enemies.

We have the capacity to love anyone, if we want. Most of the time, though, we choose to forsake others rather than to forgive them. We should not be about seeking revenge and judgment. That is God’s job. We have enough to do with just trying to love one another.

Hearing their cries and ours (Saturday, September 5)

The modern-day exodus of people from Syria to other nations throughout Europe gives us an idea of what the Israelites must have experienced in their flight from Egypt. The people were scared, hungry and worried. They were desperate to find freedom.

It has been said that the more things change, the more they stay the same. We are seeing this current tragedy play out in front of us, just as it has done dozens of times in the past: people running from tyranny and oppression in search of a new life in a new land.

Through the ages, God has been with his children as they have sought safety. The poignant image of a dead Syrian boy on a beach reminds us once again that life is precious and fragile. Too often we take living for granted; we forget what we have until it is too late.

May our prayers and love be with all those today who are yearning for a better life. Let us do what we can, everywhere that we can, to help all those we can. We may not be able to lend a hand physically, but we can ask God to watch over them and guide them. He always hears the cries of his children, and he always responds.  

Awe and wonder (Friday, September 4)

Luke is not routine or prosaic when he describes the lives of the early believers. No, he is just the opposite. He is filled to overflowing with excitement, so much so that we can see how they lived. “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles” (Acts 2:42-43).

Imagine how these people must have felt, day after day, as they witnessed the “many wonders and signs” that came from God through the disciples. Luke says people were “filled with awe!” We can just see them with their hands raised high, praising the Lord for blessing them more and more with each day.

God’s goodness continues today. In the last week alone, he has shown me the right gift to buy my wife on our wedding anniversary, given us favor to find an airfare that saved us $300 each and told us the name of a hotel to book in a city we have never visited. Our list could go on and on. Each time something new happens, we are “filled with awe” just as the new followers 2,000 years ago.

May we never lose our sense of awe over what God does in our lives. He loves to shower us with unexpected blessings and he delights in hearing us praise him for his kindness. Even today, we can live with the same expectancy and excitement as our sisters and brothers in Christ.

A constant source (Thursday, September 3)

Confidence in God lies in consistently believing his word. Day after day, in spite of things that go wrong, trusting what he promises brings assurance and conviction. His actions, works and power are constant, though life is constantly changing. There is little to gain by placing hope in what is unpredictable and wavering.

During his short time on earth, Jesus was always the same. He showed compassion to his disciples even the night before he was put to death. He went about healing the sick even when he was tired and weary. He spoke to the multitudes despite their unbelief. He traveled from town to town even when the days were hot and long. All the while, he was gentle, loving, kind and forgiving.

The peace and joy that the world seeks can be found only in what lasts. Attitudes, feelings, emotions – all these vary from minute to minute. They find their source in and depend on circumstances, not on certainty. Events change, but God is changeless.

Like the sun, God is always shining even amid the darkness of night. He is ever present, though his presence is not always visible. What he offers does not come and go like the things around us. When Jesus came into the world, he came to stay. He is the steady source of our light. Through him we can find all the strength, substance and satisfaction we will ever need.

His example (Wednesday, September 2)

While some argue over a job, others are without work. While some talk about helping, others are helpless. While some live in large homes, others are homeless. While some spend money, others are poor. While some waste food, others are hungry. While some travel everywhere, others are unable to go anywhere.

Sometimes even the Christian can be turned around. What seems so important at the moment does not really matter in the long haul. Personal needs can easily become more critical than the needs of others.

Only when you and I think of neighbors first do we have our priorities in order. We need to learn to live the way we have been taught: to take care of people rather than possessions, to love others more than ourselves, and to demonstrate goodness rather than selfishness.

Jesus showed us what to do and how to live. To be his followers, we must follow his ways.

Love never fails (Tuesday, September 1)

Paul tells us "love never fails." He adds that “where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away” (1 Corinthians 13:8). All these are partial in nature.

But love is full and whole; it finds perfection and fulfillment in Christ, the one who first loved us. What Paul means is that love transcends everything in the mortal world because of its eternal nature. Love is our connection to the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Love also binds us to one another.

When we love one another, sharing both our joys and sorrows, then we allow the miraculous and amazing power of God's perfect love to transform both lives and life. Love never fails because it remains when everything else is gone.

Spreading the Word to the world (Monday, August 31)

Jesus taught his disciples about the kingdom of heaven so they could tell others the good news, especially after his death. Had they kept the word to themselves, his life and crucifixion would have been in vain.

The church today must continue what Jesus began. If we simply sit in the sanctuary every week, and do not make known what we know, all that we see and hear makes little difference in the world. We are called to be disciples and to make disciples of all nations. The only way to fulfill this commandment is to practice what is preached.

Each day, as our schedule unfolds, we fail to live up to our divine purpose in life. We are not following what God wants us to do unless we can take the time to pass along the hope of salvation.

Declaring what we believe does make a difference – to others, ourselves and Jesus. As we talk about him, sharing all of our many experiences and miracles, he will become more real to those who cannot see what he offers. In a very real way, we are the evidence of his power and greatness. What he has done for us he wants to do for all. But it all begins with us.

You are the living church (Sunday, August 30)

Every person in the body of Christ needs to realize why the church exists. It is more than a structure, a meeting place or a location for weekly worship. The church stands as a constant reminder that God is present in the world and in the community. He is alive in all of the members and, though them, he is reaching out to those in the neighborhood who are suffering and in need.

The church is a sanctuary from the world and yet it works to bring hope to the world. The people who walk in and out of its doors should find rest, help, hope and love. Their lives should be changed forever because of what they experience there.

In each community, the church is unique. The style of the building is only the first place where the difference begins. What really matters is this: whether the people who are the living church make a difference in the community. When the church functions as it should, God can continue to build up his living body and not just a building.

Making us pure (Saturday, August 29)

There is something we take for granted and rarely think about these days. Filters. Car engines have both an air filter and a gas filter. Heating and air conditioning systems have filters. Air purifiers and vacuums, of course, have multiple filters. In each case, these seemingly insignificant parts are necessary for machines to run properly.

Psychologists tell us that we use “mental filtering” all of the time when we make decisions. Our minds evaluate what is right or wrong in every situation. No matter our age, mental filtering is extremely important because it keeps us on the correct path. In a similar way, God’s guidance acts as a heavenly filter to keep us from making poor choices and, instead, choosing what pleases him most.

God is with us constantly to help us filter out the ways of the world. May we really use his word today to purify our lives and to make us more like his son, Jesus Christ.

You are not alone (Friday, August 28)

I am not happy that our lawn is almost gone. Here in the Midwest we have not had a good rain in well over a month. Our grass is mostly brown although there are a few spots of pale green remaining. Up and down the street, the story is the same. These beautiful lawns once were lush and full—emerald green. Now they are going dormant, much too early in the season.

I could complain and bemoan that all of the hard work I spent on weeding and fertilizing was just a waste of time. The fact is that I am not alone. Everyone in this part of the country is going through the same thing.

How often in life do we get the notion that we are the only ones experiencing hardship and difficulty. The emotions and feelings of people are not as easy to see as the lawns in the neighborhood. Each day there are persons all around us who are fighting sickness, dealing with broken relationships, trying to accept defeat and even coping with some sort of loss.

The next time you think you are the only one who is having a hard time in life, think again. You are not alone. Others are struggling just like you. The amazing thing is God is able to help each person in spite of the individual need. “In this world you will have trouble,” Jesus said. “But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). His hope was in the Father and ours should be as well. Jesus’ resurrection proved that nothing can overcome those whom God loves and protects, not even death.

United in prayer (Thursday, August 27)

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 separates 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 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 divide 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 them through God. With his love there is no loneliness, only loveliness.

Faith to see what he will reveal (Wednesday, August 26)

Human understanding of God is limited because of finite vision and knowledge. We find it hard (at times, impossible) to accept what we cannot see. But God says that faith is the substance of things unseen – the ability to perceive what lies ahead.

Nothing but faith can take us beyond ourselves. We cannot believe or think something into being. Nor can we wish or will our circumstances to change. Faith, however, has the power to transform our lives because we know God can do all. Trusting him allows us to see a future that is much different, far greater, than the one we can envision with our own small intellect.

Through God we can visualize a pure and perfect plan for us. Despite what we are enduring at the moment, perhaps with no way out, we can set our sights on God and see well beyond tomorrow. He has already promised to work everything together for good. We can count on his goodness as long as we have the faith to believe him. If we have faith, then we can see and feel what only he can reveal.

Complete trust or half-hearted belief? (Tuesday, August 25)

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, 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 our complete trust in God rather than the half-hearted belief we have in ourselves.

What he does for us (Monday, August 24)

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.

God waits for us (Sunday, August 23)

If I am honest with myself, I have to admit that there are those times in my life when I do not give God a chance. I cut him off because of my impatience, my anger, my selfishness, my petulance, my intolerance. I should know better.

I suspect the same is true for a great many other people as well. Only when we put aside our feelings and our will can God go to work. What parent anywhere, for example, can do anything with a child who is having a tantrum? Until the young one is ready to calm down and listen, no amount of pleading, cajoling, coaxing or even threatening will make a bit of difference.

When I act like a child, I deserve to be treated like a child. But God always waits calmly (and lovingly) until I am finished. He gives me the time and the chance to discover for myself that I am ready to listen and follow him. After I have worn myself out – through with my complaining and groaning – then God can move in and begin to pick me up.

Until I am ready to grow up and realize my own foolishness, God cannot take me the rest of the way. He will never force himself upon me even though I often force my will upon him. I must want to accept his will, without any reservation, before he can do anything with me. Only when I turn my mind and heart over to him will I realize that his plan is far better than anything I ever wanted for myself.

Living in the moment (Saturday, August 22)

In just four months, we will be celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior. Stores, houses and malls will be decorated with colorful lights and Christmas trees. Yesterday, as I shopped at a local grocery store, there were displays overflowing with Halloween candy everywhere even though Trick or Treating is more than two months away.

Too often in life we get ahead of ourselves. We start thinking about things in the future and forget about what is right in front of us. No doubt your plans for today are as full as mine. But we are probably concentrating on what we have to do next week or next month. Some of us might be so far ahead that we are already planning Thanksgiving dinner.

God does not want us to be going through today thinking about tomorrow. He wants us to live in the moment. As you live today, avoid the temptation of letting your mind run ahead of God—to what needs to be done in the future. God will take care of us tomorrow after he takes care of us today. Remember, we are supposed to let God guide and lead us.  He is not supposed to be running after us, trying to catch up to our thoughts about what lies ahead.

May you live in the moment today and not in the future.

His priceless gifts (Friday, August 21)

There used to be a television commercial that showed a father or mother taking a child to an event of some type. It detailed the cost item by item: concert tickets, transportation, food, souvenirs, etc. When it came to adding up the charges on the credit card, the total said “priceless.”

As Christians, there is no price we can put on our salvation. It comes as a free gift from God. But not only does he give us life for eternity, he also blesses us while we are here on earth. He gives us his love, security, companionship, guidance, protection. The list could go on and on for each day, each minute, of our life! The bottom line: way beyond priceless.

“Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done” (1 Chronicles 16:8). Try to add up everything God does for you today. No doubt in one hour alone, you will be able to see dozens of wonders. Make it a point to share with others the priceless gifts we have waiting for us as well as the gifts we have already received. Let us proclaim his name wherever he leads us on this particular Friday.

Hearing he is near (Thursday, August 20)

The children were playing a game of Marco Polo in the pool. One person who was “it” shouted “Marco” and the others responded by saying “Polo.” The object is for the “it” to find the others while keeping her eyes closed. She had to tag another boy or girl merely by listening.

In a similar fashion, we sometimes we shout out “Help me, Lord.” He responds by saying “I am here,” but we have trouble finding him even with our eyes open. We look and look. Still, we do not see him.

The secret to finding God is in listening. It is much different than hearing with our ears. Instead, it is listening with our heart. We must pay attention to what the Lord speaks to us through the Holy Spirit, even when it does not make sense. God spoke to Cornelius through a vision. Immediately, Cornelius sent three of his attendants to Joppa (30 miles away) for Peter. The next day, as the men were approaching the town, God also instructed Peter to go to Caesarea to see Cornelius.

When we talk about hearing God, we must go beyond the physical world of sound. We have to listen to what we cannot hear, but to a voice that we can recognize and feel deep inside of us. That’s how near he is.

Ask before we act (Wednesday, August 19)

It was a small thing: a cell phone. It had fallen out of the man’s pocket as he rode a roller coaster at an Ohio amusement park. After the ride ended, he jumped a security fence to search for his phone. An instant later, the coaster hit him in the head and killed him.

We might all wonder what this 40-year-old was thinking. But before we criticize him and question his judgment, let’s be honest. All of us have done stupid things from time to time. Fortunately, nothing probably happened except a slight case of embarrassment. Who knows what we would have done in this particular instance. All of his personal and banking information, along with photos, probably were on this device. I would like to think I would have had the sense not to jump the fence.

All sorts of things cloud our reason at times. Emotions and rash decisions can mislead our better judgment whether it means dealing with situations or people. In a panic, this man obviously thought he could get his phone and get out before the coaster came around again.

My prayer is that we learn to think before we act—always. Sadly, this elementary school teacher will not get a second chance. Let us use the second chances we have today for three things: first, to pray for this man’s family; second, to thank God for protecting us when we have made mistakes; and, third, to turn to God before everything we do. He will tell us what to do, but only if we ask.

For your own good (Tuesday, August 18)

God sets boundaries in our lives to keep us safe and to protect us. Often, he will stop us from doing what we want because we do not see the danger ahead. We might think he is withholding something good when, in fact, he is taking care of us.

Years ago, our family lived in Florida and there was a fence around the entire back yard. Our son and daughter had a huge area in which to play. Occasionally, we caught them trying to climb over the five-foot high chain link fence. We would have to tell them to get down or, if they refused, we would take them off.

They always thought we were stopping them from having fun. Just the opposite. We were keeping them from harm. On the other side of the fence was a large lake and they did not know how to swim. They saw the cute ducklings a few feet from their reach while we saw what might happen to them.

If God is keeping you from what you want today, it is because he realizes the consequences of your desires. Instead of being upset, count it a blessing that he loves you and is guarding you. He doesn’t want anything to happen to you. He sees the danger on the other side of the situation, even though you think he is holding you back from something good.

Losing our self (Monday, August 17)

If our faith is not all it should be, perhaps it is time to re-examine our lives. Our belief in God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit ought to give us the strength to endure any difficulty. Yet, during times of great trial, about all we can sometimes muster is a half-hearted attempt at acceptance.

There may be many reasons why we so often fall short of being strong disciples. Most all of the reasons have to do with us: our feelings, our emotions, our will and our desires. When we do not get our way, we suddenly lose trust in God. We think he does not care or understand what we are suffering.

But right there is where our faith needs to kick in and take over. Our instinct to turn to God needs to be stronger than our propensity to gratify ourselves; we must have a desire for God that cancels out and overpowers our personal desire for satisfaction.

Putting complete confidence in God is not easy at first, but step by step we change. Eventually, we no longer try to balance the scales; rather, we place all the weight on the side that matters most to God. When our personal lives no longer weigh us down, we have reached the point where God can use us most. He, too, will mean the most to us because we will trust him more than anything else in the world.

The depth of his riches (Sunday, August 16)

The tell-tale signs of autumn are here and there. Those who are keen observers of nature can see some leaves beginning to fall, days growing shorter, squirrels being more active and breezes not as humid.

But only people who actively look for the changes will notice the subtle differences. It is much the same with us as Christians: only when we are seek to see God’s hand at work can we witness his amazing miracles and power.

For instance, receiving a check when it is needed most is not luck. It is God. Or finding a credit card that was lost is not coincidence. It is God. And getting good news from the doctor when you expected the worst is not an accident. It is God.

St. Paul said it best when he wrote, “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out” (Romans 11:33). We will never understand his ways, but we can recognize his love and care for us when we see it.

Scars of the past (Saturday, August 15)

No one goes through life without being wounded in some way. Everyone is affected by trials and afflictions although the scars may not be visible.

The marks we bear do not define or describe who we are deep inside; past wounds that others see are only the superficial signs of what we have endured. The world always attacks the body, that which is mortal and perishable. What is eternal and everlasting, though, will last forever, even beyond death. Nothing, not even the worst assault, can destroy the soul.

The key to living is in knowing that everyday events and circumstances are unable to touch the part of us that belongs to God. Nothing on earth, no matter how powerful or absolute, can change who we are in Christ.

When God is alive and working within us, we are protected and safe from all human harm. The worst the world can do to us, even in our deepest despair, is to injure what will die anyway some day. The heart of us where God lives will live on forever.

Looks can be deceiving (Friday, August 14)

We know the saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Go to any bookstore these days, however, and you will see thousands of books with colorful, eye-catching pictures, paintings and images. The publishers hope you do judge the book by the cover and buy it!

This particular adage could apply to many other things as well. Don’t judge a car by its design. Don’t judge a hotel by a picture. Don’t judge people by their appearance. Looks can be deceiving. We don’t know what the disciples looked like, but many of them were tough, rugged fishermen. No doubt they looked the part as they travelled from town to town preaching and teaching the good news of salvation.

A man down the street likes to spend time sitting on his old golf cart, which is parked on the front lawn during most of the year except for winter. He puts it away at night and it is back out the next day. I have to admit, I didn’t think too much of him; he seemed like he would be much more comfortable in a trailer park. Hour after hour he sat there in the evening, always drinking something from a can. I could only imagine what. Finally, I crossed the street and talked with him. Wow! Was I wrong. He is the manager of Hertz Rental Car at the nearby airport.

Once again, the Lord showed me just how wrong we can be at times. I judged this guy by how he looked. Not for who he really was. “Do not judge, or you too will be judged,” Jesus said. “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:1-2). I thank the Lord for this gentle reminder.

Counting on God like clockwork
(Thursday, August 13)

A while ago, my wife and I argued over what now seems a silly thing. We were checking out of a hotel in Milan, Italy, and heading back to the States. I paid the bill with a credit card rather than using the euros I had in my wallet. My wife was furious. “I thought we decided to use the cash and not the credit card,” she stated in no uncertain terms. The two of us argued all the way through the airport terminal.

Turns out that all of our bickering and quarrel was for naught. About a year later, we traveled to another country—one which accepted euros along with their own currency. Thank goodness we had euros; otherwise, we would not have been able to buy any souvenirs or mementoes at all from our visit.

How ridiculous we as human beings act at times. We get all worked up when life does not happen according to our plan. We forget that God has a better plan, a better way and a better outcome for us.

If only we would learn to cast our cares—all of them—on him. We need to take a lesson from children everywhere. They never ever worry about if they will have food to eat, clothes to wear, water to drink, a bed in which to sleep or bills that need to be paid. They trust their parents without hesitation or reservation. We need to do the same with God. “Surely, Lord,” wrote David, “you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield" (Psalm 5:12). Remember, we do not always see his favor until later. But we can count on it like clockwork: it comes precisely at the right time. I was the one who made a mistake, but God was the one who made it right. 

Before and after
(Wednesday, August 12)

Everyone loves to see before and after pictures whether it involves images of friends, houses, cars or pets. People always marvel at the difference: how much better the after shot looks.

Think, for a moment, of what a before and after photograph would be like if we focused on our lives. What did we look like before we gave ourselves to Christ and how do we appear now? Our physical appearance may not be too different. But our inner self is radically changed—like the contrast between night and day.

Joyce Meyer, a popular Christian teacher and author, is fond of saying, “I am not where I need to be, but thank God I am not where I used to be.” The same can be said of all of us. The words of “Amazing Grace” certainly ring true: “I once was lost, but now am found, Was blind, but now I see.” Before we were lost, impatient, angry, anxious, sinful and selfish; we were going nowhere and we had no true purpose. Now, all that has changed. We can see God’s plan and we know why we are here.

The lyrics of that now-famous hymn were written by John Newton. The story goes that he was raised by a Christian mother, but he wanted nothing to do with God. He had trouble holding a job and even deserted the Royal Navy. After many other hardships, failings and a catastrophic storm at sea, he finally turned his life over to Christ. He was never the same as before!

Going in the wrong direction (Tuesday, August 11)

St. Paul was not a timid man. He did not mince words and he was not afraid to proclaim the gospel. In a letter to the Christians living in Ancient Galatia (modern-day Turkey), Paul chided them for turning their back on God and returning to their old ways.

He says once they were slaves to the sinful “spiritual forces of the world.” “How is it,” he asks, “that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forces….I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you….How I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you!”

Like most of us living today, we do not understand how people—especially those who know God’s truth and his ways—can suddenly walk away from the Lord or leave the church. Unfortunately, it happens every day in every part of the world. Individuals by the thousands think they can do a better job with their lives than the one who created them in the first place.

Rather than condemning these people, we need to be honest with them as Paul was. We also need to be praying for them. We should ask God to somehow show them the way back. Perhaps, like Paul, God can use us to show them they are going in the wrong direction.

Being calm and content (Monday, August 10)

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, pleased with what we have, not desiring something more or different, 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. But pursuing God’s design leaves us content.

Covered in his will (Sunday, August 9)

As we walk through the door of each new day, we must be determined to continue to follow God no matter how we feel or what we think. There must be a constant renewing of our minds in him. Over and over again, we will wrestle with doubt, fear, insecurity, hesitation, even rebellion. We are stubborn creatures who think we know what is best. A new job, a new house, a new church or a new life somewhere else will not make any difference if it is not God’s will. Something different in our mind is rarely something better.

God knows what path we must take. In fact, he set the course long before we were ever born. Where we are right now is where he wants us to be. Where we go in the future is up to him. We can make our journey easier and lighter if we set aside our will for his. Instead of arguing with ourselves over things that do not matter, we can put all of our determination, hope and trust in him.

When we give ourselves completely to God, he gives himself completely to us. There, covered in his will, we are safe and secure even when we wonder where we are going or what is going on.

Cast your cares (Saturday, August 8)

On occasion, life seems almost too much to handle. Problems come at us from all sides all at once; never just one at a time. One difficulty after another piles up and threatens to bury us in an avalanche of distress and hopelessness. David likened the feeling to the waves in the ocean. “Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls,” he says to the Lord (Psalm 42:7). “All your waves and breakers have swept over me.”

John Gill, an 18th century theologian, wrote that such difficulties and “afflictions” are “comparable to the deep waters of the sea, for their multitude and overwhelming nature….As soon as one is affliction over, another came, as in the case of Job; which is signified by one calling to another, and were clamorous, troublesome, and very grievous and distressing.”

Perhaps you feel overwhelmed. The car needs to be fixed; you are struggling with illness; you have several overdue bills and still need to buy food; the clothes dryer isn’t working; and, the toilet is leaking.

The only thing that truly matters is what you do with your troubles. You can either hold on to them or give them to God. Take a moment to look up. The solution is right in front of you: “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken” (Psalm 55:22).

Work together (Friday, August 7)

My computer and printer still are not talking. They are like two angry sisters who want nothing to do with the other. I tried everything I knew to synchronize the two devices, but nothing worked. Not even connecting them together with a cable made any difference.

No matter how hard we try sometimes we cannot fix the problem. People, similar to a computer and printer, have differences. No one is willing to give in or apologize. And so they do not talk to each other.

What my computer and printer fail to understand is they need one another. No amount of explaining will change the situation. Human beings, on the other hand, should be different. People should be able to reconcile their differences and even forgive one another if need be.

Sadly, the documents inside my computer will stay there. I cannot share them with anyone because the printer will not work as it is supposed to do. Let’s not allow petty problems to keep us apart as sisters and brothers in Christ. We are all in this together and we need to work together, both for ourselves and for the Lord.

Going higher for Christ (Thursday, August 6)

Living is much like a chain of events that are connected. If one link is weak, the chain breaks. The little things we accomplish for Christ allow us to connect the past with the present and future. What we do right now makes an enormous difference tomorrow.

Will we, for example, take the extra effort to tell special persons that we are thinking of them? Or will we spend more time praying? Perhaps you and I will encounter a person who needs help. Whatever the situation or need, our reaction today is based on yesterday and it prepares us for the next day.

In Luke’s story of the 10 minas, Jesus stressed the importance of being responsible with the small things we do. If we do well in the lesser tasks, we will be given more. Every act leads us higher toward the life that Jesus has for us. God always desires the best, but he can only give it to us when we offer our best to him every day.

I heard it through the grapevine (Wednesday, August 5)

A song written in 1966 has been recorded by many groups and singers through the years. “I heard it through the grapevine” was first made popular by Marvin Gaye. We can all relate to the message: hearing something from someone other than the true source.

How many times have we heard a rumor or a story and then based our opinion on that information? We don’t even know if the report is true and yet we rush to judgment. One person tells another and word quickly spreads. In no time at all a reputation is damaged or an incident is taken completely out of context.

As human beings, we love to talk about other people. It comes naturally to us. We even do it as Christians. Someone prays for help and care for a particular person and, at the same time, repeats what was heard through the grapevine. There is nothing divine or holy about passing on gossip to God.

Proverbs 21:23 warns us to be careful of what we say: “Those who guard their mouths and their tongues keep themselves from calamity.” The same verse in the New Living Translation is much stronger: “Watch your tongue and keep your mouth shut, and you will stay out of trouble.” May we remember these words today, especially when it comes to hearing something through our grapevine of fellow believers and followers. 

Acting from our heart (Tuesday, August 4)

Compassion, understanding, patience and forgiveness all begin in the heart. If the heart is weak, the mind will take over with all of its emotions and desires. Our human intellect will tell us how to act and react. The problem is that our reason resides in the things of this world, while our heart has its being in the life to come.

Our earthly intellect can take us only so far. It is limited to sensory knowledge – what we see, hear and experience. Oftentimes we cannot see beyond the present. We do not hear the voice that transcends reason.

We need to get beyond our humanness if we want to possess the kind of wholeness that Jesus came to give us. There is a greater world beyond the imperfect one that we know. But we must learn to be guided by the heart, where God dwells most deeply, and not the head.

Words for life (Monday, August 3)

Being successful as Christians involves learning how to be less physical and more spiritual. The situations we encounter most often, the real stumbling blocks in our journey through life, are all consequences of the physical world. Almost daily we come across anger, hate, jealousy, strife, pride or envy. We see the tangible realities of what these emotions can do to people as well as the personal effect they have upon us. Such feelings cause tension, stress and even illness.

God calls us out of this physical realm, with all of its pain and suffering, to live a life that is full. Jesus tells us in John 6:63 that, “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.” What are these words of life? Forgiveness. Love. Peace. Compassion. We need to recognize that every “word of life” has a counterpart in the physical world. Appropriately, these antonyms might be called the words of death: anger, hate, jealousy, etc.

The Lord wants us to live a spiritual life, not a physical one – to be in the world but not of the world. We can find the peace we are so desperately seeking if we learn to live by the ways, and words, that impart true and eternal life.

Our little lives are enormous in him
(Sunday, August 2)

Together we painted, scrubbed, planted and cleaned. Our church workday was incredible. Not only did God bring the right number of people to get everything done on our list, but he gave us perfect weather. A refreshing breeze blew through the entire church all morning long even though this was the middle of summer.

God knows the importance of gathering together to accomplish his tasks. As we worked side by side, we had a chance to learn more about one another and our faith. The greatest part was we felt blessed to be here. We were doing different jobs, but everything was for one purpose: to glorify God.

Today, as people come to worship in our church they might not notice what we did. But God knows. He saw each one of us giving generously of our time, and using our strength and skills to make his house better, cleaner, brighter.

We are proud of our church. But our true pride lies in being able to serve the Creator of the universe. There is nothing of greater value or more valuable than being one of his children. We show our love for him each time we give our life for him. May we never tire of working and cleaning for him. No matter what it takes. Even the smallest task or the most menial chore is enormous in his kingdom.

Learning how to love (Saturday, August 1)

Loving God must grow out of a true and sincere desire for him. Like children who want to delight their parents and make them happy, we must feel the same way toward God. We cannot love simply because God first loved us. Nor can our love be based merely on what he does for us. We should not need a reason in order to love him.

We must love God for who he is, just as we want others to love us because of who we are. The spirit of true love does not depend on circumstances, events or even reasons. It exists for no purpose or aim.

To love God means accepting his ways, in spite of what we think and feel. Whether we experience success or suffering, we can love God. For how much affection do we have for him if we turn away each time we do not understand or agree?

In Psalm 103, David praises God by counting all of the many “benefits” of God: He forgives. He redeems. He satisfies. He judges with righteousness. He is merciful and gracious. But the basis of our love toward God is not found in any of these. Rather, the root lies deep within our hearts, anchored to the very core of our life. There is where we realize how profoundly God lives within us and we live within him. Here we find the center and existence of our love for him.

No waiting (Friday, July 31)

We can go to the God of the universe at any time and he will be there. It may be in the middle of the night, early in the morning, at the end of the day, during lunch or dinner. No matter when we call on him, he welcomes us and invites us in.

The same cannot be said of those around us. If I want to see my doctor, for example, I must make an appointment sometimes weeks or months in advance. If I want to talk with my boss, I have to arrange a convenient time with his secretary. Even if I need to talk with my pastor, I have to check his schedule. On other occasions I may not be required to make prior arrangements, but I have to wait just the same. When I go to the store, I have to wait in the checkout line. When I need to get the oil changed on my car, I have to wait my turn. When I go to the bakery, I have to take a number. I also have to wait to get a haircut or have my glasses adjusted.

With God, however, there is no waiting or planning ahead. He can see me anytime. The problem is me. I am easily influenced by the world. I still feel like I need an appointment – that I must arrange (in advance) to spend time with him. Oftentimes, I believe that I can talk with God only during my prayer time or my devotions.

Each second of every day, God is available. He does not require us to wait or to make an appointment. Whenever we have a need, he will spend time with us. He is never too busy. Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, Jesus says, and I will give you rest. Right now, we can find comfort. We do not have to wait a moment longer.

Nothing is too hard for God (Thursday, July 30)

There are no guarantees in life. We can exercise, stay active, eat the right foods and, in general, take care of ourselves. Nothing, though, guarantees that we will remain healthy and strong throughout our entire life.

Our mail carrier was in the Navy and has been walking at least 10 miles per day for the past 20 years. Still, he recently came down with Bell’s Palsy. Another friend has worked out with weights for the past 45 years, but now he walks with a limp.

There is only one thing we can count on as we go through life: that God will be with us each moment. He is there no matter what we are going through and he will give us the strength we need to endure—in spite of the hardship.

God’s statement and question to us is the same that he posed to Jeremiah thousands of years ago. "I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” We know the answer. He can and will conquer whatever comes against us. He is our guarantee through thick and thin. All we have to do is hold on to him with all we have.

You are famous to God (Wednesday, July 29)

You probably never heard of Andrew A. Toth. He was born in Steubenville, Ohio, served in the U.S. Navy during World War II and retired from a long career at the Timken Steel Company in Canton, Ohio. He was a member of Faith Community Church. He also loved dancing and was active until the last year of his life. Andy died last week at the age of 97.

We had the honor of knowing him because he was the grandfather of our son-in-law. We called him Grandpa. He always had something interesting to say, especially when it came to sports. He could cite statistics and details about most any player in any sport. What an amazing man!

The world is full of people like Andy. There are millions of them everywhere. They are not famous like actors, well-known like politicians or recognized like sports heroes. Nonetheless, they are great in God’s eyes. He counts them as saints because they are serving him faithfully and lovingly.

May you live today knowing God knows who you are and what you are doing for him alone. He counts you as his child and he admires everything about you. God is a proud father who smiles each time he looks at you. You are famous to him and he loves you unconditionally, just as he did with Andy.

True service or lip service? (Tuesday, July 28)

We say one thing and, yet, do something else. Do we always obey the traffic signs? If we are honest, we have to admit we do not always come to a complete stop at stop signs and that we frequently go over the speed limit, especially on the freeway. We also tell people to “let us know if you need help.” Then, when they call on us we cannot get away fast enough.

One time after another people in the Bible gave lip service to God. Jonah told the men on the ship that, ““I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” Yet, there he was trying to escape God’s call to go to Nineveh. David is another example. After removing Saul from the throne, God anointed David. “God testified concerning him: 'I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’” Yet, David betrayed God when he sent for Bathsheba.

No matter how hard we try there are occasions when we let God down. I recall the time—one of many—when I did the opposite of what I said I would do. I was looking for a new job and promised God I would go anywhere. After months of searching, I was offered a position at a tiny college high in the rural mountains of West Virginia. Over and over I argued with God and said “no. I will not go.” I applied for more jobs without any success. Finally, with much misgiving I agreed to accept the job. Before I could respond to the school, though, another institution (one very close to my hometown in Ohio and near all of my relatives) called me for an interview. I eventually got that job, but it never would have happened if I had not remembered my vow to the Lord.

God deserves our best and true service. There is no place in his kingdom for lip service. May we always say what we mean, and mean what we say when it comes to serving him. He is counting on us, just as we are counting on him.

For your good (Monday, July 27)

Think about the vast open area around a mall or in front of a store. The land is needed for one very important reason: parking. In order to shop, we need a place to park our cars and trucks.

But what if these parking lots did not have lines and arrows? What would happen? People would park in every different direction depending on their own whims and desires. It short, it would be sheer chaos! The same thing would happen on roads and highways without signs and traffic lights. Vehicles would be going every which way.

Sometimes we complain about all of the rules and limits the Lord sets on our lives. We can do certain things, but not others. Plus, we are to pray for our enemies and be kind to those who dislike us. We even have to forgive people who mistreat us.

What would happen if God did not give us guidance and direction? The world would be a mess. Every person would do as she or he pleased. Thank goodness Jesus showed us how to act and live. He knows what is best for us even if we disagree. God wants to bring order to your days so you can avoid the disorder of the world.

One purpose (Sunday, July 26)

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.

When 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.”

The new self (Saturday, July 25)

When we accepted the gift and grace of salvation, we became new creatures in Christ. We rejoiced that the old person was dead. Our past was swept clean. We received a new life, one which will last into eternity. But what about our lives right now? We still make mistakes, become angry or frustrated at times, lose our temper, say the wrong things and, frequently, we do the wrong things.

So much for the “new person” that we are supposed to be. Many Christians think because we are born again that we are completely changed in an instant – that our old nature disappears forever. Suddenly, like walking through a spiritual threshold, we put on a heavenly attitude of love and peace. It is not so simple. Our new character needs time to evolve over many weeks, months and years as it is carefully nurtured by the Lord. We become the person God wants us to be based on his schedule and plan, not ours.

As we go through this refining process, God is gently guiding and molding us. His touch is tender as he removes the anger or hate in us. He delicately takes away our judgmental attitude, replacing it with tolerance and love. He eliminates our regrets and sorrow over the past, and gives us new hope for the future. All the while, he is making us a “new person” for life eternal.

God is using the time now to prepare us for heaven. He does not expect us to be perfect while we are still on earth. He does expect, however, for us to let him do the things he needs to do to get us ready for eternity. Some of what needs to be done will be painful, both to God and to us, but it must happen. Otherwise, we will never become the new creature who is fit for heaven.

Putting others first (Friday, July 24)

We were not created for ourselves, but for others. All that we think, do and say should be for those around us. 

Jesus was our example. Everything that he did, he did for others. Even when he spent time in prayer with his Father, he was asking God for the strength to help people: the lame, the sick, the homeless, the lost. It is not easy to put ourselves second and the needs of others first. But Christ came to show us a different way of life.

He demonstrated how to seek a higher purpose – a life centered on love and compassion rather than on the self-centered interests of our own flesh.

Do all things well (Thursday, July 23)

Trying to live like Christ each day is like anything else. Sometimes we say the right things but act the wrong way. Or we say the wrong things and act the right way. We can even do both things poorly. Rarely do we ever get it all right.

The challenge for us is somewhat like golfing. On occasion we are fine on the fairway but pathetic in our putting. Or the other way around. If I ever had a good game in both driving and putting, I could compete with the pros. They are consistent in what they do every day. The same holds true with my running. On certain days, my legs hurt but my lungs are okay. The very next day it can be just the opposite. Then, every now and again, my entire body is strong yet I don’t feel like getting up from the couch.

The closer we get to God, the more difficult it is to line up everything. The reason is because the more we improve, the more we know we can do better. As we become more like Christ, the greater we see how far we are from his perfection.

We should not be discouraged, though. Instead, we should be encouraged because He is helping us to grow stronger and better each moment. He is bringing us nearer to completion in Him and helping us to do all things well in His name. Remember Philippians 4:13: “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

Only God knows (Wednesday, July 22)

God has the answer each time he asks us a question. Yet, how often do we try to respond as though he is one of us? We treat him as human rather than as Lord over all. We imagine he will not realize or learn the truth.

Think of Cain who killed his brother. God asked, "Where is your brother Abel?" Cain answers, believing God will not find out what he has done. “I don't know. Am I my brother's keeper?" Recall, too, Adam and Eve in the garden. God called out, “Where are you?” Then he posed several other questions: “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from? What is this you have done?” With each response, our first parents try to hide the real answer from their Creator.

We need to pay close attention when God speaks, especially when he asks a question. It is a sure sign that he wants us to hear the excuse for ourselves and to remember our commitment to him. He also wants to make sure we understand what we have done or promised to do.

Is there something God is asking you today? Make sure that he does not have to repeat the question over and over again in order to get your attention. Don’t be like Peter. Jesus had to ask him three times if he loved him. Be open and honest in your first response because God already knows the answer.

Doing things the hard way (Tuesday, July 21)

My granddaughter was trying to put on her tennis shoes by pushing her feet into them. She did not want to untie the laces so she shoved and shoved until the shoes went on. The end result was it took her three times longer to do it her way.

So much of what we do in life we do the hard way. We don’t want to have to undo anything first because we think we will waste time tying everything back together again. What we sometimes forget is there is a right way and a wrong way to do things.

As we go through this day, may we remember God’s way is the right way. “Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long” (Psalm 25:4-5). We cannot go wrong following the path God has set before us. Maybe our motto should be, “It’s either his way or the highway.”

Defining the church (Monday, July 20)

During the Soviet era in the last century, all of the churches in St. Petersburg, Russia, either were closed or used by the state in various ways. These grand houses of worship were turned into such things as an ice skating rink, a warehouse for vegetables and even a museum of the history of religion and atheism. Religion continues to grow in the modern-day Soviet Union and the churches now are being restored to their original purpose.

How are we using our churches today in the United States? Are they more than just a place of worship once a week? Or do they serve people throughout the week? In many communities, the church used to be the very center of activity. Everything seemed to revolve around these buildings with their steeples rising high into the sky.

Churches throughout the country remain a place for food banks, after-school tutoring, and self-help meetings, but perhaps they should be more. A church should be a beacon of hope, a sanctuary of refuge and a resource for help. A church is where people can meet God and commune with him.

Let’s make sure our buildings never lose the purpose for which they were built: to glorify God and to serve others. Our churches need to make a difference in the lives of everyday people. Otherwise they are little more than monuments to what we once believed.

Who isn’t listening? (Sunday, July 19)

The Bible holds the answer to every question and need. Nothing is omitted. God tells us precisely what to do in each situation.

Do you need faith? Look up Ephesians 2:8. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” Do you need patience? Go to Ecclesiastes 7:8. “The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride.” Do you need courage? Turn to 2 Timothy 1:7. “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”

Often our difficulty in life is not the problem itself. Instead, it is that we will not do what we need to do to find relief. We are like the person who always complains, but never does anything to seek help. I was that way many years ago. My back had been hurting for six months. I thought it would get better in time. The pain, however, became worse until I could no longer walk upright. Finally, my wife forced me to go to the doctor. Turns out, I needed non-invasive surgery. I had the operation and was home the next day.

God gives us instruction – 31,173 verses of scripture in both testaments – on how to find peace and comfort. What good are all his words, roughly 774,000 of them, if we never pay attention? Let’s take note of what he has already said to us before we suddenly throw our hands in the air and claim God isn’t listening to our prayers.

Taking control (Saturday, July 18)

To be like Christ means that our heart and mind must be going in the same direction. For us to make any progress, to keep moving forward in our lives, the two differing natures of our self must be in complete agreement. We cannot think about going one way when we really feel like going in another.

I might realize in my head that I need to lose weight, but nothing will happen until I put my heart into making the effort to change. I need to be passionate about becoming thinner and healthier. Then, with my knowledge and emotions so aligned, I can face any obstacle that threatens to hold me back.

In each case, God will give me what I need to be successful. “You did not choose me,” Jesus said, “but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name” (John 15:16). On my own, I cannot control myself. But with the Lord’s help, I can defeat even my strongest feelings.

Wait (Friday, July 17)

The saying goes that we are all in God’s waiting room. The implication is that we are always waiting on him, and we must learn to be patient.

There are different ways to wait, though. We can be passive, and simply do nothing until God speaks to us. Or we can actively prepare ourselves for the next step so we are ready to do his will.

God’s waiting room is not a quiet place, with everyone sitting around relaxing and reading magazines. In God’s waiting room, there is energy and excitement; people are anticipating the time ahead. They know that at any moment the Lord may open the door for them.

No matter what you are waiting for today, do it with hope and expectation. All of your thoughts and energy need to be directed toward God. He is getting ready to do a great thing in your life! Wake up, and wait with joy and enthusiasm.

Twice as much as before! (Thursday, July 16)

Things do not always happen when we want or the way we want. But God makes sure that situations occur according to what we need.

My computer crashed five days ago. The timing could not have been worse for me. All of Saturday and Sunday, I struggled to get my PC up and running again. I tried everything, even downloading several utility programs. I finally gave up and realized the problem was beyond me. I had to turn it over to someone who knew more about computers. I trusted God to guide me to the right person at the right place to get the help I needed.

The Lord led me to a fantastic expert just down the street! He fixed the computer, saving all of the data! By the time he was finished, the computer ran better than when it was new five years ago. The best part: the cost was only $60.

When my computer stopped working, I was extremely upset at not being able to post a devotion each morning or to respond to any emails. I soon realized the break gave me a chance to rest mentally and physically—something I did not realize I needed. In addition, I soon may have a part-time job because of meeting this repairman. In the course of our conversation, he told me he knew someone who was looking for an editor for a local monthly magazine. As a retired journalism professor, the opportunity would be perfect for me.

Yes, I lost several days of computer time, but in the end God restored everything. In fact, he gave me twice as much as I had before—just like Job!

The rip currents of life (Sunday, July 12)

People everywhere flock to the beach in summer. They want to enjoy the warm sunshine, soft sand and refreshing water. What they do not see, though, is how dangerous the ocean can be at times. What seems to be a cool breeze on shore can actually create strong rip currents underwater. In seconds, a rip current can send even the most experienced swimmer out to sea.

Experts warn not to try to swim against a rip current. Instead, let it take you out away from the shore. When the current subsides, swim back to the beach. Hundreds die each year because they try to fight the current. They run out of strength and energy, and they drown.

Too often we also try to go against the rip currents of life. Rather than “going with the flow,” we fight back. Eventually, we become exhausted and lose all of our hope. We fall victim to a situation when we could have been victorious.

The next time you encounter a rip current in your life, resist the temptation to get angry and use all of your power fighting back. Wait until you no longer feel the problem tugging at you, then get back to where you were in the first place. God will calm the seas and help you to safety with his almighty hand.

God always provides
(Saturday, July 11)

Giving each one of his disciples the power over evil spirits, Jesus sent the Twelve 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.

God in all
(Friday, July 10)

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.

Prepare your day
(Thursday, July 9)

What will today be like for us? Will we get upset or angry? Will we be happy and full of joy? For the most part, we cannot control the things we will face. We do, however, have the power to determine how we react.

The problem with most of us is we do not plan our day. Getting ready to embark on a new day is like taking a trip. When we travel, for example, we map each turn and stop with precise care; we chart how far we will drive, when to stop for gas and food, and where to spend the night. Nothing is left to chance. If something goes wrong or we hit an unexpected delay, we immediately make adjustments in our schedule. Our goal is to keep moving forward.

Not so with each day. We allow all kinds of things to get in the way and set us back: we misplace our car keys; we cannot find our checkbook; we get a call from the school because our child is sick; the refrigerator suddenly breaks down. We do not have to change how we act. In and of themselves, these problems do not have the power to get us down. We are the ones who let ourselves down.

The secret to our day is to keep moving forward and not let the little obstacles in life bring us to a grinding halt. Let’s keep looking ahead and following God’s guidance. He is leading us. That alone should give us all the encouragement we need to push on.

Keeping score
(Wednesday, July 8)

Keeping score in sporting events is important for many reasons. Most of all, it reveals how well one team is doing compared to another. But keeping score in life is something we should not do. Keeping track of another person’s wrongs can be extremely harmful both to us and them.

Years ago I worked for someone who constantly criticized everything I did. There were times when I thought, “If he says one more thing to me, I am going to tell him what I think of him.” Looking back on the matter, I now see that I was the problem. I was keeping score of everything he said and did. I was adding up his offenses in my mind. I was deciding when he crossed the line and when he had to be put back in his place.

What did Jesus tell us about forgiving others? In the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant, Jesus told Peter we need to forgive not seven times, but seventy times seven. Jesus also said, "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).

If you have been keeping score of someone’s good or bad points, stop right now. Keeping score in life is no game to play. Save the score for sporting events, not for people’s lives.

The journey
(Tuesday, July 7)

The apostle Paul was serious 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: 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.”

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.

Praying for power
(Monday, July 6)

Jesus took three of his closest disciples – Peter, James and John – to the garden of Gethsemane so he could talk with the Father. “Sit here while I pray,” he told them. According to Mark, Jesus “began to be deeply distressed and troubled. ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,’ he said to them. ‘Stay here and keep watch.’”

Three times Jesus went off to pray and each time the disciples failed to do as he asked. They could not stand watch even for a brief time. “Watch and pray so you will not fall into temptation,” Jesus told Peter. Jesus returned a second and a third time, but they were all asleep.

We would like to think we are different, that we would have stood watch for Jesus. But sometimes our best intentions are not enough. We are not strong enough to keep going when we are weary and tired. At such times, it would be good to remember what Jesus said to Peter: “Watch and pray so you will not fall into temptation.” Like Jesus, we can always pray to the Father for the power we need to sustain us, especially when we are tempted to act contrary to his will.

Keep the celebration going
(Sunday, July 5)

The fireworks in our neighborhood were still going off at midnight. It seems people didn’t want to stop celebrating the Fourth of July! It was our nation’s 239th birthday and the party was bigger than ever.

I wonder what would happen if we celebrated our birth in Jesus in the same way. Christians everywhere would cheer being born again. The world would see and hear the great news of salvation. Not with fireworks and sparklers, though. But with stories, songs, praises and worship. The party would go on and on!

All is quiet this morning, the night after. Yet our enthusiasm for who we are in Christ fills the air. It is Sunday morning, the Lord’s day. The creator of the universe made this day especially for us – for us to rest and to be able to show our thanks to him. May we praise him all the day long. Let us keep the celebration going each day so people everywhere know the good news we have to share.

Freedom to be free
(Saturday, July 4)

Our independence is important to the Lord. He wants us to be free to follow him and serve him. As we choose him of our own free will, we become even more committed to doing his will.

We are blessed to live in a country where we are free. We have freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom of choice about how we are going to live and where we are going to live. The right to make our own decisions in just about every aspect of our lives makes us stronger both as individuals and as a nation. We develop a greater appreciation for what we have and what would happen if our independence suddenly was taken away.

This Fourth of July, as we celebrate our independence, let us remember our deep dependence on God. He has given us all we have and we need to acknowledge his presence in everything we do. Without him, nothing would be possible.

The opening words of “God Bless America” ring as true today as they have in the past: “While the storm clouds gather far across the sea / Let us swear allegiance to a land that's free / Let us all be grateful for a land so fair / As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer.” Thank God we serve a God who allows us to be free.

His perfect will in an imperfect world
(Friday, July 3)

The morning did not go exactly as I had planned. I was trying to print store coupons from my computer. Unfortunately, the application that downloaded the coupons contained a virus and my computer shut down instantly. For the next three hours, I struggled to get it to run properly again.

I was frustrated. Here I was doing something nice for someone else – in this case, our daughter – and I was the one having all of the problems. Some reward, I thought, for being kind.

In a perfect world, people who help others would be rewarded, not punished. But our world is far from perfect. Hundreds of thousands of injustices occur every day, yet we cannot allow ourselves to become angry or discontented. We must keep on going, just like Jesus did, knowing that God sees our intentions and good works.

Countless believers for centuries have been persecuted, ridiculed, maligned and scorned for trying to make people and the world a little better. Their efforts were not in vain. In the end, God rights the wrongs of the world. We can’t afford to give up and give up what he has waiting for us.

The one and only power
(Thursday, July 2)

Some people treat life as though it is a game with definite winners and losers – a battle between the powerful and the powerless. The sport is all about dominance and control; those with the best strategy, the most skillful moves, come out on top. The world is full of leaders who have used a variety of approaches to become successful.

But what is true of this world is not at all true in God’s kingdom. Psalm 37:11 reminds us that “the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace.” Only those who are gentle, mild, kind and compassionate will receive God’s treasures. Only those who are willing to follow God, rather than their own devices, will have peace and prosperity.

Bill and Gloria Gaither said it best in “There’s Just Something About That Name” when they wrote: “Kings and kingdoms will all pass away.” God will remain when everything else is gone. He alone is the one true victor and ruler.

Nothing else will matter in the kingdom of eternity except God. On that day the powerful on earth will be powerless as they stand in judgment before God.

God’s creation
(Wednesday, July 1)

Perception can make a world of difference. The earth looks much different, for example, from a plane at 25,000 feet. Peacefully and serenely, the ground below glides by. We marvel at all of shapes and shades of landscape scattered here and there. For miles, we see dark blue rivers that twist and turn; forests and fields that are outlined by roads and highways; and large sprawling cities that suddenly seem small and insignificant.

Sometimes we need to get above the clutter and noise of daily life in order to appreciate the world that God made for us, his children. The true wonder and beauty of this life is found in God’s creation, not in the many works of man.

When we start to see the world through the eyes of God, we begin to notice the little things we miss each day. We need to spend more time focusing on what God designed rather than on what man has developed.