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Changes (Monday, October 20)
Things change in our lives often very quickly and without warning. Just one week ago, we were celebrating with my wife’s family. We had all gathered to mark her brother’s 75th birthday as well as his 50th wedding anniversary. Family flew into town from Florida and Texas. It was a wonderful time of fun and fellowship.
Now, his bride of 50 years has been hospitalized with blood clots in her lungs. Who could have known that lives would be turned upside in just a matter of days. My wife left yesterday morning to be with her brother during this difficult time.
When changes happen, we can be surprised. But not worried, shaken or fearful. We have God. He is with us through everything. One of the greatest blessings of being a Christian, no matter what occurs, is that we are never alone. Never.
Whatever changes you are facing right now, remember that God is unchanging. He has been the same forever. Put your faith in him, the rock of your salvation. You are completely safe and secure in his hand.
Encouraging work (Sunday, October 19)
There are no small jobs in the kingdom of God. Nor is any one person more valuable or less important than another. God uses each one of us in different ways and every person is critical. Peter and Paul did not spread the gospel alone. With them were dozens of disciples, perhaps a group of 70 or so, who were equally as committed. Barnabas was one such follower. His servant-filled heart did more to help the early church than we sometimes realize.
In the New Testament, the name of Barnabas appears 33 times and mostly in association with the missionary work of Paul. But Barnabas was more than a helper. Immediately after Pentecost, Barnabas was one of the first followers to sell his property and devote the proceeds to the church. Barnabas also convinced the apostles that Paul’s conversion to the faith was genuine. Barnabas also persuaded Paul to go to Antioch to preach while he went to distant Tarsus. He later joined Paul in Antioch and spent an entire year teaching with him. Barnabas was one of the disciples chosen to deliver offerings to the mother-church in Jerusalem during a famine. Then he was with Paul as they traveled to Antioch of Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe. Finally, Barnabas sailed with John Mark to Cyprus.
Here and there, Barnabas served the Lord. Scripture does not record any great feats. What made Barnabas great was that he allowed the Lord to use him in small ways. All Barnabas did was to preach and teach. St. Luke says “he was a good man, full of the Holy Ghost and of Faith.” Barnabas was a follower who did simple things in the kingdom. Everywhere he went, Barnabas lived up to his name – son of encouragement. God calls us, too, to live up to our name as Christians.
God's sovereign, unconditional love (Saturday, October 18)
We serve a sovereign God. But, do we understand what that means? As finite and imperfect creatures, how do we begin to grasp a being that is infinite, omniscient and omnipotent? More important, why would an all-powerful God desire our simple companionship, even our service?
There is only one answer: love. God’s supernatural love for us transcends everything else in the universe. We are more important to God than all of the stars, the sun, the oceans or the earth itself. He gave us the breath of life when we were born and each day, minute by minute, he watches over us. When we fail, he loves us. When we fall, he loves us. When we hate, he loves us. There is nothing we can do to make him turn away. He cannot because it is against his nature.
Our nature is to want to go through life following our own desires, our own will. It is only when we start to follow God’s plan for our life that we begin to understand the meaning of unconditional love. What happens then is we are placing God above everything else we think or want. Loving him is suddenly more important to us than our own life. Yes, God is sovereign. Yet he chooses to love us unconditionally because we are the most important thing in his life.
The Word made flesh (Friday, October 17)
The spiritual and the physical intersect at creation. This precise point is where we find “the word made flesh.” All that is seen today – the earth, the seas, the heavens, our bodies – began as thought in the very mind of God. With his divine and holy breath, God spoke the world into being. The invisible substance and spirit of God coalesced to become physical matter.
As human beings, we do not perceive the eternal dimensions of the universe. We know only of life with its beginning, middle and end. We understand little of the spiritual elements that are at work throughout the world. We can experience them only in subtle, sublime ways, using the limited abilities we possess as human beings. We can feel the power of the Holy Spirit, for example, or hear the voice of God. We can even see God working in our lives. But the true essence of God is completely beyond our finite comprehension.
The physical nature of God – that which we encounter as human beings – reflects only a fraction of His totality. God cannot be represented fully by the physical alone, for His greatness cannot be contained in one dimension. God surpasses all that we can see, feel or hear. God has no beginning or end; he is both spirit and flesh yet neither one nor the other; he is the past, present and future on all levels; he is everywhere at every time. Put simply, he is. Trying to understand God by relying on our paltry senses is to diminish His eternal form and power.
God is far beyond our comprehension, yet he reveals a part of himself through creation. This act alone should show us just how important we are to Him. We were created in His image; our lives, and all that is in the earth, are physical reflections and reminders of His infinite being and love.
Pushing forward (Thursday, October 16)
My wife looked at me the other morning and said, “I feel stressed.” Trying to brighten her outlook, I pretended not to hear her correctly. “You feel stretched,” I asked. She didn’t laugh. Really, though, isn’t that what God is doing when he allows trials and tribulations to come our way? He is stretching us.
The Bible is full of examples of ordinary people who were stretched to become extraordinary believers. The list begins in Genesis and goes all of the way through to Revelation: one person after another who allowed God to challenge them and lead them to a higher, more heavenly, life.
“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because,” says James 1:12, “having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” Either we are stronger or weaker after any test whether it is physical, mental or spiritual. One thing is for sure: we do not stay the same. Job was almost pushed beyond his limits. In the end, God gave him double what he had in the beginning.
Whenever you feel stressed, think about being stretched. God always is trying to get us to go beyond where we are now.
Our complete restoration (Wednesday, October 15)
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.
Living for the future (Tuesday, October 14)
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.
Renewing our strength (Monday, October 13)
Sometimes we become tired and weary, worn down by the struggles of life. We may feel as though our energy is gone – that it will take all of the remaining strength we possess to make it through today. What has happened? What has taken away our enthusiasm and joy?
Chances are we have become too involved in the world. We have allowed ourselves to get caught up in petty disagreements, the judgments of others, and the demands of our own schedule. Rather than looking at the world from a Christian perspective, we examine everything from a human viewpoint. We see people and situations only from our earthly perception.
What often remains invisible to us are God’s many blessings: the protection, the love, the guidance that He provides. We also are blind to the possibilities and challenges that await us. We do not notice, either, the miracles that have brought us to this time and day; we conveniently forget the past when we forget our purpose for being here.
You and I have a reason to be joyous and a purpose for today. You already know what you must do, and so do I. We need to believe in God and have faith in Him. “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God” (Psalm 20:7). We must put our trust in the name above all other names, no matter what we witness. God will renew our strength through his righteousness.
Time flies (Sunday, October 12)
There is an interesting paradox when it comes to measuring time and our days here on earth. As we look ahead in anticipation of a dream vacation or visiting family members far away, the days go by slowly. It seems to take forever to get to that “special day.” Ironically, when we look back on the many great occasions in our life, the years have somehow slipped away very quickly. Time, of course, has not changed; it remains the same in the past, present and future. What does change, however, is our perspective and perception.
Yesterday, my wife and I celebrated our 37th wedding anniversary. How difficult it was for me to believe that we have been together, day after day and year after year, for nearly four decades. To me, our wedding day in 1972 is so near and close – as if only a few months have gone by since this beautiful ceremony. I remember, too, being on the other side of this day as we waited to be married. We thought the moment would never arrive. Even now, the time before our wedding seems much longer than the time after.
Perhaps our thoughts about God are sometimes similar. As we look toward eternity with Him, each day may appear longer than 24 hours. On the other hand, looking back on our lives we realize just how fast the years have gone by. Ten years in the past can seem like only a few days ago, but 10 years in the future may feel like forever.
We cannot alter time, but we can adjust how we use it or even how we view it. Each second is a precious gift from God to be used in a special way. All that matters is that we live each day fully and for his glory. Yes, life is short but there is plenty of time to accomplish all that he has planned for us.
Watch the signs (Saturday, October 11)
On a dark night, the small yellow sign ahead will tell you which way the road bends even though you have never been here before. You receive a notice, a warning if you will, of what you cannot see right now. In a matter of moments, that painted sign off to the right could save your life. It all depends on what you do.
Our lives in Christ are much the same. We have God’s word, the Bible, to tell us what to do and how to react. Verse after verse warns us of what lies ahead even though we cannot see any immediate danger. God will keep us safe if we listen to him, and if we do what we are told. But again, it depends on what we do.
How many times each day do we ignore the signposts in our lives? God tells us to be kind, yet we yell at the person who cuts us off on the freeway. He teaches us to be helpful, but we won’t even return our grocery cart; we leave it in the middle of the parking lot. God says to love those around us, yet we stay inside our houses hoping that no one will bother us. He even commands us to spread the good news of eternal salvation, but we worry only about ourselves and those whom we accept.
Our journey through life is full of markers – heavenly pointers that show us the way to God. All we have to do is to follow them. Nothing could be easier. God makes it simple for us to stay on track, but we often think we know best even though we have never been this way before. The warning signs are there for a reason. They are there for our own good.
Trusting him (Friday, October 10)
How do we reconcile the fact that this world is not perfect, but we know that God’s will is? Logically speaking, we would expect God to fashion a world devoid of sin, death, toil or pain. We might argue, too, that God knew Adam and Eve would bring sin into paradise. Why would he allow anything to ruin what he had made pure and perfect?
Pondering such questions says more about our desires than it does about our curiosity to know the answers. First of all, we would not understand God if he did tell us the reasons for these things. Second, knowing the answers would not bring the change we are seeking. In truth, what we want to know is why we have to suffer so much in our lives? “I know your will is perfect, God,” we say. “I know you are good and that you love me. But why must I endure pain and sorrow? Why can’t you heal me? Why can’t you punish the unrighteous? Why can’t you eliminate poverty, hunger and sickness?”
God is able to do anything he desires. His ways, however, are not our ways. He is heavenly; we are human. God sees the visible as well as the invisible; we see only the physical. Who are we to declare that some things seem unfair or unjust? We see only the small portion of the suffering that affects us.
God would not be God if we could understand all he does and why. All we really need to know is the importance of trusting God to do what is best.
Stay plugged in to God (Thursday, October 9)
A young man went running down the street. He was plugged in to an iPod and enjoying his favorite music. Sometimes we are like that runner even though we try to be like Jesus. We get so caught up in doing our own thing that we can’t hear anything else.
Perhaps God is trying to talk to us, but we are too busy talking to the person beside us. Maybe God is trying to show us how to be content, but we have our own way of finding happiness. Possibly God is trying to get us to slow down, but we are absorbed in racing from one place to another.
Whenever we are plugged in to the world, we are blocking out God. Often, we don’t hear him because we are listening to the many other “voices” all around us: the television, radio, people next door, a friend, books we read and the emotions we have. There is only one voice we need to hear – that of God.
Whatever you are doing today, don’t block out the Lord. Make sure you are plugged in to him and listening to his will. Nothing will catch you by surprise or off guard if you take the time to hear him speak. “I will listen to what God the Lord says,” proclaims the psalmist. “He promises peace to his people, his faithful servants” (Psalm 85:8).
God is our source (Wednesday, October 8)
What we say reveals what we are thinking. If we are bothered by an event or situation, it will be obvious in the words we use and in the tone of our voice. Anger inside always produces anger outside. The same is true with happiness.
“My mouth shall speak wisdom,” says Psalm 49:3. “The mediation of my heart shall be understanding.” Wisdom is not shallow or superficial. Words of understanding, compassion and knowledge come from deep down inside – in the heart where God lives and breathes.
When we meditate on God, on his righteousness and grace, we cannot help ourselves from loving as God loves. From his perspective, we see the world through his eyes. We embrace the goodness and beauty wherever we go rather than ugliness.
Your happiness today begins in the heart. Let people see and hear your joy in the Lord. He has showered you with wisdom because you understand he is the source of all good things.
Keep your peace (Tuesday, October 7)
Did you ever have “one of those days” when nothing went right? Yesterday was not my day. To begin with, the lock on the front door broke even though it had a lifetime warranty. I called the manufacturer to find out what to do. They gave me instructions on how to fix the door, but first I had to go to the hardware store to buy a certain tool. Then the special glue I bought to repair two items did not work. Next came the vacuum cleaner; it was not self-propelling itself across our new pile carpet. Finally, I had to send an email to a sporting goods company because my new running shoes were falling apart!
My wife and I had planned to go to the movies. The day could have been so much different; certainly, much more relaxing. But other things came up. How do we handle ourselves when sudden changes occur—when we have to deal with the unexpected and put our plans on hold? Most of us probably accept the changes, but not willingly. We let the changes change our personality by stealing our happiness.
There are ways to keep ourselves under control when things get out of control. A man I met years ago said when the unexpected happened, he always asked God what he should learn from the experience. Another way is to sing the song “This Joy I Have” with its lyrics “This joy I have, the world didn’t give it to me. The world didn’t give it to me and the world can’t take it away.” We also can remember the scripture “Be still and know that I am God.”
No matter what works for you, put God first and everything will turn out fine no matter what life or Satan throws at you.
Would you die for him? (Monday, October 6)
In his letter to the Philippians, Paul mentions a person named Epaphroditus. This man was sent from the church at Philippi with an offering to help Paul continue spreading the gospel. Paul wrote that Epaphroditus became gravely ill during his visit and almost died.
Paul wanted his sisters and brothers back in Philippi to know that Epaphroditus nearly gave his life for “the work of Christ.” There can be no higher calling for a Christian: that of dying for Jesus in service for him.
I sometimes wonder how many people today that are as dedicated. I also wonder if I would be willing to die for Christ. Would I give up my very life on this earth for Jesus? It is a tough question, but one we must tackle.
Once we are able to answer “Yes I would die for him,” then we are truly free to live for him and to do whatever he asks of us.
Beyond description (Sunday, October 5)
At the end of his gospel about Jesus, John cites but a few of the things Jesus did while he was on earth for 40 days after his resurrection. He talks about Jesus’s conversation with Peter, Jesus making breakfast for the disciples and Jesus telling them to drop their nets on the other side of the boat. Finally, he writes that “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.”
John was making the point that what Jesus did in the lives of people everywhere – after his resurrection alone – could not be contained in all the earth. Think of what he has done in your life alone: his miracles would fill the Library of Congress. How much more would be written for that of your family, not to mention all those in your church.
Recently, I cleaned out this website from all the devotions I had posted over the past two years. I was amazed that these short, four paragraph devotions filled 286 typed pages! More incredible are the many thoughts God had given me for this period of devotions, let alone the previous eight years. As I think back, the 10 years of daily devotions have only scratched the surface of what he has showed me and done for me.
I understand how John must have felt. He was overwhelmed by the goodness and glory of Jesus and he had no way of describing the indescribable. That is both the beauty and mystery of God.
Little people with big jobs (Saturday, October 4)
Who hasn’t thought about being famous and well-known? How about being president of the United States, the CEO of a multinational company, an actor, singer or musician? As nice as fame can be, it’s the people like you and me who really keep things moving in this world. We so-called little people make a huge difference!
I am thinking about the church secretary, the choir director, the organist, the volunteers in the kitchen at all of the church events. In the community, there are those who work at the power company, the gas company, the phone company and the water company. Then there are people who deliver mail, work in law enforcement and public safety, collect trash and maintain our roads. Our lives would be very different without each one of these individuals.
You and I may often be overlooked for someone more prominent, but our work and service are critical to the Lord’s purpose. God knew what he was doing when he gave us separate gifts and talents. We have abilities unique only to us and God is glorified whenever we use them.
Perhaps one of the many meanings in the parable of the vineyard workers is we are not always who we think we are. "So the last will be first,” Jesus said, “and the first will be last" (Matthew 20:16). Those who began working early in the morning and did the most thought they should be paid more than everyone else. What they did not realize is it is up to the master to decide. People in important positions often believe they are more valuable than anyone else. Maybe they are in this world, but not in the next one—the one that truly matters.
Cruise control Christianity (Friday, October 3)
Think back to the first time you got behind the wheel. My father started yelling at me because I was weaving all over the street. He was worried I would hit a parked car or, worse yet, an oncoming car. Through the years driving has become almost second nature to me. I would guess the same is true for you.
Few of us even have to concentrate while driving, especially when we are on the freeway and the car is in cruise control. We sometimes do the same in our faith. We put our Christianity on cruise control and glide through the day without really thinking. But, like driving a vehicle, it takes only a second for something to happen. We have to remain alert and keep our hearts focused on what lies ahead.
We must always be prepared. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood,” wrote St. Paul. “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). Many times we don’t even see what is coming around the bend ahead until it is too late.
Jesus said, "I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). In other words, don’t take chances by putting your faith on cruise control. Stay alert. You and I can’t afford to coast through the day. There is too much to lose.
A “selfie” with Jesus (Thursday, October 2)
If Jesus were here in the flesh today, I imagine all sorts of people would want to take a selfie with him. He would not be able to go anywhere, or do anything, without people stopping him for a quick photo. But would these pictures really mean anything?
The selfie would not show anything about whether the person actually believed in Jesus. It would be a photo op only; one more snapshot for the bucket list. No doubt the people in Jesus’s day looked at him in the same way. Many probably bragged “Jesus touched me” or “I touched Jesus.” But the phrase would ring hollow unless the individual had a living, personal relationship with Jesus.
I want to do more than stand next to Jesus. I also want much more than to touch him. I want him to live in and through me. I want to follow him wherever he leads me and I want to spend eternity with him.
A selfie with Jesus would be just that: a picture of me and Jesus. Nothing more. What really matters in this case is what we can’t see.
Controlling our emotions (Wednesday, October 1)
Well, yesterday morning I woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Way on the wrong side. It’s one thing when a child has a meltdown. Quite another when it is an adult. Before I could stop myself, I was complaining about all kinds of things. I did not want to get up in the first place and I went downhill from there.
The problem is I did not stop myself from how I felt. I let my mind run away with my emotions. If only I would have taken a few minutes in solitude with the Lord, I could have avoided my tantrum. When I finally calmed down an hour later, I was exhausted. Worse, I had to apologize to my wife.
How often do we forget that God has given us the ability, as well as the intelligence, to avoid being upset and angry? Paul was not angry when he was almost stoned to death. Instead, the next morning he went back into the city to give the people another chance to hear about salvation. David did not try to kill King Saul when he had the chance; rather, he forgave him. The point is we can stop ourselves from overreacting when we want to do so.
Letting our emotions control our mind is dangerous. Perhaps Jesus’ words about turning the other cheek can help us. We can turn away from being upset, but first we have to think about what we are doing rather than just reacting.
Replacing the past with triumph (Tuesday, September 30)
God was with Moses during 40 years in exile. God was with Joseph during 14 years in prison. God was with Job through years of suffering. Day after day, God was present offering his strength, his love and his hope. In the end, what the world remembers is the triumph, not the trial. The long period of struggle for each of these followers no longer mattered; all of the difficulty and loneliness disappeared forever. God brought them through and their lives would never be the same.
The present is not important once it becomes the past. As soon as the many hours, days, even years, of tribulation are over, they are replaced by what God is doing now. The magnificence of his present plan always overshadows the pain of the past.
The hope of living comes in looking to that day when the waiting has ended and God reveals the miraculous things he can do through us. Even though we may have been in exile, in prison or in pain, God will use us. He will take the weakness in us to show the greatness in him. When that moment arrives, nothing else will matter; the past will be gone in an instant, in the blink of an eye, as God restores all we have lost just as he did for Moses, Joseph and Job.
Small but great gifts (Monday, September 29)
God has made us to accomplish our every purpose in life. The simple gifts he has given us are more than sufficient to bring about the end for which we were created.
In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul tells the people to complete the work that God has begun in them. Now finish the work, Paul writes, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. For if the willingness is there, he adds, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.
What we do for the Lord is based on our willingness to serve him. If we have conviction in our hearts to undertake what God asks, then we also possess the gifts necessary to achieve the task. God does not give us the will without the way. Both the desire and the ability to please him go hand in hand; one cannot exist without the other.
There is no point in dwelling on what we lack, Paul says. The human weaknesses are not important. All that matters are the divine gifts we do possess. These talents, small though they may be, are great enough to accomplish anything the Lord places in our heart.
Shoes of peace (Sunday, September 28)
St. Paul says we need to put on the whole armor of God so that we can stand against any adversary. “For shoes,” he said, “put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared” (Ephesians 6:15). Well, I certainly wasn’t wearing my shoes of peace recently. I was angry and upset.
The reason? Our son’s fiancé moved out on him one day while he was at work. He came home to find all of her clothes and furniture gone. To make matters worse, she left the engagement ring on a dresser upstairs with no note at all.
My wife and I have had a hard time accepting what this woman did to our son. Not only did she hurt him, but she hurt his eight-year-old daughter. We felt bad for both of them. No doubt our anger showed as we went from store to store. I know we did not look happy, even though we believe things will work out in the future.
I thought of how God must have felt when his son was crucified. Even though God knew Jesus would triumph in just three days, he no doubt felt his son’s pain and suffering. Perhaps you are hurting right now. Remember, God is hurting for you, too. You are not alone and never will be. Thank God he was with me even when I wasn’t wearing my shoes of peace.
He is our example of creation (Saturday, September 27)
The creations of the past are all around. Everywhere there are houses, stores, office buildings churches and schools. We may not have seen those who built these structures, but we know construction does not occur on its own.
When it comes to the world and nature, many people argue that what we see evolved logically over billions of years. They discount any notion at all of a universe created by one God. Instead, they believe that what exists today is nothing more than happenstance.
We cannot have it both ways. We cannot say the earth accidentally came into being, but a house or a building was created. I should think we would have greater success trying to convince someone that a house evolved out of the forest around it than to say everything on this planet grew out of chaos in space.
We cannot suspend physics merely because of our notions and whims. The physical laws of this world are a reflection of God’s laws throughout the universe. The act of creation is real whether it occurs here on earth in what we see or elsewhere in what we cannot see. God created all things, seen and unseen. If something as simple as a building cannot evolve by itself, how can we ever expect an entire world to form on its own?
Showing his grace (Friday, September 26)
How would God want us to react to a candlelight vigil for two men who are killed during a robbery? The gunmen were shot by a gas station attendant who suffered two shots himself and the vigil was conducted at the scene of the crime.
We might be tempted to condemn a vigil for two robbers. Many people would say these men do not deserve a vigil because of what they did. Perhaps. The aunt of one of the men told a reporter at the vigil that the two just made a bad decision. All of us make bad decisions as we go through life, yet God forgives us time and time again.
As much as we feel a vigil was in bad taste, we as Christians must take the high road – that of how God expects us to act. He certainly would want us to respect the lives of both men, despite how they died. They, like all of us, are children of God. Family and friends were mourning the loss by remembering them.
When we find ourselves judging others by our feelings, we need remember how to act. We must make sure our hearts are bigger than our heads. Compassion is what sets us apart from the rest of the world. We are here to show God’s glory as well as his grace.
Divine harmony of praise (Thursday, September 25)
As we lift our different voices in song, praise and worship to God, we join the eternal chorus of past, present and future. From out of our mouths, each with a diverse pitch and tone, come unique sounds that blend together in a divine harmony unlike any other in the universe.
God made us for one another, but he created us for himself. He desires that we come together, from all walks of life, to serve and please him. The sounds of our daily lives echo throughout the entire cosmos for all eternity.
We may not hear this marvelous melody of the spheres. It is there, nonetheless, high above the din of earthly noise, unaffected by the forces of darkness. Our voices and our many acts of goodness reflect the life we breathe. Together, we are evidence of God’s beauty, love and holiness.
His miraculous plan (Wednesday, September 24)
It was something so simple, yet profound, that we still marvel how one event changed our lives. In 1980, my wife and I were invited to the baptism of the newborn who lived behind us in Florida. It was held in a small church not far from our house. We enjoyed the people and the church, and went back to visit for the next few Sundays.
Eventually, we joined the 50-member church. My wife sang in the choir and served on various committees while I taught Sunday School and attended the monthly men’s prayer breakfasts. Soon, I even became an elder.
That was almost 35 years ago. Through all of our trials and various moves from one state to another, we have remained strong in the same denomination. In fact, we just joined the church (of the same denomination) down the street where we can continue God’s call on our lives.
It is impossible to list all of the things God has done in our lives in the past. To do so would take days, maybe weeks. All I know is that none of it – not one solitary event – has been by chance. Everything was because of God’s divine providence that began with a tiny baby.
Bearing good fruit (Tuesday, September 23)
Are you rooted in the word of God? Are you strong enough to weather any storm and not fall down? Much depends on how deep your roots grow into the living soil of God.
We need to be “like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in due season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers” (Psalm 1:3).
We produce fruit in due season. As much as we would like to bear fruit all of the time, we must realize that there is a time for rest and restoration. We need to remember, too, that whatever we do prospers whether in or out of season. Perhaps you have known people who always want to bear fruit. They want to be the liturgist at worship service; they sing in the choir, they greet visitors, they chair numerous committees and they teach Sunday School. What they do not realize is no one can do everything.
An apple tree can produce only one kind of fruit. So it is with us. Discern what type of fruit the Lord made you to produce. Then, sink your roots deep into his good ground and bear the best fruit you can from one season to the next.
Answering the call (Monday, September 22)
What would be our reaction today if Jesus called us to follow him just as he did with the 12 disciples some 2,000 years ago? All that we know of this man, who calls himself the Son of God, is that he has proclaimed amazing things and healed many. We have seen and heard him. Now, he suddenly turns to us and asks us to go with him.
We must decide in an instant. The master will not wait. We have no time to ponder the consequences or to prepare for the journey ahead. We must choose whether we are willing to leave our career, leave our possessions, leave our family, leave the comforts of home, leave everything for the sake of doing the will of the one whom this Jesus calls the Father.
In the blink of an eye, our future will be changed forever. With extraordinary confidence, Jesus tells us his way leads to eternal life while the other ends in death. In the next breath, we must give an account of what we are willing to do. Either we remain here or we step forward toward him.
This same story is repeated over and over – through the hours, days, months and years of our lives. Each one of us has been chosen for a specific purpose, but only we can decide whether to answer the call. Moreover, we must accept the invitation openly and eagerly. He will not force himself upon us, even though he longs for us to join him. It is entirely up to us. Jesus can use us only if we love him more than we love all we must leave behind.
“So do not fear” (Sunday, September 21)
Now that it’s over, I am glad I agreed to speak. I gave the address at two separate ceremonies honoring Prisoners of War and those Missing in Action. My father was a Prisoner of War in World War II and spent 11 months in a make-shift prison hospital. I was honored to talk about my father after all was said and done.
Months earlier, when I accepted the engagement, I almost said no. I get terribly nervous whenever I speak in public and I did not want to embarrass myself. As I had done so many times before, I turned to the Lord in prayer and in scripture.
“So do not fear,” God told Isaiah (41:10). “For I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
When I got up to speak at both events, I still was nervous. But, surprisingly, I was not afraid. God was with me and his heavenly strength allowed me to overcome my human fear.
Don’t fret or worry (Saturday, September 20)
The label on a popular sports drink says, “As in life, chill for best results.” I wonder how many people have actually seen the advice and followed it. Chilling is a difficult thing for us to do, especially when we get hot.
A modern version of the Bible puts this timeless message in today’s words: “Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life” (Philippians 4:6-7)
Before we can let go of fret or worry, we have to grab on to Jesus. He is the only one who can calm us down because he goes right to the heart of the problem.
The next time you are tempted to be anxious, remember the one who is your anchor. Hold on to him and don’t let go. He will give you the strength to let go of all worry.
Made in heaven (Friday, September 19)
We can easily forget who we are. Each day we need to tell ourselves that we are children of God – and the heirs of his kingdom – not of the world.
Too often we allow the words and thoughts of other people to shape us and mold us. We have a tendency to see ourselves through their eyes rather than the eyes of God. People look at our weaknesses, but God looks at our strengths. People dwell on our mistakes, but God dwells on our accomplishments. People judge our motives, but God judges our heart. People remember our past, but God forgets and forgives.
We are much more than what people perceive. Even those closest to us rarely think of us in the same way as God. He goes beyond our appearance, our actions, our situation and our circumstances. He sees the pure and holy being he created.
Whenever we are tempted to think any less of ourselves, we need to turn our attention to God and remind ourselves that we are made in his image.
Crossing the line (Thursday, September 18)
Each day I walk past a certain house with a dog in the yard. He usually runs right at me, barking wildly, but he knows how far he can go. There is an electric fence in case he crosses the line.
In life, we seem to know how far we can go and still get away with something. Even so, that doesn’t stop us from shouting or barking like that dog. We tend to excuse ourselves by saying we didn’t cross the line or we had a right to say what we did.
Remember the story of King David? His lust for Bathsheba caused him to order the murder of her husband and to father an illegitimate child. David certainly crossed the line with God and things were never the same in his life.
Let’s always take the time to think before we act. Let’s consider the consequences, both with others and with God, before we cross the line.
A helping heart (Wednesday, September 17)
The heart can lead us where our sight and feelings do not want to go. We may see someone who is lonely, depressed, anxious or in need of help. Our feelings tell us not to become involved, to let people work out their own problems and difficulties. Yet, at the same time, our heart reaches out to comfort and console.
Our compassion for those around us needs to be strong enough to reach out, no matter what might happen. We have to be willing to risk being rejected and hurt. We must have the heart of Jesus and the love of God so we are not held back by what we see or feel as human beings.
The first thought should be to do whatever we can for others – to care for them as Jesus would and to serve as he did. Each day, God places us in situations where we can show that he is working through us. We are his heart and hands. We are here in the world for him, not for ourselves.
Peace on earth (Tuesday, September 16)
The sign on the church down the street reads “Peace on Earth,” reminding all who pass by of the scripture from Luke 2:14: "Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased." Oddly, Christmas was nine months ago.
Perhaps the message remains to say that peace is needed throughout the year. We need peace in our world. We need peace in our nation. We need peace in our neighborhoods. We need peace in our schools. We need peace in our families.
Before Jesus left the disciples, he told them, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).
The sort of peace we really need today is the kind that comes only from God. We must first find our place and our peace in him. Then and only then can we spread the lasting peace of heaven with others rather than the temporary peace of the world.
Singing a new song (Monday, September 15)
Listening to the church choir warming up before Sunday morning service is an interesting experience. They sing all kinds of notes, and make all sorts of sounds, up and down the scale. As a percussionist, I do not totally understand all that they are doing; it seems somewhat strange to me.
How God works through us and with us is a mystery as well. What he is doing, though, is probably much like the exercises of the choir when they tune and stretch their voices. God always is making us better, stronger and more in harmony with his will.
“O sing to the Lord a new song,” exclaims the psalmist (Psalm 96). “Sing to the Lord, all the earth.” Each day is new and each experience is fresh when we follow his way.
May you let the Lord stretch you today. Let him warm you up and exercise your life. Practice what he is teaching you until your voice is completely in tune with his.
We belong now (Sunday, September 14)
There is no waiting to be an heir of the kingdom of God. The moment we accept Jesus Christ and ask for his forgiveness, we are brought into the family. We do not have to wait until we die to receive our inheritance. We possess it now.
Even as we go through our day to day activities, we are one with the body in heaven. We are as much a part of God’s kingdom as those who are with him now in eternity. He is no less present here on earth than he is in heaven.
His love, mercy, comfort, peace and joy are with us – no matter where we might be. Sometimes we forget a portion of the final message to the apostles. We quickly recall that Jesus commanded them to make disciples of all nations and to baptize in his holy name, but we overlook his very last words: “And surely I am with you always.” He was not implying that he would be with his followers someday in heaven. He is promising he will be with them as they serve him here on earth.
God is with us today, at this very moment, just as he is with those in eternity. The same God who reigns in heaven is the same one who lives with us today. We are daughters and sons of the Most High, both now and forever.
Sisters and brothers in Christ (Saturday, September 13)
A woman whom I knew from work died a few days ago. I had not seen Mary in probably a dozen years or so. Even when she worked in an office down the hall from me, I saw her only occasionally. I did not want to go to her calling hours, but went anyway.
Her husband and son, a former student of mine at the university, remembered us. They also remembered an event that I had forgotten: We had friends who had a hot air balloon and we arranged for Mary to take a ride with them. In exchange, she gave the couple a Sheltie from a litter of puppies they were raising.
On the way back home from calling hours, I told my wife I was happy we went. We had a chance to reconnect with Mary’s family once again. More importantly, we were there to extend our condolences and to offer our support during a difficult time. Our presence also told them that we remembered Mary and that she made a difference in our lives.
I recall the words of St. Paul: “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15). The family was mourning the loss of Mary and so were we. We will not forget her and we will remember also the good times, brief as they were, with her.
Letting him live in us (Friday, September 12)
In many ways, you and I are like the early disciples. Our lives now are mirrored in their lives then. Just as Jesus called to us, he called to them and they followed. They listened and learned as he walked beside them. He taught them where to go, what to say, how to act and why to love. They trusted him and believed in him. Gradually, they came to understand their real purpose here on earth.
One day Jesus was no longer at their side. Instead, his spirit was there to guide, comfort and protect them. Now Jesus was truly living in them. He could finally work through them rather than for them.
As his disciples today, we find the greatest fulfillment when Christ is living inside of us. When we can listen to his indwelling presence, despite what circumstances tell us, then we are following what Jesus came to show us about the kingdom.
We cannot be a part of Jesus if he lives apart from us. The life we have been given is for him. If he is going to work through us, he must live inside of us so we become one with him.
Giving everything (Thursday, September 11)
Living for Christ depends on what we are willing to give away. We tend to think of donating food or money in order to help others. But there are more important gifts. We are called to sacrifice those things which have little meaning – to us personally or to others – unless we give them away.
Ironically, we cannot buy or accumulate precious items such as love, time, help, care and prayer. Each one of these is given freely to us to use and share with one another. If we try to keep them to ourselves, they lose their value both in the world and in the kingdom.
Jesus showed us how to give our very lives to others. He offered love to the multitudes, spent time with those who were lost and suffering, helped the sick and lame, cared for the hungry, and prayed for his enemies. He taught us the importance, as well as the divine necessity, of true sacrificial living.
Until we learn the eternal principle of surrender to self, we will never be able to fully enjoy God as he desires. But once we make the willful decision to give away ourselves to others just as Jesus did, we begin to understand the hidden beauty of serving God.
The parables of living (Wednesday, September 10)
Jesus used parables to tell people about the truth. These word pictures taught spiritual lessons to help them understand the way of righteousness. When the disciples asked Jesus why he taught in parables, he replied: “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them (nonbelievers) it has not been granted” (Matthew 13:11).
As followers of Jesus, we understand the stories. The parable of the sower tells us if we plant our lives in God, we will produce much. The parable of the net shows us how the good will be separated from the bad. The parable of the 10 virgins teaches us to be prepared for the day when the Lord appears.
Yet, those who are not willing to listen to Jesus do not comprehend. In the first parable, nonbelievers might argue that people are much different than seeds. In the second, that good and bad fish have nothing to do with how we live. In the third, that the five virgins who kept their extra oil to themselves were not fair to the other five who suddenly needed more.
You and I see the obvious lesson in each parable. There are many, though, who do not have even the slightest clue. Part of the reason may be because they hear but do not listen. Another reason might be due to their worldly hearts; they cannot see beyond their daily lives. Let us be thankful today we know the mysteries of heaven. Let us also take the time trying to help others understand. Perhaps if they begin to comprehend the parables of Jesus, they might want to give their lives to him.
Opening the windows of heaven (Tuesday, September 9)
When God showers blessings on us, he does it in a huge downpour. I have experienced his cascade of mercy and grace many times in my life. It is true what he says: “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the Lord Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it” (Malachi 3:10).
I recall a time when God opened his floodgates on my life! His love rushed out like an enormous waterfall. First, I was blessed by finishing a book I was editing. Second, I received word that a groundbreaking volume on the media had been produced, and it included a chapter I had written. Third, two of my articles were published. Fourth, I received recognition for something I had done.
All of this was more than I could take in. My mind did not have space enough to contain so many gifts all at once! What surprised most me about the experience was how I felt. I should have been proud, happy, satisfied. Instead, I was feeling meek and humble. I knew I did not deserve any of this, no more than anyone else. It was at that moment, perhaps for the very first time, I realized what an honor it is to serve God. We should always count it a great privilege whenever we have the opportunity to do anything for him.
The next time he gives us work to do, let us be grateful instead of grumbling. He takes pleasure in blessing us when we take delight in pleasing him.
His reflection (Monday, September 8)
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.
An opportunity to do good (Sunday, September 7)
He was defeated in his run for the state legislature, suffered a nervous breakdown, failed in business, defeated in a race for congress, twice lost in a bid for the senate and defeated in nomination for the vice president. Still, in 1860 Abraham Lincoln decided to make a bid for the presidency. The rest is history.
What if Lincoln would have given up in 1859 and decided he was not going to keep trying? After all, he had suffered more setbacks in his short life than several people do in an entire lifetime.
“Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary,” wrote St. Paul. “So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people” (Galatians 6:9-10).
Doing good to all people is difficult at times, but we must keep trying to do what is right. Even when we are worn out and tired. Let us remember that being good is an opportunity to show who lives in us.
Make disciples (Saturday, September 6)
The great commission is our mission. We know what we are called to do. Go and make disciples of all nations, Jesus commanded, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. The question is how do we do it?
Perhaps we give money to various charities that support missionaries here and abroad. Maybe we take an occasional mission trip ourselves. We might collect used Bibles or books that are then sent to people far away. Many of us also help Bible translators who can put scripture into native languages all over the world.
We can also become personally involved in spreading the good news of Jesus Christ. Never before has it been easier to reach those living on the other side of the planet. We have cell phones, televisions, computers, the Internet, iPods and iPhones. Even those who live in remote areas without electricity now have a PC. As technology advances in the years ahead, no doubt there will be more efficient and effective ways to let people know about salvation.
Our message is old, but timeless. Now we can tell every nation and individual about Jesus in a new way. If we want, we can sit in our living room in the U.S. and, through an email or a website, explain the gospel to someone in Asia. Jesus wants us to take his words seriously. He wants us to go and make disciples everywhere. Today we can go everywhere without ever leaving home. Let us use technology in the best way we can – for Jesus’ sake.
Living by serving (Friday, September 5)
The love of God touches all. Many, however, do not recognize or feel it. We have to be taught how to realize this bond and connection to the divine.
Each one of us has been born out of the heart of our Father. It may take years and many experiences to discover our lineage. Until we do, our lives are without purpose and form – without a history, a family, a past and a future.
Jesus came to earth to show us what we cannot understand by ourselves. He is our example, our brother, our Lord and our Savior. We need only to look at him to see the true meaning of life.
Our lives are not about ourselves. We exist because of and out of the love from above. It surrounds us and fills us each moment. When we finally comprehend what God has done for us, we can fulfill his will by serving him with thanksgiving and humility. Our love for him is what allows us to love others.
He is beyond words (Thursday, September 4)
I sat way down at the end of the long line of tables at dinner. Our immediate family was there to celebrate our 42nd Wedding Anniversary. As I looked down the row both sides were lined with our children and grandchildren. Never, not even in my wildest dreams, could I have imagined what I was seeing as my wife and I stood at the altar more than four decades ago.
Not only has God blessed the two of us beyond measure, but he has given us two children and five grandchildren. To realize that the two of us are, at least in part, the beginning of these little children is more than I can comprehend. Yet, here it is in front of us: life unfolding as only God could arrange.
To say God is good is an understatement. Even saying God is great does not come close to his greatness. There are no human words to describe his glory and grace. Perhaps his magnificence can only be understood by the heart. What we feel from him and for him is more than language alone.
“Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens” (Psalm 68:19). His love is a constant blessing, far beyond any words.
Actions speak louder than words (Wednesday, September 3)
One of the most incredible miracles performed by Jesus is also one of the least discussed. It is that of the temple tax. "But so that we may not cause offense, go to the lake and throw out your line,” Jesus said to Peter. “Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours" (Matthew 17:27).
In the Brancacci Chapel in Florence, Italy, Renaissance master Tomasso Masaccio painted a three-part fresco of this event. The center of the composition shows the tax collector asking Jesus if he would pay his taxes to the temple. Then, to the left we see Peter plucking the coin out of the mouth of a fish and on the other side he is handing the money to the official.
The story is remarkable because it proves the divinity of Jesus as well as his sovereignty over all the world. First, only Jesus could make a coin appear inside of a fish. Second, only Jesus would have known that Peter would catch this particular fish using a line and hook rather than a traditional net. Third, only Jesus could make the coin match the precise amount of the tax for both he and Peter.
To those present at the time, the three events might have seemed too good to be true. They were, indeed, too coincidental to be real in the physical world. What people suddenly began to realize, though, was that Jesus was no ordinary man. He was who he said he was. The proof was in his actions, just as it should be with us.
Casting your nets (Tuesday, September 2)
Has Jesus ever told you to put down your nets on the other side? Perhaps you have been looking and waiting for something to happen in your life. No matter how hard you tried, there was nothing. It is like Peter and his brothers who kept trying to catch fish all night and came back to shore with empty nets. They had nothing to show for their effort and time.
You might feel empty today, as if you have little to show despite what you have been doing. Maybe Jesus is telling you to put down your nets on the other side, just as he instructed Peter.
Jesus said, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch." Simon answered, "Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets." When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.
It could be that Jesus is telling you today to move over to the other side, to look in the opposite direction whether you need a new job, a healing, help for your finances or even hope for tomorrow. Stop looking at your empty nets and fish where Jesus says. If you do, your boat will be full to overflowing – so much so that it will begin to sink under the anointed blessing of your Savior and Master.
The Bible as our mirror (Monday, September 1)
Not only does the Bible show us who God is, but it also reflects who we are in him. We can hold it up in front of us and see our reflection as Christians. How do we look? Have we done what he commands? Have we followed his will? Have we served him more than ourselves?
Looking into the Bible is very much like staring into a mirror. We can see all kinds of details about ourselves that we might otherwise miss. The more deeply we peer at the word of God, the more we will discover the flaws and imperfections that keep us from him. Similar to seeing our image, we can make changes. Not the physical changes that are important to us and the rest of the world. But spiritual adjustments in our living, thinking and acting.
Every morning as we look into the mirror, let us remember to look into our hearts as well. Holding up the Bible can tell us what needs to be changed. The real transformations that matter in our lives are those inside of us. Not those on the surface, such as our face or hair.
We need to make sure we reflect the true love of God which can only come from the inside out. His light must be shining inside of us before others can see it.