Devotionals

Prayer is the practice of the presence of God. It is the place where pride is abandoned, hope is lifted, and supplication is made. Prayer is the place of admitting our need, of adopting humility, and claiming dependence upon God. Prayer is the needful practice of the Christian. Prayer is the exercise of faith and hope. Prayer is the privilege of touching the heart of the Father through His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. James 4:8

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Phil. 4:6-7

Father, in Your mercy, hear our prayers.

Devotionals

Haystack Prayers

Samuel Mills and four of his friends often gathered together to pray for God to send people into the world to share the good news of Jesus. One August day in 1806, after returning from their prayer meeting, they got caught in a thunderstorm and took refuge in the shelter of a haystack. Their weekly prayer gathering then became known as the Haystack Prayer Meeting, which resulted in a global mission movement. Today the Haystack Prayer Monument stands at Williams College in Massachusetts as a reminder of what God can do in answer to prayer.

Our heavenly Father is delighted when His children approach Him with a common request. It’s like a family gathering where His children are united in purpose, sharing a common burden.

The apostle Paul acknowledges how God helped him through the prayers of others during a time of severe suffering: “He will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers” (2 Corinthians 1:10–11). God has chosen to use our prayers—especially our prayers together—to accomplish His work in our lives and in the world. No wonder the verse continues: “Then many will give thanks  . . . [for the] answer to the prayers of many.”

Let’s pray together so we can also rejoice together in God’s goodness. Our loving Father is waiting for us to come to Him so He can work through us in ways that reach far beyond anything we could ever imagine.

Strengthened in Song

When French villagers helped Jewish refugees hide from Nazis during World War II, some sang songs in the dense forest surrounding their town—letting the refugees know it was safe to come out from hiding. These brave townspeople of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon had answered the call of local pastor André Trocmé and his wife, Magda, to offer wartime refuge to Jews on their windswept plateau known as “La Montagne Protestante.” Their musical signal became just one feature of the villagers’ bravery that helped save up to 3,000 Jews from almost certain death.

In another dangerous time, David sang when his enemy Saul sent nighttime assassins to his house. His use of music wasn’t a signal; rather, it was his song of gratitude to God his refuge. David rejoiced, “I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble” (Psalm 59:16).

Such singing isn’t “whistling in the dark” during danger. Instead, David’s singing conveyed his trust in almighty God. “You, God, are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely” (v. 17).

David’s praise, and the villagers’ singing in Le Chambon, offer an invitation to bless God today with our singing, making melody to Him despite worries. His loving presence will respond, strengthening our hearts.

Worth the Wait

Outside the Shibuya train station in Tokyo is a statue commemorating an Akita dog named Hachiko. Hachiko is remembered for unusual faithfulness to his owner, a university professor who commuted from the station daily. The dog accompanied him on his walk there in the morning and came back to meet him every afternoon just as his train arrived.

One day the professor didn’t return to the station; sadly, he’d died at work. But for the rest of his life—more than nine years—Hachiko showed up at the same time as the afternoon train. Day after day, regardless of weather, the dog waited faithfully for his master’s return.

When the apostle Paul wrote the Christians in Thessalonica, he commended them for their faithfulness, citing their “work produced by faith,” “labor prompted by love,” and “endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (Thessalonians 1:2). Despite harsh opposition, they left their old ways “to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven” (vv. 9–10).

These early believers’ vital hope in their Savior and His love for them inspired them to see beyond their difficulties and to share their faith enthusiastically. They were assured there was nothing better than living for Jesus. How good it is to know that the same Holy Spirit who emboldened them (v. 5) still empowers us today to faithfully serve Jesus as we await His return.

Fill in Your Name

In God’s Love Letters, Glenys Nellist invites children to interact with the Lord in a deeply personal way. These children’s books include a note from God with a space for the child’s name to be inserted after each Bible story. Personalizing scriptural truth helps her young readers understand that the Bible isn’t just a storybook. They are being taught that the Lord wants a relationship with them and that He speaks to His beloved children through the Scriptures.

I bought the book for my nephew and filled in the blanks in the beginning of every note from God. Delighted when he recognized his name, my nephew said, “God loves me too!” What a comfort to know the deeply and completely personal love of our loving Creator.

When God spoke to the Israelites directly through the prophet Isaiah, He called their attention to the heavens. The Lord affirmed that He controls “the starry host” (Isaiah 40:26), determines the stars’ individual value, and directs each one with love. He assured His people that He won’t forget or lose one star . . . or one beloved child that He’s sculpted with deliberate purpose and endless love.

As we celebrate our Almighty Lord’s intimate promises and proclamations of love within Scripture, we can fill in our names. We can trust and declare with childlike delight, “God loves me too!”

The Main Actor

I once heard about a student taking a class in preaching at a prominent seminary. The student, a young man who was a bit full of himself, delivered his sermon with eloquence and evident passion. He sat down self-satisfied, and the professor paused a moment before responding. “That was a powerful sermon,” he said. “It was well-organized and moving. The only problem is that God was not the subject of a single one of your sentences.”

The professor highlighted a problem all of us struggle with at times: We can talk as if we’re the primary actor (emphasizing what we do, what we say) when in truth God is the primary actor in life. We often profess that God is somehow generally “in charge,” but we act as if all the outcomes depend on us.

The Scriptures insist that God is the true subject of our lives, the true force. Even our necessary acts of faith are done “in the name of the Lord”—in the Lord’s power (vv. 10–11). God enacts our salvation. God rescues us. God tends to our needs. “The Lord has done this” (v. 23).

So the pressure’s off. We don’t need to fret, compare, work with compulsive energy or feed our many anxieties. God is in charge. We need only trust and follow His lead in obedience.

Don’t Forget!

After not seeing one another for a few months, my niece, her four-year-old daughter Kailyn, and I had a wonderful Saturday afternoon together. We enjoyed blowing bubbles outside, coloring in a princess coloring book, and eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches together. When they got in the car to leave, Kailyn sweetly called out the opened window, “Don’t forget me, Auntie Anne.” I quickly walked toward the car and whispered, “I could never forget you. I promise I will see you soon.”

In Acts 1, the disciples watched as Jesus was “taken up before their very eyes” into the sky (v. 9). I wonder if they thought they might be forgotten by their Master or never see Him again. But He’d just promised to send His Spirit to live in them and empower them to handle the persecution that was to come (v. 8). And He’d taught them He was going away to prepare a place for them and would come back and take them to be with Him (John 14:3). Yet they must have wondered how long they would have to wait. Perhaps they wanted to say, “Don’t forget us, Jesus!”

For those of us who have put our faith in Jesus, He lives in us through the Holy Spirit. We still may wonder when He will come again and restore us and His creation fully. But it will happen—He won’t forget us. “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:10–11).

Hang in There

My father-in-law turned seventy-eight recently, and during our family gathering to honor him, someone asked him, “What's the most important thing you’ve learned in your life so far?” His answer? “Hang in there.”   

Hang in there. It might be tempting to dismiss those words as simplistic. But my father-in-law wasn’t promoting blind optimism or positive thinking. He spoke those words as someone who’d endured tough things in his eight decades. His determination to press on wasn't grounded in some vague hope that things might get better, but in Christ’s work in his life.  

“Hanging in there”—the Bible calls it perseverance—isn’t possible through mere willpower. We persevere because God promised, over and over, that He is with us, that He will give us strength, and that He will accomplish His purposes in our lives. That’s the message He spoke to the Israelites through Isaiah: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

What does it take to “hang in there”? According to Isaiah, the foundation for hope is God’s character. Knowing God’s goodness allows us to release our grip on fear so we can cling to the Father and His promise that He will provide what we need each day: strength, help, and God’s comforting, empowering, and upholding presence.

Shelter from the Storm

As the story goes, in 1763, a young minister, traveling on a cliffside road in Somerset, England, ducked into a cave to escape the flashes of lightning and pounding rain. As he looked out at Cheddar Gorge, he pondered the gift of finding shelter and peace in God. Waiting there, he began to write a hymn, “Rock of Ages,” with its memorable opening lines: “Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in thee.”

We don’t know if Augustus Toplady thought about Moses’s experience in the cleft of a rock while writing the hymn (Exodus 33:22), but perhaps he did. The Exodus account tells of Moses seeking God’s reassurance and God’s response. When Moses asked God to reveal His glory to him, God answered graciously, knowing that “no one may see me and live” (v. 20). He tucked Moses into the rocks when He passed by, letting Moses only see His back. And Moses knew that God was with him.

We can trust that just as God said to Moses, “My Presence will go with you” (v. 14), so too we can find refuge in Him. We may experience many storms in our lives, as did Moses and the English minister in the story, but when we cry out to Him, He will give us the peace of His presence.

God’s Heart for Hypocrites

“I’d be very disappointed if one of our team members did that,” said a cricket player, referring to a South African cricketer who’d cheated in a match in 2016. But only two years later, that same player was caught in a nearly identical scandal.

Few things rankle us more than hypocrisy. But in the story of Judah in Genesis 38, Judah’s hypocritical behavior nearly had deadly consequences. After two of his sons died soon after marrying Tamar, Judah had quietly abandoned his duty to provide for her needs (vv. 8–11). In desperation, Tamar disguised herself by wearing a prostitute’s veil, and Judah slept with her (vv. 15–16).

Yet when Judah learned that his widowed daughter-in-law was pregnant, his reaction was murderous. “Bring her out and have her burned to death!” he demanded (v. 24). But Tamar had proof that Judah was the father (v. 25).

Judah could have denied the truth. Instead he admitted his hypocrisy, and also accepted his responsibility to care for her, saying, “She is more righteous than I” (v. 26).

And God wove even this dark chapter of Judah and Tamar’s story into His story of our redemption. Tamar’s children (vv. 29–30) would become ancestors of Jesus (Matthew 1:2–3).

Why is Genesis 38 in the Bible? One reason is because it’s the story of our hypocritical human hearts—and of God’s heart of love, grace, and mercy.

 

Do What It Says

Brian was scheduled to be an usher at his brother’s wedding, but he was a no-show. Understandably, family members were disappointed, including his sister Jasmine who was the Scripture reader for the occasion. At the ceremony she flawlessly read from the well-known Scripture passage about love in 1 Corinthians. But after the wedding when her father asked her to deliver a birthday gift to Brian, she hesitated. She found it harder to live the words about love than to read them. Before the evening was over, however, she had a change of mind and admitted, “I can’t stand and read Scripture about love and not practice it.

Have you ever been convicted by Scripture that you read or heard but found it difficult to carry out? You’re not alone. It’s easier to read and listen to God’s Word than to obey it. That’s why James’s challenge is so fitting: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (James 1:22). His mirror illustration makes us smile because we know what it means to observe something about ourselves that needs attention. But we’re deceived to think that observing alone is enough. When James nudges us to “[look] intently into” and “[continue] in” God’s truth (v. 25), he encourages us to do what Jasmine was compelled to do—live it. God’s Word calls for and deserves nothing less.


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The Key to the Missionary’s Message

He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. —1 John 2:2

The key to the missionary’s message is the propitiation of Christ Jesus— His sacrifice for us that completely satisfied the wrath of God. Look at any other aspect of Christ’s work, whether it is healing, saving, or sanctifying, and you will see that there is nothing limitless about those. But—…

The Key to the Missionary’s Work

Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…" —Matthew 28:18-19

The key to the missionary’s work is the authority of Jesus Christ, not the needs of the lost. We are inclined to look on our Lord as one who assists us in our endeavors for God. Yet our Lord places Himself as the absolute sovereign and supreme Lord over His…

Individual Discouragement and Personal Growth

…when Moses was grown…he went out to his brethren and looked at their burdens. —Exodus 2:11

Moses saw the oppression of his people and felt certain that he was the one to deliver them, and in the righteous indignation of his own spirit he started to right their wrongs. After he launched his first strike for God and for what was right, God allowed Moses to…

Getting into God’s Stride

Enoch walked with God… —Genesis 5:24

The true test of a person’s spiritual life and character is not what he does in the extraordinary moments of life, but what he does during the ordinary times when there is nothing tremendous or exciting happening. A person’s worth is revealed in his attitude toward the ordinary things of…

God’s Silence— Then What?

When He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. —John 11:6

Has God trusted you with His silence— a silence that has great meaning? God’s silences are actually His answers. Just think of those days of absolute silence in the home at Bethany! Is there anything comparable to those days in your life? Can God trust you like that, or are…

How Will I Know?

Jesus answered and said, "I thank You, Father…that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes." —Matthew 11:25

We do not grow into a spiritual relationship step by step— we either have a relationship or we do not. God does not continue to cleanse us more and more from sin— “But if we walk in the light,” we are cleansed “from all sin” (1 John 1:7). It is a…

Building on the Atonement

…present…your members as instruments of righteousness to God. —Romans 6:13

I cannot save and sanctify myself; I cannot make atonement for sin; I cannot redeem the world; I cannot right what is wrong, purify what is impure, or make holy what is unholy. That is all the sovereign work of God. Do I have faith in what Jesus Christ has…

Coming to Jesus

Come to Me… —Matthew 11:28

Isn’t it humiliating to be told that we must come to Jesus! Think of the things about which we will not come to Jesus Christ. If you want to know how real you are, test yourself by these words— “Come to Me….” In every dimension in which you are not…

The Nature of Reconciliation

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. —2 Corinthians 5:21

Sin is a fundamental relationship— it is not wrong doing, but wrong being— it is deliberate and determined independence from God. The Christian faith bases everything on the extreme, self-confident nature of sin. Other faiths deal with sins— the Bible alone deals with sin. The first thing Jesus Christ confronted…

The Nature of Regeneration

When it pleased God…to reveal His Son in me… —Galatians 1:15-16

If Jesus Christ is going to regenerate me, what is the problem He faces? It is simply this— I have a heredity in which I had no say or decision; I am not holy, nor am I likely to be; and if all Jesus Christ can do is tell me…

The Nature of Degeneration

Just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned… —Romans 5:12

The Bible does not say that God punished the human race for one man’s sin, but that the nature of sin, namely, my claim to my right to myself, entered into the human race through one man. But it also says that another Man took upon Himself the sin of…



     
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