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

Loving the Stranger

After a member of my family converted to a different religion, Christian friends urged me to “convince” her to return to Christ. I found myself first seeking to love my family member as Christ would—including in public places where some people frowned at her “foreign-looking” clothes. Others even made rude comments. “Go home!” one man yelled at her from his truck, not knowing or apparently caring that she already is “home.”

Moses taught a much kinder way to act toward people whose dress or beliefs feel different. Teaching laws of justice and mercy, Moses instructed the children of Israel, “Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt” (Exodus 23:9). The edict expresses God’s concern for all strangers, people vulnerable to bias and abuse, and it is reiterated in Exodus 22:21 and Leviticus 19:33.

Therefore, when I spend time with my family member—at a restaurant, in a park, taking a walk together or sitting and talking with her on my front porch—I seek first to show her kindness and respect—in the way I would want to be treated. It’s one of the best ways to remind her of the sweet love of Christ, not by upbraiding her for rejecting Him, but by loving her as He loves all of us—with amazing grace.

Easily Entangled

Soldiers fighting in a sweltering jungle many years ago encountered a frustrating problem. Without warning and mimicking the strength of a thick rope, a pervasive prickly vine would attach itself to the soldiers’ bodies and gear, causing them to be trapped. As they struggled to get free, even more of the plant’s tentacles seemed to entangle them. The soldiers dubbed the weed the “wait-a-minute” vine because, once entwined and unable to move forward, they were forced to shout out to other members of their team, “Hey, wait a minute, I’m stuck!”

In a similar way, it’s hard for followers of Jesus to move forward when our hearts and minds are ensnared by sin. Hebrews 12:1 tells us to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles” and “run with perseverance.” But how do we run with the heaviness of sin weighing us down and keeping us from moving ahead?

Jesus is the only one who can free us from pervasive sin in our lives. We must learn to fix our eyes on Him, our Savior (12:2). Because the Son of God became “fully human in every way,” He knows what it is like to be tempted—yet not sin (2:17–18; 4:15). Alone, we may be desperately entwined by our own sin, but God wants us to overcome temptation. It’s not through our own strength, but His, that we can “throw off” entangling sin and pursue His righteousness (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Dad, Where Are You?

“Dad! Where are you?”

I was pulling into our driveway when my daughter, panicking, called me on my cell. I’d needed to be home by 6:00 to get her to play practice; I was on time. My daughter's voice, however, betrayed her lack of trust. Reflexively, I responded: “I'm here. Why don’t you trust me?”

But as I spoke those words, I wondered, How often could my heavenly Father ask that of me? In stressful moments, I too am impatient. I too struggle to trust, to believe God will keep His promises. So I cry out: “Father, where are you?”

Amid stress and uncertainty, I sometimes doubt God's presence, or even His goodness and purposes for me. The Israelites did too. In Deuteronomy 31, they were preparing to enter the Promised Land, knowing their leader, Moses, would stay behind. Moses sought to reassure God’s people by reminding them, “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (v. 8).

That promise—that God is always with us—remains a cornerstone of our faith today (see Matthew 1:23, Hebrews 13:5). Indeed, Revelation 21:3 culminates with these words: “God's dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them.”  

Where is God? He is right here, right now, right with us—always ready to hear our prayers.

Aiming for the Prize

In the 1994 fictional movie Forrest Gump, Forrest becomes famous for running. What began as a jog “to the end of the road” continued for three years, two months, fourteen days, and sixteen hours. Each time he arrived at his destination, he set another one and continued to run, zig-zagging across the United States, until one day when he no longer felt like it. “Feeling like it” was the way his running began. Forrest says, “That day, for no particular reason, I decided to go for a little run.”

In contrast to Forrest’s seemingly whimsical running, the apostle Paul asks his readers to follow his example and “run in such a way as to get the prize” (1 Corinthians 9:24). Like disciplined athletes, our running—the way we live our lives—might mean saying no to some of our pleasures. Being willing to forgo our rights might help us reach others with the good news of our rescue from sin and death.

With our hearts and minds trained on the goal of inviting others to run the race alongside us, we are also assured of the ultimate prize—eternal fellowship with God. The victor’s crown God bestows will last forever; we win it by running our lives with the aim of making Him known while relying on His strength to do so. What a reason to run!

Alert Circles

African gazelles instinctively form “alert circles” while resting on the savannah. They gather in groups with each animal facing outward in a slightly different direction. This enables them to scan the horizon a full 360 degrees and to communicate about approaching dangers or opportunities.

Instead of looking out only for themselves, the members of the group take care of one another. This is also God’s wisdom for followers of Jesus. The Bible encourages us, “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together” (Hebrews 10:24–25).

Christians were never intended to go it alone, explains the writer of Hebrews. Together we are stronger. We are able to “[encourage] one another” (v. 25), to “comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Corinthians 1:4), and to help each other stay alert to the efforts of our enemy the devil, who “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

The goal of our care for each other is so much more than survival. It is to make us like Jesus: loving and effective servants of God in this world—people who together look forward confidently to the hope of His coming kingdom. All of us need encouragement, and God will help us help each other as together we draw near to Him in love.

True Friends

In middle school, I had a “sometimes friend.” We were “buddies” at our small church (where I was nearly the only girl her age), and we occasionally hung out together outside of school. But in school, it was a different story. If she met me by herself, she might say hello; but only if no one else was around. Realizing this, I rarely tried to gain her attention within school walls. I knew the limits of our friendship.

We’ve probably all experienced the pain of disappointingly one-sided or narrow friendships. But there’s another kind of friendship—one that extends beyond all boundaries. It’s the kind of friendship we have with kindred spirits who are committed to sharing life’s journey with us.

David and Jonathan were such friends. Jonathan was “one in spirit” with David and loved him “as himself” (1 Samuel 18:1–3). Although Jonathan would have been next in line to rule after his father Saul’s death, he was loyal to David, God’s chosen replacement. Jonathan even helped David to evade two of Saul’s plots to kill him (19:1–6; 20:1–42).

Despite all odds, Jonathan and David remained friends—pointing to the truth of Proverbs 17:17: “A friend loves at all times.” Their loyal and faithful friendship also gives us a glimpse of the loving relationship God has with us (John 3:16; 15:15). Through friendships like theirs, our understanding of God’s love is deepened. 

Our Blessings, His Love

In 2015, a woman discarded her deceased husband’s computer at a recycling center, a logical decision since the computer had been made in 1976. But more important than when it had been made was who made it. It was one of 200 computers hand built by Apple founder Steve Jobs, and was worth an estimated quarter of a million dollars! Sometimes knowing the true worth of something means knowing who made it.

Knowing that it’s God who made us shows us how valuable we are to Him (Genesis 1:27). Psalm 136 catalogs key moments from His people—ancient Israel: how they had been freed from captivity in Egypt (vv. 11–12), journeyed through the wilderness (v. 16), and were given a new home in Canaan (vv. 21–22). But each time a moment of Israel’s history is mentioned, it’s paired with this repeated refrain: “His love endures forever.” This refrain reminded the people of Israel that their experiences weren’t random historical events. Each moment had been orchestrated by God, and were a reflection of His enduring love for those He had made.

Far too often, I allow moments of God at work and His kind ways to simply pass by, failing to recognize that every perfect gift comes from my heavenly Father (James 1:17) who made me and loves me. May you and I learn to connect every blessing in our lives to God’s enduring love for us

It’s Up to God

Nate and Sherilyn enjoyed their stop at an omakase restaurant while visiting New York City. Omakase is a Japanese word that translates, “I will leave it up to you,” which means customers at such restaurants let the chef choose their meal. Even though it was their first time to try this type of cuisine and it sounded risky, they loved the food the chef chose and prepared for them.

That idea could carry over to our attitude toward God with our prayer requests: “I will leave it up to You.” The disciples saw that Jesus “often withdrew to lonely places” to pray (Luke 5:16), so they asked Him one day to teach them how to pray. He told them to ask for their daily needs, forgiveness, and the way out of temptation. Part of His response also suggested an attitude of surrender: “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).

We can pour out our needs to God because He wants to hear what’s on our hearts— and He delights to give. But being human and finite, we don’t always know what’s best, so it only makes sense to ask with a humble spirit, in submission to Him. We can leave the answer to Him, confident that He’s trustworthy and will choose to prepare what’s good for us. 

Lava in Paradise

All is quiet, save for slowly stretching tentacles of hissing lava nipping at the edges of the tropical foliage. Residents, fearful for their homes, stand grim-faced yet amazed. Most days they call this “paradise.” On this day, however, the fiery fissures in Hawaii’s Puna district reminded everyone that God forged these islands via untamable volcanic power.

The ancient Israelites encountered an untamable power too. When King David recaptured the ark of the covenant (2 Samuel 6:1–4), a celebration broke out (v. 5)—until a man died suddenly when he grabbed hold of the ark to steady it (vv. 6–7).

This may tempt us to think of God as being as capricious as a volcano, just as likely to create as He is to destroy. However, it helps to remember that God had given Israel specific instructions for how to handle the things set apart for worshiping Him (see Numbers 4). Israel had the privilege of drawing near to God, but His presence was too overwhelming for them to approach Him carelessly.

Hebrews 12 recalls a mountain “burning with fire,” where God gave Moses the Ten Commandments. That mountain terrified everyone (vv. 18–21). But the writer contrasts that scene with this: “You have come to . . . Jesus the mediator of a new covenant” (vv. 22–24). Jesus—God’s very Son—made the way for us to draw near to His untamable yet loving Father.

Enduring Prayers

“Prayers are deathless.” These are the attention-grabbing words of E. M. Bounds (1835–1913), whose classic writings on prayer have inspired people for generations. His comments about the power and enduring nature of our prayers continue with these words: “The lips that uttered them may be closed to death, the heart that felt them may have ceased to beat, but the prayers live before God, and God's heart is set on them and prayers outlive the lives of those who uttered them; they outlive a generation, outlive an age, outlive a world.”

Have you ever wondered if your prayers—particularly those birthed out of difficulty, pain, and suffering—ever make it to God? Bounds’s insightful words remind us of the significance of our prayers and so does Revelation 8:1–5. The setting is heaven (v. 1), the throne room of God and the control center of the universe. Angelic attendants stand in God’s presence (v. 2) and one angel, like the priests of old, offers Him incense along with the prayers of “all God’s people” (v. 3). How eye-opening and encouraging to have this picture of the prayers offered on earth rising to God in heaven (v. 4). When we think that our prayers may have been lost in transit or forgotten, what we see here comforts us and compels us to persist in our praying, for our prayers are precious to God!


RSS | My Utmost For His Highest

Winning into Freedom

If the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed. —John 8:36

If there is even a trace of individual self-satisfaction left in us, it always says, “I can’t surrender,” or “I can’t be free.” But the spiritual part of our being never says “I can’t”; it simply soaks up everything around it. Our spirit hungers for more and more. It is…

The Eternal Goal

By Myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this thing…I will bless you… —Genesis 22:16-17

Abraham, at this point, has reached where he is in touch with the very nature of God. He now understands the reality of God.

My goal is God Himself…
At any cost, dear Lord, by any road.

“At any cost…by any road” means submitting to God’s way of bringing us to the goal.

There…

Still Human!

…whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. —1 Corinthians 10:31

In the Scriptures, the great miracle of the incarnation slips into the ordinary life of a child; the great miracle of the transfiguration fades into the demon-possessed valley below; the glory of the resurrection descends into a breakfast on the seashore. This is not an anticlimax, but a great revelation…

“What Is That to You?”

Peter…said to Jesus, "But Lord, what about this man?" Jesus said to him, "…what is that to you? You follow Me." —John 21:21-22

One of the hardest lessons to learn comes from our stubborn refusal to refrain from interfering in other people’s lives. It takes a long time to realize the danger of being an amateur providence, that is, interfering with God’s plan for others. You see someone suffering and say, “He will…

Discovering Divine Design

As for me, being on the way, the Lord led me… —Genesis 24:27

We should be so one with God that we don’t need to ask continually for guidance. Sanctification means that we are made the children of God. A child’s life is normally obedient, until he chooses disobedience. But as soon as he chooses to disobey, an inherent inner conflict is produced.…

Faith or Experience?

…the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. —Galatians 2:20

We should battle through our moods, feelings, and emotions into absolute devotion to the Lord Jesus. We must break out of our own little world of experience into abandoned devotion to Him. Think who the New Testament says Jesus Christ is, and then think of the despicable meagerness of the…

The Changed Life

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. —2 Corinthians 5:17

What understanding do you have of the salvation of your soul? The work of salvation means that in your real life things are dramatically changed. You no longer look at things in the same way. Your desires are new and the old things have lost their power to attract you.…

The Supreme Climb

He said, "Take now your son…" —Genesis 22:2

God’s command is, “Take now,” not later. It is incredible how we debate! We know something is right, but we try to find excuses for not doing it immediately. If we are to climb to the height God reveals, it can never be done later— it must be done now.…

Fellowship in the Gospel

…fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ… —1 Thessalonians 3:2

After sanctification, it is difficult to state what your purpose in life is, because God has moved you into His purpose through the Holy Spirit. He is using you now for His purposes throughout the world as He used His Son for the purpose of our salvation. If you seek…

Sacred Service

I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ… —Colossians 1:24

The Christian worker has to be a sacred “go-between.” He must be so closely identified with his Lord and the reality of His redemption that Christ can continually bring His creating life through him. I am not referring to the strength of one individual’s personality being superimposed on another, but…

The Unrivaled Power of Prayer

We do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. —Romans 8:26

We realize that we are energized by the Holy Spirit for prayer; and we know what it is to pray in accordance with the Spirit; but we don’t often realize that the Holy Spirit Himself prays prayers in us which we cannot utter ourselves. When we are born again of…



     
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