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

Unexpected Ways

In 1986, five-year-old Levan Merritt fell twenty feet into the gorilla enclosure of England’s Jersey zoo. As parents and onlookers cried out for help, a full-grown male silverback, named Jambo, placed himself between the motionless boy and several other gorillas. Then he began to gently stroke the child’s back. When Levan began to cry, Jambo led the other gorillas into their own enclosure as zoo-keepers and an ambulance driver came to the rescue. Thirty years later Levan still talks about Jambo the gentle giant—his guardian angel who had acted in a shockingly unexpected way, changing his perception of gorillas forever.

Elijah may have expected God to act in certain ways, but the God of gods used a rock-shattering wind, a powerful earthquake, and raging fire to show His prophet Elijah how not to think of Him. Then He used a gentle whisper to show His heart and to express His presence (1Kings 19:11-12).

Elijah had seen God’s power before 18:38-39). But he didn’t fully understand the One who wants to be known as more than the greatest and most fearsome of gods (19:10, 14).

Eventually, that quiet whisper found fullness of meaning in the powerful gentleness of Jesus, who said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” Then he quietly allowed Himself to be nailed to a tree— to deepen our understanding of the Great God who loves us.

Where to Find Hope

Elizabeth struggled for a long time with drug addiction, and when she recovered wanted to help others in return. So she started writing notes and anonymously placing them throughout her city. Elizabeth tucks these notes under car windshield wipers and tacks them on poles in parks. She used to look for signs of hope; now she leaves them for others to find. One of her notes concluded with these words: “Much love. Hope sent.”

Hope with love—that’s what Jesus gives. He brings us His love with each new day and strengthens us with that hope. His love is not rationed out to us drop by drop but flows out of His heart freely and is poured lavishly into ours: “We know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love” (Romans 5:5 nlt).  He desires to use the hard times to develop perseverance and character and bring us a satisfying, hope-filled life (vv. 3–4). And even when we’re far from Him, He still loves us (vv. 6–8).

Are you looking for signs of hope? The Lord gives hope with love through inviting us to grow in a relationship with Him.  Our hope for a fulfilling life is anchored in His unfailing love. 

A Fitting Time

Yesterday I purchased a plane ticket to send my firstborn child to college. I’m surprised the keyboard on my computer still functions, given the waterworks my eyes unleashed on it during the flight selection process. I have so enjoyed my eighteen years of daily life with her that I am saddened by the prospect of her departure. Yet I wouldn’t rob her of the opportunity that lies ahead simply because I will miss her. At this juncture in her life, it is fitting for her to embark on a new journey to discover adulthood and explore another part of the country.

As this season of my parenting draws to a close, another one begins. It will undoubtedly bring both new challenges and new delights. Solomon, Israel’s third king, wrote that God appoints “a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). We humans have little control over the events of our lives—whether we view those events as favorable or not. But God, in His mighty power, makes “everything beautiful in its time” (v. 11).

In seasons of heartache, we can trust God to bring something good from them in time. Our comforts and joys may come and go, but God’s works “will endure forever” (v. 14). We may not relish every season—some are quite painful—yet He can bring beauty to them all. 

Engraved on His Hands

In Charles Spurgeon’s many years at his London church during the 1800s, he loved to preach on the riches of Isaiah 49:16, which says that God engraves us on the palms of His hands. He said, “Such a text as this is to be preached hundreds of times!” For, he continued, this thought is so precious that we can run over it in our minds again and again.

Spurgeon makes the wonderful connection between this promise of the Lord to His people, the Israelites, and God’s Son, Jesus, on the cross as He died for us. Spurgeon asked, “What are these wounds in Your hands? . . . The engraver’s tool was the nail, backed by the hammer. He must be fastened to the Cross, that His people might be truly engraved on the palms of His hands.” As the Lord promised to engrave His people on His palms, so Jesus stretched out His arms on the cross, receiving the nails in His wrists so we could be free of our sins.

If and when we are tempted to think that God has forgotten us, we only need to look at our palms and remember God’s promise. He has put indelible marks on His hands for us; He loves us that much.

Legacies of Love

I was paging through my great-grandmother’s Bible when a treasure fell into my lap. On a small scrap of paper, in a young child’s handwriting, were the words, “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:3–4 kjv). Scribbled beside those verses in wobbly cursive was my mother’s signature.

My great-grandmother had a habit of teaching her grandchildren to write Scripture verses so they would learn them and take them to heart. But the story behind this verse brought tears to my eyes. My grandfather died when my mother was very young, and her little brother (my uncle) died just weeks later. It was in that tragic season that my great-grandmother pointed my mother to Jesus and the comfort only He can give.

Paul wrote Timothy, “I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also” (2 Timothy 1:5). Faith isn’t inherited, but it is shared. Timothy’s mother and grandmother shared their faith with him, and he believed.  

When we encourage those close to us to have hope in Jesus, we offer them a legacy of love. Through a simple note, my mother left evidence of my great-grandmother’s love for her Savior and her family. Oh, to share Him with those who come after us! 

The Right Way to Pray

I admire people who record prayer requests in journals tattered from daily handling, those who keep track of every prayer and praise and then faithfully update their lists. I’m inspired by those who gather with others to pray and whose kneeling wears out the carpet at their bedsides. For years, I tried to copy their styles, to simulate a perfect prayer life, and to imitate the eloquence of the so-much-more-articulate-than-me folks. I strived to unravel what I thought was a mystery, as I longed to learn the right way to pray.

Eventually, I learned that our Lord simply desires prayer that begins and ends with humility (Matthew 6:5). He invites us into an intimate exchange through which He promises to listen (v. 6). He never requires fancy or memorized words or phrases (v. 7). He assures us that prayer is a gift, an opportunity to honor His majesty (vv. 9–10), to display our confidence in His provision (v. 11), and to affirm our security in His forgiveness and guidance (vv. 12–13).

God assures us He hears and cares about every single spoken and unspoken prayer, as well as the prayers that slip down our cheeks as silent tears. As we place our trust in God and His perfect love for us, we can be sure praying with a humble heart that’s surrendered to and dependent on Him is always the right way to pray.

Good for You?

Because I like dark chocolate, I sometimes Google “Is dark chocolate good for you?” I get a variety of results—some good, some bad. You can do the same for almost any food product. Is milk good for you? Is coffee good for you? Is rice good for you? There is a dizzying array of answers to these questions, so you have to be aware that the search itself may not be good for you. It may give you a headache.

But if you are looking for something that is one-hundred-percent good for you all the time, can I recommend the Word of God? Listen to what it can do for the follower of Jesus who is seeking to build His relationship with God.

         It can keep you pure (Psalm 119:9, 11).

         It blesses you (Luke 11:28).

         It makes you wise (Matthew 7:24).

         It gives light and understanding (Psalm 119:130).

         It helps you grow up spiritually (1 Peter 2:2).

Our Lord God is good: “The Lord is good to all,” says Psalm 145:9. And in His goodness, He has provided those who love Him with a guide that helps us see how to enhance our relationship with Him. As we try to decide how to live in a world full of choices, praise God that He has told us in Scripture what is good for us. Let’s say with the psalm-writer: “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth” (Psalm 119:103).

The Ultimate Satisfaction

As we distributed snack food for children at a Bible School program, we noticed a very hungry little boy. After devouring his snack, he also ate the leftovers of the children at his table. Even after I gave him a bag of popcorn, he still was not satisfied.

As leaders, we were concerned as to why this little boy was so hungry. But are we perhaps like him when it comes to our emotions. We look for ways to satisfy our deepest longings, but we never find what fully satisfies us.

The prophet Isaiah invites those who are hungry and thirsty to “come, buy and eat” (Isaiah 55:1). But then he asks, “Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?” (v. 2). Isaiah is talking about more than just physical hunger here. God can satisfy our spiritual and emotional hunger through the promise of His presence. The “everlasting covenant” in verse 3 is a reminder of a promise God made David in 2 Samuel 7:8–16. Through David’s family line, a Savior would come to reconnect people to God. Later, in John 6:35 and 7:37, Jesus extended the same invitation Isaiah gave, thus identifying Himself as the Savior foretold by Isaiah and other prophets.

Hungry? God invites you to come and be filled in His presence.

What’s in a Name?

“Gip” Hardin, a Methodist preacher, named his son after the famous preacher John Wesley, reflecting Gip’s hopes and aspirations for his baby boy. John Wesley Hardin, however, tragically chose a different path than his ministry-minded namesake. Claiming to have killed forty-two men, Hardin became one of the most notorious gunfighters and outlaws of the American west of the late 1800s.

In the Bible, as in many cultures today, names hold special significance. Announcing the birth of God’s Son, an angel instructed Joseph to name Mary’s child “Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). The meaning of Jesus’s name—“Jehovah saves”—confirmed His mission to save from sin.

Unlike Hardin, Jesus completely and thoroughly lived up to His name. Through His death and resurrection, He accomplished His mission of rescue. John affirmed the life-giving power of Jesus’s name, saying, “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31). The book of Acts invites everyone to trust Him, for, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

All who call on Jesus’s matchless name in faith can experience for themselves the forgiveness and hope He provides. Have you called on His name?

Is There Wi-Fi?

As I was preparing to go on a mission trip with some young people, the most frequently asked question was, “Is there Wi-Fi?” And I assured them there would be! So just imagine the wails and groans one night when the Wi-Fi was down!

Many of us become anxious when we’re separated from our smartphones. And when we do have our iPhones or Androids in our hands, we can be fixated on our screens.

Like many things, the internet and all that it allows us to access can become either a distraction or a blessing. It depends on what we do with it. In Proverbs we read, “A wise person is hungry for knowledge, while the fool feeds on trash” (Proverbs 15:14 nlt).

Applying the wisdom of God’s Word to life, we can ask ourselves: Do we check our social networks compulsively throughout the day? What does that say about the things we hunger for? And do the things we read or view online encourage sensible living (vv. 16–21) or are we feeding on trash—gossip, slander, materialism, or sexual impurity?

As we yield to the work of the Holy Spirit, we can fill our minds with things that are “true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable” (Philippians 4:8 nlt). By God’s wisdom we can make good choices that honor the Lord.


RSS | My Utmost For His Highest

The Missionary’s Predestined Purpose

Now the Lord says, who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant… —Isaiah 49:5

The first thing that happens after we recognize our election by God in Christ Jesus is the destruction of our preconceived ideas, our narrow-minded thinking, and all of our other allegiances— we are turned solely into servants of God’s own purpose. The entire human race was created to glorify God…

The Divine Commandment of Life

…be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. —Matthew 5:48

Our Lord’s exhortation to us in Matthew 5:38-48 is to be generous in our behavior toward everyone. Beware of living according to your natural affections in your spiritual life. Everyone has natural affections— some people we like and others we don’t like. Yet we must never let those likes and dislikes rule…

Are You Going on With Jesus?

You are those who have continued with Me in My trials. —Luke 22:28

It is true that Jesus Christ is with us through our temptations, but are we going on with Him through His temptations? Many of us turn back from going on with Jesus from the very moment we have an experience of what He can do. Watch when God changes your…

His Temptation and Ours

We do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. —Hebrews 4:15

Until we are born again, the only kind of temptation we understand is the kind mentioned in James 1:14, “Each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.” But through regeneration we are lifted into another realm where there are other temptations to face,…

Is There Good in Temptation?

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man… —1 Corinthians 10:13

The word temptation has come to mean something bad to us today, but we tend to use the word in the wrong way. Temptation itself is not sin; it is something we are bound to face simply by virtue of being human. Not to be tempted would mean that we were…

Praying to God in Secret

When you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place… —Matthew 6:6

The primary thought in the area of religion is— keep your eyes on God, not on people. Your motivation should not be the desire to be known as a praying person. Find an inner room in which to pray where no one even knows you are praying, shut the door,…

What To Renounce

We have renounced the hidden things of shame…  —2 Corinthians 4:2

Have you “renounced the hidden things of shame” in your life— the things that your sense of honor or pride will not allow to come into the light? You can easily hide them. Is there a thought in your heart about anyone that you would not like to be brought…

Arguments or Obedience

…the simplicity that is in Christ.  —2 Corinthians 11:3

Simplicity is the secret to seeing things clearly. A saint does not think clearly until a long time passes, but a saint ought to see clearly without any difficulty. You cannot think through spiritual confusion to make things clear; to make things clear, you must obey. In intellectual matters you can think…

After Surrender— Then What?

I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. —John 17:4

True surrender is not simply surrender of our external life but surrender of our will— and once that is done, surrender is complete. The greatest crisis we ever face is the surrender of our will. Yet God never forces a person’s will into surrender, and He never begs. He patiently…

Going Through Spiritual Confusion

Jesus answered and said, "You do not know what you ask." —Matthew 20:22

There are times in your spiritual life when there is confusion, and the way out of it is not simply to say that you should not be confused. It is not a matter of right and wrong, but a matter of God taking you through a way that you temporarily…

Missionary Weapons (2)

If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. —John 13:14

Ministering in Everyday Opportunities. Ministering in everyday opportunities that surround us does not mean that we select our own surroundings— it means being God’s very special choice to be available for use in any of the seemingly random surroundings which He has engineered for us. The very character we exhibit in…



     
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