The Girl In The Yellow Coat
A man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. — Genesis 2:24
It was her yellow raincoat that caught my attention, and quickly I became increasingly interested in this cute freshman with long, brown hair. Soon I worked up my courage, interrupted Sue as she walked along reading a letter from a guy back home, and awkwardly asked her for a date. To my surprise, she said yes.
More than 4 decades later, Sue and I look back and laugh at our first uncomfortable meeting on that college campus—and marvel how God put a shy guy from Ohio together with a shy girl from Michigan. Through the years, we have faced innumerable crises together as we raised our family. We’ve negotiated parenting four kids, and we’ve struggled mightily with losing one of them. Problems big and small have tested our faith, yet we’ve stuck together. It took commitment from both of us and the grace of God. Today we rejoice in God’s design, spelled out in Genesis 2:24—to leave our parents, to be unified as man and wife, and to become united as one flesh. We cherish this amazing plan that has given us such a wonderful life together.
God’s design for marriage is beautiful. So we pray for married couples to sense how awesome it is to enjoy life together under the blessing of God’s loving guidance.
Lord, the first thing You organized during society’s
earliest days was marriage. Thank You for how You
designed this amazing institution. Show me how to
help strengthen others in their marriage relationship.
Marriage thrives in a climate of love, honor, and respect.
In Genesis 1–2 we see two tellings of the same story. Genesis 1 gives a sweeping overview of the creation of the universe, including the creation of the first human beings (Gen. 1:26-28). Genesis 2, however, describes more specifically the distinctive relationship the man and woman have with their Creator and their roles in His world.
Bible in a Year:
Leviticus 6-7; Matthew 25:1-30
Who’s The Boss?
Sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. —Romans 6:14
As my wife was babysitting our two young grandsons, they began to argue over a toy. Suddenly, the younger (by 3 years) forcefully ordered his older brother, “Cameron, go to your room!” Shoulders slumped under the weight of the reprimand, the dejected older brother began to slink off to his room when my wife said, “Cameron, you don’t have to go to your room. Nathan’s not the boss of you!” That realization changed everything, and Cam, smiling, sat back down to play.
As followers of Christ, the reality of our brokenness and our inclination to sin can assume a false authority much like that younger brother. Sin noisily threatens to dominate our hearts and minds, and the joy drains from our relationship with the Savior.
But through the death and resurrection of Christ, that threat is an empty one. Sin has no authority over us. That is why Paul wrote, “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace” (Rom. 6:14).
While our brokenness is very real, Christ’s grace enables us to live in a way that pleases God and expresses His transforming power to the world. Sin is no longer our boss. We now live in the grace and presence of Jesus. His dominion in our lives releases us from the bondage of sin.
Thank You for Your grace, Lord, that
cleanses us inside. Your grace is greater
than all our sin. We know we can’t live without
it. And we’re grateful that we don’t have to.
God pursues us in our restlessness, receives us in our sinfulness, holds us in our brokenness. —Scotty Smith
Previously in Romans, Paul has been teaching about our redemption and justification—how through faith in Jesus Christ, God made us right with Him (3:21–4:25). Paul now deals with another aspect of our salvation—sanctification (Rom. 6:1–8:39). Because we have been given a new life and a new relationship with God (6:4-14), He expects us to live differently and to mature in holiness.
Bible in a Year:
Leviticus 4-5; Matthew 24:29-51
By You I have been upheld from birth . . . . My praise shall be continually of You. —Psalm 71:6
I used to love birthdays. I can still remember standing excitedly on our front porch waiting for my friends to show up for my 5th birthday party. I wasn’t just excited about the balloons, the gifts, and the cake. I was happy that I was no longer only 4! I was growing up.
As I’ve gotten older, however, birthdays have sometimes been more discouraging than exciting. Last year when I celebrated a birthday that marked me by decades more than by years, my wife, Martie, cheered me up with the reminder that I should be grateful to be growing older. She pointed me to Psalm 71, where the psalmist talks about God’s presence throughout his life. He remembers that God “took me out of my mother’s womb” (71:6), and he proclaims with thankfulness, “O God, You have taught me from my youth; and to this day I declare Your wondrous works” (v.17). And now, when the psalmist is older, he has the honor to proclaim: “[God’s] strength to this generation, [His] power to everyone who is to come” (v.18). God had blessed the psalmist with His presence through every year of his life.
Birthdays now remind me of God’s faithfulness. And they bring me closer to being in the presence of the One who has been with me all these years!
Lord, remind me often that growing older means
I am growing nearer to You! Keep my heart
filled with gratitude for Your many blessings,
and keep my mind fixed on the joy of heaven.
Count your many blessings—birthday by birthday!
God’s faithfulness is cause for praise. The psalmist says, “By You I have been upheld from birth” (Ps. 71:6). It is His faithfulness that inspires our confidence in Him: “I will hope continually, and will praise You yet more and more” (v.14).
Bible in a Year:
Leviticus 1-3; Matthew 24:1-28
Cindy Hess Kasper
Oh, how great is Your goodness, which You have laid up for those who fear You. —Psalm 31:19
In the weeks after my husband survived a heart attack, we often thanked God for sparing his life. I was asked many times during the next few months how I was doing. My answer was often a simple one: “Blessed. I feel blessed.”
Blessings, however, come in different sizes and shapes. In fact, we don’t always recognize them. Even when we are doing everything we think God wants us to do, we may still experience suffering. We are sometimes surprised that God does not answer the way we want or that His timing appears to be tardy.
We see this in Joseph’s life. From a human perspective, we would think that God had forgotten all about him. For more than a decade, Joseph experienced suffering. He was tossed in a pit, sold into slavery, falsely accused, unjustly put in prison. Finally, however, God’s faithfulness to him became evident to all as he was lifted up as a ruler of Egypt and saved many people from famine (Gen. 37–46). C. S. Lewis wrote: “When we lose one blessing, another is often most unexpectedly given in its place.”
God had always had His hand of blessing on Joseph, as He does for all who trust Him. “Oh, how great is Your goodness” (Ps. 31:19).
Lord, You love us with an extravagant love,
but so often we don’t trust You in the crisis.
Help us to learn and appreciate that You have
everything we need—and so much more.
True happiness is knowing that God is good.
Because of severe and widespread famine, Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt to buy grain to take home to feed their families (Gen. 42–45). Though Joseph recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him. It seems that from this point forward he set out to bring reconciliation to his broken family. Eventually, Joseph reveals himself to his brothers (45:4-8), forgives them, and promises to care for them (50:16-21). Joseph’s story is one of the great reconciliation stories of all time.
Bible in a Year:
Exodus 39-40; Matthew 23:23-39
Habits Of A Healthy Mind
David C. McCasland
Trust in the Lord, and do good. —Psalm 37:3
There is much said today about improving our health by developing habits of optimism, whether facing a difficult medical diagnosis or a pile of dirty laundry. Barbara Fredrickson, PhD, a psychology professor at the University of North Carolina, says we should try activities that build joy, gratitude, love, and other positive feelings. We know, however, that more is required than a general wish for good feelings. We need a strong conviction that there is a source of joy, peace, and love upon which we can depend.
Psalm 37:1-8 gives positive actions we can take as an antidote to pessimism and discouragement. Consider these mood boosters: Trust in the Lord, do good, dwell in the land, feed on His faithfulness (v.3); delight in the Lord (v.4); commit your way to the Lord, trust in Him (v.5); rest in the Lord, wait patiently for Him, do not fret (v.7); cease from anger, forsake wrath (v.8).
Because they are connected to the phrase “in the Lord,” those directives are more than wishful thinking or unrealistic suggestions. It’s because of Jesus, and in His strength, that they become possible.
Our one true source for optimism is the redemption that is in Jesus. He is our reason for hope!
Lord, we can’t manufacture hope, and even if
we tried it wouldn’t be real. Help us to find
hope in You because of what Jesus has done
for us. We know You are walking beside us.
When there’s bad news, our hope is the good news of Jesus.
Psalm 37 is one of the many “wisdom psalms”—psalms that give instructions on how to live wisely. In this psalm, David deals with the perennial perplexity of the injustice of life—the wicked go unpunished while the righteous suffer. He tells the righteous not to fret, be envious, or be angry, for God will ultimately bring justice (vv.1-2,9-10,20,35-36,38). Instead, they are to be patient, to trust, to delight, to rest fully in God, and to continue to live godly lives (vv.3-8). For the “Lord upholds the righteous” (v.17), takes delight in them (v.23), and will not forsake them (vv.28-29).
Bible in a Year:
Exodus 36-38; Matthew 23:1-22
What Money Can’t Buy
In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace. —Ephesians 1:7
“There are some things money can’t buy—but these days, not many” according to Michael Sandel, author of What Money Can’t Buy. A person can buy a prison-cell upgrade for $90 a night, the right to shoot an endangered black rhino for $250,000, and your doctor’s cell phone number for $1,500. It seems that “almost everything is up for sale.”
But one thing money can’t buy is redemption—freedom from the stranglehold of sin. When the apostle Paul began writing about the rich nature of God’s plan of salvation through Jesus, his heart erupted in praise: “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us” (Eph. 1:7-8).
Jesus’ death on the cross was the high cost of delivering us from sin. And only He could pay that price because He was the perfect Son of God. The natural response to such free but costly grace is spontaneous praise from our hearts and commitment to the God who bought us through Jesus (1:13-14).
Praise to our loving God—He has come to set us free!
What amazing love You have for us, heavenly Father!
That You gave Your Son who willingly
died in our place. It seems too good
to be true. Thank You!
Only Jesus’ death could purchase our freedom.
God’s generosity is immeasurable. He paid the price for the forgiveness of our sins and purchased our salvation (Eph. 1:7). “All praise to God”! (v.3 nlt).
Bible in a Year:
Exodus 34-35; Matthew 22:23-46
Poh Fang Chia
2 Timothy 2:1-6
Always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. —1 Corinthians 15:58
Chinese proverbs are common and often have stories behind them. The proverb “pulling up a crop to help it grow” is about an impatient man in the Song Dynasty. He was eager to see his rice seedlings grow quickly. So he thought of a solution. He would pull up each plant a few inches. After a day of tedious work, the man surveyed his paddy field. He was happy that his crop seemed to have “grown” taller. But his joy was short-lived. The next day, the plants had begun to wither because their roots were no longer deep.
In 2 Timothy 2:6, the apostle Paul compares the work of being a minister of the gospel to that of a farmer. He wrote to encourage Timothy that, like farming, making disciples can be continuous, hard labor. You plow, you sow, you wait, you pray. You desire to see the fruits of your labor quickly, but growth takes time. And as the Chinese proverb so aptly illustrates, any effort to hurry the process won’t be helpful. Commentator William Hendriksen states: “If Timothy . . . exerts himself to the full in the performance of his God-given spiritual task, he . . . will see in the lives of others . . . the beginnings of those glorious fruits that are mentioned in Galatians 5:22, 23.”
As we labor faithfully, we wait patiently on the Lord, who makes things grow (1 Cor. 3:7).
Dear Lord of the harvest, help us to work faithfully as
we wait patiently on You for the fruit. Encourage us
when we are discouraged and strengthen us when we
are weary. Help us to persevere, for You are faithful.
We sow the seed—God produces the harvest.
Timothy is first introduced in Acts 16:1. Paul and Silas had been working their way through the provinces of Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey) sharing the gospel of Christ. When Paul and Silas arrived in Lystra, they met Timothy (a follower of Christ) and Paul invited this young man to join them. Timothy became a student of Paul’s and a pastor who, according to tradition, shepherded the church at Ephesus. Eventually, he received the two letters from Paul that bear his name. Each of those letters was intended to instruct and encourage the young pastor in his work with the congregation he served.
Bible in a Year:
Exodus 31-33; Matthew 22:1-22
For Our Health
Jennifer Benson Schuldt
1 Chronicles 16:7-14
Oh, give thanks to the Lord! —1 Chronicles 16:8
According to a prominent Duke University Medical Center researcher, “If thankfulness were a drug, it would be the world’s best-selling product with [health benefits] for every major organ system.”
For some, being thankful means simply living with a sense of gratitude—taking time to recognize and focus on the things we have, instead of the things we wish we had. The Bible takes the idea of thankfulness to a deeper level. The act of giving thanks causes us to recognize the One who provides our blessings (James 1:17).
David knew that God was responsible for the safe delivery of the ark of the covenant in Jerusalem (1 Chron. 15:26). As a result, he penned a song of gratitude that centered on God instead of simply expressing his delight in an important event. The ballad began: “Oh, give thanks to the Lord! Call upon His name; make known His deeds among the peoples!” (16:8). David’s song went on to rejoice in God’s greatness, highlighting God’s salvation, creative power, and mercy (vv.25-36).
Today we can be truly thankful by worshiping the Giver instead of the gifts we enjoy. Focusing on the good things in our lives may benefit our bodies, but directing our thanks to God benefits our souls.
Gratitude is our natural response to God’s grace.
Nothing so takes the heart out of a person as
ingratitude. Gratitude is not only the greatest of
virtues, but the parent of all the others. —Cicero
True thanksgiving emphasizes the Giver rather than the gifts.
The ark of the covenant, the symbol of God’s covenant and presence with His people (Ex. 25:17-22), was neglected by Saul and left abandoned in the Benjamite town of Kirjath Jearim for 20 years (1 Sam. 7:2). After David became king, one of the first things he did was to bring the ark back to Jerusalem (1 Chron. 13:3-14; 15:1-28; 2 Sam. 6:1-3). To commemorate the ark’s return, David composed a song of worship celebrating God’s presence and exalting God’s power (1 Chron. 16:8-36). Asaph (v.7) was one of David’s three music directors (see 1 Chron. 25:1) who sounded the bronze cymbals as the ark was moved into Jerusalem (15:16-19).
Bible in a Year:
Exodus 29-30; Matthew 21:23-46
We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works. —Ephesians 2:10
My wife, Janet, bought me a new Dreadnought D-35 guitar for my 65th birthday. Originally developed in the early 1900s, the Dreadnought style is larger than most guitars designed during that time, and it’s known for its bold and loud tone. It was named after the large World War I British battleship the HMS Dreadnought. The back of the D-35 is unique. Because of the shortage of wide pieces of high quality rosewood, the craftsmen innovatively fit three smaller pieces of wood together, which resulted in a richer tone.
God’s workmanship is a lot like that innovative guitar design. Jesus takes fragments and blends them together to bring Him praise. He recruited tax collectors, Jewish revolutionaries, fishermen, and others to be His followers. And down through the centuries Christ continues to call out people from varied walks of life. The apostle Paul tells us, “He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love” (Eph. 4:16 nlt).
In the Master’s hand many kinds of people are fit together and are being built into something with great potential for praise to God and service for others.
Thank You, Lord, that you have placed us
in Your family—that You are using us
individually and together to bring You
honor. Help us to live in Your power.
We can accomplish more together than we can alone.
The unity of believers is an important topic for Paul. He spends a great deal of time in several different letters talking about the goal and the purpose of unity (1 Cor. 12; Eph. 4; Phil. 2). In Ephesians 4, Paul says the ultimate goal of all believers is to measure up “to the full and complete standard of Christ” (v.13 nlt).
Bible in a Year:
Exodus 27-28; Matthew 21:1-22
A Closing Door
Poh Fang Chia
2 Corinthians 5:18-6:2
Now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation. —2 Corinthians 6:2
Beep, beep, beep, beep. The warning sound and flashing lights alerted commuters that the train door was about to close. Yet a few tardy individuals still made a frenzied scramble across the platform and onto the train. The door closed on one of them. Thankfully, it rebounded and the passenger boarded the train safely. I wondered why people took such risks when the next train would arrive in a mere 4 minutes.
There is a far more important door that we must enter before it closes. It is the door of God’s mercy. The apostle Paul tells us, “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2). Christ has come, died for our sins, and has risen from the grave. He has opened the way for us to be reconciled to God and has proclaimed for us the day of salvation.
Today is that day. But one day the door of mercy will close. To those who received and served Christ, He will say, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you” (Matt. 25:34). But those who don’t know Him will be turned away (v.46).
Our response to Jesus Christ determines our destiny. Today Jesus invites, “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved” (John 10:9).
Today Thy gate is open,
And all who enter in
Shall find a Father’s welcome,
And pardon for their sin. —Allen
There’s no better day than today to enter into God’s family.
One of the great biblical texts on salvation is 2 Corinthians 5:21. There we see the partnership of the Father and Son producing our rescue. First, all of our sins were placed on Christ, who bore them on the cross on our behalf (1 Peter 2:24). Then, Christ’s right standing with the Father is given to those who trust Him by faith (John 1:12). Now we are no longer enemies of God, for we have been brought to the Father by the Son’s work for us. God demonstrated His love for us when He gave up His one and only Son.
Bible in a Year:
Exodus 25-26; Matthew 20:17-34
Sledding And Praying
Now it came to pass in those days that [Jesus] went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. —Luke 6:12
When the snow flies in Michigan, I like to get my grandkids, grab our plastic sleds, and go slipping and sliding down our backyard. We zoom down the hill for about 10 seconds, and then climb back up for more.
When I travel to Alaska with a bunch of teenagers, we also go sledding. We are hauled by bus nearly to the top of a mountain. We jump on our sleds and, for the next 10 to 20 minutes (depending on levels of bravery), we slide at breakneck speeds down the mountain, holding on for dear life.
Ten seconds in my backyard or 10 minutes down an Alaskan mountain. They’re both called sledding, but there is clearly a difference.
I’ve been thinking about this in regard to prayer. Sometimes we do the “10 seconds in the backyard” kind of praying—a quick, spur-of-the-moment prayer or a short thanks before eating. At other times, we’re drawn to “down the mountain” praying—extended, intense times that require concentration and passion in our relationship with Him. Both have their place and are vital to our lives.
Jesus prayed often, and sometimes for a long time (Luke 6:12; Mark 14:32-42). Either way, let us bring the desires of our heart to the God of the backyards and the mountains of our lives.
Lord, please challenge us to pray constantly—both in
short sessions and long. As we face the valleys, hills,
and mountains of our lives, may we lift our hearts
and minds to You in constant communication.
The heart of prayer is prayer from the heart.
Prayer was the essence of Jesus’ relationship with the Father. He often withdrew to a solitary place to pray (Mark 1:35; Luke 5:16; 9:18). Sometimes He spent long hours communicating with His Father (Luke 6:12; John 17) and other times He prayed short, quick prayers (Matt. 14:19; Luke 23:34,46; John 12:27).
Bible in a Year:
Exodus 23-24; Matthew 20:1-16
Our Source Of Help
David C. McCasland
My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. —Psalm 121:2
Twenty-year-old Lygon Stevens, an experienced mountaineer, had reached the summits of Mt. McKinley, Mt. Rainier, four Andean peaks in Ecuador, and 39 of Colorado’s highest mountains. “I climb because I love the mountains,” she said, “and I meet God there.” In January 2008, Lygon died in an avalanche while climbing Little Bear Peak in southern Colorado with her brother Nicklis, who survived.
When her parents discovered her journals, they were deeply moved by the intimacy of her walk with Christ. “Always a shining light for Him,” her mother said, “Lygon experienced a depth and honesty in her relationship with the Lord, which even seasoned veterans of faith long to have.”
In Lygon’s final journal entry, written from her tent 3 days before the avalanche, she said: “God is good, and He has a plan for our lives that is greater and more blessed than the lives we pick out for ourselves, and I am so thankful about that. Thank You, Lord, for bringing me this far and to this place. I leave the rest—my future—in those same hands and say thank You.”
Lygon echoed these words from the psalmist: “My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Ps. 121:2).
O God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Still be our guard while troubles last
And our eternal home. —Watts
We can trust our all-knowing God for the unknown future.
Three times in this short chapter the Lord is referred to as our keeper (vv.3,4,5). This idea is of great comfort to the believer because it presents God as one who is not passive but active in our lives. To “keep” something is to actively guard and protect it. This idea is underscored by the fact that as our keeper, God does not sleep or slumber (vv.3-4) and watches over us day and night (v.6). How wonderful to know that the God who holds our lives is not disinterested but is constantly watching over us.
Bible in a Year:
Exodus 21-22; Matthew 19
Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her. —Luke 10:42
Every day I drive the same highway to and from the office, and every day I see an alarming number of distracted drivers. Usually they’re talking on the phone or texting, but I have also seen people reading the newspaper, putting on makeup, and eating a bowl of cereal while trying to maneuver a car at 70+ miles per hour! In some circumstances, distractions are fleeting and harmless. In a moving vehicle, they can kill.
Sometimes distractions can be a problem in our relationship with God. In fact, that was the concern Jesus had for His friend Martha. She “was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made” for a meal (Luke 10:40 niv). When she complained about her sister Mary’s lack of help (apparently due to her devotion to Christ and His teaching), Jesus told her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her” (vv.41-42).
Martha’s distractions were well-intentioned. But she was missing the opportunity to listen to Jesus and enjoy His presence. He is deserving of our deepest devotion, and He alone can fully enable us to overcome any of life’s distractions.
Lord, I want a heart like Mary’s—that takes
time to sit at Your feet to learn from You and be
close to You. And I want a heart like Martha’s—
that takes time to serve You, the One I love.
If you want to be miserable, look within; distracted, look around; peaceful, look up.
Martha’s distractions in Luke 10 brought a loving challenge from Jesus. But after the death of her brother Lazarus (John 11:17-27), we see that she was fully focused on Him. She affirmed her confidence that Jesus had a special relationship with the Father (v.22) and then declared her belief in the coming resurrection (v.24). Ultimately, she voiced her clear conviction that Jesus is the Son of God (v.27).
Bible in a Year:
Exodus 19-20; Matthew 18:21-35
The Hand Of God
My soul follows close behind You; Your right hand upholds me. —Psalm 63:8
When NASA began using a new kind of space telescope to capture different spectrums of light, researchers were surprised at one of the photos. It shows what looks like fingers, a thumb, and an open palm showered with spectacular colors of blue, purple, green, and gold. Some have called it “The Hand of God.”
The idea of God reaching out His hand to help us in our time of need is a central theme of Scripture. In Psalm 63 we read: “Because You have been my help, therefore in the shadow of Your wings I will rejoice. My soul follows close behind You; Your right hand upholds me” (vv.7-8). The psalmist felt God’s divine help like a hand of support. Some Bible teachers believe that King David wrote this psalm in the wilderness of Judah during the terrible time of his son Absalom’s rebellion. Absalom had conspired to dethrone his father, and David fled to the wilderness (2 Sam. 15–16). Even during this difficult time, God was present and David trusted in Him. He said, “Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise You” (Ps. 63:3).
Life can be painful at times, yet God offers His comforting hand in the midst of it. We are not beyond His reach.
Beneath His watchful eye
His saints securely dwell;
That hand which bears all nature up
Shall guard His children well. —Doddridge
God bears the world’s weight on His shoulder, yet holds His children in the palm of His hand.
The superscription to this psalm indicates that David was a refugee in the wilderness when he wrote it, either at the time when he was fleeing from Saul (1 Sam. 23:14-15; 24:1) or fleeing from his own son Absalom (2 Sam. 15:14,23,28). Because David addresses himself as “king” (Ps. 63:11), some Bible teachers believe that he was fleeing from his son. His life in danger (vv.9-10), David sought out and trusted God for protection and safety (vv.1-2). Instead of allowing his troubles to overwhelm him, David sang of God’s lovingkindness (v.3), meditated on His presence (v.6), and rejoiced in His deliverance (vv.9-11).
Bible in a Year:
Exodus 16-18; Matthew 18:1-20
Strengthen My Hands
C. P. Hia
Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands. —Nehemiah 6:9
Singapore’s first Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, is the man credited with making Singapore what it is today. During his leadership, Singapore grew to be rich and prosperous and one of the most developed nations in Asia. Asked if he ever felt like giving up when he faced criticism and challenges during his many years of public service, he replied, “This is a life-long commitment.”
Nehemiah, who led in the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem, refused to give up. He faced insults and intimidation from the enemies all around him as well as injustices from his own people (Neh. 4–5). His enemies even insinuated that he had a personal agenda (6:6-7). He sought help from God while taking every defensive step he could.
Despite the challenges, the wall was completed in 52 days (6:15). But Nehemiah’s work was not complete. He encouraged the Israelites to study the Scriptures, to worship, and to keep God’s law. After completing 12 years as governor (5:14), he returned to make sure his reforms were continuing (13:6). Nehemiah had a life-long commitment to leading the people.
We all face challenges and difficulties in life. But as God helped Nehemiah, He will also strengthen our hands (6:9) for the rest of our lives in whatever tasks He gives to us.
Dear Lord, sometimes it’s easy to get discouraged
when faced with criticism or challenges. Help
me to persevere and grant me the strength to be
faithful to what You have called me to do.
Life’s challenges are designed not to break us but to bend us toward God.
Bible in a Year:
Exodus 14-15; Matthew 17
David H. Roper
I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety. —Psalm 4:8
Some years ago my son Brian and I agreed to haul some equipment into an isolated Idaho backcountry ranch for a friend. There are no roads into the area, at least none that my truck could negotiate. So Ralph, the young ranch manager, arranged to meet us at road’s end with a small wagon hitched to a pair of mules.
On the way into the ranch, Ralph and I started chatting and I learned that he lived on the property year-round. “What do you do in the winter?” I asked, knowing that winters in the high country were long and bitter and that the ranch had no electricity or telephone service, only a satellite radio. “How do you endure it?”
“Actually,” he drawled, “I find it right peaceable.”
In the midst of our pressure-filled days, we sometimes crave peace and quiet. There is too much noise in the air; there are too many people around. We want to “come aside . . . and rest a while” (Mark 6:31). Can we find a place to do this?
Yes, there is such a place. When we take a few moments to reflect on God’s love and mercy and cast our burdens on Him, we will find in that quiet God-filled space the peace that the world has taken away.
There is a place of quiet rest,
Near to the heart of God,
A place where all is joy and peace,
Near to the heart of God. —McAfee
Spending quiet time with God will bring quiet rest.
Jesus is concerned with our physical health. He showed this when He invited the disciples to come away and rest because “they did not even have time to eat” (Mark 6:31). Rest from work and time to refresh our minds and bodies is important. Jesus is also concerned for our spiritual health and invites all those who are weary and burdened to come to Him for rest (Matt. 11:28).
Bible in a Year:
Exodus 12-13; Matthew 16
Answer The Cry
[The Lord] will be very gracious to you at the sound of your cry. —Isaiah 30:19
When my grandchildren were young, my son took them to see the stage production of The Lion King. As the young lion, Simba, stood over his father, King Mufasa, who had been killed by his evil uncle, little Simba, afraid and alone, cried out, “Help, Help, Help!” At that moment, my 3-year-old grandson stood on his chair in the hushed theater and shouted, “Why doesn’t somebody help him?!”
The Old Testament contains many accounts of God’s people crying out for help. Although their trouble was often self-imposed due to their waywardness, God was still eager to come to their aid.
The prophet Isaiah had to deliver a lot of bad news, but in the midst of it he assured the people that “the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. . . . How gracious he will be when you cry for help!” (Isa. 30:18-19 niv). Yet God often looked to His own people to be the answer to that cry for help (see Isa. 58:10).
Today, people all around us are in need of someone to take action to help them. It is a high privilege to become the hands of God as we respond on His behalf to cries for help.
Lord, remind me that You desire to show
compassion to those in need and that You often call
on us to be the instruments of that compassion. Give
me an opportunity today to show Your love to at least one person in need.
Show that God cares by lending a helping hand.
Isaiah was a prophet who spoke comprehensively about the coming Messiah. In fact, he spoke about the Deliverer more than any other Old Testament figure did—which makes his name very appropriate. Isaiah means “the Lord is salvation.”
Bible in a Year:
Exodus 9-11; Matthew 15:21-39
When Others Won’t Forgive
Forgetting those things which are behind . . . I press toward the goal. —Philippians 3:13-14
I was having lunch with two men who had opened their lives to Christ while they were in prison. The younger man had been discouraged by the fact that the family from whom he had stolen would not forgive him.
“My crime was violent,” the older man said. “It continues to haunt and affect the family to this day. They have not forgiven me, . . . the pain is just too great. At first, I found myself paralyzed by this longing for their forgiveness.” He continued his story: “Then one day I realized I was adding selfishness to my brokenness. It’s a lot to expect that the family forgive me. I was focused on what I felt I needed to heal from my past. It took some time to realize that their forgiveness of me was a matter between them and God.”
“How can you stand it?” the younger man asked.
The older man explained that God did for him what he didn’t deserve and what others simply can’t do: He died for our sins, and He keeps His promise to move our sins “as far as the east is from the west” (Ps. 103:12) and “will not remember [our] sins” (Isa. 43:25).
In the face of such great love, we honor Him by accepting His forgiveness as sufficient. We must forget what lies behind and keep pressing forward (Phil. 3:13-14).
Thank You, Father, for the work of Christ on the
cross. Help me to understand and accept what
it means for me, and to be a messenger of that
forgiveness to those I meet along the way.
The work of Christ is sufficient for every sin.
Paul often uses the metaphor of an athlete running a race to depict the Christian life (1 Cor. 9:24-27; Phil. 2:16; 2 Tim. 4:7). In today’s passage, he compares himself to someone running a long-distance race. Paul had probably been a Christian for about 30 years when he wrote this letter; he was known as the apostle to the Gentiles (Eph. 3:8; Gal. 2:8) and as a teacher of the Scriptures. He could have been content with his own spiritual maturity, but he did not consider himself as having “already reached perfection” (v.12 nlt). Instead, Paul persisted in pursuing Christlikeness (v.10) with the determination and vigor of a runner whose single goal is to be the first to cross the finish line.
Bible in a Year:
Exodus 7-8; Matthew 15:1-20
A Wonderful Explosion
Jennifer Benson Schuldt
As I have loved you, . . . you also love one another. —John 13:34
In the book Kisses from Katie, Katie Davis recounts the joy of moving to Uganda and adopting several Ugandan girls. One day, one of her daughters asked, “Mommy, if I let Jesus come into my heart, will I explode?” At first, Katie said no. When Jesus enters our heart, it is a spiritual event.
However, after she thought more about the question, Katie explained that when we decide to give our lives and hearts to Jesus “we will explode with love, with compassion, with hurt for those who are hurting, and with joy for those who rejoice.” In essence, knowing Christ results in a deep care for the people in our world.
The Bible challenges us to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15). We can consistently display this loving response because of the Holy Spirit’s work in our hearts. When we receive Christ, the Holy Spirit comes to live inside us. The apostle Paul described it this way, “Having believed [in Christ,] you were sealed with the Holy Spirit” (Eph. 1:13).
Caring for others—with God’s supernatural assistance—shows the world that we are His followers (John 13:35). It also reminds us of His love for us. Jesus said, “As I have loved you, . . . you also love one another” (v.34).
Dear Jesus, help me to experience Your
love more deeply so that I can share it
with others. Empower me through Your
Holy Spirit so that I can glorify You.
Love given reflects love received.
Love is one of the most repeated themes in both John’s gospel and letters (1, 2, and 3 John). John’s emphasis on love reflects Jesus’ own emphasis. Jesus said that He was giving a new command when He said to love one another. But how is this a new command? The key is not in the what, but in the how. In the law of Moses, it was commanded to love others as we love ourselves, but Jesus set a new standard: His love for us. In the hours before He went to the cross, He would both tell and show that love. “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13).
Bible in a Year:
Exodus 4-6; Matthew 14:22-36
Pointing To God
Remember now your Creator . . . before the difficult days come. —Ecclesiastes 12:1
“God bless our homeland, Ghana” is the first line of Ghana’s national anthem. Other African anthems include: “O Uganda, may God uphold thee,” “Lord, bless our nation” (South Africa), and “O God of creation, direct our noble cause” (Nigeria). Using the anthems as prayers, founding fathers called on God to bless their land and its people. Many national anthems in Africa and others from around the world point to God as Creator and Provider. Other lines of anthems call for reconciliation, transformation, and hope for a people often divided along ethnic, political, and social lines.
Yet today, many national leaders and citizens tend to forget God and do not live by these statements—especially when life is going well. But why wait until war, disease, storms, terrorist attacks, or election violence occurs before we remember to seek God? Moses warned the ancient Israelites not to forget God and not to stop following His ways when life was good (Deut. 8:11). Ecclesiastes 12:1 urges us to “remember now your Creator . . . before the difficult days come.”
Getting close to God while we are strong and healthy prepares us to lean on Him for support and hope when those “difficult days” in life come.
Father, I always need You. Forgive me for
thinking I am sufficient in myself. Help me to
follow You and Your ways whether life is easy
or difficult. Thank You for caring for me.
Remembering our Creator can be our personal anthem.
Deuteronomy records a significant moment in Old Testament history. At the end of Israel’s wilderness wanderings, Moses reaffirmed the laws of God. A generation had died in the wilderness and the new generation needed these lessons to prepare them for entry into the land of promise. The challenges that awaited them in Canaan made it important to remind the people of both God’s provisions and God’s instructions.
Bible in a Year:
Exodus 1-3; Matthew 14:1-21