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Let Us Be One | Saturday, May 2
“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” | Romans 15:5-6 (NIV)
This season of social distancing, sheltering in place and staying at home has been a long, challenging journey, to say the least.
To be sure, there have been some plusses – we’re able to realize what we can and can’t do without; we’re finding different ways to work, worship and meet; families are spending more time together; our vehicle fuel costs have plummeted; and, of course, if we’re following the rules we aren’t catching the nasty virus.
But with each passing day and week, this crisis has taken a toll on our individual and collective psyche. Emotions can be a bit like a roller coaster ride; there’s a different kind of tension; and our patience wears thinner at times.
Fortunately, at some point this too shall pass, and slowly but surely (and safely) we’ll be able to come back together. And what a joy that will be!
Unfortunately, there’s also a chance that just as slowly but surely the things that have separated us in the past – differences and disagreements largely over things of this world – will reappear and pull us apart once again.
Today’s scripture, from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the early Christians in Rome, captures both where we are today and where will be when tomorrow comes.
Our God indeed is the source of endurance and encouragement, especially during the dark, difficult days of our lives. And our God also is the source of oneness for His people, and by keeping our eyes on Him we can with one mind and one voice glorify Him.
And what a joy that will be – for Him and for us.
Here’s a great prayer for unity, written some years back by Champ Taylor and updated slightly for “such a time as this.” Maybe it can be your prayer for the days ahead.
“Our Father, we thank You for the privilege of being together at this time and this place, whether we’re physically together or not.
“As Your people, we pray that Your love will unite us into a fellowship of discovery, as we move into a future with what most likely will be a new “normal.”
“Cleanse us of everything that would sap our strength for togetherness.
“Unravel the knots in our spirits. Cleanse us of the errors of our minds. Free us from the bondage of our negative imaginations.
“Break down barriers that sometimes keep us apart and cause us to drift along without a dream.
“As we go from here…
“Explore in us new possibilities for ministry and service. Kindle within us the fires of Your compassion so that we do not wait to learn to love the broken people in the neighborhood and community around us.
“May we be a people with loving purpose… reaching out… breaking down walls… building bridges… giving help and hope to the helpless and hopeless…
“Let us be Your alleluia in a joyless, fragmented world.
“In the name of our Lord, we pray.
May God give you the endurance and encouragement you need. May He give you the same attitude toward others that Jesus had. And may He give you and your brothers and sisters the “one mind and one voice” that together our lives might bring God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ great glory and us true joy.
Today concludes this series of Daily Devotionals. Thank you for joining us & thank you to our devotion writer and YouVersion App for the great scripture images!
Be At Peace | Friday, May 1
“Go in peace… Be at peace… Peace I leave with you… My peace I give you…Peace be with you…” | the Gospels of Mark, Luke and John (NIV)
Jesus spoke often of peace, and the word itself is mentioned more than 250 times in the Bible.
In some of those versus, peace means the absence of conflict; in others it refers to safety and security; in still others it is connected with prosperity.
But in its deepest sense, peace refers to the sense of spiritual well-being and oneness that comes from a right relationship with God, no matter what is going on around you.
That’s the kind of peace that Horatio Spafford wrote nearly 150 years about as tragedy upon tragedy ripped his life apart:
When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll,
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
We may be experiencing difficult times today, but they’re nowhere near what Spafford went through. In 1871, not long after his young son died of pneumonia, he lost most of his business in the Great Chicago Fire. And if that wasn’t enough, less than two years later his four daughters died in a tragedy at sea.
And yet, after all that, he was able to say “It is well with my soul” – words that would become one of the great hymns of the faith.
That is the type of peace that we can find only in Jesus.
In his letter to the Romans, Paul writes “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Have you ever felt filled with “all joy and peace?” If you have, you know that it comes only from God. And as with all the blessings He showers on us, He gives us that peace that we might pass it on to others.
St. Francis of Assisi knew that when he wrote this prayer centuries ago:
“Lord, make me a channel of Thy peace, that where there is hatred, I may bring love … that where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness … that where there is discord, I may bring harmony … that where there is error, I may bring truth … that where there is doubt, I may bring faith … that where there is despair, I may bring hope … that where there are shadows, I may bring light … that where there is sadness, I may bring joy. Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted … to understand, than to be understood … to love, than to be loved. For it is by self-forgetting that one finds. It is by forgiving that one is forgiven. It is by dying that one awakens to eternal life. Amen.”
What about you? Is it well with your soul? Do you have that sense of spiritual well-being and oneness that comes from a right relationship with God? Are you experiencing His peace in the mist of life’s trials?
If so, pass it on to someone you know who needs it!
If not, take all of it to Him – your cares, your anxieties, your fears, your hurts, your heartaches. Give yourself, all of yourself, to Him, and hear the Lord say to you, as He said to His first followers and to Horatio Spafford, “My peace I give you… Be at peace… Go in peace… Peace be with you.”
Have A Heart | Thursday, April 30
“The Lord doesn’t look at the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” | 1 Samuel 16:7 (NLT)
For the average person, the risk of getting seriously ill from the nasty coronavirus is pretty low, especially if they follow the basic health and safety guidelines.
But for others, the risk is much higher – the elderly and those with underlying health issues, the long list of which includes a serious heart condition.
Well, guess what! We all have a heart condition. And it’s even more serious than a physical one; it’s a spiritual one.
The “heart” is referenced more than 700 times in the Bible, from hardened hearts to deceitful hearts to evil hearts to broken hearts to kind hearts to loving hearts to clean hearts to pure hearts.
And there’s a good reason for all those hearts: God cares about the condition of our heart, perhaps more than anything else.
That’s why in Proverbs 4:23, He tells us, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
How do we do that? How do we guard our heart? Philippians 4:7 tells us it’s “in Christ Jesus.”
And how do we do that? Guard our hearts in Christ Jesus? We know the answer: We guard our heart first by giving it to Jesus, and then by spending time with Him, in His Word and in prayer, and then by trusting and obeying Him out of love for what He has done for us.
If you’re looking for practical ways to do all that, read the Book of James. Sandwiched toward the back of your Bible between Hebrews and 1 Peter, it’s been described as an instruction manual for how to live an authentic Christ-following life.
Spend some time in it, and pray over what you read, asking God to reveal to you the condition of your heart and what you need to do to have a spiritually healthy one.
In the process, don’t be surprised if you find yourself praying, like David in Psalm 51, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”
Thousands of years after King David composed those words, the late Dag Hammarskjold, who headed the United Nations from 1953 until he died in a plane crash in 1961, authored a brief but beautiful prayer about the heart he’d like all of us to have:
… A pure heart that we may see You,
… A humble heart that we may hear You,
… A heart of love that we may serve you,
… A heart of faith that we may live in You.
What about you? What kind of heart do you want? One like that, that pleases Jesus?
Commit your heart to Him today. If you’ve already done that, then recommit it. Ask Him to create in you a clean heart, a pure heart, a humble heart, a loving heart, a faithful heart. In other words, a heart like His.
And then guard it … in Christ Jesus.
Words to the Wise | Wednesday, April 29
“Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” | Ephesians 4:29 (NLT)
We live in a world of harsh words. We hear them – and see the anger and wrath they produce – in faraway places, where hatred, hostility and hopelessness are a way of life. We hear them – and see the results – in the halls of our government, in cities and states, in news shows, and in sports venues across our country. And we hear them – and see the results – in our own community, in workplaces, in classrooms and, sadly, in homes and even churches.
Proverbs 15:1 tells us “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” And yet, all too often we choose harsh words over gentle ones.
Well-known pastor and author Rick Warren once likened our words to a tool that can be used to either build up or break down.
“Sometimes our words are like a sledgehammer,” he wrote in one of his devotionals. “We swing away without thinking, and suddenly we look around and realize a pile of relational rubble surrounds us. When you thoughtlessly sling your words around and tear people down, your relationships are going to suffer.
“One reason we’re not constructive with our words,” he wrote, “is we don’t realize how powerful this tool is—our mouth and the words that God has given to us. We say things without thinking. And people remember them.”
Imagine how different – and much more pleasing to God – our lives would be if we thought before we spoke, and replaced harsh words with gentle ones, in everything from our politics to our professions, from our play times to our personal relationships.
Imagine how different – and much more pleasing to God – our lives would be if, in the middle of a difficult conversation, or a heated argument, or giving or responding to criticism or any or every situation, we would watch not only what we said but how we said it.
In other words, imagine how different our lives – and our culture – would be if we actually lived out that verse in Ephesians, which The Living Bible paraphrases as “Don’t use bad language. Say only what is good and helpful to those you are talking to, and what will give them a blessing.”
The bad news is: We can’t do that under our own power.
The good news: God has given us His Holy Spirit to help us do just that.
Pray for God to help you be more patient, considerate, compassionate and gentle in the words you choose in your dealings, discussions and disagreements with family, friends and other people during this trying time. Pray that, in the words of Psalm 19:14, “the words of your mouth and the meditations of your heart would be pleasing to the Lord, your Rock and your Redeemer.”
Are You Thirsty? | Tuesday, April 28
“Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, ‘Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’ When he said ‘living water,’ he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him . . .” | John 7:37-39
Have you ever been so thirsty that you would give just about anything for a drink of cool, clear water? The water we drink, like the air we breathe and the food we eat, is necessary for our physical survival. Take any one of those three away, and life will quickly come to an end.
So it is with our spiritual well-being. There are nutrients we need to not just to survive but to thrive. And there is only one source for the air, food and water needed for our souls: The Father, Son and Holy Spirit:
When it comes to air, Isaiah 42:5 tells us: “God created the heavens and stretched them out. He created the earth and everything in it. He gives breath to everyone, life to everyone who walks the earth.” Mother Teresa once likened prayer to the physical air we breathe: “It’s our direct line to God and we need to keep it open.”
When it comes to food, John 6:35 tells us: “Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.’” And in Matthew 4:4 He points us to the Bible to for solid nourishment: “People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
And when it comes to water, the words in today’s passage from John 7:37-39 tell us: “When he (Jesus) said ‘living water,’ he was speaking of the Spirit.”
And the fount of that water never, ever runs dry:
In John 4:14 (NLT) Jesus tells the woman at the well in Samaria, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”
How about you? Maybe you’re thirsty. Or maybe a family member or a friend is thirsty. The world tells us there are lots of ways to satisfy that thirst. But Jesus tells us there is only one way to quench the greatest thirst we have. Just like there’s only one way to get the spiritual air and food we need.
Go to Him, or take someone else to Him, give yourself to Him. Breathe in His life-giving air, take in His soul food and drink deeply from His bottomless well of living water.
Give Thanks | Monday, April 27
“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.” | Psalm 107:1 (NIV)
If you haven’t read Psalms lately, take some time this week to check out this special book in the middle of the Good Book. In it you’ll find some wonderful expressions of thanksgiving – as well as of adoration, confession and supplication, which together make up what is known as the ACTS model of prayer.
One of the most familiar songs of thanksgiving is Psalm 100:
“Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
Worship the LORD with gladness;
come before Him with joyful songs.
Know that the LORD is God.
It is He who made us, and we are His;
we are His people, the sheep of His pasture.
Enter His gates with thanksgiving
and His courts with praise;
give thanks to Him and praise His name.
For the LORD is good and His love endures forever;
His faithfulness continues through all generations.”
Psalm 100 is only one of many focused on thanksgiving; most of the psalms include expressions of gratitude, and 18, 30, 32, 67, 75, 107, 116, 118, 136 and 138 in particular are songs of gratitude to the Lord.
Why so many psalms of thanks? Because we have so much for which to be thankful.
The Life Application commentators put it this way:
“We are grateful to God for His personal concern, help and mercy. Not only does He protect, guide and forgive us, but His creation provides everything we need. When we realize how we benefit from knowing God, we can fully express our thanks to Him. By thanking Him often, we develop spontaneity in our prayer life.”
In these times of trouble, when so many things aren’t going the way we wish, it’s easy to lose sight of God’s amazing and abundant blessings in our lives.
This week, choose to focus on God’s blessings. Read those psalms listed above. Make a list of your reasons to be thankful. Spend time alone with God, using that ACTS model of prayer – praising Him, confessing, asking, and of course thanking Him. And express your gratitude often throughout the day for His presence, protection, provision and promises in your life.
Are You Weary? | Saturday, April 25
“Then Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.’” — Matthew 11:28-30 (NLT)
We live in a very weary world. It’s always been that way, but these days especially we’re increasingly weighed down with discouragement, anxiety and fear as the coronavirus crisis continues its uncertain course.
Read the paper, go online, watch the TV news and look around our shuttered businesses and near-empty streets – the signs are all around us. And that’s not even counting the other burdens of life that we, or our family and friends, are carrying.
Don’t give up, Jesus tells us. Come to me, He says, and I’ll give you rest and peace and hope. It doesn’t matter what it is that’s weighing you down. Give it to Me, He says, and I’ll lighten your load.
What a promise Jesus offers us. And what a promise for us to claim today.
As you read this prayer, perhaps you’ll find yourself and your situation in it. Or perhaps you’ll find a friend or family member. And then this prayer will become your own:
“Jesus, our Master, whose heart was moved with compassion toward the weak, the oppressed and the burdened, and who was more willing to serve than to be served, we pray for people in every kind of situation:
For those lacking food, shelter or clothing;
for the sick and all who are wasting away by disease;
for the blind, deaf and lame;
for the prisoners;
for those oppressed by injustice;
for those who have lost their way in society;
for those corrupted and morally fallen;
for the lonely and depressed;
for the worried and anxious;
for those living faithfully in obscurity;
for those fighting bravely in unpopular wars or causes;
for those who are serving diligently and dependably;
for those who stand in the valley of decision;
for those suffering the consequences of misdeeds repented;
for family circles broken by death or other things;
for those faced with tasks too great for their powers.
“Let the power of Jesus’ Spirit be strong with us. Let those who are weary and burdened cast their concerns on the Lord, and receive rest for their souls. Amen.”
Source: Adapted from “Prayer for Comfort” by James Christensen
He Sees You! | Friday, April 24
Asking God | Thursday, April 23
“Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, that your joy may be made full.” | John 16:24 (NIV)
What does it mean to ask for something in the Lord’s name? Does it mean that as long as we end our prayers with “In Jesus name, Amen” that we’ll always get whatever we ask for?
In “The Message” paraphrase of the Bible, Eugene Peterson puts Jesus’ assurance of answered prayer in these words: “Ask the Father for whatever is in keeping with the things I’ve revealed to you. Ask in My name, according to My will, and He’ll most certainly give it to you. Your joy will be a river overflowing its banks.”
That’s what “in My name” means: According to His will, not our wants.
God knows what we want. But more important, He knows what we need. That’s why His answers to our prayers sometimes surprise us. But, if we pray “in His name,” we can be confident that He will answer us according to His good, pleasing and perfect will for our lives.
The poem “I Asked God” speaks to that truth:
“I asked God for Strength…
And He gave me difficulties to make me strong.
I asked God for Wisdom…
And He gave me problems to solve.
I asked God for Prosperity…
And He gave me brain and brawn to work.
I asked God for Courage…
And He gave me danger to overcome.
I asked God for Love…
And He gave me troubled people to help.
I asked God for Favors…
And He gave me opportunities.
I received nothing I wanted…
And I received everything I needed.”
What are you asking God for in your life right now? More important, are you asking in His name, according to His will? Are you trusting Him to give you everything you need? Are you seeing His answers, even the disappointing ones, as part of His good and perfect plan for your life?
Do that – pray “In Jesus’ name” that His will be done in your life – and don’t be surprised when your joy becomes like a river overflowing its banks!
Source: “I Asked God” author unknown
Serving Wholeheartedly | Wednesday, April 22
“Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men.” | Ephesians 6:7 (NIV)
Time and time again we are called to serve, following the example of Jesus himself, who we know from the scriptures “came not to be served but to serve.”
And, as today’s verse tells us, we are to serve wholeheartedly – not reluctantly, or grudgingly or, well, half-heartedly. No, we are to serve wholeheartedly. And, as Galatians 5:13 puts it, we are to do so “humbly in love.”
In reality, serving God and others should become not something we do but who we are.
Given our human nature, the only way we can truly serve wholeheartedly – humbly, lovingly, sacrificially, continually and consistently – is by daily surrendering ourselves to Him, submitting ourselves completely to His will, and asking His Holy Spirit to remake and remold us, to fill us and use us.
That was the thought behind the words of a popular praise chorus from some years back:
“Make me like you, Lord,
Please make me like you.
You are a servant,
Make me one too
Oh, Lord I am willing,
Do what you must do
To make me like you, Lord,
Please make me like you.”
Long before that, John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, also understood what it means to be a wholehearted servant of Jesus Christ when he wrote this covenant prayer:
Let me be your servant, under your command.
I will no longer be my own.
I will give up myself to your will in all thigs.
Lord, make me what you will.
I put myself fully into your hands:
Put me to doing, put me to suffering,
Let me be employed for you, let me be full, let me be empty,
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and with a willing heart
Give it all to your pleasure and disposal.
Whether you sing the song or pray the prayer, choose today to surrender yourself completely to God, that you might live your life as Jesus did, “not to be served but to serve.” And to do it wholeheartedly!
Commissioned and Called | Tuesday, April 21
“Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone. Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned.” | Mark 16: 15-16 (NLT)
“I’m passing the torch to you!”
That’s what Jesus was – and is – saying in these words we read in Mark, as well as similar passages in Matthew 28:16-20 and Acts 1:8.
During the roughly three years of his ministry, Jesus brought healing and hope to broken people and a broken world, and as He prepared to leave this earth He commissioned – and commanded – His disciples to “go into all the world” with the Good News.
And Jesus commissions and calls us today – as 21st century followers of His – to do the same.
These passages commonly are used to call missionaries to the field, to leave their homes and journey to far flung places where the Gospel has never been preached, or if it has, believers have been, like their Lord and Savior, persecuted, tortured and killed.
But the Great Commission isn’t just for missionaries.
The Living Bible paraphrases the familiar verse in a way that brings it close to home: “You are to go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone, everywhere. Those who believe and are baptized will be saved. But those who refuse to believe will be condemned.”
Think about that paraphrase: “All the world” and “everywhere” includes not just the ends of the earth but our own home, neighborhood and community. “Everyone” includes not just the poor people in a developing nation but the person who lives down the street, works in the same office, waits on your at the restaurant, or, perhaps, goes to the same church.
And when you think about that person, think about what’s at stake: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.”
Several years ago, Harvest Prayer Ministries put together a list of six prayers the Apostle Paul asked for himself as he carried the Good News on his missionary journeys to his ends of the earth.
As you think about what God has commissioned and commanded us to do, perhaps Paul’s prayers are ones you can pray for yourself, or ask others to pray for you:
1. Acceptance. “Pray that my service (in Jerusalem) may be acceptable to the saints there.” (Romans 15:13)
2. Boldness. “Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given to me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the Gospel.” (Ephesians 6:19)
3. Clarity. “Pray that I may proclaim it clearly as I should.” (Colossians 4:4)
4. Deliverance. “Pray that I may be rescued from the unbelievers.” (Romans 15:31)
5. Extension. “And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ.” (Colossians 4:3)
6. Fruitfulness. “Finally, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you.” (1 Thessalonians 3:1)
If you’ve read and followed the life and ministry of Paul, you know that God answered every one of those prayers.
And if you pray those prayers for yourself, you can be confident that if God answered them for Paul, He will answer them for you.
Only One Thing's for Sure... | Monday, April 20
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” | Hebrews 13:8 (NIV)
What if I come down with the coronavirus? What if I’m laid off? What if there’s a recession? What if we can’t pay our bills? What if the stock market crashes? What if we run out of food? What if we lose our pension? What if this deadly bug comes back again in the fall or winter?
We’re living in a season of what if … what if … what if … with lots of questions but few definitive answers and no firm end in sight to the coronavirus crisis that has turned much of our lives upside down.
To say things are up in the air is an understatement. When it comes to this crisis, we know that this too shall pass. But no one – not the average person, not even the experts – knows when that will be, or what happens next, or what will happen to the economy, or the more personal things, like when we’ll be able to see our friends and family again, or hug our grandkids, or go out to dinner at a sit-down restaurant, or watch a baseball game or gather for worship, or … the list goes on and on, from simple things to serious ones.
And yet, amidst the unnerving uncertainties of today, there’s one thing we can count on:
“I the Lord do not change.”
Those words from God, as recorded in Malachi 3:6 (NIV), remind us that while this world is in turmoil, He is not. The God of all creation, the God of mercy and grace, the God of love and peace and hope is on His throne. He always has been, and He always will be.
He promises us that He is with us, that He loves us, and that He wants us to trust Him and His promises for us.
From the first page of Genesis to the last page of Revelation the scriptures are packed with God’s plans and promises for His people. And those assurances of His presence, protection and provision can give us confidence, peace and hope that we can’t find anywhere else.
Consider five great promises – these are from the New International Version, but look them up in your preferred Bible translation and you’ll find the message is the same – that are foundational to our life as followers of Christ:
The Promise of Salvation: “And this is the witness, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.” — 1 John 5:11-12
The Promise of Answered Prayer: “Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, that your joy may be made full.” — John 16:24
The Promise of Forgiveness: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” — 1 John 1:9
The Promise of Victory: “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man. And God is faithful: He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able to bear, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it.” — 1 Corinthians 10:13
The Promise of Guidance: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” — Proverbs 3:5-6
As you go through this week, read these five verses every day.
As you do, through the power of the Holy Spirit living in you, claim these promises for yourself.
As you do, ask God to write these promises on the tablet of your heart.
As you do, and as the “what if’s” and worries of the day enter your thoughts, ask Him to fill you with the peace and hope that comes from knowing that no matter what, He is God and He does not change.
We may not be able to count on anything else in this world, but we can count on that.
Indeed, as we read in Hebrew, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.
There Has To Be A Song | Saturday, April 18
“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy, and I will give thanks to Him in song.” | Psalm 28:7 (NIV)
David – the shepherd boy, giant slayer, king and “man after God’s own heart” – knew The Lord was his strength, his shield, his shelter, his sanctuary in the storms and struggles of life.
Again and again, whether it was thanking Him for his successes or pouring out his heart over his failures, the song David sang was one of thanksgiving and praise to the God of the universe.
During these difficult days, and other trying times in your life, where is your strength, your shield, your shelter, your sanctuary?
Is it in the strength and security of your position, or power, or possessions, or pride? Or is it in the One who sits on the Throne and created everything and everyone that’s ever been, is today and ever will be?
What song do you sing? Consider these words, written long ago by Bob Benson and put to music more recently by Andrea Ramsey:
“There has to be a song…
There are too many dark nights,
Too many troublesome days,
Too many wearisome miles…
There has to be a song…
To make our burdens bearable,
To make our hopes believable,
To transform our successes into praise,
To release the chains of past defeats,
Somewhere, down deep in a forgotten corner of each man’s heart,
There has to be a song…
Like a cool, clear drink of water,
Like the gentle warmth of sunshine,
Like the tender love of a child,”
Yes, there has to be a song. And for us there is – His name is Jesus!
An Abundant Life | Friday, April 17
“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” | John 10:10 (Living Bible)
Somehow “abundant” isn’t the first word that comes to mind these days. “Troubling,” “discouraging,” “painful,” “depressing,” “upsetting, “uncertain” or any number of other words seem better suited to describe life during the coronavirus pandemic.
To the world, an abundant life is one of affluence, of wealth and prosperity, a life of comfort, a life of plenty, a life without want.
But the abundant life Jesus offers us is a different one. The Message paraphrase describes it as a “real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of,” and other versions of the Bible call it “life to the fullest,” “rich and satisfying,” and “full until you overflow.”
The abundant life Christ gives us is one that is filled with love, joy, peace and hope – and it’s always there for us, no matter what is going on or what we’re going through.
At a time when things can be troubling, what a comfort!
At a time when things can be discouraging, what an encouragement!
At a time when things can be uncertain, what a reassurance!
At a time when things can seem hopeless, what a hope!
Do you want to “have life and have it abundantly?” Do you want to have that “real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of?” Do you want have that “rich and satisfying life” that is “full until you overflow?”
You can have it — but only in and with and through Jesus.
We don’t know what tomorrow will bring, in terms of this current crisis or anything else. In fact, we don’t even know what this particular day will bring, let alone what will happen in all the tomorrows to come.
But God does, and as His Word tells us, Jesus came that our life might be abundant — in the best of times, the toughest of times, and for all time.
So, come to Him. Don’t delay. Do it today.
If you’ve already accepted Jesus as your Savior and Lord, recommit your day, your life to Him. If you haven’t done so, confess, repent, be forgiven and get ready enjoy the first day of the rest of your abundant and eternal life.
Starting today, spend time with Him each day. Read the Bible, your “owner’s instruction manual” for an abundant life. Pray to Him expectantly. Worship Him joyfully. Serve Him gladly. Trust and obey Him faithfully.
Jesus gave His life for you. Give yours to Him, and no matter what happens you’ll experience an abundance of the amazing love, joy, peace and hope that comes from His presence, protection, provision and promises in your life.
Bearing Fruit | Thursday, April 16
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” | John 15:5-6 (NIV)
Businesses have closed, bars have gone dry, restaurants are making meals for take-out only, hotel rooms are sitting vacant, hair and nail salons have locked their doors, and more and more people are out of work.
Welcome to the oh-so-slow lane of life during this coronavirus crisis.
Unless, of course, you’re a farmer.
While many of us are “busy” sheltering in place, life goes on for the men and women who tend the animals, raise the field crops and harvest the fruits and nuts on the trees.
Not long from now, we’ll begin to enjoy the bounty of God’s green earth and their hard work. Rich, red tomatoes. Plump, juicy peaches. Big bunches of grapes. Bright yellow squash. Giant ears of corn. Crunchy nuts. Melt-in-your-mouth melons. And much, much more. All washed down with a little milk or a nice glass of wine.
All of that doesn’t just happen. The fields, vineyards and orchards have to be carefully prepared and tended, so that with the right mixture of sunshine, water, nutrients, weeding and pruning the crops will mature and bear fruit.
Most plants won’t grow in the darkness; most won’t survive without sufficient water; most won’t thrive without regular feeding; and most do better when weeds and dead parts are cut away.
It’s no different with our life in Christ: It doesn’t just happen. Our new life starts when we accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. But growing in Him and bearing fruit requires lots of tender loving care. Just like plants and trees, we need…
■ “Sonlight.” “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” – John 8:12
■ “Living Water.” “Blessed is the man … whose delight is in the law of the Lord and on His law he meditates day and night; he is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and does not wither.” – Psalm 1:1-3
■ “Soul Food”: “Jesus answered, ‘It is written: Man does not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” – Matthew 4:4
■ “Weeding and Pruning” of dead and decaying things: “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that entangles…” — Hebrews 12:1
Ask God, the master grower, to reveal to where your life needs some His tender loving care.
If you need “Sonlight,” take it in, and become His light in the world around you.
If you need “Living Water,” drink it in, and let your cup overflow to others.
If you need “Soul Food,” consume it, and share a plate with those who are hungry.
If you need “Weeding and Pruning,” cut and chop away, until everything that’s rotten is gone.
And then, pray for the Holy Spirit to keep lovingly, tenderly caring for you, that you might “bear much fruit” for Christ and His Kingdom.
We Are His Witnesses | Wednesday, April 15
“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” | Acts 1:8 (NIV)
Do we understand what Jesus is saying here? His message to His followers not long after His death and resurrection – and to us today – is pretty clear about what will happen when we confess and accept Him as Savior and Lord:
First, we will receive His Holy Spirit.
Then, we will receive His power.
And, we will become His witnesses.
But, does that still really mean Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth? For some of us, yes; for others, no. Think instead of those four places as concentric circles that represent where we live today.
Think of Jerusalem as our home base, the area closest to us, maybe our neighborhood or even our community. Or, perhaps the people we’re closest to, people who are a lot like us, people we’re a little more comfortable with.
Think of Judea as a little farther away; perhaps like our county or region or even our state; or maybe it’s people who are still more like us than not.
Think of Samaria as even farther away, either physically or figuratively; a place where things and perhaps people are different, enough so that we’re not so comfortable with and may even want to avoid at all costs.
And, of course, the ends of the earth is that world of people out there that is broken, hurting and without the hope that only Jesus can bring healing, wholeness and hope to.
Whether it’s in our Jerusalem or to the ends of the earth, Jesus wants us – no, He commands us – to be His witnesses. And for many if not most of us, that’s a command that all too often we have a hard time obeying.
Some years back, Bryan Jeffrey Leach authored this prayer that captures the experience of many believers both then and now:
“Lord, we admit to ourselves and to You that we have often enjoyed our faith and the privilege of being Your people, while avoiding the responsibility of making our spiritual discoveries known to others.
Our lives should be living illustrations of the truth, but they are often hard to read and even misleading.
We are frequently too busy to think through our faith and to be prepared to give an introduction to the Savior.
We are fearful of rejection and even of being thought different.
We consign to professional people in the church the task that belongs to us all, of recommending the Master to the man and woman on the street.
We are unwilling to suffer even slight inconvenience so that someone else might turn from a meaningless existence to purposeful living. And sometimes with lop-sided concern we pray too much for ourselves and our loved ones and not enough for Your loved ones – the poor, the defenseless, the neglected little people of the world.
Too often, Lord, we try to predict who will respond and who will not, with presumptive rashness as to when and how You will fulfill our prayers for the salvation of others. Father, forgive these wrong and unhealthy attitudes.
Help us to love You so ardently and so courageously that, with tact and a sense of humor and great graciousness, we may begin to find all sorts of opportunities to share You with those who desperately need You. Amen.”
What about you? Is that a prayer you need to pray? Knowing that you’ve been given power in and through the Holy Spirit living in you, how can you be His witness to family, friends and others in your Jerusalem? Will you ask God today to open your eyes and heart to people who need His love, peace and hope in their lives?
Source: Prayer by Bryan Jeffrey Leach in “Hymns for the Family of God”
MV / 2020
A Divine Paradigm Shift | Tuesday, April 14
Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ | John 11:25-26 (NIV)
We hear and read a lot these days about paradigm shifts, those radical changes in long-standing patterns and methods of doing things.
In our ever-changing world, we see paradigm shifts in everything from business models to politics to information to technology to the global economy to family structure to religious preferences.
And right now, we’re in the midst of a particularly challenging one, as the coronavirus attacks us physically, emotionally and, yes, even spiritually.
But, none of those can compare to the greatest paradigm shift that ever has or ever will occur — the one that took place nearly 2,000 years ago. The one we just celebrated, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, whose own triumph over the grave gave light and life to a dark and dying world.
When we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we experience that ultimate paradigm shift as well. Instead of hopelessness, despair and eternal death, He gives us hope, joy and eternal life. And in troubling times like today, He gives us peace.
In his letter to the Romans, Paul reminds believers both then and now, “If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit, who lives in you.”
What about you? How would you answer Jesus’ question: “Do you believe this?”
Have you accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior? Is His Spirit living in you? Have you received His gift of life?
If your answer is “yes,” then rejoice, rejoice, rejoice! You have experienced the ultimate, eternal paradigm shift. Let your life reflect Jesus to those around you.
If your answer is “no” or “I’m not sure,” why not celebrate this week-after-Easter by opening your heart and life to the One who suffered, died and arose for you?
Talk to the pastor or a church leader about the steps to salvation.
God is waiting with open arms to welcome you to His Family!
Our New Life | Monday, April 13
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” | 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)
He is risen! He is risen indeed!
Sunday was such a great day! Sheltering in place meant we couldn’t get together in person at church, and it put a damper on most gatherings with family and friends.
But still, it was Easter, a day for joyfully celebrating the empty tomb, our risen Lord and Savior, and the promise of a new and eternal life in and with and through Jesus.
But that was yesterday, and here we are today – and what will your “today” and all your “tomorrows” be like? Will Sunday’s celebration have been a triumphant finale or a new beginning? Will you quickly return to your “normal” life, even though admittedly most of our lives are anything but normal right now? Or will it be different?
The New Living Translation puts today’s verse this way: “Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun.”
So, here’s the question on this day after Easter: How are you going to live your life, knowing what Jesus did for you on the cross and with His resurrection? Are you going to live as that “new creation,” that “new person”? Or will you cling to your old life?
It’s a question only you can answer, a choice only you can make.
The Apostle Paul answered the question and made his choice when he became a true believer rather than a hater of Christ and Christians.
“Christ lives in me,” Paul wrote in his letter to the Galatians. “The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
What about you? Do you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? Are you living by faith in the Son of God, who loved you and gave his life for you?
Today, this day after Easter, if you’ve never asked Jesus into your heart, do that and receive your new life. If you already have, ask His Holy Spirit to give you the focus and strength and heart’s desire to live your new life to the fullest. Ask Him to help you ACT by A-Adoring Him, C-Choosing to serve and share Him with others, and making your life a T-Testimony of who He is and whose You are.
And, don’t forget: He is risen! He is risen indeed! Now and forever and ever!
Amazing Love! | Saturday, April 11
“This is love: Not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” | 1 John 4:10 (NIV)
“Amazing love! How can it be? That You, my God, would die for me!”
Those words ring as true now as when Charles Wesley penned them in the 18th century. Today, they live on in songs we sing in church, both in traditional hymns and contemporary arrangements.
They remind us that God loves us so much that He was willing to send His Son – the second person of the Trinity – to suffer and die for us.
And we can sing the words with joy, because we know the rest of the story.
Two thousand years ago, the family and friends of Jesus were struggling. Only a day earlier Jesus had been nailed to the cross, suffered a horribly agonizing death, and was buried in a borrowed tomb.
How their tears must have flowed; their grief was overwhelming, their dreams dashed, their hearts broken…
But what a difference one day would make, when they soon would learn the tomb was empty, death was defeated and Jesus was alive, just as He had predicted and promised.
And, oh, what amazing love He had for us, to go through what He did that we might have an abundant and eternal life.
These words from Gloria Gather remind us that God’s love for us is eternal — that He has always loved us, that He loves us today, and that He will keep on loving us forever, no matter what. And yet, all too often we just don’t get it – and choose something else:
“Right from the beginning God’s love has reached, and from the beginning man has refused to understand. But love went on reaching, offering itself. Love offered the eternal … we wanted the immediate. Love offered deep joy … we wanted thrills. Love offered freedom … we wanted license. Love offered communion with God himself … we wanted to worship at the shrine of our own minds. Love offered peace … we wanted approval for our wars. Even yet, love went on reaching. And still today, after 2,000 years, patiently, lovingly, Christ is reaching out to us. Right through the chaos of our world, through the confusion of our minds. He is reaching … longing to share with us … the very being of God.”
God’s amazing and abundant love is still reaching … reaching … reaching all the way to you. What will you do? Will you hold on to the immediate, the thrills, the license, the human wants and wishes? Or will you let go, reach out, and grab hold of what God wants to give you – a love that will change your life forever, and, as you share it, the lives of people around you?
Welcome to Paradise! | Friday, April 10
“Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.’
Jesus answered him, ‘I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” | Luke 23:42 & 43 (NIV)
Jesus’ message of hope that He gave to the thief hanging on the cross next to Him is the same promise that He gives us 2,000 years later.
Indeed, if we believe in Him – in His death and resurrection – we too will be with Him in paradise, not just for today but for all eternity.
He can give that promise to us because, in reality, we are the thief on the cross, deserving of the judgment and punishment of death. We don’t like to think of ourselves that way, but Scripture tells us that we were dead in our sins but are made alive by Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Today is Good Friday, the day Christians everywhere solemnly observe Jesus’ agonizing death on the cross. Why would the day be called “good,” since what happened on the hill called Calvary seemed anything but? But an otherwise ordinary Friday became known as Good Friday because the word itself used to mean “holy,” and because Christ’s suffering on that dark day led to His resurrection, His victory over death and His gift of eternal life.
“I am the resurrection and the life,” Jesus tells us in John 11:25. “He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies; whoever lives and believes in Me will never die.”
And then He asks, “Do you believe this?”
That’s the question He asks each of us today: “Do you believe this?”
If you do, rejoice in the life He has given you. Praise Him for His goodness and grace, and thank Him for His loving sacrifice. Share the joy, peace and hope you have in Jesus with others.
If you know about Jesus but haven’t accepted Him as Savior and Lord, ask Him to reveal Himself to you in a special way. And when He calls to you, say “Yes.”
Jesus wants every one of us to be with Him in paradise, and He gave His life for that to happen. He wants us to claim and celebrate His promise of eternal life with a renewed commitment to seek Him today and every day, with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all our strength.
“Today you will be with Me in paradise,” he says to us from the cross. And paradise begins the moment we exclaim to Him, “I believe!”
Jesus’ Prayer For Us | Thursday, April 9
“‘I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’ After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed…” | John 16:33-17:1
What did Jesus’ pray for, on that dark night in the Garden of Gethsemane as He moved ever closer to the cross?
The Apostle John devoted an entire chapter to the words of Jesus, as He prayed for Himself, for His disciples, and for us.
That’s right. On the very night that He was to be betrayed, Jesus prayed for us.
First, He prayed for Himself, asking the Father to glorify Him that He might glorify the Father.
Then He prayed for the disciples, asking God to protect them, to fill them with joy, and make them holy.
And then He prayed for all future believers – that includes us today – with these words, as recorded in John 17:20-24:
“My prayer is not for them (the disciples) alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.”
Talk about amazing love! The thought that Jesus would pray for us, even as He faced the cross, is beyond comprehension. Yet, that is exactly what He did. And His purpose in praying should be ours as well: To ask for complete unity – with our Heavenly Father, with our Lord and Savior, and with other believers.
What will you do this week in response to Jesus’ prayer for you?
What do you need to do to be one with Him?
What do you need to do to be unified with other believers? How can you help build unity at Centenary, even in these challenging “stay at home” times?
This week, ask God to show you how you can reflect the “complete unity” that will tell the world that Jesus Christ is the Lord and Savior it desperately needs.
It’s a message that needs to be told, especially in these dark and difficult times, and He is calling us to tell it.
His Will or Our Will? | Wednesday, April 8
“I want your will to be done, not mine.” | Matthew 26:39b (NLT)
Jesus was in agony when he uttered those words while praying on that dark night in the Garden of Gethsemane.
We know from scripture that Jesus was both fully God and fully human. As fully God, he knew what was ahead. And as fully human, he wasn’t looking forward to it.
That reality is reflected in the full verse in Matthew 26: “He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”
In tough times, most of us pray that prayer – or at least the first part of it. But when it comes to the “your will, not mine” piece, we’re not as faithful at that.
In the prayer He taught His disciples, Jesus was pretty clear right at the start: “Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.”
There’s an expanded version of the New Living Translation that personalizes it;
Our Father in heaven,
may your name be kept holy;
may I keep your name holy.
May your kingdom come soon;
may your will be done on earth,
and in my life, as it is in heaven.
As Jesus looked at what was ahead for Him – the excruciating pain and suffering – He was able to say to God the Father “I want your will to be done, not mine.”
As we go through life – especially in the toughest of times – we often ask for His guidance and wisdom. But how often do we really pray for His will to be done? And, do we really want His will to be done? Or, in our fallen human nature, are we more in tune with the words of the famous Frank Sinatra song, “I did it my way”?
In his letter to early Christians, the Apostle Paul wrote, “Give yourselves to God … surrender your whole being to Him, to be used for righteous purposes.” (Today’s English Version)
That’s the key to pleasing God: Surrendering ourselves to Him and seeking His will and His way, not just now and then or here and there, but all the time in every aspect of our life.
What Jesus did, and what we as followers of Christ are called to do, is to put God’s will and way ahead of ours
Let your song be not “I did it my way” but “I did it His way.” Do that for His glory and your joy.
His Love, Our Love | Tuesday, April 7
“Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for each other will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” | John 13:34
These are difficult days that we’re living in, no doubt about it. The coronavirus has brought us to our knees, figuratively and literally, as individuals, as a country and as a world.
But as tough, as unpleasant, as painful as these times may be, they’re nothing – nothing! – compared to what Jesus went through on the last days of His life on this earth.
Think about it: In the course of one week He was insulted, mocked, unjustly accused, spat upon, hit with sticks and stones, beaten, humiliated, tortured and finally nailed to a wooden cross to suffer a slow, agonizing death.
And the thought that Jesus willingly chose to suffer like that… what made Him do that?
Love! That’s right, love! Everything Jesus did He did out of love. For us.
John 3:16, perhaps the best known verse in the Bible, tells us “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have Eternal life.”
What do we do with a love like that?
God wants us to love Him back. 1 John 4:19 says “We love because He first loved us.” And He wants us to love others like Jesus loved us.
What does that kind of love look like? It’s a selfless, self-giving, sacrificial love – the kind that puts others ahead of ourselves. The kind characterized by the Christlike qualities written about in 1 Corinthians 13 – qualities that in these stressful “stay-at-home” times are needed more than ever.
How are your when it comes to loving like Jesus? Before you answer, take this
1 Corinthians 13 self-assessment, filling your own name in the blank before the quality:
_______________ is patient.
_______________ is kind.
_______________ does not envy.
_______________ does not boast.
_______________ is not proud.
_______________ is not rude.
_______________ is not self-seeking,
_______________ is not easily angered.
_______________ keeps no record of wrongs.
_______________ does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
_______________ always protects, always hopes, always perseveres.
If you’re like most of us, you left a number of lines blank. And you’re probably thinking it’s impossible to be that, to be that kind of person, to have those kinds of qualities, to love like that.
In our humanness, you’re right – it is impossible. But not with God. With Him, the scriptures tell us, all things are possible.
This week, pray over the qualities of love in your own life – especially the ones you know need His healing touch. If you’re impatient, ask Him to develop patience in you. If you lose your cool too easily, ask Him to temper your tantrums. If you can’t let go of past wrongs, ask Him to help you soften your heart and forgive.
Turn yourself over to Him, and get ready for a life filled with love!
The Day After The Parade | Monday, April 6
“Most of the crowd spread their coats on the road ahead of Jesus, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them in the road. He was in the center of the procession, and the crowds all around him were shouting: Praise God for the Son of David! Bless the one comes in the name of the Lord! Praise God in the highest Heaven!” – Matthew 21:8-10 (NLT)
“Were you at the parade yesterday?” “Wasn’t it amazing?” “Have you ever seen anything like it?” “What do you think he’s going to do?”
Imagine the chatter throughout Jerusalem the day after the big parade. It was no wonder people couldn’t stop talking about it. After all, it was a once-in-a-lifetime – no, a once-in-all-time – event, as the promised Messiah entered the city, filling the people’s hearts with hope and happiness.
Scripture tells us that the people rolled out the red carpet for Jesus, paving the way with their coats, waving branches in the air and joyfully praising God. And, scripture tells us the entire city was stirred by the triumphal arrival of their – and our – Lord and Savior.
Sadly, the excitement was only temporary; most of the crowd that hailed Jesus would soon turn their backs on Him, and within a week many who had shouted “Hosanna” would just as loudly be screaming “Crucify Him.”
What about us? Are we any different? Just like the crowd, we roll out the red carpet and shout “Hosanna” when Jesus first enters our lives, and then at special times like Christmas and Easter. But what happens after the parade passes? Do we continue to celebrate Jesus? Or, like the crowd, does our excitement and enthusiasm fade away as we get drawn back into the ways of the world?
This week, as we journey from the parade on Palm Sunday to the cross at Calvary to the empty tomb on Easter, let’s not lose our way. No, this week live out your “Hosanna!” with all your heart! Worship God in private and in public, thanking Him in word and deed for the loving gift of eternal life in and through His Son!
And pray for his Holy Spirit to touch you in a new, and special, and lasting way – a way that will tell the world around you who He is and whose you are!
Pray Modesto Guide | Saturday, April 4
Revival | Friday, April 3
“Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a right spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me again the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.”
— Psalm 51: 10-12 (NLT)
Who among us couldn’t use a little renewing, a little restoring, a little reviving – especially as the ongoing coronavirus pandemic takes its toll on our spirits and, at times, our faith?
“Psalms Now,” a delightful paraphrase published more than 40 years ago, puts the above verses this way: “Restore my flagging spirit, O God. Restore to me the joy and assurance of a right relationship with You. Reinstate me in Your purposes, and help me to avoid the snares and pitfalls along the way.”
We all could use that – as individuals and together as the church. While we pray for God in His love, mercy and grace to bring the current health crisis to an end, we need even more to pray for spiritual renewal and revival for us individually and as the Centenary family. Pray these prayers today and in the days to come:
God, revive us so we burn hot for You. Give us singleness of heart and action that we may always revere You and follow You. Open our minds to your Word and set our hearts ablaze within us.
Lord, make us a people and a house of prayer. We want to pray first, always and continually with thanks. May we understand that this is Your desire for all of us, not just a few. Transform us into righteous people whose prayers are powerful and effective.
Holy Spirit, lead us to level ground. Show us ways we grieve, quench or resist You. We live by You; help us keep in step with You. Reign us in so we experience Your freedom.
Father, we desire to be pure and obedient so our love for each other will be sincere and from the heart. Give us a spirit of unity so we glorify You with one heart and voice.
Lord, remind us that sharing with others is a pleasing sacrifice to You. Keep us outwardly focused so we don’t become self-absorbed. Enable us to extend mercy – and Jesus – to people in every kind of need.
Sources: ‘Psalms/Now,’ ‘A Month of Prayers for Your Church,’ ‘Pray!’ magazine / 2008
If my people | Thursday, April 2
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” — 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NIV)
The words God spoke to King Solomon some 3,000 years ago — telling the wayward Israelites what they needed to do to receive His forgiveness, healing and wholeness — are as relevant today as they were back then.
Today, we most often hear them prayed at the annual National Day of Prayer, or when the country is going through a crisis of sorts. And given the present time of turmoil and trouble, we need to pray them faithful and fervently:
“If my people, who are called by my name…”
Pray that we would identify ourselves not merely by who the world says we are, but by whose we are. We have been created by God, and as followers of Christ have been called to be His image bearers in this broken world.
“… will humble themselves…”
Pray that we as Christians and a country will bow before the Lord each day, surrendering ourselves to His authority that we might receive the full measure of His mercy and grace.
“… and pray…
Pray that as God’s family we would unite in praying for each other, for His Church and for our country that we might lead lives that are peaceful and pleasing to our Lord.
“… and seek my face…”
Pray that in all things we would seek the Lord, finding our strength and our hope in Him and His will and ways rather than in ourselves and the world.
“… and turn from their wicked ways…”
Pray that we would confess, ask God’s forgiveness, and demonstrate true repentance with changed lives that reflect the lordship of Jesus Christ.
“… then I will hear from heaven…”
Pray for God to open our eyes, our ears and our hearts that we might feel His loving presence as we surrender to Him.
“… and will forgive their sin …”
Pray a prayer of thanksgiving, praising God that when we confess, He is faithful and just, and forgives our sins and cleanses us from all unrighteousness.
“… and will heal their land.”
Pray that as we celebrate another Independence Day, God will heal and restore us, that as individuals we might be people “after God’s own heart” and as a country, “one nation, under God.”
Sources: Life Action Ministries and Pray! Magazine / adapted from a 2008 Centenary devotional.
Spring Cleaning | Wednesday, April 1
“We are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.’ … Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.”
— 2 Corinthians 6:16, 7:1 (NIV)
In the midst of everything going on right now, it was easy to miss the fact that Spring arrived on time as it does every year.
OK, so some things are missing, due to the coronavirus pandemic – schools are out, sports are cancelled, plans for air travel or cruises are on hold, and even Disneyland is closed. But the trees are leafing out, the grass is greening up, the flowers are blooming – and God is on His throne!
Oh, and “spring cleaning” has taken on a new meaning: Rather than cleaning the closets and drawers and cutting down on the clutter, we’re busy constantly scrubbing and disinfecting just about everything and everyone around us.
But there’s another cleaning and disinfecting that needs to take place: Our hearts.
In his classic essay, “My Heart, Christ’s Home,” Robert Boyd Munger draws a parallel between our hearts and our homes. If Jesus was coming to visit your home, what would you do to make it presentable for Him? What kinds of things would you remove from your family room, your bedroom, your computer room, your kitchen, your hall closet? What are the things you would be embarrassed for Him to see, the things you know He wouldn’t want you to be thinking, viewing, reading or doing?
So it is with our hearts — just like our homes, they frequently need a good cleaning to make thempresentable to Him.
Paul’s letter to the Colossians gives us a laundry list of the dirt and disease that needs to be scrubbed away: Sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, greed, anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language — in short, all the things that God says are sin. Then, in Hebrews 12:1 he writes, “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles…” In other words, besides the obvious sins, we are to remove anything and everything that hinders us in our walk with the Lord.
What kind of spring cleaning do you need to do in your life? What is hindering you in devoting yourself in loving obedience to your Lord and Savior? Are there specific sinful attitudes and behaviors that are robbing you of a rich relationship with Him?
Ask God to help you see your heart and life the way He does. Ask Him to reveal what needs to be swept and scrubbed and sterilized. Like King David in Psalm 51, ask Him to “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”
–Adapted from 2008 Centenary devotion
God Has a Plan for Us | Tuesday, March 31
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”– Jeremiah 29:11
Most of us have probably heard that verse more than a few times – it’s often offered up during times of trial or uncertainty, as a way to calm and comfort us, and give us hope.
God gave that promise to His people long, long ago in a land far, far away. The Israelites had been taken captive and exiled to Babylon, where they would remain for 70 years. No doubt they were wondering “Why me?” and “Where’s God?” – the same kind of questions people often ask today when the situation seems overwhelming and hopeless.
Then God gave His message of hope to the prophet Jeremiah – a message to let them know that He had not forgotten them, that He was with them, that He knew what they were going through, and that He had a good and perfect plan for them – a plan to give them a new beginning, a new purpose, a new life.
God gives us that same message today. He knows what we’re going through, and He’s with us. But He also knows the future, and His future for His people today is the same as it was for the Israelites of old: He knows the plans He has for us, plans to prosper us and not harm us, plans to give us hope and a future.
But wait, there’s more! God’s message didn’t end with that single sentence that we hear so often. Consider what God then told the Israelites – and tells us today:
“’When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the LORD, ‘and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,’ declares the LORD, ‘and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.’”
What does that mean to us today?
It means that God will fulfill His good promise.
It means that as we call on Him and pray to Him, He will hear us.
It means that if we seek Him with all our heart, we will find Him.
It means that He will deliver us from the things that have taken us captive today.
It means He will bring us back to Him and to where He wants us to be.
It means that He has a plan for us, a plan that gives us a hope and a future in, with and through Jesus Christ.
Trusting God | Monday, March 30
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”- Romans 15: 13 (NIV)
The Book of Psalms is filled with fear – and with trust in God’s protection, provision and good and perfect plan for His people.
Time and time again we see King David pouring out his heart to the Father. “Deliver me!” “Protect me!” “Rescue me!” “Save me!” “Have mercy on me!” This “man after God’s own heart” clearly was afraid.
But almost every time he called out to God, he eventually ended up praising God, thanking God and trusting God.
“When I am afraid,” David wrote in what we know as Psalm 56, ”I will trust in You.”
What David did, again and again, is what we need to do: Go to God, pour out our fears, and thank Him, praise Him and trust Him.
That’s what the writer of this prayer had in mind, and it might be a good prayer in this troubled time we’re in:
Lord, sometimes my fears overwhelm what I believe. Sometimes I wonder whether You will fulfill the promises in Your Word to care for me. Thank You for accepting me in those times when I struggle, and for understanding my questions. Thank You for knowing that when I cry or struggle, I still love You. And I know that You love me.
When I question the troubles and tragedies of life, it isn’t that I doubt Your right to work and to rule; it’s that I struggle with releasing my own rights and my own desire to reason my way through the dark valley.
Thank You for Your Book, which includes people like Thomas, who finally said, “My Lord and my God!” Help me to come to that same conclusion – and sooner rather than later.
I do believe You; help me when I doubt. In Your strength I will choose faith as my first response rather than listen to my fears.
Thank You for drawing me to You in increased faith. May Your life be seen in me, controlling me more and more as I surrender myself to You.
Do it Your way, Lord. Just help me in the process.
“Commit your way to the Lord, trust in Him,” David advises us in Psalm 37. “Trust in Him at all times; O people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge.”
There’s no time like now to follow David’s advice. Are you ready to do that?
Prayer author unknown / MV / 2020
Blessings | Saturday, March 28
“To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love. Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide; Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow, Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!”– Lyrics from “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”
When times are dark and things aren’t going well, it’s all too easy to overlook the ways that God blesses us every day with His presence, protection, provision and promises!
In fact, “Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside” doesn’t come close to capturing the ways God touches our lives from the day we’re born to the day we go home to Him.
Consider the blessings that we find in one of the most well-known scriptures, the 23rd Psalm:
The Lord is my shepherd…
The blessing of relationship!
I shall not be in want…
The blessing of provision!
He makes me lie down in green pastures…
The blessing of rest!
He leads me beside still waters…
The blessing of refreshment!
He restores my soul…
The blessing of inner healing!
He leads me in the path of righteousness…
The blessing of guidance!
For His name sake…
The blessing of purpose!
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…
The blessing of trials
I will fear no evil…
The blessing of protection!
For you are with me…
The blessing of faithfulness!
Your rod and Your staff they comfort me…
The blessing of correction and discipline!
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies…
The blessing of hope!
You anoint my head with oil…
The blessing of consecration!
My cup overflows…
The blessing of abundance!
Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life…
The blessing of unlimited blessings!
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord…
The blessing of security!
The blessing of eternity!
Take time today to pray through the 23rd Psalm, thanking God for each of those blessings – as well as specific ways that He is blessing you right now. And ask Him how you can be a blessing to someone else.
Do that and you will be – that’s right – blessed!
— Adapted from 2006 Centenary devotion; original author unknown / MV
Early Christians Suffered Too | Friday, March 27
“Among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.”
– The Apostle Paul, writing to the early church, 2 Thessalonians 1:4
There’s no question that many if not most of us have never experienced anything remotely like what we’re going through right now.
But generations long past experienced suffering that took a far greater toll than this coronavirus pandemic is expected to.
Imagine living in the 1300s, when the Black Death killed between 75 million and 200 million lives, including half the population of Europe. Or contracting the Spanish Flu in 1918, when a third of the world’s population contracted the disease and an estimated 50 million died. Or living before the medicines of today when cholera, small pox, measles, and other diseases spread like wildfire, claiming millions upon millions upon millions of lives around the world.
Even the early church of nearly 2,000 years ago faced overwhelming challenges that threatened to bring it to its knees. But God’s people persevered and the church not only survived but thrived as it shared the love of Christ with the panicked world of that time.
And there’s a lesson to be learned from them, says Jim Daly.
“I believe the comparison to the early Church is instructive,” Daly wrote in a letter to his ministry’s supporters, “because it reminds us that strife and struggle need not slow us down – nor impede the mission of a ministry that’s ordained by God to bring Good News to a hurting world.”
His is a message worth considering:
“The early Christian Church was marked by suffering, specifically persecution, but also plagues and disease that indiscriminately ravaged populations.
One of the deadliest pandemics occurred between AD 249 and 262, where up to 5,000 people in Rome died – per day. While many non-Christians concentrated on saving only themselves, it was the Christians who remained and served those who were suffering. They made a tremendous impact. In fact, some believe their heroism was rewarded in the form of building up personal immunity to the disease.
A similar scenario occurred a century later, and Julian, the Roman emperor at the time, lamented that the church’s growth was due to Christians’ ‘benevolence to strangers, their care for the graves of the dead, and the pretended holiness of their lives.’” Emperor Julian was disgusted, not just by their charity and sacrifice – but by the absence of the equivalent bravery of his own people.”
Daly reminds us that what was true then is true now:
“There’s no question we’re in a difficult season and sailing uncharted waters. Lately, it seems like wind and waves of bad news continue to lash the boat, each crashing a little harder or higher than the previous ones. Yet the Lord remains in full and complete control.”
And he encourages us, as followers of Christ, to be the Church, whether we’re able to meet at Centenary together or not.
“As this situation continues to unfold, as well as twist and turn, may we model the courageous and sacrificial attitude of our brothers and sisters during those days long ago.”
— MV 2020
Morning Prayer | Thursday, March 26
“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” – Mark 1:35 (NIV)
Whether it’s in the best of times or the toughest of times, the best way to start a day is in prayer.
That’s what Jesus did – and that’s what our good and gracious God wants us to do.
The thing is, in these perilous and unpredictable times, we’re not always quite sure what to pray for. Our hearts are troubled, our emotions are scattered, and our minds are filled sorts of thoughts.
And God knows it! And He wants us to bring all of it to Him, and give it to Him, and trust Him to pour into us everything He knows we need.
Here’s a great prayer to start your day, adapted from one on iBelieve.com:
Good morning, Lord!
You’ve created this day and I thank You for that. And I thank You that Your faithfulness is great, Your love is steadfast, and Your compassion is renewed every morning.
I don’t know what all is going to happen today, but You do. I don’t know what I’ll face or how much I’ll get done, but You do!
And so, I give this day to You. It is Yours, Lord, all Yours. My heart is yours. My mind is Yours. My lips are Yours. My hands and feet are Yours. Everything I am is Yours.
Fill me with Your Holy Spirit, Father. Energize me for Your work, because You know how weary I am at times. Awaken me to the wonderous joy of Your salvation, and quicken my spirit to the reality of Your presence, protection, provision and promises in my life.
Lord, my mind is filled with so many thoughts and ideas, but they are all jumbled. Holy Spirit, come and hover over me like You hovered over the waters at creation and speak order out of the chaos in my mind. Help me to stop striving and to trust that You will give me all I need today to do everything You’ve given me to do.
You promise that You will compete the good work You have started, and as I step into this day, I declare Your lordship over every area of my life. You are all I need, and I entrust myself to You and ask that You use me however You see fit.
May everything that I think, say and do today be pleasing to You.
For Your glory and my joy,
— Based on a prayer on iBelieve.com by Asheritah Ciuciu / MV2020
Strength | Wednesday, March 25
“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 (NIV)
Where do we get the strength to walk the “walk of faith,” especially in times of trouble when we grow tired and get weary, become discouraged and distraught, and sometimes even lose hope?
Can any of us succeed on our own? Based on how long and hard we try, the answer is “no.”
We can’t do it on our own – but He can!
That’s the message behind one of the great hymns of the faith:
“On Christ the solid rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand.”
That’s the good news for us – and for Christians everywhere in this world that’s been turned upside down: God never intended for us to go it, or do it, on our own.
First and foremost, He is with us, and He promises He will never leave us or forsake us. And in His great love, mercy and grace, He created the Church – not the brick-and-mortar one in which we usually gather, but His people in whom He dwells.
And He’s given us – His Church – the power to prevail.
We are the Church! We are His temple, and the Spirit of God lives and works in us and through us as we encourage one another, build one another up, pick one another up when we stumble, comfort and support one another.
When we hold tight to one another in the Lord, we are a mighty fortress against which the troubles, trials and tribulations of the day – and the powers of darkness – cannot prevail.
We may not be able to meet face-to-face for a while during this crisis, but we can hold tight to one another in prayer and by using the technology of the times.
We are empowered and strengthened by the Lord; He indeed is our fortress, our refuge in times of trouble. The battle is His but we are His army and will share in the victory.
— Adapted from 2007 Centenary devotion