Read: Luke 5:27-32
I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance. —Luke 5:32
Bible in a Year: Isaiah 62-64; 1 Timothy 1
Julie Ackerman Link Even before I could afford a self-cleaning oven, I managed to keep my oven clean. Guests even commented on it when we had them over for a meal. “Wow, your oven is so clean. It looks like new.” I accepted the praise even though I knew I didn’t deserve it. The reason my oven was clean had nothing to do with my meticulous scrubbing; it was clean because I so seldom used it.
How often, I wonder, am I guilty of accepting undeserved admiration for my “clean” life? It’s easy to give the impression of being virtuous; simply do nothing difficult, controversial, or upsetting to people. But Jesus said we are to love people who don’t agree with us, who don’t share our values, who don’t even like us. Love requires that we get involved in the messy situations of people’s lives. Jesus was frequently in trouble with religious leaders who were more concerned about keeping their own reputations clean than they were about the spiritual condition of those they were supposed to care for. They considered Jesus and His disciples unclean for mingling with sinners when they were simply trying to rescue people from their destructive way of life (Luke 5:30-31).
True disciples of Jesus are willing to risk their own reputations to help others out of the mire of sin.
Dear Lord, give me a heart of compassion for those who are lost in sin.
Help me not to be concerned about what others think of me
but only that Your holy name will be honored.
Christ sends us out to bring others in.
Insight: The role of tax collector in first-century Israel was quite different from what we would think today. Ancient Rome operated on the back of the taxes drained from conquered lands like Israel. This was overseen by the local governor (or procurator), but it was actually accomplished by local citizens like Levi (also known as Matthew), who worked for Rome. These tax collectors, however, were not viewed as simple agents or bureaucrats. They were known to charge higher taxes than were due and to pocket the excess. They were despised as collaborators who had aligned themselves with the hated occupying force. The taxes they collected were a continuing symbol of the oppression the Jews felt as a conquered people, and the tax collectors were considered participants in that oppression.
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Read: Proverbs 15:1-23
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. —Proverbs 15:1
Bible in a Year: Isaiah 59-61; 2 Thessalonians 3
David C. McCasland On July 28, 1914, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia in response to the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie. Within 90 days, other European countries had taken sides to honor their military alliances and pursue their own ambitions. A single event escalated into World War I, one of the most destructive military conflicts of modern time.
The tragedy of war is staggering, yet our relationships and families can begin to fracture with only a few hateful words. James wrote, “See how great a forest a little fire kindles!” (James 3:5). A key to avoiding verbal conflict is found in Proverbs: “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (15:1).
A small comment can start a large fight. When we, by God’s grace, choose not to retaliate with our words, we honor Jesus our Savior. When He was abused and insulted, He fulfilled the prophetic words of Isaiah, “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth” (Isa. 53:7).
Proverbs urges us to speak the truth and seek peace through our words. “A wholesome tongue is a tree of life, . . . and a word spoken in due season, how good it is!” (15:4,23).
A careless word may kindle strife,
A cruel word may wreck a life;
A timely word may lessen stress,
A loving word may heal and bless. —Anon.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Insight: A major theme in Proverbs concerns the use of our tongues (10:19-21; 12:18, 13:3; 17:27-28; 18:6-8; 25:11; 26:18-22). Proverbs 15 warns of the consequences of using wrong words and the benefits of using right words. A wise person is carefully restrained and judicious when speaking (vv.2,7,28).
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Read: Matthew 7:24–29
Whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock. —Matthew 7:24
Bible in a Year: Isaiah 56-58; 2 Thessalonians 2
Marion Stroud “I’ve got bad news for you,” said the builder, who was renovating an old house I had inherited. “When we started to convert the back half of the garage for your office, we found that the walls had almost no foundation. We will have to demolish them, dig proper foundations, and start again.”
“Do you have to do that?” I pleaded, silently calculating the extra cost. “Can’t you just patch it up?” But the builder was adamant. “Unless we go down to the proper depth, the building inspector won’t approve it. The right foundation is vital.”
The right foundation makes the difference between something that lasts and something temporary. Jesus knew that though foundations are invisible, they are vitally important to the strength and stability of the house (Matt. 7:24-25), especially when it is battered by the elements. He also knew the hearts of His listeners. They would be tempted to take the easy way, find shortcuts, or do things by halves to gain their objectives.
Other foundations may be quicker and easier. Building our lives on the right foundation is hard work, but God’s truth is the only bedrock worth building on. When the storms of life hit, houses built on and held together by Him stand firm.
Father, the winds of life’s storms can be
powerful and threatening. Thank You for the
foundation of the truth of Your faithfulness. Help
me to rely on Your strength in my storms.
The wise man builds his house upon the Rock.
Insight: Jesus had just finished giving His “Sermon on the Mount” when He used the analogy found in today’s passage. His teachings provide a stable foundation that will weather any storm. The wind, the rain, and the house are not the problem. The house built on the sand fell down because the sand provided no support in the wind and rain. The wind and rain washed and blew away the foundation so that there was nothing to support the house. Even the best house will crumble with no foundation.
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Read: 1 Samuel 20:32-42
Two are better than one. —Ecclesiastes 4:9
Bible in a Year: Isaiah 53-55; 2 Thessalonians 1
Jennifer Benson Schuldt In the novel Shane, a friendship forms between Joe Starrett, a farmer on the American frontier, and Shane, a mysterious man who stops to rest at the Starrett home. The men first bond as they work together to remove a giant tree stump from Joe’s land. The relationship deepens as Joe rescues Shane from a fight and Shane helps Joe improve and guard his farmland. The men share a sense of mutual respect and loyalty that reflects what Scripture says: “Two are better than one . . . . If they fall, one will lift up his companion” (Eccl. 4:9-10).
Jonathan and David modeled this principle as well. Circumstances tested their friendship when David suspected that King Saul wanted him dead. Jonathan doubted this, but David believed it to be true (1 Sam. 20:2-3). Eventually, they decided David would hide in a field while Jonathan questioned his father about the matter. When Saul’s deadly intent became clear, the friends wept together and Jonathan blessed David as he fled (v.42).
You have a genuine friend in Jesus if you have accepted His offer of salvation—a friend who is always loyal; one who lifts you when you stumble. He has shown you the greatest love one friend can have for another—love that led Him to sacrifice His life for you (John 15:13).
What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer! —Scriven
Jesus is your most trusted Friend.
Insight: Jonathan’s friendship with David was marked by brotherly affection, but it also displayed Jonathan’s self-sacrifice. The throne that would have been his destiny as the son of King Saul had already been given to David (1 Sam. 16:10-13).
Read: Jonah 1:1–2:2
I cried out to the Lord because of my affliction, and He answered me. —Jonah 2:2
Bible in a Year: Isaiah 50-52; 1 Thessalonians 5
Randy Kilgore When our daughter was too young to walk or crawl, she created a way to hide from people when she wanted to be left alone or wanted her own way. She simply closed her eyes. Kathryn reasoned that anyone she couldn’t see also couldn’t see her. She used this tactic in her car seat when someone new tried to say hello; she used it in her highchair when she didn’t like the food; she even used it when we announced it was bedtime.
Jonah had a more grown-up strategy of hiding, but it wasn’t any more effective than our daughter’s. When God asked him to do something he didn’t want to do, he ran in the opposite direction. But he found out pretty quickly there is no place God couldn’t find him. In fact, Scripture is full of stories of God finding people when they didn’t necessarily want to be found (Ex. 2:11–3:6; 1 Kings 19:1-7; Acts 9:1-19).
Maybe you have tried to hide from God, or maybe you think even God can’t see you. Please know this: If God sees and hears the prayer of a rebellious prophet in the belly of a big fish, then He sees and hears you wherever you are, whatever you’ve done. But that’s nothing to be afraid of. It’s actually a great comfort. He’s always there, and He cares!
Thank You, God, that You are there for us.
We hear Your words: “You will seek Me
and find Me, when you search for Me
with all your heart” (Jer. 29:13).
We need not fear the troubles around us as long as the eye of the Lord is on us.
Read: Genesis 12:1-10; 13:1
Our fathers trusted in You; they trusted, and You delivered them. —Psalm 22:4
Bible in a Year: Isaiah 47-49; 1 Thessalonians 4
Dave Branon Before my wife and I embarked on a 400-mile road trip, I set up the GPS with our daughter’s home in Missouri as the destination. As we traveled through Illinois, the GPS instructed us to get off the Interstate, resulting in a detour through the city of Harvey. After the GPS directed us back to
I-80, I was baffled by this mysterious detour. Why were we directed off a perfectly good highway?
I’ll never know the answer. We continued on our way, and we trusted the GPS to get us there and home again.
That got me to thinking about detours in life. We may seem to be traveling on a smooth pathway. Then for some reason, God redirects us into an unfamiliar area. Perhaps it is an illness, or a crisis at work or school, or an unexpected tragedy occurs. We don’t understand what God is doing.
Abraham faced a mysterious detour when God told him, “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house” (Gen. 12:1). Surely Abraham must have wondered why God was routing him to the Negev desert. But he trusted God and His good purposes.
A GPS may make mistakes, but we can trust our unfailing God (Ps. 22:4). He will guide us through all our mysterious detours and lead us where He wants us to go.
We seek Your guidance, Lord, but we understand
that our path won’t always be without challenges.
Help us to trust You through the detours—knowing
that You have our best interests and Your honor at heart.
We don’t need to see the way when we stay close to the One who does.
Read: Psalm 72:12-20
There will be an abundance of grain in the earth, on the top of the mountains. —Psalm 72:16
Bible in a Year: Psalms 10-12; Acts 19:1-20
David H. Roper I’ve been on a number of mountaintops in the US in my time, and I can tell you that not much grows up there. The summits of mountains are bare rock and lichen. That’s not where you would normally find an abundance of grain.
But Solomon, who wrote Psalm 72, asked God for “an abundance of grain . . . on the top of the mountains,” to characterize his reign as king. If grain on the mountain is so unusual, what is Solomon suggesting? That God’s power can produce results in even the most unpromising soil?
Perhaps you think of yourself as a little person, with very little to bring to the kingdom. Take courage: God can produce an abundant harvest through you. This is one of the ironies of faith: God uses the insignificant to accomplish the great. Not many of us are wise or noble; most of us are anonymous and far from extraordinary. Yet all of us can be used. And contrary to what we might think, it is because of our weakness that we can be used by God (1 Cor. 1:27-29; 2 Cor. 12:10).
It’s possible to be too big or proud for God to use, but we can never be too little. “Out of weakness” we are “made strong” (Heb. 11:34). By God’s great power, we can do all that He has called us to do.
Lord, You work through such common things—those of us with flaws and weaknesses. We are in awe of Your power and humbled by Your choice of us. Our hearts long to be faithful to You.
To experience God’s power, we must first admit that we are weak.
Insight: Solomon and wisdom are virtually synonymous. As great as Solomon was and as much as he did for Israel through his kingship—economic prosperity, peace, arts, and culture—he still fell short of what God can do. In today’s psalm, Solomon, the man who built golden temples and palaces, reflects on the power of God to save souls and to bring growth to barren places (72:13,16). God is the only one who truly does wondrous things (v.18).
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Originally posted 2014-07-14 07:37:17.
Read: Matthew 8:1-4; 9:9-12
Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. —Matthew 9:12
Bible in a Year: Isaiah 45-46; 1 Thessalonians 3
Philip Yancey In India I worshiped among leprosy patients. Most of the medical advances in the treatment of leprosy came about as a result of missionary doctors, who were willing to live among patients and risk exposure to the dreaded disease. As a result, churches thrive in most major leprosy centers. In Myanmar I visited homes for AIDS orphans, where Christian volunteers try to replace parental affection the disease has stolen away. The most rousing church services I have attended took place in Chile and Peru, in the bowels of a federal prison. Among the lowly, the wretched, the downtrodden—the rejected of this world—God’s kingdom takes root.
Taking God’s assignment seriously means that we must learn to look at the world upside down, as Jesus did. Instead of seeking out people with resources who can do us favors, we look for people with few resources. Instead of the strong, we find the weak; instead of the healthy, the sick. Instead of the spiritual, the sinful. Is not this how God reconciles the world to Himself? “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. . . . I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matt. 9:12-13 niv).
To gain a new perspective, look at the world upside down as Jesus did.
We know, Jesus, that You sought the lowly ones
who were rejected by others. We want to be like
You. Open our eyes and show us how.
We long to be used by You to bless others.
Do you see a needy world through the eyes of Jesus?
Insight: Jesus dined with the Pharisees (Luke 7:36; 11:37), perhaps even with a member of the Sanhedrin (14:1). But Jesus ate so often with social and religious outcasts that He earned the reputation as “a friend of tax collectors and sinners!” (Matt. 11:19). He even appointed a tax collector as His apostle. When the self-righteous Pharisees criticized Him for socializing with those they considered the outcasts of society, Jesus said, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Luke 5:32).
Read: 2 Corinthians 4:16–5:8
He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit. —2 Corinthians 5:5
Bible in a Year: Isaiah 43-44; 1 Thessalonians 2
Anne Cetas After a week’s vacation with her daughter and 4-month-old grandson, Oliver, Kathy had to say goodbye until she could see them again. She wrote to me saying, “Sweet reunions like we had make my heart long for heaven. There, we won’t have to try to capture memories in our mind. There, we won’t have to pray for the time to go slowly and the days to last long. There, our hello will never turn into goodbye. Heaven will be a ‘forever hello,’ and I can’t wait.” As a first-time grandma, she wants to be with her grandson Oliver as much as possible! She’s thankful for any time she can be with him and for the hope of heaven—where the wonderful moments will never end.
Our good days do seem too short, and our difficult days far too long. But both kinds of days cause us to long for even better days ahead. The apostle Paul said that he and the Corinthians longed to be “clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life” (2 Cor. 5:4 niv). Although the Lord is with us in this life, we cannot see Him face to face. Now we live by faith, not by sight (v.7).
God made us for the very purpose of being near to Him always (v.5). Heaven will be a forever hello.
Face to face—O blissful moment!
Face to face—to see and know;
Face to face with my Redeemer,
Jesus Christ who loves me so! —Breck
Now we see Jesus in the Bible, but then, face to face.
Insight: The opening words of today’s passage are beautiful and encouraging: “We do not lose heart.” Despite the afflictions we face, we know something greater is coming—an “eternal weight of glory” (v.17).
Read: Proverbs 25:11-15
A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver. —Proverbs 25:11
Bible in a Year: Isaiah 41-42; 1 Thessalonians 1
Marvin Williams You may have heard the adage, “Timing is everything.” According to the Bible, good timing applies to our words and speech too. Think of a time when God used you to bring a timely word to refresh someone, or when you wanted to speak, but it was wiser for you to remain silent.
The Bible says that there is an appropriate time to speak (Eccl. 3:7). Solomon compared properly timed and well-spoken words with golden apples in a silver setting—beautiful, valuable, and carefully crafted (Prov. 25:11-12). Knowing the right time to speak is beneficial for both the speaker and hearer, whether they are words of love, encouragement, or rebuke. Keeping silent also has its place and time. When tempted to deride, belittle, or slander a neighbor, Solomon said that it is wise to hold our tongue, recognizing the appropriate time for silence (11:12-13). When talkativeness or anger tempts us to sin against God or another human being, resistance comes by being slow to speak (10:19; James 1:19).
It’s often hard to know what to say and when to say it. The Spirit will help us to be discerning. He will help us use the right words at the right time and in the right manner, for the good of others and for His honor.
Heavenly Father, thank You for using others to speak words of encouragement
and challenge to me. Help me to be wise in how and when my words or my silence
may be helpful to someone else.
Timely words are works of art.
Insight: Hebrew poetry (such as psalms and proverbs) differs greatly from Western poetry. Where Western poetry often depends upon rhyme and meter to artistically tell its tale, Hebrew poetry is dependent upon linguistic devices to paint the picture of the ideas it is seeking to convey. One such device, synonymous parallelism, is found in verse 15. Here, the idea of the first half of the verse is reinforced through a reworded repetition of that idea in the second half of the verse. Another common poetic device is found in verses 11-14, where analogies (notice the word like) form the word-pictures that carry the meaning.
Read: Matthew 11:25-30
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. —Matthew 11:28
Bible in a Year: Isaiah 39-40; Colossians 4
Bill Crowder Entering a church in Klang, Malaysia, I was intrigued by the sign welcoming us into the building. It declared the place to be “A Sanctuary for the Heavy Laden.”
Few things better reflect the heart of Christ than for His church to be a place where burdens are lifted and the weary find rest. This was vital in Jesus’ ministry, for He said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).
Jesus promised to take our burdens and exchange them for His light load. “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (vv.29-30).
This promise is backed by His great strength. Whatever burdens we may carry, in Christ we find the strong shoulders of the Son of God, who promises to take our heavy burdens and exchange them for His light load.
Christ, who loves us with an everlasting love, understands our struggles, and can be trusted to provide us with a rest we can never find on our own. His strength is enough for our weakness, making Him our “sanctuary for the heavy laden.”
“Let not your heart be troubled,”
His tender word I hear,
And resting on His goodness,
I lose my doubts and fears. —Martin
God calls the restless ones to find their rest in Him.
Insight: A yoke is a wooden harness that joins two animals (usually oxen or donkeys) so they can work together to pull heavy loads. In the Old Testament, the prophet Jeremiah used it as a metaphor for God’s laws (Jer. 5:5) and as a symbol of submission and enslavement (27:8).
The Jews had been wearied and enslaved by the heavy yoke of legalistic Judaism that the Pharisees had strenuously imposed on them (Matt. 23:4). “Come to Me” (v.28) is Jesus’ invitation to put their trust in Him for salvation and deliverance. Jesus’ yoke is “easy and light” (v.30) because it comes from His mercy and love, rooted in who He is—”gentle and lowly in heart” (v.29). Jesus extends that same invitation to us today. Because of our new birth, His commands are not burdensome (1 John 5:3-4).
Read: Romans 12:1-8
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. —Romans 12:2
Bible in a Year: Isaiah 37-38; Colossians 3
David C. McCasland Educator and best-selling author Tony Wagner is a firm believer in “disruptive innovation” that changes the way the world thinks and works. In his book Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World, he says, “Innovation occurs in every aspect of human endeavor,” and “most people can become more creative and innovative—given the right environment and opportunities.”
Paul was a first-century innovator who traveled throughout Asia Minor telling people how they could be transformed by faith in Jesus Christ. To the Christians in Rome Paul wrote, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think” (Rom. 12:2 nlt). He urged them to give themselves fully to God (v.1). In a self-centered, greedy, and grasping world, Paul nurtured and mentored them in how to live a Christ-centered, giving life.
The world has changed dramatically since Paul’s time. But the longings of people for love, forgiveness, and the power to change remain the same. Jesus, the Great Innovator, offers all of these and invites us to experience a new and different life in Him.
I’m thankful for the ways You’re changing me,
Lord. Help me to be open to You and to
cooperate with Your work in me.
Transform me to be like You.
God takes us as we are but never leaves us that way.
Insight: Familiar and frequently quoted, Romans 12:1-2 highlights the drastic and dramatic change that occurs when a person gives him or herself completely to God. In ideas similar to Jesus’ command to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and mind (Matt. 22:37), Paul encourages us to gives ourselves completely—both body (v.1) and mind (v.2)—to God. Only by giving ourselves to God and being transformed can we know His will (v.2).
Read: Mark 6:34-44
Let us not grow weary while doing good. —Galatians 6:9
Bible in a Year: Isaiah 34-36; Colossians 2
Julie Ackerman Link One of my favorite childhood toys is making a comeback—the hula hoop. My friend Suzi and I spent hours on the front lawn perfecting our technique and competing to see which of us could keep a hoop circling our waist longer. This year I relived that part of my childhood. While sitting in a park, I watched as children of all ages and sizes tried their hardest to keep hula hoops from falling to the ground. They twisted and turned with all their strength, but despite their exertion the hoops landed on the ground. Then a young woman picked up a hoop. With hardly any motion, she moved it smoothly and rhythmically up and down from her waist to her shoulders and back to her waist. Her success depended on strategic movement, not vigorous motion.
In our spiritual lives, we can expend all kinds of energy trying to keep up with others in service to God. But working to exhaustion is not a virtue (Gal. 6:9). Before feeding thousands of people with only five loaves and two fish (Mark 6:38-44), Jesus called His disciples away to rest, proving that He doesn’t need our frantic exertion to accomplish His work. The truth Jesus taught His disciples, He wants to teach us: Quiet obedience accomplishes more than wild activity.
Help me, Lord, not to compare myself and what I do with others. May I serve where You want me to serve and do it in Your strength. I love You and give myself to You.
Jesus wants willingness, not weariness.
Insight: It is believed by scholars that each of the four gospel narratives was written to a specific audience. In that context, Mark’s gospel is said to have targeted a Roman audience—with a strong emphasis on action, movement, and the works of Jesus, including the miraculous feeding of the 5,000 in today’s text.
Read: John 16:25-33
In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. —John 16:33
Bible in a Year: Isaiah 32-33; Colossians 1
Dennis Fisher In C. S. Lewis’ book God in the Dock, he wrote: “Imagine a set of people all living in the same building. Half of them think it is a hotel, the other half think it is a prison. Those who think it a hotel might regard it as quite intolerable, and those who thought it was a prison might decide that it was really surprisingly comfortable.” Lewis cleverly used this contrast between a hotel and a prison to illustrate how we view life based on our expectations. He says, “If you think of this world as a place intended simply for our happiness, you find it quite intolerable; think of it as a place of training and correction and it’s not so bad.”
Sometimes we expect that life should be happy and pain-free. But that is not what the Bible teaches. For the believer, this world is a place of spiritual development through both good times and bad. Jesus was realistic when He explained what to expect in life. He told His disciples, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). In facing life’s blessings and bruises, we can have the inner peace that God is orchestrating events according to His sovereign plan.
Christ’s presence in our lives enables us to “be of good cheer” even in the midst of pain.
He whose heart is kind beyond all measure
Gives unto each day what He deems best—
Lovingly, its part of pain and pleasure,
Mingling toil with peace and rest. —Berg
In the midst of troubles, peace can be found in Jesus.
Insight: Knowing that He would soon be betrayed and killed, Jesus gave His disciples a farewell speech, which is recorded in John 13:31–16:33, also known as the Upper Room Discourse. Warning of difficult times ahead for Him and His disciples (16:32), Jesus assured them of God’s presence and peace (vv.32-33). He concluded His speech on a triumphant note: “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (v.33).
Read: Psalm 62:1-8
My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him. —Psalm 62:5
Bible in a Year: Isaiah 30-31; Philippians 4
C. P. Hia Cha Sa-soon, a 69-year-old Korean woman, finally received her driving license after 3 years of trying to pass the written test. She wanted the license so she could take her grandchildren to the zoo.
She was persistent in what is normally an instant world. When we want something and cannot get it, we often complain and demand. At other times, we give up and move on if what we want cannot be quickly gratified. “Wait” is a word we hate to hear! Yet, many times the Bible tells us that God wants us to wait on Him for the right timing.
Waiting on God means patiently looking to Him for what we need. David recognized why he had to wait on the Lord. First, his salvation came from Him (Ps. 62:1). He learned that no one else could deliver him. His only hope was in God (v.5), for God alone hears our prayers (v.8).
Our prayers often revolve around asking God to hurry up and bless what we want to do. What if God’s answer to us is simply, “Be patient. Wait upon Me”? We can pray with David: “Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly” (Ps. 5:3 nlt). We can trust His response, even if it doesn’t come in the time we expect.
When we call out to You, O Lord, And wait for answers to our prayer, Give us the patience that we need And help us sense Your love and care. —Sper
The bottom line of every prayer should be, “Your will be done.”
Insight: This psalm is divided into two sections (vv.1-4 and vv.5-8) with almost identical wording in both (vv.2,6). Each section begins with the affirmation that David’s soul waits silently for God (vv.1,5), and in both David describes Him as a rock. Because of God, David will not be moved (vv.2,6-7). Though David speaks to himself in the opening verses of each section, he moves on to address others in later verses. In verses 3-4, he addresses those who stand against him with a warning that they will be defeated. And in verse 8, he encourages the people of God to trust Him for refuge and protection.
Read: Ephesians 5:1-13
Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. —Ephesians 5:1
Bible in a Year: Isaiah 28-29; Philippians 3
Joe Stowell Queen Elizabeth II has reigned over the British Empire for more than 60 years. Her monarchy has been characterized by grace and class. She has diligently given her life to serve her people well, and as a result she is deeply loved and highly revered. So, you can understand the importance of the flag flying above Buckingham Palace. When the flag is flying, it means that she is in residence in the heart of London. The flag is a public statement that the queen is present with her people.
As I was thinking about that, it occurred to me that our King Jesus is in residence in our hearts as our “never leave you nor forsake you” Monarch (Heb. 13:5). As wonderful as that is to us personally, I wonder if those around us would recognize that He is in residence based on the way we live? If He is within us, that will show on the outside. As Paul says, we are to be “imitators of God” and to “walk in love, as Christ also has loved us” (Eph. 5:1-2). As we do so, we will display joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23).
So let’s fly the flag of His presence—the flag of His grace, righteousness, and love—so that others may see Him through us.
Lord, remind me that Your presence in my heart is intended to be a public reality. May I so value all the blessings of Your presence that I am willing to share them generously with others.
Fly the flag of Christ’s presence to show that the King is in residence in your life.
Insight: The church at Ephesus faced strong challenges to their faith, unity, and lifestyle. In his letter to them, Paul clearly stated what their response should be in verse 2 of today’s text. They were to imitate the heart of self-sacrificial love that Christ Jesus displayed on the cross.
Read: Jeremiah 20:7-13
The Lord is with me as a mighty, awesome One. —Jeremiah 20:11
Bible in a Year: Isaiah 26-27; Philippians 2
Jennifer Benson Schuldt As a young boy, my father had to deliver slop to hungry pigs on the farm where he grew up. He hated this job because the hogs would knock him over when he entered their pen. This task might have been impossible except for a faithful helper who accompanied my dad—a German shepherd named Sugarbear. She would maneuver herself between my father and the pigs and hold them back until my dad finished his chore.
The prophet Jeremiah had the difficult job of proclaiming God’s messages to the Israelites. This required him to endure physical abuse, verbal attacks, imprisonment, and isolation. Although Jeremiah struggled with deep discouragement, he had a Helper through all of his trouble. God promised him, “I am with you . . . to deliver you” (Jer. 1:19).
God did not desert Jeremiah, and He will not desert us. We have His continual aid through the power of the Spirit who lives inside every believer (John 14:16-17). The Helper gives us hope (Rom. 15:13), steers us toward spiritual truth (John 16:13), and pours out God’s love in our hearts (Rom. 5:5). We can trust that God faithfully helps us as we endure hardship. We can say with Jeremiah, “The Lord is with me as a mighty, awesome One” (Jer. 20:11).
You, God, have been our help forever. And You are our hope now and into eternity.
We thank You that You will never desert us. You will be faithful.
Our greatest hope here below is help from God above.
Insight: Knowing that God called him to a difficult ministry, Jeremiah endured much persecution while striving to remain faithful to his calling (Jer. 20:1-6). His suffering caused him to question that calling (vv.7-10), but he was quick to reaffirm God’s sovereignty (vv.11-13).
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Bible in a Year: Isaiah 59-61; 2 Thessalonians 3
Cindy Hess Kasper Last fall, an expressway in my city was shut down for several hours because a cattle truck had overturned. The cattle had escaped and were roaming across the highway. Seeing this news story about stray cattle made me think of something I had recently studied in Exodus 32 about the people of God who strayed from Him.
In the divided kingdom of ancient Israel, King Jeroboam erected two golden calves for the people to worship (1 Kings 12:25-32). But the idea of worshiping hunks of gold had not originated with him. Even after escaping brutal slavery and having seen the Lord’s power and glory mightily displayed, the Israelites had quickly allowed their hearts to stray from Him (Ex. 32). While Moses was on Mt. Sinai receiving the law from the Lord, his brother Aaron helped God’s people stray by constructing an idol in the shape of a golden calf. The writer of Hebrews reminds us of God’s anger over this idolatry and those who “go astray in their heart” (Heb. 3:10).
God knows that our hearts have a tendency to stray. His Word makes it clear that He is the Lord and that we are to worship “no other gods” (Ex. 20:2-6).
“The Lord is the great God, and the great King above all gods” (Ps. 95:3). He is the one true God!
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love; Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, Seal it for Thy courts above. —Robinson
As long as you want anything very much, especially more than you want God, it is an idol. —A. B. Simpson
Originally posted 2013-10-20 09:18:44.