Daily Devotional

  • Becoming Spiritually Whole – Trusting Christ to Live Life for Us - Saturday, January 19th

    For if I rebuild what I have once destroyed, I prove myself to be a transgressor. For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly. Galatians 2:18-21

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    When God brought the world into existence, it was everything he wanted it to be. However, it wasn’t very long before the world became something very different than he created it to be. Ever since, it has been God’s purpose to change the world and bring it back into harmony with himself and the good intentions he had in mind for the world from the beginning. God’s plan for changing the world is centered in his Son, Jesus Christ, who is doing an amazing work of changing the world one person at a time.

    When someone comes to initial faith in Christ the expectation of God is for that person to become a totally changed person. It begins with the provision of Christ’s forgiveness and cleansing of sin that makes it possible for Christ to live in their hearts through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. It then involves his work of actually changing them from the inside out into the person he wants them to be and then using them to reach others that he will be able to change in the same way.

    True change only comes from Jesus Christ himself. It does not come from our own efforts to conform to the expectations we think God has for us. This is what today’s Scripture is all about. Just like a person must give up on there being any way to be right with God except through the forgiveness and cleansing of sin through Christ, they must give up on any way to live the Christian life except through Christ living it in and through them.

    Faith in Christ that saves us must lead to faith in Christ that changes us in this way and this way only. If we resort to law keeping (trying to conform to God’s standards) then we are bypassing God’s plan or if we just go with the flow of the world, then we are ignoring God’s plan. Either way it is forgiveness without a truly changed life and we are missing links in the plan God has for changing the world. The startling conclusion of our passage is that for such cases, “Christ died needlessly.”

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, Jesus, thank you for loving me and giving yourself up for me. I declare that I love and give myself up to you and your wonderful plan. May you have me fully so that you can live in and through me however you desire. Change me and use me for your honor and glory. Amen!

  • Becoming Spiritually Whole – Knowing Christ Experientially on a Daily Basis - Friday, January 18th

    But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith. Philippians 3:7-9

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    The key to the Christian life is found in ceasing our efforts to achieve it. Just as redemption is by grace, so is the Christian life. Deeply embedded in our human nature is the drive to perform and accomplish and this is what makes it very difficult for us to walk by faith and not by law. How readily we twist our Christian faith into a list of do’s and don’ts. The Apostle Paul excelled at achieving the requirements of the Jewish law. We have our Christian law and we plod along foolishly trying to measure up to it. In today’s Scripture, the Apostle Paul says he counts all such things as loss and rubbish. Why does he do this? Because he has seen something infinitely better and in reality the only thing that works. He has exchanged a system of rules for the person of Jesus Christ.

    Paul says the law and his own personal list of achievements in regard to it are no longer the way he operates. He speaks of the surpassing value of knowing Christ and the necessity of gaining him, being found in him, and having a righteousness which is through faith in him. Paul boldly declares that the righteousness (the Christian life) which comes from God on the basis of faith is the only way it will ever happen properly. Spend some time meditating on today’s Scripture and come up your own expression of how the Christian life comes from your own direct connection with Christ and not by measuring up to whatever Christian system you have adopted for yourself. Tomorrow’s Scripture and devotional will be an expression of this that you can use to help you further with this all important consideration.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I recognize that I have a lot to learn about walking by faith and letting my Christian life somehow flow from my relationship with you. Teach me, change me, and mold me. Lord, I bow before you in surrender, worship, and expectation. Amen!

  • Becoming Spiritually Whole – Staying Dependent on the Gift of Christ’s Righteousness - Thursday, January 17th

    As it is written, “there is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one.” Romans 3:10-12

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Today’s Scripture is a quote from Psalm 53:1-3. The Apostle Paul chooses to quote it here in his epistle to the Romans. He does so because it clearly states the “bad news” that is absolutely necessary for each and every person to receive and accept so they can then receive and accept fully the “Good News” of redemption through Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. Just before our passage, verse 9 says, “all are under sin” and after our passage, verse 23 says, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” All of this makes for a pretty strong statement of “bad news” that is true of every single person bar none.

    We have already said that it is absolutely necessary for “bad news” to come before “Good News.” Perhaps what we are addressing this week all boils down to this: We don’t grasp as fully as we should how bad the “bad news” is nor do we grasp as fully as we should how good the “Good News” is. Verse 19 that follows our passage gives us some insight as to why it is crucial that we grasp how bad the “bad news” is. The verse says, “so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may be accountable to God.” Verses 24 and 26 give us some insight into why it is vital to grasp how good the “Good News” is. These verses say that we are “justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus …. for the demonstration, I say, of his righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I see how important it is for me to stay aware of how bad the “bad news” is, not so I feel bad, but rather for how it helps me stay aware of how good the “Good News” really is. How amazingly good it is to be redeemed forever because of your mercy and grace. I bow before You in worship, adoration, and praise. Help me to have a lifestyle of worship that guards me from self-righteousness and helps me spread the “Good News” of redemption in Christ and Christ alone.

  • Becoming Spiritually Whole – Awakened to the “Fullness of Christ” Blessing - Wednesday, January 16th

    I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places. Ephesians 1:18-20

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    In today’s Scripture the Apostle Paul tells the Ephesian believers how he prays for them. He begins by saying that he prays that “the eyes of your heart may be enlightened.” The Scriptures open the eyes of our understanding so that we grasp with clarity what it means for Christ to be the Savior of the world and why we absolutely need Christ as our Savior from sin. However, there is no opening of the eyes of our understanding in these ways without the opening of the eyes of our heart. For those who have truly come to Christ for Salvation, the Holy Spirit did the wonderful work of opening their hearts and minds so that they understood and embraced Christ and received the glorious gift of redemption.

    In praying that the eyes of his reader’s hearts will be enlightened, the Apostle Paul is asking God to help them come to know, both in their understanding and experience, the fullness of Christ and all that is theirs because of the relationship they have with him through redemption. Fullness is the key thought here. The Ephesian believers have already received the gift of redemption in Christ. Paul is praying for a further work of the Holy Spirit so that they may enter more deeply and fully into all that they have in Christ.

    As believers in Christ this is our need as well. Read the passage again and note the things that we have in Christ. Come before the Lord in Prayer and say each item you found in the passage (ex: “the hope of his calling”) and ask God to open the eyes of your heart in regard to it. Continue on in quietness before him and let God help you with both your understanding and experience of it.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Write out a description of your prayer experience today. Come back to it somewhere down the line and assess how God has been at work helping you enter more deeply and fully into all that you have in Christ.

  • Becoming Spiritually Whole – Convinced that Jesus Christ Alone Redeems - Tuesday, January 15th

    For a short time Jesus was made lower than the angels, but now we see him wearing a crown of glory and honor because he suffered and died. Because of God’s grace, Jesus died for everyone. God—the one who made all things and for whose glory all things exist—wanted many people to be his children and share his glory. So he did what he needed to do. He made perfect the one who leads those people to salvation. He made Jesus a perfect Savior through his suffering. Hebrews 2:9-10

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    So often when it comes to the core understandings of redemption, we are like the person who relies on glasses but doesn’t have them on and is trying to manage anyway. What a difference when one puts their glasses back on and sees again with clarity the world around them. Our Scriptures for this week serve as spiritual glasses that bring us the clarity we need for the core understandings of redemption. Try it out with today’s Scripture. Read again with the thought that what it says will help you see with clarity the core understandings of redemption.

    Our passage says that Jesus was made lower than the angels for a while. This means that God the Son left his exalted state in the splendor of heaven to take on human form here on lowly earth. Next our passage tells us that we see Jesus now back in the splendor of heaven wearing a crown of glory and honor. During his time away from heaven and here on earth Jesus became the Savior of the world who suffered and died for everyone. Notice the words: “He did what he needed to do.” Jesus and Jesus all alone could be the Savior of the world and so our Heavenly Father did what needed to be done to make that a reality. He gave us Jesus and Jesus as the Savior of the world needs to been seen with full clarity.

    Our passage also says that our Heavenly Father “wanted many people to be his children and share his glory.” We have just seen the fullness of what was done to provide the world with the Savior. These measures would not have been taken if it were not absolutely necessary. Here’s the point: we are not God’s children and we do not share his glory without a Savior and unless at some point while we are here on earth we embrace Jesus as our Savior and him alone, that’s the way it will be forever. The fact that we need a Savior to save us from our sins and that we are in eternal trouble if we don’t, needs to be seen with full clarity. Even as believers we get to the spot where we no longer see the core understanding of our redemption with full clarity. May we see with fuller clarity than ever before the absolute gift Jesus our Savior is and the absolute need we have for Jesus our Savior.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, things get a bit murky sometimes for me. Please help me to see you and myself with full clarity. Help me to stand firm on the reality that there is one and only one way and that is through Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. Help me as well to stand firm on the reality that I would be lost forever without my Savior and that I am found forever because of him. Amen!

  • Becoming Spiritually Whole – Confident of Your Death to Life Transfer - Monday, January 14th

    Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Peter 1:3-5

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Today’s Scripture uses the term “born again” which in our society is often very much misunderstood and maligned. It could be that those who malign the term understand it more than we think. The simple meaning of the term “born again” is “to be made alive again” and of course it is something that is spiritual and not physical. It does convey the idea that we are inadequate spiritually and in need of a total makeover or redo. Perhaps those who react to the term feel like they are being judged unfairly and viewed poorly when told they need to be born again. It may be that that they feel that no one has the right to tell them they need a total spiritual makeover or redo. If they could only get past the messenger and see themselves in this light before God alone and accept the reality of being spiritually bankrupt, they would be halfway to where they need to get.

    The other half of what is needed is what Christ has done to undo our spiritual bankruptcy. What a great description our passage gives us of what happens to those who recognize their spiritual bankruptcy before God and receive God’s wonderful provision for reversing it. We are told that we are born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Christ, we have obtained an inheritance reserved in heaven, and we are protected or kept by the power of God through faith until then.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, thank you for your great mercy that has brought this wonderful gift to me. Deliver me from any sense that I am spiritually alright apart from what you provided for me in Christ. Awaken me fully to what it means to be made alive again spiritually. Fill me with great confidence and anticipation regarding my heavenly inheritance, and give me a boldness for life and my role in advancing your kingdom that fully relies on your powerful protection for keeping me wonderfully intact until the very end. Amen!

  • "Regret City" - An Inspirational Story for Sunday, January 13th

    Regret City

    I had not really planned on taking a trip this time of year, and yet I found myself packing rather hurriedly. This trip was going to be unpleasant and I knew in advance that no real good would come of it. This is my annual “Guilt Trip.”

    I got tickets to fly there on “WISH-I-HAD” airlines. It was an extremely short flight. I got my “baggage,” which I could not check. I chose to carry it myself all the way. It was loaded down with a thousand memories of “what might have been.” No one greeted me as I entered the terminal to the Regret City International Airport. I say international because people from all over the world come to this dismal town.

    As I checked into the “Last Resort” Hotel, I noticed that they would be hosting the year’s most important event — the annual “Pity Party.” I wasn’t going to miss that great social occasion. Many of the towns leading citizens would be there.

    First, there would be the “Done” family; you know, “Should Have,” “Would Have” and “Could Have.” Then came the “I Had” family. You probably know old “Wish” and his clan. Of course, the “Opportunities” family; “Missed and Lost,” would be present. The biggest family there would be the “Yesterday’s.”

    There are far too many of them to count, but each one would have a very sad story to share. Of course, “Shattered Dreams” would surely make and appearance. “It’s Their Fault” family would regale us with stories (excuses) about how things had failed in their life. Each story would be loudly applauded by the “Don’t Blame Me” and “I Couldn’t Help It” committee.

    To make a long story short, I went to this depressing party, knowing full well there would be no real benefit in doing so. And, as usual, I became very depressed. But as I thought about all of the stories of failures brought back from the past, it occurred to me that this trip and subsequent “pity parties” COULD be cancelled by ME!

    I started to realize that I did not have to be there. And I didn’t have to be depressed. One thing kept going through my mind, I CAN’T CHANGE YESTERDAY, BUT I DO HAVE THE POWER TO MAKE TODAY A WONDERFUL DAY. I can be happy, joyous, fulfilled, encouraged, as well as being encouraging.

    Knowing this, I left Regret City immediately, and didn’t leave a forwarding address. Am I sorry for mistakes I’ve made in the past? YES! But there is no way to undo them.

    So, if you’re planning a trip back to Regret City, please cancel all those reservations now. Instead, take a trip to a nice place called: “Starting Again.” I like it so much that I made it my permanent residence. My neighbors, the “Been Forgiven” and the “We’re Saved” are so very helpful. By the way, you don’t have to carry around the heavy baggage anymore either. That load is lifted from your shoulders upon arrival. But don’t take my word for it, find out for yourself.

    – Author Unknown

  • The Role of Money in Life – Becoming a God Filled Person - Saturday, January 12th

    Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory. Colossians 3:1-4

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Today’s Scripture fits in really well with this week’s considerations and helps us wrap up our week. Our primary focus has been on managing the heart because it is the key to managing our money in ways that are in step with God’s will and the advancement of his kingdom. But before we go on, back up for a moment and reflect. Does the Scripture passage like the one above seem a bit theoretical to you? Does what it says seem kind of lofty and out of reach to you? Is this the way this week’s considerations have seemed to you as well?

    For many of us, the problems we face, like those that come to us from the pressure and tensions of money issues, are more real to us than the lofty and seemingly impractical Scriptures we have been looking at all week. We get it somewhat, at least in theory, but we really don’t know how to respond to it all in lasting ways. Before we write it all off and let everything fade away, it is absolutely essential for us to recognize a tendency we have that is most likely the reason for our struggle. We tend to pull Christianity down to our level instead of letting it pull us up to the heights to which it is supposed to lift us.

    There are heights of genuine Christian experience that we have never known or understood. Christianity is a supernatural faith. When we truly believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, we receive the forgiveness of sins. On this basis Christ comes to live within our inner person through the Holy Spirit (New Covenant). It is from this vantage point that he becomes the manager of our lives if we are willing to surrender our will and life to him. Jesus Christ through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit works on us from the inside out.

    As Jesus Christ does his transforming work through the power of the Holy Spirit, he addresses the issues of the heart and then in very real ways he addresses the issues of life. This is why, in regard to money, management of the heart is the foundation for the management of money in our lives. So, as we close out the week and today’s considerations, read Today’s Scripture again and ask Jesus to lift you up with him to new heights of understanding and experience.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I ask that you become more real to me than ever before. I come to the sanctuary of your indwelling presence, seeking to commune with you there. I bow before you and give to you the reins of my heart and life. In the fellowship of communion with you, I yield to your transforming work in my life, inside and out. You are the manager of my life, my heart, and my money. Going forward, guard me from letting anything become more real to me than you. Amen!

  • The Role of Money in Life – Becoming a Heavenly Minded Person - Friday, January 11th

    After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content. But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows. 1 Timothy 6:7-10

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    The fact that the world we live in is a materialistic world is undeniable. All of us struggle with being materialistic. We do need money (wealth) to live life here on earth but it has a way of becoming a predominate thing for us. Perhaps this is why Jesus, when he gave us the “Lord’s Prayer,” included the petition: “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” When God set things in motion here on earth with mankind as the centerpiece, he had in mind a perfect blend between heaven and earth (materialistic and non-materialistic). But mankind did not get with the program and went astray.

    Jesus came to fit us for heaven. Heaven is not a materialistic place at all and we are going to spend all eternity there. Today’s Scripture reminds us that there wasn’t anything materialistic about us when we came into this world and there won’t be anything materialistic about us when we leave either. Keeping eternity (heaven) in view can help a lot with seeing the petition above from the Lord’s Prayer realized in our own lives. Jesus came to save us from many things and high on the list is materialism.

    Make no mistake, money is not evil. It is the love of money that connects us to evil. The love of money keeps us from being content (the right blend between heaven and earth; between being materialistic and non-materialistic) and our passage clearly shows the downward spiral this leads to. Our “true faith” in Christ should lead to an upward spiral toward heaven. When we wander away, materialism pierces our lives with many sorrows.

    We can all relate to this because we have all experienced the pain of such sorrow. Life on earth is a training ground for heaven and we need to get with the program. What relief and rest comes to us from the pressure and tension of money when we turn to our Heavenly Father and fully entrust to him all our desires and concerns in regard to money.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, your kingdom come, your will be done in my life in ways that correspond with the glories of heaven throughout my time here on earth. Make me so heavenly minded that I am of great earthly good in the advancement of your kingdom and will here on earth. I choose to forsake all that is “downward” and embrace all that is “upward”. Fill me with your presence and power for the journey ahead. Amen!

  • The Role of Money in Life – Becoming a God Managed Person - Thursday, January 10th

    Do not weary yourself to gain wealth, cease from your consideration of it. When you set your eyes on it, it is gone. For wealth certainly makes itself wings like an eagle that flies toward the heavens. Proverbs 23:4-5

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    “Money” certainly is a pressure point of life that can generate a lot of tension. Providing help to tackle and manage this ongoing, constant area of life is the goal of our considerations this week. So far this week we have focused more on managing our “hearts” than on managing our “money.” Money management is a very practical thing to do, but setting out to succeed at managing one’s money becomes impractical in the long if we haven’t come to terms with managing our hearts.

    Managing one’s heart begins with turning to our Heavenly Father and entrusting to him all our concerns about money. Managing one’s heart is about devoting one’s life to being rich toward God. Managing one’s heart is about embracing the understanding that “money” is just a tool for having a life situation from which to live fully for God and the advancement of his kingdom here on earth. When we have truly addressed “the management of the heart,” we are in the right position to address “the management of money.”

    Today’s Scripture actually blends the management of money and the management of the heart together. We all know how weary we can become in our involvements with money (wealth). Our passage admonishes us against the kind of weariness that comes from undo consideration of money (wealth). In other words we can wear ourselves out with all the considerations that pressure us regarding money management. We must remember that money management is not an absolute thing that you can absolutely accomplish. 

    From the proper management of the heart comes the proper degree of money management. When our sights are set too high in regard to money management, we will either become guilt-ridden or obsessed. Yes, money management requires some of our consideration and can be accomplished to some degree. However, the well managed heart knows that wealth is a moving target. Our passage says it wonderfully, “For wealth certainly makes itself wings like an eagle that flies toward the heavens.”

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, thank you so much for all you are teaching about putting the management of my life under your control. I am committed to the ongoing management of my heart and what that means for the management of money in my life. I choose to seek you fully for what you have in mind for my life in regard to this nagging, won’t go away thing called money. I love you, yield to you, and rest in you, Lord. Amen!

  • The Role of Money in Life – Shifting Our Fulfillment to God - Wednesday, January 9th

    And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things. These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need. So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to those in need. This will store up treasure for you in heaven! And the purses of heaven never get old or develop holes. Your treasure will be safe; no thief can steal it and no moth can destroy it. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be. Luke 12:29-34

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Today’s Scripture dovetails wonderfully with the one from yesterday. In the story from yesterday the rich man said, “My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!” The rich man’s primary focus for his life was the desire, pursuit, and accumulation of wealth. His “concern” for having “enough” is over, so now he can take it easy (rest) and do whatever he wants with the remainder of his life.

    Our passage above begins with Jesus telling us not to be “concerned.” But we are concerned and we are not unfamiliar with the appeal of getting to the spot where our “concern” for having “enough” is over and we can take it easy (rest). When it comes to money, wealth, riches, possessions, and all such things (food, clothing, shelter), Jesus gives us a different path from that of the world. We are to turn to our Heavenly Father and entrust to him all our concerns about having enough. When we do this, we will be at rest concerning money, etc.

    When we come to this point, we will be able to proceed down the path of devotion to God and his kingdom. Our Heavenly Father will be in charge of what is “enough” and we will want “only” the life situation from which we can best live fully for God and the advancement of his kingdom here on earth. We will not be afraid at all because God will have given us the happiness that comes from “kingdom” living. We can even welcome the opportunity to reduce the parameters (“sell your possessions”) of our life situation in order to meet the needs of others.

    Real treasures come from “kingdom living” and they are stored in Heaven permanently. Remember, “wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I realize I cannot have it both ways. I choose you and your kingdom above all else. My life situation is yours and I await your guidance concerning it. I believe that true happiness and real and permanent treasure comes from “kingdom living.” I look forward to all that awaits me on the path of devotion to you and your kingdom. Amen!

  • The Role of Money in Life – Shifting Our Devotion to God - Tuesday, January 8th

    Then he said, “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.” Then he told them a story: “A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. He said to himself, ‘What should I do? I don’t have room for all my crops.’ Then he said, ‘I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods. And I’ll sit back and say to myself, “My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!”’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’” Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God. Luke 12:15-21

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Before Jesus tells the story in today’s Scripture, he introduces it with a warning. It is a very strong warning. It is not “be aware,” it is “beware!” Greed is dangerous for life and eternity, and we must “guard” against it. After Jesus tells the story, he follows it up with a conclusion that clearly spells out the danger of not guarding against greed. Greed can lead a person to living life for the desire, pursuit, and accumulation of wealth at the expense of not having a rich relationship with God.

    When we put together the introduction and the conclusion of the story, we come up with something like this: Life is not measured by how we do at gaining earthly riches, but by how we do at gaining a rich relationship with God. The story concludes with God speaking to the rich man about the “measure” of the life he has been living and it is disastrous. If God were to reveal to us the measure of our lives as he finds them at this very moment, what would he say to us?

    The number of days we spend here on earth is not up to us, but it is up to us how we use the days we get. If we take seriously the warning of Jesus to guard against greed, we will “measure” ourselves in regard to what our lives consist, and we will make the necessary adjustments. The fool does not heed the warning, but the wise person devotes his life to being rich toward God. The wise person understands that “money” is just a tool for having a life situation from which to live fully for God and the advancement of his kingdom here on earth.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I want to live fully for you and your kingdom. I come to you with all the pressure and tension I experience in my life because of money. I ask you to show me what the life situation you have in mind for me should consist of and I ask you to help me make very real adjustments in my life. I want to be rich toward you, Lord. I am willing to trust you and I am willing to change. Amen!

  • The Role of Money in Life – Shifting Our Reliance to God - Monday, January 7th

    Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,” so that we confidently say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?” Hebrews 13:5-6 (NASB)

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Tackling and managing the pressure points of life is quite a challenge. We are all too aware of those areas of life that are ongoing, constant, and could stand some improvement in the new year. These pressure points nag at us and there is a very real tension that comes from them. No where is this more true than in this week’s area of consideration: “Money.”

    Today’s Scripture is a great place to begin our considerations for the week. Our passage leads us to ask some important questions. What kind of grip does money have on my soul? What is my true source of contentment? Do I rely more on money than I do on God? Our passage quotes some direct statements of God found elsewhere in Scripture. In the portion that follows we have taken these quotes and substituted “money” for “God” and turned it into a hypothetical guarantee.

    “Money will never desert you, nor will it ever forsake you,” so that we confidently say, “Money is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?” There is an appeal in this, but it is a dangerous appeal. We need to do some soul searching so that we can discover what inroads money has made into our hearts and lives. We may discover that there are some very real ways that “money” has become a substitute for “God” in our actual experience of living life.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, money really is a pressure point for me and the tension in my life because of it is very real to me. Deliver me from having a desire for a “money” guarantee and help me believe that your guarantee concerning yourself is absolutely certain. I choose to love you and not money. I trust you for all the pressure and tension in my life because of money. You alone are God in my life and I worship and rest in you today. Amen!

  • "Contentment" - An Inspirational Poem for Sunday, January 6th

    Contentment 

    Poet: Greta Zwaan, © 1976 


    Have you been content in the year now past?

    Were your achievements heroic or vast?

    Was every moment put to good use?

    Or, did you in some way this privilege abuse?


    These hours of time you cannot retract;

    History was made and is now become fact.

    Did you spend time with your wee ones in prayer?

    Teach them of Jesus, His love and His care?


    Did you make time to visit the lonely?

    A time of sweet sharing they feel with you only?

    Can you now say as the year is near gone;

    "It has been bright, as bright as the dawn?"


    Or were there moments you'd like to undo?

    Erase an impression and start it anew?

    Recall hasty words you would never have said,

    Had you been guided by His Spirit instead.


    Were you contented in the place that He called you?

    Faithful and willing in all that you must do?

    Or were there times when you slackened your pace?

    Shunning your duties, forgetting His grace?


    Would you be willing, with all things accounted,

    For God to keep record, your life to be mounted?

    Or are there changes you feel you would make,

    If God would allow you to erase each mistake?


    The goal of perfection you cannot achieve,

    The moments gone by us we cannot retrieve.

    But cheer up, dear Christian, continue to strive,

    Be of good courage, your faith is alive.


    Intention of good will and peace to all men,

    A new year is dawning, be joyous again.

    Give praise for achievements, though humble and small,

    Because of His mercy they existed at all!


    The future holds brightness if His will be done,

    Continue the efforts your zeal has begun.

    Let God guide you onward, sufficient each day,

    Constantly blessing and leading the way.

  • Making Our Time Count – Wearing the Yoke of Christ - Saturday, January 5th

    Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30 (NASB)

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    We have been talking about the "use of time" this week in our quest to make good improvements in our lives for 2019. We discovered that establishing priorities and finding helpful partners is essential. Rather than looking at "priorities" and "partners" in general terms for managing the use of time in our everyday lives, we have looked at them from the spiritual side and the use of our time for that which counts for eternity. Like the world, we overdo it with the time and concern we invest in the basic human needs of life and the "use of time" associated with them. Consequently, we allow the spiritual side and that which counts for eternity to get squeezed out of the equation.

    Today's passage continues with this spiritual side and it begins with an invitation from Christ. He simply says to us, "Come to me." Jesus knows the toll that is taken on the life of a person who gets it all wrong in terms of priorities and partners. People everywhere are weary and heavy-laden and desperately in need of rest. It is to the weary and heavy-laden that Jesus extends the invitation to come and find rest in him. When we respond to his invitation and come to him, we come into his presence. It is in his presence that he begins the process of bringing us to a place of rest.

    It begins with accepting and taking upon ourselves his yoke (my yoke is easy and my burden is light). This means that we place ourselves under his authority and control. This makes it possible for us to learn from him. He shows us his gentle and humble heart and we are changed forever. Being in his presence and truly experiencing him, is what "partaking" of Christ (Thursday) is all about. The more we partake of Christ day in and day out, the more we grow up in all aspects into Him (Friday). This is how rest for our souls comes about. This is how our lives become transformed into a "come to me" lifestyle where we rest in Christ and he becomes the one who lives his life in us and through us.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I come to you with all my weariness and all that has made me into a heavy-laden person. Release me from this yoke and grant me rest. I willing take your yoke upon myself. Show me yourself and help me learn from you. Teach me how to be in your presence and to experience you in the fullness of who you are. Lead me into a lifestyle of coming to you so that my life is your doing and I truly become one who finds ongoing rest for my soul. Amen!

  • Making Our Time Count – Growing up together in Christ - Friday, January, 4th

    But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. Ephesians 4:15-16 (NASB)

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Let's begin today considering the word "into." When someone is "into" something, it means that they have a very strong connection with that thing and have devoted themselves to it. This devotion will consume their time, energy, and affection. If it does not, then they are really not "into" it. Perhaps, it would be reasonable to say, if there is not a considerable consumption of our time, energy, and affection in our relationship with Christ, we are not really "into" him. Notice the use of the word "into" in today's Scripture: "we are to grow up in all aspects "into" Him who is the head, even Christ."

    It is not exactly the use of "into" we have been talking about, but with a minor play on words we come out with something like this: Unless we are "into" Christ, we cannot expect "to grow up in all aspects 'into' Him." Here we are facing the issue of "priorities" again. Yesterday's passage said this: "we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end." Partaking (tomorrow, we will take a closer look at what "partaking" means) of Christ is the key to our growing up in all aspects "into" him. Notice the time frame: from the "beginning" when we first put our faith in Christ until the very "end" when we are done with our lives here on earth.

    So the one who is truly "into" Christ is the one who has made him the top priority in their life. The one who has this kind of devotion to Christ will allow their time, energy, and affection to be consumed in "partaking of Christ" and "growing up in all aspects into him. Today's Scripture wonderfully connects the "priority" of Christ with "partners" in Christ. Partnering with other believers who provide a "support system" for us is vital. Our passage, however, takes it way beyond the idea of a "support system" when it spells out the connection God has in mind for us as "partners" in Christ.

    When Christ is our top priority and we are seeking to partake of him and grow up "into" him, it is a very personal and spiritual experience. However, it is not an entirely private matter. There is also a kind of "partaking" and "growing up" into Christ that we do in conjunction with others. Notice that our passage speaks of Christ as "the head." Christ is our "head" individually and collectively. Together, we are the body of Christ and it is his presence and work in our "midst" that makes all the difference for his body.

    Notice in our passage the two words that link Christ with his body: "from whom." Everything that follows these two words in the passage comes from Christ: "from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love." The body of Christ as described here is a Divine arrangement that is deeply spiritual and is so much more than mere collective organizational ministry.

    Every one of us needs a circle of fellow believers who share the priority we have of "partaking of Christ" and "growing up in all aspects into him." Together as partners in Christ, when you welcome him together into your "midst" to provide to you, his body, all the passage says can come from him, Christ and his provision will come to your circle of support. This is the truth spoken in love and it is God's game plan for his church here on earth. What a glorious privilege and blessing it is to be a part of it.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I am so thankful to be on your team and to be a part of your game plan. Continue to help me be "into" you fully and completely. Teach me more of what the "body of Christ" is all about and oversee my partnering relationships with others so that they become all they can be. I bow before you in worship and I praise you for all that you are doing in my life today. Amen!

  • Making Our Time Count – Partnering with Fellow Kingdom Members - Thursday, January 3rd

    Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end. Hebrews 3:12-14 (NASB)

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    In our quest to make good improvements in our lives for 2019, we have been tackling a very important matter this week: our "use of time." Yesterday, our focus was on managing well the tension of seeking to live life as a member of God's kingdom in the middle of all the things associated with living life here on earth. We saw that making the "kingdom" our top priority is the key to "using our time" in ways that count for eternity. But, we also saw that this doesn't mean we have a total disregard for the basic human needs of life and the "use of time" associated with them. It just means that kingdom members must be very careful about not overdoing it with the time and concern they invest in such things.

    We introduced today's focus yesterday when we talked about the help that comes from fellow kingdom members to support us in our pursuit of living our lives with God's kingdom as our top priority. We said that kingdom members help each other in the following ways: becoming good at having and maintaining an intimate relationship with the king; sticking at the process of being transformed into Christ-like kingdom members; and blessing those outside the kingdom in ways that help them enter into the kingdom as well.

    Today's Scripture is a great follow up to this statement. This passage is essentially a mandate to the members of God's kingdom collectively to succeed at being a support system that helps everyone individually succeed at putting God's kingdom and righteousness first. The passage speaks for itself. Go back over it carefully and you will see the following: the mandate - "take care, brethren (the church)"; the problem - "an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God"; the solution - "encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called 'Today'"; and the goal - "we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end."

    Staying close to God is the key to succeeding at everything that goes with being a good kingdom member and staying close to fellow kingdom members (small groups) is the key to staying close to God (assuming the kingdom members you associate with are seeking to stay close to God as well). The good "use of time" really is all about the "priorities" and "partners" we choose for ourselves throughout our lives. The more we follow the pattern of the kingdom we have been considering and the less we follow the pattern of the world in regard to the time and concern we invest in the basic human needs of life, the more we will be able to live for the kingdom during our time here on earth.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I choose to put you and your kingdom above all else. Continue to teach me how to get close to you and stay there. Provide that circle of fellow kingdom members that will provide the support I need for staying on track with you. Teach me more fully how to support others in ways that really count for the kingdom. Help me bless the lives of those outside the kingdom in ways that help them enter into the kingdom as well. Lord, thank you for your amazing plan and your commitment to seeing it come about in my life. Amen!

  • Making Our Time Count – Pursuing a Kingdom Lifestyle - Wednesday, January 2nd

    So don’t worry about these things, saying, "What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?" These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today. Matthew 6:31-34

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    So, what are you actually thinking about in regard to making changes in your "use of time" in 2019? Have you ever committed yourself to a lifetime of using your time to live to satisfy God and not yourself? How has that been going for you? Have you ever embraced the challenging pursuit of discovering what God wants in each moment you face. How has that been going for you? We are talking about a lifestyle here. Today's Scripture depicts this same lifestyle through a consideration of our relationship with the "kingdom of God."

    Think of it this way: God is the King and we are members of his kingdom because we have put our faith in Christ for forgiveness of sins and eternal salvation. As members of God's kingdom we have an intimate love relationship with God our King. Through this relationship he is transforming us into people who live like kingdom members (Christlike) and do not live like those who are not kingdom members. Kingdom members help each other in the following ways: becoming good at having and maintaining an intimate relationship with the king; sticking at the process of being transformed into Christ-like kingdom members; and blessing those outside the kingdom in ways that help them enter into the kingdom as well.

    Having a lifestyle where we make the "kingdom" our top priority is the key to "using our time" in ways that count for eternity. It doesn't mean that we have a total disregard for the basic human needs of life and the "use of time" associated with them. It just means that our priorities have been put in order, our trust is in God, and we are learning to manage well the tension of seeking to live life as a member of God's kingdom in the middle of all the things associated with living life here on earth.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, your kingdom come, you will be done in my life here on earth. Give me this day my daily bread and deliver me from overdoing it with the time and concern I invest in such things. Lord, truly yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen!

  • Making Our Time Count – Understanding What God Wants - Tuesday, January 1st

    Happy New Year

    So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. Ephesians 5:15-17

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    This week we are considering the "use of time" in regard to changes we can make for 2019. Yesterday, we addressed the necessity of committing ourselves to a lifetime of using our time to live to satisfy God and not to satisfy ourselves. If you ask, "am I truly willing to pursue God's will for my entire lifetime?" and the answer is "yes," there is hope for making all your moments count for eternity. But there is something more that is needed. In addition to "wanting" what God wants, we must "know" what God wants.

    Today's Scripture clearly speaks to this need and how it can be met. Let's work our way backwards through the passage. The need is stated with these words, "understand what the Lord wants you to do." If we just coast along, we will be in trouble. This is why the passage says, "don’t act thoughtlessly." We must constantly give careful consideration to what we will do and what we won't do. Why? It is the same today as it was back then, we need to "make the most of every opportunity in these evil days." We always have the tension between the draw of the world towards evil and that which God wants.

    Our moments are filled with this tension and herein lies the opportunity we have to look to God and his word for what he wants in each moment we face. If we respond properly to these opportunities, we will be heeding the admonitions, "don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise" and "be careful how you live." Remember, that God is always present with you in the middle of all your moments. He is there with you, ready and waiting for you to look to him and the good word he has for you regarding what he wants for that moment in your life. This is how wanting his will and knowing his will go together so that evil is overcome and we live out our commitment to live lives that satisfy God and not ourselves.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I want 2019 to be the start of a lifetime of living for your satisfaction and not my own. Please teach me how to seek you and your word in each moment I face so that I know what you want in that moment and I do what you want in that moment. Help me to keep seeking you, depending on you, and living fully for you. Amen!

  • Making Our Time Count – Choosing to Spend it on God - Monday, December 31st

    Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Galatians 6:7-9

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Life is all about time. How easily our use of time gets out of hand. Our use of time could likely stand some improvement in the new year that lies before us. We all have a lifetime in which to live our lives. Each of us must ask the question, "what will I do with the time I have before me for living my life?" God wants our lives to count. It is for this reason he gives us his word and comes to us in it. He knows that on our own we will not use the time we have for living our lives in ways that count for eternity. So, he comes to us with his word both to rescue us from the plight of wasting our lives while we are here and to produce, in us and through us, a life that really does count for eternity.

    Today's Scripture contrasts those who live to satisfy themselves with those who live to satisfy God. How we use our time will determine the harvest our lives produce. The outcome of using the time we have for satisfying ourselves is not a good one. The outcome of using the time we have for satisfying God is a good one. Whose time is it, anyway? Truly, it is God's and we must spend it on him. "So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up."

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I want a good outcome for my life and I know that good outcomes come from you. So, I surrender the time I have for living my life to you. I know this is the key to making all my moments count and to having the final outcome be a life that counts for all eternity. I love you, I worship you, and I rest in you. Amen!

  • "The New Year" - An Inspirational Poem for Sunday, December 30th

    The New Year 

    E. Matheson 


    "A good New Year, with many blessings in it!"

    Once more go forth the kindly wish and word.

    A good New Year! and may we all begin it

    With hearts by noble thought and purpose stirred.


    The Old Year's over, with its joy and sadness;

    The path before us is untried and dim;

    But let us take it with the step of gladness,

    For God is there, and we can trust in Him.


    What of the buried hopes that lie behind us!

    Their graves may yet grow flowers, so let them rest.

    To-day is ours, and it must find us

    Prepared to hope afresh and do our best.


    God knows what finite wisdom only guesses;

    Not here from our dim eyes the mist will roll.

    What we call failures, He may deem successes

    Who sees in broken parts the perfect whole.


    And if we miss some dear familiar faces,

    Passed on before us to the Home above,

    Even while we count, through tears, their vacant places,

    He heals our sorrows with His balm of Love.


    No human lot is free from cares and crosses,

    Each passing year will bring both shine and shower;

    Yet, though on troubled seas life's vessel tosses,

    The storms of earth endure but for an hour.


    And should the river of our happy laughter

    Flow 'neath a sky no cloud yet overcasts,

    We will not fear the shadows coming after,

    But make the most of sunshine while it lasts.


    A good New Year! Oh, let us all begin it

    With cheerful faces turning to the light!

    A good New Year, which will have blessings in it

    If we but persevere and do aright.

  • "His Unfailing Presence" - An Inspirational Poem for Saturday, December 29th

    His Unfailing Presence

    Author Unknown 


    Another year I enter

    Its history unknown;

    Oh, how my feet would tremble

    To tread its paths alone!

    But I have heard a whisper 

    I know I shall be blest;

    "My presence shall go with thee,

    And I will give thee rest."


    What will the New Year bring me?

    I may not, must not know; will it be love and rapture, 

    Or loneliness and woe?

    Hush! Hush! I hear His whisper;

    I surely shall be blest;

    "My presence shall go with thee,

    And I will give thee rest." 

  • The Necessity of a Savior – Being Saved to the Uttermost - Friday, December 28th

    For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. Romans 5:10

    Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.1 Corinthians 6:19-20

    I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. Galatians. 2:20

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    It is very important to realize that often we who have trusted Christ to be our Savior, have not let the word “Savior” deal the full slap in the face we need. Yes, we get it that we need a Savior in one way. We know we need Christ to do for us what we cannot do ourselves - pay the price of sin so that our sin is forgiven and we are made right with God. However, Jesus did not come to earth and die for us merely so that we might be forgiven from our sin. Jesus was raised so that He might come and live in us and do for us something else we cannot do for ourselves – live life the way it was intended to be lived. Jesus wants to save us from both the penalty and power of sin. The “forgiveness of sins” is the means by which God establishes His presence in our lives so that the life we live is His doing. Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit wants to “save” us from the futility of trying to live for Him in some way other than Him doing it for us.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I am thankful that the angel’s pronouncement of the Savior’s birth declares loud and clear that mankind has blown it and needs to be fixed. I am so glad you are my Savior. You deliver me from the futility of trying to “get right” with you and the futility of trying to “live right” for you. By grace you do for me what I absolutely cannot do for myself. What a gift your grace is to me. This Christmas is all about going forward basking and thriving in grace. Amen!

  • The Necessity of a Savior – The Clear Message of Scripture - Thursday, December 27th

    (The format for today’s Devotional is different from the usual. Running down the left hand margin are the words to John 3:16. Each of the more prominent words of this verse has an additional verse to go with it)

    For

    God - Isaiah 45:21-22 – “Declare and set forth your case; indeed, let them consult together. Who has announced this from of old? Who has long since declared it? Is it not I, the LORD? And there is no other God besides Me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none except Me. Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.

    so

    loved - 1 John 4:9-10 – “By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

    the

    world - John 1:9-10 – “There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.”

    that He

    gave - James 1:17 – “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”

    His only begotten 

    Son - Hebrews 1:1-3 – “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”

    that whoever

    believes - John 1:12 – “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.”

    in Him shall 

    not perish - 2 Peter 3:9 – “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”

    but have

    eternal life - 1 John 5:13 – “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.”

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Write down your own thoughts that come to you from these Scriptures.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    A Prayer of Believing

    More than just a baby, Jesus you came to be my savior. Today, I confess my need for a Savior – for the forgiveness that can only be found in Jesus Christ. I believe that you, Jesus Christ, are God, born into a humble manger to redeem me. Your grace and mercy are the greatest gifts, and I accept them. Guide me as I seek to follow you and your words. Amen!

  • The Necessity of a Savior – Our Response of Faith Is the Key - Wednesday, December 26th

    For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. John 3:17

    He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God. John 3:18-21

    For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost. Luke 19:10

    The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9

    I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness. If anyone hears My sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day. John 12:46-48

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    We can be very thankful that God does not ask us to measure up because it is something we could never do. No matter how much we want to or how hard we try, we can never accomplish it. This is clearly demonstrated in the Old Testament through God giving His people the law. We are told in the New Testament that the law was not given as a means for people to measure up, but rather as a means of showing all of us that we are spiritually incapable of meeting God’s standards. Only the grace of God and the provision of a Savior who freely extends to us the forgiveness of sins can turn the tide. Christ’s death on the cross accomplishes the forgiveness of sins and it is our response to him in extending that forgiveness that makes all the difference.

    Sin is a huge problem. It separates us from God. Christ took care of sin on the cross to fix the problem. If our response to Christ is a faith response, we are letting the Savior save us. If our response to Christ is a response of unbelief, we are not letting the Savior save us. So, the difference between one person and the next does not rest in whether they measure up or not, but rather in what they have done with Christ. This is why the John 3 passage above says, “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, thank you for being my Savior. You extended the gift of the forgiveness of sins to me and I responded to you in faith. You have saved me and I am no longer under the judgment of unbelief. Thank you for not letting me get stuck in unbelief. I know a Savior is what I needed and a Savior is why I have. I am forever forgiven and set free. Hallelujah! Amen!

  • The Necessity of a Savior – Humans Cannot Cure Themselves - Tuesday, December 25th

    For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16

    Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin. But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. Romans 3:19-24

    But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:4-7

    We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. 1 John 4:14

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    The Scriptures overflow with the magnificent truth that Jesus Christ and His salvation provision are a gift from God freely bestowed by grace upon any and all who will simply believe. However, our very nature, the people around us, and the culture we live in, condition and recondition us with the all-consuming notion that “getting” comes from “doing.” Oh how deep this runs and it permeates every aspect of our lives. Salvation and the forgiveness it offers are the result of God “giving” with no strings attached. There is absolutely nothing we can ever “do” to “get” it. Believing is the antithesis of doing. Believing is resting in that which God has already done for us and which we could never, ever do for ourselves.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, the reality of grace is so hard to sustain on an actual conscious level. It is so foreign to my natural orientation. I confess that I regularly default back to my doing/achieving mode of operating. Convince me more than ever before that I am truly spiritually helpless. Help me on this Christmas day to die to self-effort and make me fully alive to grace and resting in your complete and sufficient provision in Christ, the one only true Savior. Amen!

  • The Necessity of a Savior – Christ Fixes a Fallen Humanity - Monday, December 24th

    But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11

    When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Colossians 2:13-14

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    The spectacular angelic announcement of the great good news of Christ’s birth zeros in on one all-important word: Savior. For those who have realized their need for a Savior, we read that announcement and our hearts overflow with gratitude that God intervened and sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to be our Savior. For everyone else it remains a slap in the face. The announcement is an indictment that mankind has blown it and that God is stepping into the situation to provide the necessary fix for a very bad state of affairs.

    Today many hear the Christmas story, even with important Biblical details included, and because they have been inoculated with steady doses of it over the years, they hear the word Savior and feel no slap at all. It has become to them a flowery expression that does not touch their hearts in any significant way. God desires that everyone would truly believe that they need a Savior, that the Savior was born in a manger and died on a cross, and that this one and only Savior, Jesus Christ, is their personal Savior from the devastation of sin. May this desire be significantly realized this Christmas with many, many people truly responding to the Savior in full.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, my heart does overflow with gratitude that you intervened for a lost humanity by providing a Savior. Thank you for helping me awaken to the indictment of the announcement and truly see my need for a Savior. I really was spiritually dead but you forgave my debt and made me alive in Christ. I rejoice in the Good News that the Savior was born to fix a fallen humanity. Amen!

  • "The Christmas Scout" - An Inspirational Christmas Story for Sunday, December 23rd

    The Christmas Scout

    By Samuel D. Bogan

    In spite of the fun and laughter, 13-year-old Frank Wilson was not happy.

    It was true that he had received all the presents he wanted. And he enjoyed these traditional Christmas Eve reunions of relatives - this year at Aunt Susan's - for the purpose of exchanging gifts and good wishes.

    But Frank was not happy because this was his first Christmas without his brother, Steve, who, during the year, had been killed by a reckless driver. Frank missed his brother and the close companionship they had together. Frank said good-bye to his relatives and explained to his parents that he was leaving a little early to see a friend; from there he could walk home. Since it was cold outside, Frank put on his new plaid jacket. It was his favorite gift. The other presents he placed on his new sled.

    Then Frank headed out, hoping to find the patrol leader of his Boy Scout troop. Frank always felt understood by him. Though rich in wisdom, he lived in the Flats, the section of town where most of the poor lived, and his patrol leader did odd jobs to help support his family. To Frank's disappointment, his friend was not at home.

    As Frank hiked down the street toward home, he caught glimpses of trees and decorations in many of the small houses. Then, through one front window, he glimpsed a shabby room with the limp stockings hanging over an empty fireplace. A woman was seated near them weeping. The stockings reminded him of the way he and his brother had always hung theirs side by side. The next morning, they would be bursting with presents. A sudden thought struck Frank - he had not done his "good turn" for the day.

    Before the impulse passed, he knocked on the door.

    "Yes?" the sad voice of the woman inquired.

    "May I come in?"

    "You are very welcome," she said, seeing his sled full  of gifts, and assuming he was making a collection, "but I  have no food or gifts for you. I have nothing for my own children."

    "That's not why I am here," Frank replied. "Please choose whatever presents you'd like for your children from this sled."

    "Why, God bless you!" the amazed woman answered gratefully.

    She selected some candies, a game, the toy airplane  and a puzzle. When she took the new Scout flashlight, Frank almost cried out. Finally, the stockings were full.

    "Won't you tell me your name?" she asked, as Frank was
    leaving.

    "Just call me the Christmas Scout," he replied.

    The visit left the boy touched, and with an unexpected flicker of joy in his heart. He understood that his sorrow was not the only sorrow in the world. Before he left the Flats, he had given away the remainder of his gifts. The plaid jacket had gone to a shivering boy.

    But he trudged homeward, cold and uneasy. Having given his presents away, Frank now could think of no reasonable explanation to offer his parents. He wondered how he could make them understand.

    "Where are your presents, son?" asked his father as he entered the house.

    "I gave them away."

    "The airplane from Aunt Susan? Your coat from  Grandma? Your flashlight? We thought you were happy with your gifts."

    "I was - very happy," the boy answered lamely.

    "But, Frank, how could you be so impulsive?" his mother asked. "How will we explain to the relatives who spent so much time and gave so much love shopping for you?"

    His father was firm. "You made your choice, Frank. We cannot afford any more presents."

    His brother gone, his family disappointed in him, Frank suddenly felt dreadfully alone. He had not expected a reward for his generosity. For he knew that a good deed always should be its own reward. It would be tarnished otherwise. So he did not want his gifts back, however, he wondered if he would ever again truly recapture joy in his life. He thought he had this evening, but it had been fleeting. Frank thought of his brother and sobbed himself to sleep.

    The next morning, he came downstairs to find his parents listening to Christmas music on the radio. Then the announcer spoke:

    "Merry Christmas, everybody! The nicest Christmas story we have this morning comes from the Flats. A crippled boy down there has a new sled this morning, another youngster has a fine plaid jacket, and several families report that their children were made happy last night by gifts from a teenage boy who simply referred to himself as the Christmas Scout. No one could identify him, but the children of the Flats claim that the Christmas Scout was a personal representative of old Santa Claus himself."

    Frank felt his father's arms go around his shoulders, and he saw his mother smiling through her tears. "Why didn't you tell us? We didn't understand. We are so proud of you, son."

    The carols came over the air again filling the room with music.

    "...Praises sing to God the King, and peace to men on
    Earth."

  • "The Best Christmas" - An Inspirational Christmas Story for Saturday, December 22nd

    The Best Christmas

    Pa never had much compassion for the lazy or those who squandered their means and then never had enough for the necessities. But for those who were genuinely in need, his heart was as big as all outdoors. It was from him that I learned the greatest joy in life comes from giving, not from receiving.

    It was Christmas Eve 1881. I was fifteen years old and feeling like the world had caved in on me because there just hadn't been enough money to buy me the rifle that I'd wanted for Christmas. We did the chores early that night

     for some reason. I just figured Pa wanted a little extra time so we could read in the Bible.

    After supper was over I took my boots off and stretched out in front of the fireplace and waited for Pa to get down the old Bible. I was still feeling sorry for myself and, to be honest, I wasn't in much of a mood to read Scriptures. But Pa didn't get the Bible, instead he bundled up again and went outside. I couldn't figure it out because we had already done all the chores. I didn't worry about it long though, I was too busy wallowing in self-pity.

    Soon Pa came back in. It was a cold clear night out and there was ice in his beard. "Come on, Matt," he said. "Bundle up good, it's cold out tonight." I was really upset then. Not only wasn't I getting the rifle for Christmas, now Pa was dragging me out in the cold, and for no earthly reason that I could see. We'd already done all the chores, and I couldn't thnk of anything else that needed doing, especially not on a night like this.

    But I knew Pa was not very patient at one dragging one's feet when he'd told them to do something, so I got up and put my boots back on and got my cap, coat, and mittens. Ma gave me a mysterious smile as I opened the door to leave the house. Something was up, but I didn't know what.

    Outside, I became even more dismayed. There in front of the house was the work team, already hitched to the big sled. Whatever it was we were going to do wasn't going to be a short, quick, little job. I could tell. We never hitched up this sled unless we were going to haul a big load.

    Pa was already up on the seat, reins in hand. I reluctantly climbed up beside him. The cold was already biting at me. I wasn't happy. When I was on, Pa pulled the sled around the house and stopped in front of the woodshed. He got off and I followed. "I think we'll put on the high sideboards," he said. "Here, help me." The high sideboards! It had been a bigger job than I wanted to do with just the low sideboards on, but whatever it was we were going to do would be a lot bigger with the high sideboards on.

    After we had exchanged the sideboards, Pa went into the woodshed and came out with an armload of wood---the wood I'd spent all summer hauling down from the mountain, and then all Fall sawing into blocks and splitting. What was he doing? Finally I said something. "Pa," I asked, "what are you doing?" You been by the Widow Jensen's lately?" he asked. The Widow Jensen lived about two miles down the road. Her husband had died a year or so before and left her with three children, the oldest being eight. Sure, I'd been by, but so what? "Yeah," I said, "Why?" "I rode by just today," Pa said. "Little Jakey was out digging around in the woodpile trying to find a few chips. They're out of wood, Matt."

    That was all he said and then he turned and went back into the woodshed for another armload of wood. I followed him. We loaded the sled so high that I began to wonder if the horses would be able to pull it. Finally, Pa called a halt to our loading, then we went to the smoke house and Pa took down a big ham and a side of bacon. He handed them to me and told me to put them in the sled and wait.

    When he returned he was carrying a sack of flour over his right shoulder and a smaller sack of something in his left hand. "What's in the little sack?" I asked. "Shoes. They're out of shoes. Little Jakey just had gunny sacks wrapped around his feet when he was out in the woodpile this morning. I got the children a little candy too. It just wouldn't be Christmas without a little candy."

    We rode the two miles to Widow Jensen's pretty much in silence. I tried to think through what Pa was doing. We didn't have much by worldly standards. Of course, we did have a big woodpile, though most of what was left now was still in the form of logs that I would have to saw into blocks and split before we could use it. We also had meat and flour, so we could spare that, but I knew we didn't have any money, so why was Pa buying them shoes and candy?

    Really, why was he doing any of this? Widow Jensen had closer neighbors than us; it shouldn't have been our concern. We came in from the blind side of the Jensen house and unloaded the wood as quietly as possible, then we took the meat and flour and shoes to the door. We knocked. The door opened a crack and a timid voice said, "Who is it?" "Lucas Miles, Ma'am, and my son, Matt. Could we come in for a bit?"

    Widow Jensen opened the door and let us in. She had a blanket wrapped around her shoulders. The children were wrapped in another and were sitting in front of the fireplace by a very small fire that hardly gave off any heat at all. Widow Jensen fumbled with a match and finally lit the lamp. "We brought you a few things, Ma'am," Pa said and set down the sack of flour. I put the meat on the table. Then Pa handed her the sack that had the shoes in it.

    She opened it hesitantly and took the shoes out one pair at a time. There was a pair for her and one for each of the children---sturdy shoes, the best, shoes that would last. I watched her carefully. She bit her lower lip to keep it from trembling and then tears filled her eyes and started running down her cheeks. She looked up at Pa like she wanted to say something, but it wouldn't come out.

    "We brought a load of wood too, Ma'am," Pa said. He turned to me and said, "Matt, go bring in enough to last awhile. Let's get that fire up to size and heat this place up." I wasn't the same person when I went back out to bring in the wood. I had a big lump in my throat and as much as I hate to admit it, there were tears in my eyes too.

    In my mind I kept seeing those three kids huddled around the fireplace and their mother standing there with tears running down her cheeks with so much gratitude in her heart that she couldn't speak. My heart swelled within me and a joy that I'd never known before, filled my soul. I had given at Christmas many times before, but never when it had made so much difference. I could see we were literally saving the lives of these people.

    I soon had the fire blazing and everyone's spirits soared. The kids started giggling when Pa handed them each a piece of candy and Widow Jensen looked on with a smile that probably hadn't crossed her face for a long time. She finally turned to us. "God bless you," she said. "I know the Lord has sent you. The children and I have been praying that he would send one of his angels to spare us."

    In spite of myself, the lump returned to my throat and the tears welled up in my eyes again. I'd never thought of Pa in those exact terms before, but after Widow Jensen mentioned it I could see that it was probably true. I was sure that a better man than Pa had never walked the earth. I started remembering all the times he had gone out of his way for Ma and me, and many others. The list seemed endless as I thought on it.

    Pa insisted that everyone try on the shoes before we left. I was amazed when they all fit and I wondered how he had known what sizes to get. Then I guessed that if he was on an errand for the Lord that the Lord would make sure he got the right sizes.

    Tears were running down Widow Jensen's face again when we stood up to leave. Pa took each of the kids in his big arms and gave them a hug. They clung to him and didn't want us to go. I could see that they missed their Pa, and I was glad that I still had mine.

    At the door Pa turned to Widow Jensen and said, "The Mrs. wanted me to invite you and the children over for Christmas dinner tomorrow. The turkey will be more than the three of us can eat, and a man can get cantankerous if he has to eat turkey for too many meals. We'll be by to get you about eleven. It'll be nice to have some little ones around again. Matt, here, hasn't been little for quite a spell." I was the youngest. My two brothers and two sisters had all married and had moved away. Widow Jensen nodded and said, "Thank you, Brother Miles. I don't have to say, "'May the Lord bless you,' I know for certain that He will."

    Out on the sled I felt a warmth that came from deep within and I didn't even notice the cold. When we had gone a ways, Pa turned to me and said, "Matt, I want you to know something. Your ma and me have been tucking a little money away here and there all year so we could buy that rifle for you, but we didn't have quite enough.

    Then yesterday a man who owed me a little money from years back came by to make things square. Your ma and me were real excited, thinking that now we could get you that rifle, and I started into town this morning to do just that. But on the way I saw little Jakey out scratching in the woodpile with his feet wrapped in those gunny sacks and I knew what I had to do. Son, I spent the money for shoes and a little candy for those children. I hope you understand."

    I understood, and my eyes became wet with tears again. I understood very well, and I was so glad Pa had done it. Now the rifle seemed very low on my list of priorities. Pa had given me a lot more. He had given me the look on Widow Jensen's face and the radiant smiles of her three children.

    For the rest of my life, Whenever I saw any of the Jensens, or split a block of wood, I remembered, and remembering brought back that same joy I felt riding home beside Pa that night. Pa had given me much more than a rifle that night, he had given me the best Christmas of my life. 

  • Christmas Assurance – Divine Provision - Friday, December 21st

    While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in (swaddling) cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:6-7

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Very soon we will be celebrating precisely what today's verses record for us, the birth of Jesus Christ, our Savior. We are given some of the details here for how Jesus was handled immediately after being born. We are told he was wrapped in cloths and laid in a manger. Countless insights into the significance of these details have been put forth ever since they were carefully recorded for us by Luke (Luke 1:1-4). The account of the shepherds is also a part of the Luke 2 Christmas story. It is particularly noteworthy that the angel said that these same details would be a sign for them. The angel said to shepherds, "you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.

    The question is this: how were these details a sign for the shepherds. Were they just signs to help them find the baby who was born? The words of the angel help them to know they should look in a stable, but Jesus being wrapped in cloths and lying in manger is more about declaring who he is than helping them find the baby. Remember, the words of the angel to the shepherds just before these words about a sign. The angel said, "Behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." The suggestion is that they will know that these words are true because of the fact that the baby is wrapped in cloths and is lying in a manger. In other words, these two things signal (sign) that this baby is the Savior of the world.

    The following explanation was posted online by Bob Lewis and helps us understand why these two things were a sign for the "shepherds" in particular: "The shepherds would take the firstborn of the flock for the sin sacrifice offering. To stop the newborn lamb from injuring itself so it would be without blemish they would wrap them in swaddling clothes and usually lay them in a manger until they were stronger and ready to go to their mother. Thus the sign of the firstborn son wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger was of special significance to the shepherds, who would share this incredible sign with others who could understand it!" We like finding hidden meanings in written material but the probability that these insights are on target is compelling.

    We are told that Mary gave birth to her firstborn Son. Many years later John the Baptist said of Jesus Christ, "Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. When the shepherds first laid eyes on this special baby you can be sure they saw him as "the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" because of these two special signs that were uniquely suited to them as shepherds of sheep. Truly, the birth of Christ is good news of great joy for "all" the people. Christmas is the celebration of the fact that in the city of David there was born for us a Savior (the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world) who is Christ the Lord.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, as I celebrate the birth of Christ this Christmas, I will celebrate the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Thank you for helping me to understand more fully how capable you are and for helping me rest more confidently in the security of your powerful and gentle hands. I am grateful for how you have used this week to build my faith and strengthen my assurance that all is well with my soul and that all I truly need has been bestowed on me through the gift of your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. Amen!

  • Christmas Assurance – Divine Redirection - Thursday, December 20th

    But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord, I say, “You are my God.” My times are in Your hand; Deliver me from the hand of my enemies and from those who persecute me. Make Your face to shine upon Your servant; Save me in Your lovingkindness. Psalm 31:14-16

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    The words of the Psalmist in today's verses could easily be the words of Mary and Joseph. As they are about to set out on their journey to Bethlehem, can't you just hear them saying prayerfully to God, "But as for us, we trust in You, O Lord. You are our God. Our times are in Your hand." Even before the decree, there was a lot of upheaval and uncertainty in their lives with the Divine pregnancy of Mary. While angelic visitations had given them some insight and understanding, there remained so much that was mysterious and uncertain for them. And now with this journey, the spot they are at in their lives is one of total redirection and change.

    Whether this Christmas finds us at a spot of redirection and change or not, it is prudent for us to be prepared. How readily we latch onto the following expectations: We want the things in our lives we like, to remain, we want things we don't like, to disappear, we want the things we like that are missing, to show up, and we want the things that are not in our lives that we don't like, to stay away. Now expectations are not wrong, but locking onto them brings a lot of unnecessary pain and suffering. When we are locked onto our expectations, it means we are trying to have it be that our "times" are in our own hands. Being prepared for redirection and change is all about being at a spot where we can truly join the Psalmist and come before the Lord saying, "But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord, I say, “You are my God.” My times are in Your hand." When we are at this spot, it means we are always ready to leave "Nazareth" for a journey to "Bethlehem."

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, "Make Your face to shine upon Your servant" as I let go of the grip I have on my expectations and experience the freedom of one who truly knows "my times are in Your hand." Thank you for what you are doing this Christmas season to "Save me in Your lovingkindness" from being wrapped up in myself. I choose to be wrapped up in you and to be a person of "mobility" for "wherever you want me" and "whatever you want for me." Amen!

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