Month: November 2023

Is Anyone Beyond God’s Reach?

The miraculous power of God’s love will flow through us when we obey His command to forgive.

Acts 26:9-18

Three years after her release from the Ravensbrück concentration camp, Corrie ten Boom came face-to-face with a former Nazi guard. She was in Munich to give a speech, and just as she finished, the man walked toward her. He said, “I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me … but I would like to hear it from your lips as well.” And, empowered by the love of Christ, she did just that.

The man had actively participated in the Holocaust, one of the worst atrocities in the history of mankind. Yet he wasn’t beyond the Lord’s reach. Called “out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9-10), this onetime enemy received the mercy offered only by almighty God.

The Holy Spirit is always working to bring men and women to saving faith. He uses believers’ lives and testimonies like those of Corrie ten Boom and her former guard to rescue others. “I am the Light of the world,” Jesus told His disciples. “The one who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life” (John 8:12). That promise is for you and also for the world.

A Kingdom-Focused Prayer Meeting

Are you praying for God’s will to be done on earth?

Acts 1:11-14

Jesus talked a lot about prayer. He taught its importance not only by His words but also through His actions. At times His prayers were spoken publicly; sometimes He withdrew from the crowds to be alone with the Father. Jesus also spoke of the power of united prayer (Matthew 18:19-20).

If our church gatherings and small groups were to offer heavenly-minded petitions on a consistent basis, what would our prayer meetings be like? There would be greater focus on God and His kingdom. More of us would praise Him for who He is, express godly sorrow for our sinful ways (2 Corinthians 7:10), and speak of our gratitude for all He has done. Our voices would be lifted in praise as we witnessed people coming to the Lord, pride giving way to humility, and insensitivity being replaced by love. We’d rejoice in our glimpses of God’s work in and through our local churches. And we’d be beseeching our Father for others’ salvation and for believers’ spiritual growth.

How excited we would be to see God answer our prayers. Some of us would find it easier to testify about our Savior, others would be filled with His peace when facing trials, and still others would have the strength to stand firm. Imagine our church, filled to overflowing and becoming the “house of prayer” Jesus said we are meant to be (Matthew 21:13).

Heavenly-Minded Prayers

Be sure that you are asking God for what’s most important in your life and the lives of those you love.

Colossians 1:9-14

We belong to Jesus, and our home is not of this world. Do our prayers reflect that? The Lord wants us to talk to Him about our day and bring our personal requests, but He desires that we pray for kingdom concerns, too—prayers for others’ salvation and for the spiritual growth of His children.

Let’s look at Paul’s prayers. They were Christ-centered and kingdom-related—that people know Jesus, pattern their life after Him, and carry out God’s will. The apostle yearned for believers to be filled with spiritual wisdom and understanding and to walk in a worthy manner. He prayed that they would please the Lord, be fruitful, and increase in their knowledge of God. Finally, he asked that they be strengthened with the Spirit’s power and exhibit steadfastness and patience. Our God delights to answer such prayers because they are all part of what He desires for us.

Paul wasn’t ignoring the people’s physical and emotional needs. Rather, he knew that God’s answers to these prayers in Colossians 1 were the way believers would triumph in the situations facing them. Then they would have strength to persevere and be good witnesses during difficult times.

Take steps now to make your prayer life more heavenly-minded than earthbound. Start by praying today’s verses for yourself and people you know.

Running the Race of Faith

Following the course set by the Holy Spirit brings great rewards.

Hebrews 12:1-3

Runners in a marathon follow a clearly marked course. But suppose one of the athletes decides to pick his own path. He still runs 26 miles and sets his finish line in the same spot as the official one, but he runs through neighborhoods with fewer hills and across less crowded parks. His plan seems excellent to him, but when he crosses the finish line, there won’t be a medal or ribbon waiting. That seems silly, right?

But we do the same thing when we decide the course for our life instead of running the race God sets. By submitting to His will—doing what He says and going where He leads—we remain on the right path.

For believers, the “finish line”—heaven—is the same whether we run the race God’s way or our own way. However, the difference is what we have to show for our time on earth. Regardless of how grand a legacy someone leaves, the only truly lasting and worthwhile deeds are those done for the Lord and in the power of His Spirit.

Thankfully, no matter how far off course we may veer, the Holy Spirit is still present. He reminds us of the right path—and also provides the power to get back on it and persevere. Your route is marked out and your choice is clear. Run the race set before you and finish well (Acts 20:24).

The One Who Lifts Your Head

God will provide all you need for the challenges you face—trust Him and be brave!

Joshua 1:1-9

When God charged him to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land, Joshua was fully aware of just how daunting the task before him was. Yet he was determined to obey God no matter what. Whatever doubts and fears the young man faced in his heart and mind, he ultimately took up the mantle of leadership with courage. He placed his faith in God, who had never let the people down. And Joshua fully expected the Lord to be true to His word again.

Whatever challenge you’re up against, God says the same words to you that He lovingly spoke over His servant in today’s passage: “Be strong and very courageous” (Joshua 1:7). Joshua’s bravery was based upon years of seeing God’s faithfulness. Whether you’ve been a Christian for five minutes or 50 years, you can have the same confidence.

The Lord is sufficient to meet your needs. He is your “refuge and strength, a very ready help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). Rely upon Him in all things, and like David, you can boldly say, “You, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, and the One who lifts my head … The Lord sustains me. I will not be afraid” (Psalm 3:3; Psalm 3:5-6).

Peace in the Stillness

If you are feeling overwhelmed today, spend some time with your heavenly Father to find serenity.

Psalm 131:1-2

Think about the last time you walked into an arcade or theme park. What was the experience like? Probably a thousand things vied for your attention, including bright flashing lights, cacophonous music, and crowded walkways. In all likelihood, it was hard to focus (and impossible to have a conversation).

Everyday life can also feel like that sometimes—too much input and not enough time to process everything that’s going on. It’s no wonder that we struggle to hear the Lord’s “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12 KJV) in all of it! Jesus faced this same problem, which is why He made sure to get away and spend time with His Father (Mark 1:35).

Psalm 46:10 calls us to stillness: “Stop striving and know that I am God.” To enjoy this continuous inner peace, we must periodically pause everything and let our soul become aware of the Holy Spirit’s presence. In today’s reading, David described it as being like a “weaned child” at perfect rest in his mother’s arms.

Intentionally slowing down can be difficult to do, but experiencing the serenity and rest God provides is a gift well worth seeking.

The Treasure of Faith

Spiritual legacies begin with God’s faithful ones—will others learn of Christ through you?

2 Timothy 1:5-14

Where does faith come from? It’s a gift of God, ultimately, but the Bible repeatedly points to the value of a faithful life. One example is the apostle Paul’s disciple, Timothy, whose mother and grandmother were strong role models of faith.

We know nothing of Lois or Eunice beyond the mention of them in 2 Timothy 1:5. They are probably the reason the young minister had known “the sacred writings” of Scripture all his life—from these devout women, in other words, he had received “the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15).

But what about those of us without a legacy like Timothy’s? Paul spoke to that as well, saying that God “saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace” (1:9).

Like Timothy, those of us with godly parents enjoy the fruit of their faithfulness. But if you’re the first believer in your family, then you’re creating the legacy of faithfulness for future generations. That’s what Paul charges Timothy to protect and “entrust … to faithful people” (2 Timothy 2:2). And it’s our charge, too. If we guard and pass down this treasure, our loved ones will, by God’s grace, continue the tradition of faith.

Set Your Hope on Grace

We may not see the results of our faithfulness until heaven.

1 Peter 1:10-13

Yesterday, we focused on Hebrews 11 and the stories of people who followed the Lord faithfully—all before Jesus came to earth. Their legacy strengthens us to imitate them and walk by faith. In today’s reading, Peter reminds us of those who wrote down God’s promises so that we would be able to hear the good news. Their words assure us of God’s plan of salvation and point to our greatest hope.

Like the men and women remembered in Hebrews 11, the Old Testament prophets didn’t personally experience fulfillment of all that God promised. They “made careful searches and inquiries” (1 Peter 1:10) in an attempt to understand His plans, but none of them lived to see Jesus—the One they wrote about—in the flesh. Peter tells us they realized their writings were for the benefit of others.

The prophets’ Old Testament messages prepared the way for God’s good news to be received by the apostles and the whole world. Their words are like fruit trees that will bring a harvest long after the people who planted them are gone from this life.

The revelation of God in Jesus Christ is complete. But like the prophets of old, we can leave a message that bears fruit for generations to come. In other words, let’s demonstrate hope in Christ and generously give forgiveness and love.

The Legacy of Faithfulness

Praise God today for those who have demonstrated that we can depend on Jesus.

Hebrews 11:1-40

Some churches celebrate their heritage of godly, faithful people on November 1. Similarly, in Hebrews 11—which is called the Bible’s “Hall of Faith”—the writer showcases the people who endured faithfully, trusting in God’s promises.

The stories of those men and women remind us that walking by faith is a lifelong journey. Like them, we’ll need to exercise faith again and again, even when we don’t “receive what was promised” (Hebrews 11:39). We can see from their lives that faith depends not on human strength or understanding, but on God’s character and faithfulness. We also learn that He “provide[s] something better” (Hebrews 11:40)—He created us, called us to relationship with Him, and lovingly guides us each step of the way.

Bible stories also remind us that we’re part of a larger story—one that stretches all the way back to Abraham and will continue long after we have joined the saints who’ve gone before us. We can be thankful that in our struggles, we don’t struggle alone. We can persevere, running “the race … set before us,” because we remember this “great cloud of witnesses surrounding us” (Hebrews 12:1). These fathers and mothers in the faith are reminders to depend on Jesus, who demonstrated perfect and unwavering trust in His Father. Best of all, we can celebrate that God writes us into the same story, strengthening the legacy of faithfulness we will pass to those who follow us.

Every Sunday Is a Little Easter

Each time we die to self and live for Christ, we experience anew the gift of the resurrection.

John 12:20-24

As winter approaches, we watch leaves fall and flowers fade—even the grass withers. As everything around us changes and in some cases disappears for a time, we can take comfort in the words of Jesus from today’s passage.

He knew that when His death came, it would seem final to the disciples, so He planted these words in their hearts to help them understand. When He was raised from the dead, they realized He had prepared them, as one poet put it, to practice resurrection.

How do we practice resurrection? We haven’t died yet, after all! First, we let go of our old ways of living, our selfish desires, and our pride (2 Corinthians 5:17). In doing this, we experience a kind of death—one from which we are “made alive in the spirit” (1 Peter 3:18).

Second, we embrace the faith and hope Jesus provided. This happens in a powerful way every time we gather with other believers, confessing our sin and receiving God’s forgiveness and mercy. We worship together, in faith that our Savior has died and risen from the grave. And we worship also in hope that the new life we now enjoy partially will be enjoyed completely when Christ comes again. Think of every Sunday as a little taste of Easter, all year long.