Month: April 2024

Return to Egypt

When Pharaoh finally let the people go, God did not lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land. God said, “If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” (NLT) ( Exodus 13:17 )

Rather than take the shortest, most direct route to the Promised Land, the Lord took them on a longer path to avoid the Philistines. Why? God knew they were weak and if forced with choosing between a battle or slavery they would rather be a slave. Are there situations where we choose to be a slave rather than battle? We can be slaves to our guilt, bitterness, or blame rather than do the work to be freed. Have you chosen to be a slave to your blame and resentment rather than do the work to forgive?

Gaining Better Vision

If you want to see clearly, ask God to help you see from His perspective.

Matthew 7:1-8

You may have seen videos on the internet of babies receiving their first pair of glasses. They fuss and fight a little as the frames are being put on, but almost instantly, they stop and stare. Things that were previously blobs of color suddenly have defined shapes. Their parents’ faces, once fuzzy, become clear. Their smiles tell you everything you need to know about the gift of vision.

In a similar way, clear spiritual sight is vital for believers, and it involves learning to see as the Lord sees. This requires a shift in our perspective, and today’s passage provides a practical blueprint for learning to discern with the eyes of Christ: “Do not judge” (v. 1). True understanding begins with an awareness of our sins so we can “take the log out” (v. 5) from our own eye and see ourselves and others for what we truly are—forgiven and beloved daughters and sons.

1 Samuel 16:7 tells us that God doesn’t see as man does. Seeing with the eyes of Christ means searching beyond surface appearances and asking the Spirit to help us look more deeply into the heart of things. Jesus truly saw people—He recognized their brokenness and compassionately sought their good. May we be willing to do the same. Learning to view others as God does is the joyous labor of a lifetime, and the rewards for doing so are great.

The Beauty of God’s Word

Sometimes all we need in the chaotic moments of life is a little time to hear from our Father.

Psalms 19:7-8

The world we live in is loud—even deafening at times. But the peace of God’s Word turns down the noise, offering tranquil truth and beauty in place of clamor. Psalms 19:7-8 is a reminder that Scripture provides us with wisdom and clarity by:

Restoring the Soul. God’s Word has everything our wounded and weary souls need. When life’s struggles wear us down, it brings restoration by providing comfort, hope, and renewal.

Making Wise the Simple. The insight and guidance contained in Scripture surpass worldly knowledge. God’s wisdom is not exclusive to the educated or elite but is offered to anyone willing to receive it.

Rejoicing the Heart. The precepts of the Lord are right, reminding us of our identity and purpose in Christ. This brings lasting joy in a world filled with temporary pleasures.

Enlightening the Eyes. The commandment of the Lord is pure and teaches us spiritual truths. When we seek God’s guidance in His Word, we gain clarity and perspective, which help us navigate through confusion and darkness.

God’s Word is truly a precious and beautiful gift—it is a source of strength and a light for our path.

Behold God’s Beautiful Creation

All of nature declares the majesty of the Almighty.

Genesis 1:1-31

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth with intention and precision. He spoke galaxies into existence, formed mountains and valleys, filled the seas with life, and adorned the earth with things of various colors and shapes. He surveyed His creation, declaring it to be “very good” (Gen. 1:31).

Beholding the wonders of creation allows us to catch a glimpse of divine artistry. The vibrant hues of a sunset, the delicate intricacy of a butterfly’s wings, and the grandeur of mountain ranges—all bear witness to the God’s endless wisdom and creativity.

Getting caught up in the mundane moments of life can make it easy to overlook the beauty around us. But when we slow down enough to take in God’s creation, it’s hard not to be filled with awe and gratitude. Each sunrise, chirping bird, and rustling leaf speaks of the Creator’s love for us. God’s declaration that His creation is “very good” reminds us of the inherent worth of all He has made, including us.

Pause for a moment to step outside and behold the beauty of God’s creation. Whether you look at a single blade of grass or the expanse of the sky, remember it all reflects the goodness of our Creator, who made every bit of it with love.

Joy in the Holy Spirit

Abiding with our Lord brings gifts that money can’t buy.

Romans 14:13-17

In today’s passage, the apostle Paul writes, “[Do not] put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s or sister’s way … For if because of food your brother or sister is hurt, you are no longer walking in accordance with love” (vv. 13, 15). God’s kingdom isn’t about what we eat or drink—or any other “rule” we think we must follow. Rather, it’s about the transformative work of the Holy Spirit within us.

When we align with God’s righteousness, seeking His ways and His will, joy blossoms. The Holy Spirit, our Comforter and Guide, brings it to life within us. He reminds us of God’s love, assures us of our salvation, and empowers us to live in harmony with those around us. This is not some superficial or temporary happiness; it’s the fruit of the Spirit dwelling in us (Galatians 5:22) and transcends our circumstances.

Take a moment to reflect on the joy that comes from knowing God and seeking Him. This profound sense of stability and strength cannot be bought or manufactured—it flows from our connection to the Source of all joy and is a taste of the eternal pleasures that await us in God’s presence (Psalm 16:11).

Give With Joy

To God, the giver’s heart matters more than the gift.

2 Corinthians 9:6-8

The act of giving holds a special place in God’s heart. Verse 7 of today’s passage reminds us that God cares about the way we share what we have. He delights in cheerful givers who act with a joyful heart and willing spirit.

When we give grudgingly or out of duty, we miss the delight of aligning our heart with God’s generous nature. Sharing with others should be seen as a privilege, not a burden. It’s an opportunity to participate in God’s work and to be His hands and feet by meeting the needs of those around us.

The condition of our heart—not the size of our gift—is what determines how the Lord views what we offer. Giving cheerfully reflects gratitude for His blessings and trust in His provision. It acknowledges that everything we have belongs to God and we are merely stewards. So, allow the joy of giving to fill your heart as you partner with God in blessing others. And remember, it’s not about the dollar amount but the love behind your gift.

Take a moment now to ask God where He is inviting you to generously give to others, just as He generously gave to you. Ask Him who, and then faithfully and obediently execute the what.

Walking God’s Way

The Holy Spirit will transform us—from the inside out.

Galatians 5:22-23

Who doesn’t enjoy accomplishments? Most of us like being recognized for our achievements, whether it’s landing a big client at work, winning the chili cook-off, or training a baby to sleep all night. These are all good things, but God’s purpose for us is so much deeper. Galatians 5:22-23 tells us that our character is important to God. That’s why He instructs us to walk by the Spirit, so that the deeds of the flesh are replaced with God’s attributes.

Love is the foundation for all other virtues. We cultivate it by embracing God’s unconditional love for us.

Joy is contentment regardless of our circumstances.

Peace comes from trusting God and surrendering to Him.

Patience is developed by trusting God’s perfect timing.

Kindness is God’s compassion reflected to others.

Goodness occurs as we mirror His righteousness and justice.

Faithfulness means we are steadfast and trustworthy.

Gentleness comes when we approach others with humility.

Self-control requires us to exercise restraint and rely on the Holy Spirit’s strength.

Growing in these virtues makes us more Christlike and testifies to God’s transformative work in our life. And that’s an accomplishment worth celebrating.

Growing in God’s Love

Maturity comes from intentional daily decisions to follow Christ.

Colossians 2:6-7

Yesterday, we looked at the importance of slow, steady growth. In today’s passage, Paul tells us how to accomplish that growth: Be “firmly rooted and … built up in Him and established in your faith … overflowing with gratitude.” As we’re rooted in faith, we’ll become closer and closer to Jesus each and every day—not just loving Him more but also learning to love as He does.

Growth is a deliberate choice and a transformative process. Think of a tree. It slowly gets larger, adding layers year after year. Similarly, we grow in love through gratitude, patience, and intentional acts of kindness, compassion, and forgiveness. As we do, our relationships with others are impacted for the better.

For instance, when we speak the truth in love, we nurture a culture of grace and understanding (Ephesians 4:15). Honesty without love can wound, whereas love without truth can enable deception. The balance is found in Jesus, who perfectly embodies both requirements.

Take a moment to pause and reflect on your recent interactions. Were they marked by love? If not, perhaps you need to spend more time experiencing the love of your heavenly Father. Then you will be ready to allow God’s example to be your guide in every conversation, relationship, and decision.

In a World of Quick, Slow is Good

Let’s give others—and ourselves—time to learn and grow.

Ephesians 4:14-16

Have you ever gotten into the far left lane on the highway so you can move just a little faster—only to have the cars in front of you slow down? Then you’re stuck between a divider wall on your left and even slower traffic on your right, feeling frustrated and annoyed.

Sometimes we want to treat our spiritual growth like that—jumping into that fast lane to “beat” everyone else to the goal and reach our destination sooner. We think that by reading a specific book or praying a certain way, we’ll grow more quickly and get to the next thing. But then the trials of life come, and without a strong foundation—one that’s built over time and with diligence—we quickly become overwhelmed and disillusioned.

In a world of quick, remember that slow growth is a good thing. Consider today’s passage, where Paul describes believers as children who must “grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, that is, Christ” (v. 15). We don’t expect children to do everything like adults. It takes time for them to develop the strength, coordination, and intelligence required for “adult” tasks. When we become Christians, the process is similar. No one becomes a fully mature believer overnight—nor does God expect us to. So let’s be patient with ourselves, take the time required to “grow up,” and celebrate when we see progress in ourselves.

Soil Matters

Are you ready to hear from God?

Matthew 13:1-9

When teaching the crowds, the Lord often used parables, which were hard to understand in the moment. Yet now that we have the full revelation of God, these short stories serve as wonderful examples of what it means to live a life of faith.

One parable Jesus told was about a farmer planting seeds that fell in different places: on a path, in shallow soil, among thorns, and on fertile ground. He ended the story with, “The one who has ears, let him hear” (Matt. 13:9). Afterward, the disciples asked Jesus why He chose to teach this way, and He explained that not everyone was willing to hear spiritual truth. But He told the Twelve, “Blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear” (Matthew 13:16). As believers, we are blessed in the same way.

However, learning how to listen to (and act upon) what we hear from the Lord takes time and practice; it’s not a process one can rush through. The fertile soil that Jesus mentions in verse 8 is a heart prepared to hear and respond to His Word (Matthew 13:23). By spending time in prayer and scriptural meditation, we can “rid ourselves of every obstacle and the sin which so easily entangles us” (Hebrews 12:1). In that way, we can become even better, more attuned listeners. What is one thing you can do today to prepare your heart to receive God’s Word?