Daily Devotional

  • "Swift Kindnesses"- An Inspirational Poem for Saturday, January 25th

    Swift Kindnesses
    By Wilhelmina Stitch 

    "Swift kindnesses are best," I love this phrase.
    It argues healthy zest; enthusiastic ways.
    It wells up from the heart, not from the cautious mind.
    "To-day," it cries, "we'll start to be exceeding kind."

    "Swift kindnesses are best," Oh charming phrase,
    expressing love's behest - be swift to praise.
    It is a splendid race when word and deed
    strive for first place, responsive to grief's need.

    Proverbs, like fashions, alter; but not this one.
    Delay not, never falter when kindness should be done.
    For happy Christmas tide, no need to wait.
    A burdened heart has sighed? Then be not late.

    "Swift kindnesses are best." Brook no delay.
    Compassion in the heart has right of way.
    So practice not restraint; to prudence do not bow;
    the weary one and faint needs your swift kindness now.

  • The Full Experience of Discipleship – Time and the Journey - Friday, January 24th

    For you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light. For this reason, it says, “Awake, sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Therefore, be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. Ephesians 5:8-16

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    What a simple way to capture all that has been said so far, “walk as children of light” and “be careful how you walk …. making the most of your time.” This is well reflected in the life of 20th century missionary martyr, Jim Elliot, who said, “he is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep for that which he cannot lose.”

    Also, we need to remember that we are not on this journey alone. As we live out our devotion to intimacy with the Lord and intimacy with faithful others, our lights will shine in ways that unreached others will see and respond to. The cycle of redemption is a glorious thing and we have everything we need to ensure that we will follow through and not “fall down on the job.” Yes, we will make the most of our time here on earth by being ones who truly “live fully” for God in the full experience of discipleship.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, my heart, my will, my resources, and my time are all yours. I am your disciple completely and fully for all the days you give me. May you be glorified fully as I live fully for you, day by day. Keep me steady and sure on the path of genuine discipleship. May your people everywhere walk with you faithfully and triumphantly. Amen!

  • The Full Experience of Discipleship – Influence and the Journey - Thursday, January 23rd

    Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world. For the Lord’s sake, respect all human authority—whether the king as head of state, or the officials he has appointed. For the king has sent them to punish those who do wrong and to honor those who do right. It is God’s will that your honorable lives should silence those ignorant people who make foolish accusations against you. For you are free, yet you are God’s slaves, so don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do evil. Respect everyone, and love your Christian brothers and sisters. Fear God, and respect the king. You who are slaves must accept the authority of your masters with all respect. Do what they tell you—not only if they are kind and reasonable, but even if they are cruel. For God is pleased with you when you do what you know is right and patiently endure unfair treatment. Of course, you get no credit for being patient if you are beaten for doing wrong. But if you suffer for doing good and endure it patiently, God is pleased with you. For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. 1 Peter 2:11-21

    For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble. 2 Peter 1:4-10

    But as for me, I will hope continually, and will praise You yet more and more. My mouth shall tell of Your righteousness and of Your salvation all day long; for I do not know the sum of them. I will come with the mighty deeds of the Lord God; I will make mention of Your righteousness, Yours alone. O God, You have taught me from my youth, And I still declare Your wondrous deeds. And even when I am old and gray, O God, do not forsake me, until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to all who are to come. For Your righteousness, O God, reaches to the heavens, You who have done great things; O God, who is like You? Psalm 71:14-19

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    One of the great evidences that we are going forward in complete follow through with the process of transformation of our lives that was begun when we came to faith in Christ is the impact our transformed lives have on the world around us. What a great description of this we find in the 1 Peter passage above. If we are living our lives in the way described, we will have opportunity to give verbal expression to our faith that we are already demonstrating by our lives (1 Peter 3:15). Getting to this spot is very much a part of our “follow through” and our not being ones who “fall down on the job.” But remember bearing fruit in this way does not take place apart from abiding in Christ whereby He produces the fruit in us and through us.

    Once again, we have passages of exhortation and in them we see both the tone of challenge and correction and the tone of encouragement and support. We need the help admonishment and edification provide if we are to be spurred on in our pursuit of living truly fruitful lives. When the fruitfulness of Christ comes forth from our lives it will be both in terms of Divine qualities that others see in us and in words they hear from us that proclaim the awesomeness of God and His gift of salvation.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, thank you for redeeming my soul. It is utterly amazing that my heart is now your home. How incredible that within the sanctuary of my heart I am getting to know you, I am being made like you, I am being guided by you, and I being empowered for living life. From all of this, I am becoming a vessel you use to influence, bless, and reach the people in my life. I get it, Lord! I just concentrate on you and you do the amazing work of radically altering my life and using it to touch the world. Amen!

  • The Full Experience of Discipleship – Diligence and the Journey - Wednesday, January 22nd

    When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. 1 Corinthians 13:11

    Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. Hebrews 5:11-14

    For ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned. But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation, though we are speaking in this way. For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. Hebrews 6:7-12

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    I can’t imagine there being anyone who could say the journey of growing up from childhood to adulthood was an easy one. Often the part of that journey that is the most tumultuous is adolescence. The transition from adolescence to adulthood is complicated and extremely challenging for all involved. Certainly, the same is true for us spiritually. There is an image that can be drawn from the passage above that captures the idea of adolescence. It is the image of one who has physically gown up, is dabbling at adulthood, but hasn’t put away childish things yet. The primary image conveyed from the passage that we want to apply to our spiritual lives is that of a person who sets aside childish things and enters into spiritual adulthood. To be ones who have truly grown up in Christ is the goal, but often we get stuck in spiritual adolescence so to speak. We dabble at the things spiritually grown up people live out consistently and we refuse to put away our favorite childish things. As a result, spiritual adolescence becomes a prison for us and it is a tumultuous thing indeed for everyone involved.

    The passages above are words of exhortation. To exhort is to speak into another person’s life that which is needed for their spiritual good. It can have either the tone of challenge and correction or the tone of encouragement and support. If we are stuck in spiritual adolescence we need faithful others who are not afraid to tell us that we have become dull of hearing and are not making the progress that was expected. We also need faithful others in our lives to tell us that they are convinced of better things concerning us and to express the great desire they have for us to make the shift out of our sluggishness into full gear for becoming ones who realize the full assurance of hope until the end.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, how easily I am deceived with thinking I am truly committed to genuine discipleship when in reality I am merely enamored with the idea of spiritual maturity. I need Divine diligence to be no longer one who dabbles at spiritual things but rather to be one who lives them out consistently. I know you will help me “live fully” so that I truly realize the full assurance of hope until the end. Amen!

  • The Full Experience of Discipleship – Nourishment and the Journey - Tuesday, January 21st

    Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment. 1 Peter 2:2

    I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing …. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples …. You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain. John 15:5, 8, 16A

    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

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    All journeys have a beginning and there is nothing wrong with being at the beginning unless we are still at the beginning long after we should be on the journey itself. A newborn baby is at the beginning of the journey of human life and the image of the 1st Peter passage above is very real to us. Babies cry out for nourishment and they crave their mother’s milk. As they regularly partake of that nourishment they are soon past the beginning and off to a good start of growing into the full experience of life. Our spiritual beginning comes about when we receive the forgiveness of sins offered us in Christ. Through this forgiveness and cleansing we are made alive spiritually and Christ comes to dwell in our hearts through the Holy Spirit to begin the process of transforming our lives. Christ gives us nourishment through His presence (the living Word) and through the Scriptures (the written Word) and we are launched on our journey with Him and the full experience of spiritual life He has in store for us.

    The key words from the passages above are the words abide and partake. The key to our journey is staying close to Christ and drawing our nourishment from Him like a branch does from a vine. This is what it means to abide and it is the only way to be fruitful. Being fruitful (the follow through) is what the journey is all about. In intimate connection with Christ whereby we experience His presence and partake of Him, we have the nourishment we need for being fruitful. If we learn to abide and partake of Christ right from the beginning, we will be in the best position possible for holding fast to Christ throughout the journey from start to finish.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, show me how to abide in your presence and how to partake of the constant nourishment provided in the intimacy of communion with you. I do not want to be a spectator but a full-fledged participant. I give myself to you and the growing, thriving spiritual life you have set before me. I choose to be a complete disciple for your honor and glory. Amen!

  • The Full Experience of Discipleship – Support and the Journey - Monday, January 20th

    You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others. 2 Timothy 2:2

    For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light. Colossians 1:9-12

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    We are all familiar with the saying, “fall down on the job.” The saying simply means, “to begin and not follow through.” We are all too familiar with the problem of beginning but not following through. We see it in the lives of others and of course in our own lives as well. There is probably not a day in any of our lives where we are not exposed to situations where the saying, “fall down on the job” does not come into play. It doesn’t matter what area of our lives we pick, we do not want it to be that we “fall down on the job” in that area. It is certainly true that in our Christian lives we don’t want it to be true that we “fall down on the job.” But even though we don’t want it to be true, far too often it is true.

    Jesus addressed this problem in Luke 14 where he speaks of counting the cost before something is started so that once we begin it we are able to follow through with it. Jesus illustrates this by referring to a builder who did not count the cost and then after laying a foundation for a building was not able to finish. With the unfinished structure in full view of other people, the builder who did not follow through became subject to their ridicule and they said of him, “this person began to build but was not able to finish.” If we are Christians, we are disciples and according to Jesus, true disciples are ones who start and follow through.

    The Colossians passage above is a good description of what God wants to bring about in our lives as disciples. We are always a work in progress with the need to be going forward consistently. The 2nd Timothy passage above adds a marvelous element into the mix. We need trustworthy people around us who speak truth into our lives and we need to be one of the trustworthy people who speak truth into the lives of various other people that God brings our way. We certainly needed those people who helped us begin and if we are to follow through and not “fall down on the job” we certainly need those (small groups) who can help us continue on. Just as certainly, God has those people we will help to begin the Christian life and those we will help to continue on.

    So, we began and are on the journey of a transformed life through Christ (We call it “Living Fully”). We do not want to be ones who “fall down on the job” but rather those who follow through with what was begun. The key is a having a mix of people in our lives who speak truth and encouragement into our lives and to whom we speak truth and encouragement into theirs. As a result, our transformed lives will touch the lives of those who have yet to begin the journey and God will use us to help them come to the Master and embrace the journey He has for them. Exploring this cycle more fully and discovering the help we need for being able to go forward victoriously in the full experience of Discipleship is the focus of this week’s Devotionals.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, it is my prayer that you will grant me a full measure of spiritual “follow through” so that I fully live for you. I want to finish well. I know that gearing up is not the answer. I give myself to you in genuine commitment, surrender, and dependence. Lord, I worship you, rest in you, and count on you. Amen!

  • "The Fabric of Life" - An Inspirational Poem for Sunday, January 19th

    The Fabric of Life

    My life is but a weaving
    Between my God and me
    I may not choose the colors
    He knows what they should be
    For He can view the pattern
    From the upper side
    While I can see it only
    On this the under side

    Sometimes He weaved sorrow
    Which seemed strange to me
    But I will trust His judgement
    And work on faithfully
    It’s He who fills the shuttle
    He knows what is best
    So I shall weave in earnest
    And leave with Him the rest

    At last when life is ended
    With Him I shall abide
    Then I may view the pattern
    Upon the upper side
    Then I shall know the reason
    Why pain with joy entwined
    Was woven in the fabric
    Of life that God designed

  • "The Marble Statue" - An Inspirational Story for Saturday, January 18th


    In the middle of a beautiful city, there was a museum laid with beautiful marble tiles and with a huge marble statue as a part of the display. Many people from all over the world visited the museum every day and admired the beautifully crafted statue. One night, the marble tiles started talking to the marble statue.

    Marble Tiles: Hey statue, Don’t you think that it is just not fair that everybody from all over the world come all the way here to admire you while ignoring and stepping on me.

    Marble Statue: My dear brother, marble tile, Don’t you remember we are actually from the same cave.

    Marble Tile: Yes! I do, that is why I feel it is even more unfair. Both of us were born from the same cave and yet the world treats us so differently now. This is so unfair!

    Marble Statue: Yes you are right my brother. But, do you still remember the day when the sculptor tried to work on you but you resisted his tools.

    Marble Tiles: Yes, I despise that guy. How could he use those nasty tools on me.

    Marble Statue: Well, Since you resisted his tools he couldn’t work on you. When he decided to give up on you, he started working on me instead. I knew at once that I would be something different and unique after his efforts. I bore all the painful tools he used on me and allowed him to craft me as he wanted!

    Marble Tiles: But those tools were so painful.

    Marble Statue: My brother, there is a price for everything in life. Since, you decided to resist and gave up half way, you can’t blame anybody who steps on you now.!

    The marble tiles silently listened to his brothers words. and started to reflect on it.

    Response: We need to reflect as well. God is always at work shaping us into what he wants us to become. Often it is hard and painful as he uses the tough stuff of life to do his work. But it is worth it and necessary. The sculptor (God) always has a right to do with the marble (us) whatever he wants. However, he is limited in the shaping he can do if we don’t give him free reign to shape us.

  • The Way of Grace – No Intolerance in Christ - Friday, January 17th

    For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. Hebrews 4:12-13

    Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. Hebrews 13:20-21

    Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:1-6

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    The Hebrews 4 passage reminds us that we are God’s creatures (He made us) and that His word speaks to our true condition, completely penetrating and revealing to us what we are really like. What God’s word reveals as true of all human beings, God sees specifically as He views each one of us personally, directly, and entirely. Here is the take on the purpose of these verses: since what we are really like is known by the One who made us and since our true condition is revealed to us in Scripture, we, who avoid such scrutiny and are not in touch with our true condition, need to let God and His word do their work. When we do we will be set free from our denial of all that remains unexposed and unavailable to the transforming touch of God, who is waiting and ready to bring to us all the help we so desperately need for exchanging the world’s ways for His ways.

    Humility is all about embracing completely the reality that we don’t have what it takes for all this but God does. That’s what the Gospel is about – God coming to dwell in us by His Spirit on the basis of our being cleansed through the blood of Christ so that He does in us and through us that which pleases Him and which we on our own could not otherwise bring about. Is it not high time that we move from the place of denial of our true condition to the place of full acceptance of and participation in God’s complete provision for genuine transformation of life? Humility is all about embracing completely the reality that we don’t have what it takes but that God does. If this is true and it is certainly is, then the key for gaining victory over favoritism/prejudice in all its forms is finding and maintaining such humility before God. When we do this we will view and treat all others properly and equally because we will be experiencing and dispensing the unconditional and unprejudiced love of God. 

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I confess that I tolerate a lot more in my own life than I tolerate in the lives of others. Teach me the kind of humility and dependence that overcomes this. Keep me from slipping back into thinking I have what it takes and can somehow offer you something of value on my own. It really is all about grace and being “in Christ.” Thank you for the blessing of redemption and transformation. I choose the way of grace. Amen!

  • The Way of Grace - No Deception in Christ - Thursday, January 16th

    So whatever you say or whatever you do, remember that you will be judged by the law that sets you free. There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you. James 2:12-13

    For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:27-28

    But the Lord abides forever; He has established His throne for judgment, and He will judge the world in righteousness; He will execute judgment for the peoples with equity. The Lord also will be a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble; and those who know Your name will put their trust in You, for You, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You. Psalm 9:7-10

    Every word of God is tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. Do not add to His words or He will reprove you, and you will be proved a liar. Two things I asked of You, do not refuse me before I die: Keep deception and lies far from me, give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is my portion, that I not be full and deny You and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or that I not be in want and steal, and profane the name of my God. Proverbs 30:5-9

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    We mentioned earlier that seeing others as “redeemed ones” or “potentially redeemed ones” can keep us out of a lot trouble. It is so easy for us to favor some over others when we move into not viewing and treating everyone as having equal value. We move in this direction regarding our view of others when we allow our view of ourselves to change. Let’s say it this way: we start favoring some people over others when we start favoring ourselves over some others. The need is great for us to see how truly diabolical this is. Perhaps this is why God’s stand against favoritism/prejudice is so severely stated in the Scriptures above. God’s call to us is to stand with those who are poor and downtrodden because often they are the ones who have trouble standing on their own in this abusive world system in which we live. God calls us to make a difference in our world and there is no better way to do that than to be agents of grace and mercy to the poor and downtrodden all around us.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, help me to see and value others through the eyes of redemption. I am so prone to seeing and valuing others in ways that suit me and benefit me. Take the blinders off me and remove deception far from me. I know this is serious business and so I choose to live by grace for the benefit of everyone around me. I am yours, Lord. Amen!

  • The Way of Grace – No Inequality in Christ - Wednesday, January 15th

    Listen to me, dear brothers and sisters. Hasn’t God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith? Aren’t they the ones who will inherit the Kingdom he promised to those who love him? But you dishonor the poor! Isn’t it the rich who oppress you and drag you into court? Aren’t they the ones who slander Jesus Christ, whose noble name you bear? Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin. You are guilty of breaking the law. For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws. For the same God who said, ‘You must not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘You must not murder.’ So if you murder someone but do not commit adultery, you have still broken the law. James 2:5-11

    And turning His gaze toward His disciples, He began to say, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.” Luke 6:20-21

    For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:11-13

    Praise the Lord, O my soul! I will praise the Lord while I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being. Do not trust in princes, in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation. His spirit departs, he returns to the earth; in that very day his thoughts perish. How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, Who made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them; Who keeps faith forever; Who executes justice for the oppressed; Who gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free. The Lord opens the eyes of the blind; the Lord raises up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous; the Lord protects the strangers; He supports the fatherless and the widow, but He thwarts the way of the wicked. The Lord will reign forever, your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the Lord! Psalm 146:1-10

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    If we were looking for the existence of some kind of hierarchy in what God is seeking to do with mankind we could build a case for God favoring the poor and downtrodden over the rich and prospering. But this is not really the case even though it seems that way. It is just that the poor and downtrodden who don’t fare to well with the earthly and temporal system of human life down here are often more open to the alternate heavenly and eternal system God is building. The rich and prospering who are caught up in the earthly and temporal system of mere human life with all their achievements and successes are often less open to this alternative way that God makes available to mankind. So, God does not favor the poor and downtrodden over the rich and prospering, but rather He just has more opportunity to be in true relationship with the poor and downtrodden than He does with the rich and prosperous because the rich and prosperous are less responsive to Him. 

    The hallmark of God’s alternate system is the royal law, “love your neighbor as yourself.” Favoring some over others is the hallmark of the world system. James puts “love your neighbor as yourself” in opposition to favoring some people over others, which he flat out calls sin. As was said earlier we are a part of the community of the redeemed and as such all spiritual brothers and sisters must always view each other as having equal value as those whom God has redeemed in Christ. Similarly, we view those who are not yet members with equal value because they are ones that Christ can redeem. Seeing others as “redeemed ones” or “potentially redeemed ones” is the key to viewing and treating everyone as having equal value.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I am so easily blinded to that which really counts. Forgive me for counting so much on things that are so fleeting. Deliver me from all inequality in my dealings with people. Thank you so very, very much for your wonderful grace. Help me to keep in the forefront of my mind and heart the truth that everything that truly matters is always and forever the product of your grace. Amen!

  • "The Way of Grace – No Boasting in Christ" - Tuesday, January 14th

    For example, suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, “You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor”—well, doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives? James 2:2-4

    Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him— a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all. Colossians 3:5-11

    My soul, wait in silence for God only, for my hope is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be shaken. On God my salvation and my glory rest; the rock of my strength, my refuge is in God. Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Men of low degree are only vanity and men of rank are a lie; in the balances they go up; they are together lighter than breath. Do not trust in oppression and do not vainly hope in robbery; if riches increase, do not set your heart upon them. Once God has spoken; twice I have heard this: That power belongs to God; and lovingkindness is Yours, O Lord, for You recompense a man according to his work. Psalm 62:5-12

    For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. 1 Corinthians 1:26-29

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    The Colossian passage above says “there is no distinction” and yet we make distinctions between people. When we do this it is either because when we first came to Christ we did not see as much as we should have the extent of our being lost, sick, and sinful or somewhere along the way since we came to Christ we have forgotten the extent of our need that was revealed to us then. When we gain and maintain a view of ourselves that necessitates absolute surrender and dependence on Christ for living life, our view of others will not come from assigning value to them based on distinctions that don’t matter to God and should not matter to us. Certainly favoring some people over others is incompatible with our Christian faith. This is exactly the kind of thing Jesus came to redeem us from and which runs so rampant in the world in which we live. In the community of the redeemed no hierarchy of any kind should exist. When this is the case (no hierarchies) a waiting and watching world will be touched deeply and mightily drawn toward Christ. 

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I get it! Driven by achievement – caught up in boasting. Caught up in boasting – drawing distinctions between people. Drawing distinctions between people – favoring (valuing) some people over others. I know this is the way of the world and not the way of grace. Have mercy on me and deliver me from its clutches. Fill me will such an awareness of your love and grace that it spills over into the lives of everyone around me. Amen!

  • The Way of Grace – No Favorites in Christ - Monday, January 13th

    My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others? James 2:1

    For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:12-13

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    The verse above from James includes a reference to our faith in Christ. Reviewing what faith in Christ is all about is a good place to begin. Jesus said that He came “to seek and to save that which was lost.” Elsewhere He said that “it is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick.” And He also said, “for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” When we truly put our faith in Christ, we do so as ones who truly are lost, sick, and sinful and we believe that Christ can and will do something about our lost, sick, and sinful condition. So right from the beginning and all along the way our faith in Christ is all about letting Christ make the difference in our lives that He alone can make as ones who on our own are lost, sick, and sinful.

    As Christians we are members of the community of the redeemed. As such we view all other members first and foremost as those who are redeemed and we view those who are not yet members first and foremost as ones that Christ can redeem. Seeing others as “redeemed ones” or “potentially redeemed ones” can keep us out of a lot trouble. It is when we allow ourselves to use other designations for assigning value to ourselves and those around us that we end up in deep trouble. This is what lies behind the problem of favoring some people over others and recognizing this problem and doing something about it is the focus of this week’s Devotionals.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I know how easily I gravitate toward an approach that seeks to measure my acceptance with you by merit and achievement. I also know how readily I gravitate toward an approach that seeks to measure others by what I find acceptable in them. Lord, I know this is not the way of grace. You don’t show favorites and I must not either. Please show me more fully the way of grace for my life. Amen!

  • "A Snowflake Falls" - An Inspirational Poem for Sunday, January 12th

    A Snowflake Falls

    By Ruth Adams

    One night I saw a snowflake fall.
    Past memories it did recall.

    And as the snow fell to the ground,
    So quietly without a sound,

    I watched until a blanket made,
    To glistening white - brown earth did fade.

    An untouched cover until the dawn.
    The sun arose; it was soon gone.

    I thought of friendships in the past.
    Seemed perfect though they did not last.

    And family ties once meant so much,
    Now rarely do we keep in touch.

    So quickly life can take a turn,
    Yet slowly we do seem to learn.

    So many things in life can change
    And suddenly be rearranged.

    In our slumber while we do sleep,
    For granted blessings thought to keep,

    For same as night does turn to morn,
    An untouched blanket can get torn,

    The things that we have overlooked,
    Ignored, rejected or mistook,

    As melted snow does turn to slush,
    Relationships can turn to dust.

    So this year for the holiday,
    Praise God for blessings given today.

    Don't take for granted they'll remain,
    That life forever will be the same.

    Let's be the most that we can be,
    For all our friends and family.

    Unlike the snowflake on the ground,
    Let's keep in touch and stay around.

  • "The Cracked Pot" - An Inspirational Story for Saturday, January 11th


    A young woman worked for a merchant who lived on top of a hill. She worked as the merchant’s laundress and every day she had to walk down the hill to collect water from a stream. She had two pots to carry water, which she hung upon a pole she could carry over her shoulders. With time one of her pot got a slender crack along its side. She observed the crack on the pot and decided she could still use it.

    Every day, the woman carried those pots down the hill to the stream, filled them to the brim, and walked back up the hill, balancing the pole across her shoulders. By the time she reached the house, the cracked pot would be only half full while the other pot delivered a full portion of water.

    The cracked pot glanced at the other pot and saw water filled to the top, and it began to feel desolate. The full pot was proud of its accomplishment while the cracked pot felt ashamed and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it was meant to.

    After a few years of what the cracked pot perceived to be a failure, it spoke to the lady. “I apologize for my flaws. The crack on my side, has made me useless. I spill half of the water. I’m of no good!” the pot said.

    The lady felt sorry for the old cracked pot, and she said, ”But pot, you don’t understand. You haven’t been paying attention. Look around you. As we return to the master’s house, I want you to look at the path we traverse”.

    When the lady carried the water up to the hill, the pot carefully observed the path up the hill. For the first time the pot stopped looking inward and instead looked out. On his side of the trail the pot noticed beautiful flowers growing in abundance. While the other side had no flowers.

    As the women reached the top of the hill, she asked, “Did you notice the beautiful flowers on the path? They are only on your side of the path. I had always known about your crack and I took advantage of it. From time to time I scattered seeds on your side which you have watered over and over again. Without you being just the way you are, the path uphill would not have this beauty. ”

    The cracked pot was overjoyed. All its sadness was gone. He understood that the very thing he thought to be his flaw turned out to be a blessing of the flowers along his side of the path.

    Every one of us is unique and we have our own flaws. And it is our little quirks and faults that make us and the world so interesting.

  • Transformation in Christ – Victory and Not Defeat - Friday, January 10th

    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 (kept) 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:

    I love the passage above. We were born again at a point in the past, we will be in heaven at a point in the future, and in between we are kept by the power of God. Between the start and the finish God has it all under control. We can rest in the assurance that He is protecting us and keeping us. This means that He is at work (even at this moment) bringing to us what we need for actually experiencing the exchange from ashes to beauty in our lives that we have longed for. I would only have ashes if I were alone on my own. But I am not alone and on my own. I am in Christ and Christ is in me. 

    The understandings we have focused on this week can open the locks to the chains that keep us from experiencing the beauty promised and provided for us in Christ. The first key is believing that ashes are always ashes and that all beauty is received from Christ. The second key is believing in the forever connection we have with God in Christ and that this grace connection is our true identity. So, cling to Christ and these realities: I don’t only have ashes as the bullies say. I have the beauty of Christ and I am therefore beautiful and I have been set free to “go and sin no more.”

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, thank you for the victory that is mine in Christ. May the keys of understanding that reveal my true identity release me from defeat and consistently move me from ashes to beauty on a daily basis. Help me to trust in your abiding presence and power more than ever before. Amen!

  • Transformation in Christ – Reality and Not Pretense - Thursday, January 9th

    “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” John 8:11

    Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. 1 John 3:2-3

    Just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. Ephesians 5:25B-27

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    The chief desire of Jesus for this woman is a beautiful life. He does not condemn her like the bullies to a life on the ash heap. Christ offers this woman beauty for ashes and she will demonstrate that she has truly accepted His offer by going out into the world and walking in the reality of the exchange He has given her. Go and sin no more and walk in the beauty of Christ are her new realities, her new ID.

    What great descriptions these passages give to us of true beauty in Christ. Being pure, holy, blameless, without spot or wrinkle. Daunting to us when we are not living in the reality of Christ’s presence within us. But we are the children of God; we are going to be perfectly and completely beautiful when He appears for us in the end; and we are being transformed by His presence and seeing the exchange of ashes for beauty becoming an ever increasing reality day after day. The first key is believing that ashes are always ashes and that all beauty is received from Christ. The second key is believing in the forever connection we have with God in Christ and that this grace connection is our true identity.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I believe your plan is not empty of real possibility. I know that you will make me completely beautiful just like you when you come again. I am trusting you to produce your beauty in my life as much as is possible between now and then. Thank you now for my transformation in Christ. Amen!

  • Transformation in Christ – Reachable and Not Allusive - Wednesday, January 8th

    Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust. When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I.” John 8:8-11A

    “I—yes, I alone—will blot out your sins for my own sake and will never think of them again.” Isaiah 43:25

    If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us. My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world. 1 John 1:9-10, 2:1-2

    I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord”; and You forgave the guilt of my sin. Psalm 32:5

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    The bullies in our story were not interested in seeing this woman restored to God and righteous living. They needed her to be forever lost in her ashes in order to feel alright about themselves within the framework of their self-righteous religious system. But this is a story about redemption and restoration for one woman and Jesus sees to it that the bullies are removed from the equation so that He can hold out to her the promise and provision of beauty without the lie that “ashes only” are her destiny. Ashes need to be confessed and renounced so the destiny of beauty offered in Christ can be received.

    There is a freedom that is indescribable that comes to the one whose soul is laid bare before God in true repentance. In full acknowledgement that alone and on our own we are “ashes only” we embrace by faith redemptive forgiveness from the penalty of sin (eternal separation from God) and we enter into a lifetime of being in His presence. Our eternal connection with God is the work of grace and nothing else. We constantly affirm that all beauty (true righteousness) comes from Christ alone and we walk in His presence in order for that which cannot be achieved on our own to be achieved by Him in us and through us. When we sin (ashes) we do not hesitate to come to Him for relational forgiveness and cleansing.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, Thank you that you didn’t leave me lost in my ashes. I am so grateful that you have made yourself totally accessible to me so that I am free to become all you have in mind for me to become. I am blessed by the beauty of righteousness you are bringing about in my life. Amen!

  • Transformation in Christ – Bestowed and Not Achieved - Tuesday, January 7th

    They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” John 8:7

    This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 1 John 1:5-8

    He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion. Proverbs 28:13

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    In their dealings with other people bullies focus exclusively on ashes and leave no room for beauty. The life of the woman in our story is very much about ashes up until now. If you were interacting with this woman, how would you deal with her? Would you be more about ashes or beauty? The pathway to true restoration must always be about both. The bullies in our story are very religious, but they know little about true beauty in their own lives. In reality bullies long for beauty and so they gain an artificial sense of beauty (alrightness/self-righteousness) by taking the ashes of others and blasting them with them. Jesus deflects back on the bullies the bullying power they have over this woman through His question about sinning. Jesus does not bully them but rather confronts them with the absurdity of those who are sinful/have ashes/deserve stones being exacting toward others.

    We do not need bullies to make our ashes real to us. They are very real to us and we very much want beauty instead. That is why we came to Christ in the first place, in order to have beauty instead of ashes. But sometimes we get confused about how to deal with ashes. Often because the ashes remain more prominent than beauty, we start denying our ashes, even to the point of convincing ourselves that ashes are beautiful. The key here is to remember that repentance always precedes faith. True repentance brings us to the point of being convinced that before God we have nothing to offer but ashes and that all beauty comes from Him. This never changes at any point along the way in our walk with God. God exchanges our ashes for the beauty of Christ every step of the way. We do have beauty in Christ but it is always received from Him. Alone on our own we always only have ashes, but we are not alone on our own, we are in Christ and therefore beautiful. So, the key is don’t try to turn ashes into beauty but rather keep on repenting (correctly dealing with the reality of sinfulness) of your ashes and exercising faith (receiving the beauty He produces in you through His presence in you) in Christ.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I do believe that you dwell in my heart through the power of the Holy Spirit. Remove from me any notion that transformation is anything but you making a difference in me. Thank you for all that you have done, are doing, and will yet do to bring about beauty in my life. I praise and glorify your name. Amen!

  • Transformation in Christ – Fact and Not Fiction - Monday, January 6th

    Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd. “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. John 8:1-6

    Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him …. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. Ephesians 1:3-4A, 7-8A

    To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory. Isaiah 61:3

    This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:17

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Our God is a redemptive God. It is His nature to restore, rebuild, redeem. The Isaiah verse gives a wonderful description of the amazing restorative work God has in mind for His people. The picture of God exchanging a crown of beauty (garland) for ashes is just the depiction we need for fully grasping our emphasis in this week’s Devotionals. God is not a bully! God is all about beauty and not ashes. Bullies (the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees) are all about ashes and not beauty. God and beauty win over bullies and ashes in the story of the woman caught in adultery (or rather the woman rescued from adultery). God and beauty are supposed to win out every time over bullies and ashes, aren’t they? 

    But, doesn’t our experience far too often shout the opposite. Are there any of us that don’t struggle with doubt as to whether beauty and not ashes will ever really have the upper hand in our lives? Are there any of us that are not weary of hearing again and again the promise of beauty when ashes seem so much more real and prominent in our daily experience? I believe God has given us more than just the promise of beauty for ashes and even more than just the provision of beauty for ashes through His Son, Jesus Christ. I believe God has given us keys of right understanding that can open the locks on the chains that keep us from experiencing the beauty promised and provided for us in Christ.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I want your promise of true change in my life to be realized. I confess that sometimes it seems quite remote. Show me the way to victory. Unlock the chains that keep me from genuine transformation. Grant me true beauty for ashes. Amen!

  • "Your Mission" - An Inspirational Poem for Sunday, January 5th

    Your Mission

    By Ellen M. H. Gates

    If you cannot on the ocean

    Sail among the swiftest fleet,

    Rocking on the highest billows,

    Laughing at the storms you meet;

    You can stand among the sailors,

    Anchored yet within the bay,

    You can lend a hand to help them

    As they launch their boats away.

    If you are too weak to journey

    Up the mountain steep and high,

    You can stand within the valley.

    While the multitudes go by;

    You can chant in happy measure.

    As they slowly pass along;

    Though they may forget the singer

    They will not forget the song.

    If you cannot in the harvest

    Garner up the richest sheaves

    Many a grain, both ripe and golden,

    Oft the careless reaper leaves;

    Go and glean among the briars

    Growing rank against the wall,

    For it may be that their shadow

    Hides the heaviest grain of all.

    Do not, then, stand idly waiting,

    For some greater work to do;

    Fortune is a lazy goddess,

    She will never come to you.

    Go and toil in any vineyard,

    Do not fear to do or dare,

    If you want a field of labor.

    You can find it anywhere.

  • "Difficult To Do" - An Inspirational Poem for Saturday, January 4th

    Difficult To Do
    By Wilhelmina Stitch

    A thoughtful person said (so I have read)
    It isn't easy to apologize,
    It isn't easy when all hope has fled
    To keep on going, but it's very wise.

    It isn't easy to admit you're wrong;
    To swallow insult and to face a sneer;
    It isn't easy to sing loud and long
    When you are in the clutch of deadly fear.

    It isn't easy, friend to try again
    When you have come a cropper-but it's best.
    To scorn a failure and to laugh at pain
    Is but to prove that you have stood life's test.

    It isn't easy when hot temper flares
    To subjugate it to sweet reason's sway.
    When fretted by a horde of pressing cares,
    It's hard to keep on smiling through the day.

    When clouds are black and hanging very low,
    It's hard to see the silver lining, friend.
    None of these things are easy, this we know,
    But aren't they worth the struggle in the end?

  • The Blessing of Tribulation – God Expands His Kingdom through Our Suffering - Friday, January 3rd

    For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this. Isaiah 9:6-7

    Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Romans 5:1-5

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    When throughout Christ’s time here on earth we trace all the enemy’s attempts to derail His mission, we are amazed at the following: how bad things are used for good, seeming detours become vital to the fulfillment of Christ’s mission, and the enemy does not win even though it seems like he has when Jesus ends up on the cross. The cruel tool of the cross actually secures the victory and defeats the enemy. What a reversal. We must remember that we are on the winning team and that for the bad things that confront us on our journey through life, God has miraculous reversals waiting just around the bend. So, we can take courage, be full of faith, and know that God has abundant comfort and care for our suffering and hurt. And of course we have the great solace that all the tough things we go through as we participate in His kingdom work are the very means He uses to wonderfully expand the reach of His kingdom of love. We are truly blessed!

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I confess that what I consider to be a blessing is far too often influenced by my materialistic and humanistic orientations. You are wise and Almighty and know what is necessary and best. Thank you for never giving up on me and for always working to orient me to what really counts. I do see the blessing of tribulation and how you use the suffering in my life to expand your kingdom. This Christmas Season I choose the beauty of your kingdom and whatever suffering comes with it over the glitter of stuff and its passing pleasure. Amen!

  • The Blessing of Tribulation – God’s Presence Within Keeps Us Standing Tall - Thursday, January 2nd

    Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the Magi. Then what had been spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children; and she refused to be comforted, because they were no more.” But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, and said, Get up, take the Child and His mother, and go into the land of Israel; for those who sought the Child's life are dead.” So Joseph got up, took the Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. Matthew 2:16-21

    You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. 1 John 4:4

    And all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things; and they got up and drove Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, He went His way. Luke 4:28-30

    Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. Jude 1:24-25

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Just like Herod was eventually removed from the scene so it will also come about that Satan will be removed from the scene and the presence of evil will be eliminated forever. In the interim we know that Christ lives in us through the person of the Holy Spirit and the words: “greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world,” are our banner of victory in the midst of this troubled world. The Lord Jesus Christ can keep us from stumbling and someday we will stand blameless in His glorious presence.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, thank you for the life you have called me to. Giving thanks is a real stretch for me considering how soft I tend to be and how readily I want out from under tough experiences. I am learning how to see your touch in all my experiences and to feel your strength within me holding me up and helping me stand tall. What a privilege it is to serve you with my life and to see you at work in such amazing ways. Amen!

  • The Blessing of Tribulation – God Is Out in Front Paving the Way - Wednesday, January 1st

    He remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called My Son.” Matthew 2:15

    They passed through the Phrygian and Galatian region, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia; and after they came to Mysia, they were trying to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them; and passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. A vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing and appealing to him, and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” When he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. Acts 16:6-10

    So, when they had solemnly testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they started back to Jerusalem, and were preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans. But an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip saying, “Get up and go south to the road that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a desert road.) So he got up and went; and there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure; and he had come to Jerusalem to worship ….When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; and the eunuch no longer saw him, but went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he kept preaching the gospel to all the cities until he came to Caesarea. Acts 8:25-27, 39-40

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Sometimes participating in God’s kingdom work leads to tribulation. However, God often steers us clear of tribulation in order for us to be in position to participate in kingdom work. Perhaps we might view a trip and extended stay in Egypt as tribulation, but it takes on a different flavor when it is compared to falling into Herod’s hands and not being around for future service. We can be thankful that as we go about living our lives in service to God that He is out in front paving the way. What a wonderful thing it is to know that the One who has infinite wisdom and power is orchestrating the path of our lives and that the seeming detours that come our way are never truly the barren, empty desert roads we think them to be.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, it must have been quite a thing for Joseph and Mary with their young child in tow to end up in Egypt and have to stay there indefinitely. How much they must have felt waylaid, particularly with all the unique things revealed to them about Jesus and his destiny. There have been many things you have allowed to come into my life that initially seem to interfere with rather than help me to serve you and live for you. I am learning more and more to believe you are really out in front paving the way and using everything ( even the tribulations) to accomplish amazing things. Amen!

    Happy New Year!

  • The Blessing of Tribulation – God is Patiently at Work - Tuesday, December 31st

    Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.” So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt. Matthew 2:13-14

    And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

    They took his advice; and after calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and then released them. So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ. Acts 5:40-42

    And others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground. And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised. Hebrews 11:36-39

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Evil is never good and yet God brings about good things from the bad things that come from evil. If this were not true the bad things of life would be a mockery. But God bringing good out of evil would not be the case if were not for His seemingly endless patience. The reason for His patience is His great love for mankind and His great desire to bring more and more people into the circle of His love through the gift of His Son. He works good out of evil for these kingdom purposes and we can find great solace from such a wonderful reality. But even though there is such solace, when bad things cause suffering, that suffering is real and God cares deeply about our pain and hurt and stands ready to provide the comfort and help we need through the touch of His presence and the touch of His people.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, thank you for your endless patience. Forgive me for objecting to the difficulties I face when all the while you are simply letting this troubled world go on so you can patiently work at rescuing one person at a time. Help me remember always to rejoice that I am forever in the circle of your love through the gift of your Son. Thank you for your ongoing comfort and help that blesses my life and makes all the difference. Amen!

  • The Blessing of Tribulation – God Uses Bad Things for Good - Monday, December 30th

    Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet.” Matthew 2:1-5

    Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know--this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power. Acts 2:22-24

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Jesus said, “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” We have tribulation because we live in a fallen world where bad things happen. Bad things happen because sin and death entered the world when mankind fell through rebellion and disobedience. God took the risk of sin and death entering the world and all its effects when he created mankind with the ability to choose. He created mankind with the ability to choose in order to have the possibility of a true love relationship with them. He wanted to have a true love relationship with them so that the circle of intimate companionship, communication, and co-operation that existed in the Godhead could be expanded. 

    It was into this fallen world where bad things happen that God placed His only begotten Son who would sacrifice himself for mankind in order for them to be restored to God and all that He had in mind for them in the first place. But the enemy, Satan, and his instrument Herod were troubled at the presence of Jesus and sought a way to interfere. God seeking to expand His circle of love and the enemy interfering has been the cycle of things down through the ages. But we can take courage because Jesus has overcome this world of tribulation and will wonderfully bring us to the other side of it some day while all the while having used the bad things of life to accomplish His glorious purposes.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, you are so good at creating reversals of things that would otherwise bring disruption and harm. History reflects this as do the experiences of my own life. Thank you for this. Help me not to forget it when I face new tribulations. May I go forward always counting on you to work in amazing ways and always expecting you to use bad things for bringing about good. Amen!

  • "Ring Out, Wild Bells" - An Inspirational Poem for Sunday, December 29th

    Ring Out, Wild Bells

    By Alfred Tennyson

    Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
    The flying cloud, the frosty light;
    The year is dying in the night;
    Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

    Ring out the old, ring in the new,
    Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
    The year is going, let him go;
    Ring out the false, ring in the true.

    Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
    For those that here we see no more,
    Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
    Ring in redress to all mankind.

    Ring out a slowly dying cause,
    And ancient forms of party strife;
    Ring in the nobler modes of life,
    With sweeter manners, purer laws.

    Ring out the want, the care the sin,
    The faithless coldness of the times;
    Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes,
    But ring the fuller minstrel in.

    Ring out false pride in place and blood,
    The civic slander and the spite;
    Ring in the love of truth and right,
    Ring in the common love of good.

    Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
    Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
    Ring out the thousand wars of old,
    Ring in the thousand years of peace.

    Ring in the valiant man and free,
    The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
    Ring out the darkness of the land,
    Ring in the Christ that is to be.

  • "Happy New Year!" - An Inspirational Poem for Saturday, December 28th

    Happy New Year!

    By John P. Read

    Brush away old heartaches.
    Learn from our mistakes.
    Another year is finally over.
    A new dawn awakes.

    Let the old year out.
    Welcome the new one in.
    Bury the bad things of the past
    As a new year now begins.

    Make your New Year wishes
    As simple as you can.
    Pray for peace and love,
    Not for wealth or fame.

    Pray for health and happiness.
    Pray for your fellow man.
    Pray for all the ones you love.
    Pray for those who've lost their way.

    As the midnight hour chimes,
    We leave the old and embrace the new.
    I wish the things you wish for yourself,
    And may God’s love stay with you.

  • Christmas Assurance – Divine Provision - Friday, December 27th

    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:

    We just celebrated 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, in celebrating the birth of Christ this Christmas Season, 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 26th

    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 Season 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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