An Anxious Heart

Scripture Focus: Proverbs 12:18-28 “An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up” (Proverbs 12:25). “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer . . .” (Philippians 4:6).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Who among us has not had anxious moments when our peace fled and our minds chewed on thoughts, like a dog worrying a bone? Those anxious thoughts keep us awake, and we simply can't turn them off. When I’m hurting or deeply troubled about a matter, I walk a mile through my neighborhood. As I walk, I talk to the Lord, laying the matter all out before Him. By the time I return home, things look and feel much better. I have always been an encourager, but there are times when I'm in desperate need of encouragement. As I cry out to God, He meets me at that point of desperation. He may bring to my mind the words of a hymn or point me to a Scripture verse, or He may simply speak through a comment in a phone conversation with a friend. I’m still learning to let go of a matter and place it squarely in God's hands. I'm still learning to run into His presence when I'm hurting and let Him calm the fears and fill my heart with His gift of peace. INSIGHT: At the center of anxiety is a core of fear. But there is One who can calm your troubled heart. His name is Jesus. **************************************************

Daily Anxiety
Scripture Focus: 1 Peter 5:5-11 “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------I don't remember what I was worried about, but as I had my morning devotions I was pointed to today's Scripture by three different devotional writers. I knew I had

better listen to these very familiar words and do exactly what they said. “Cast” - It would take concentrated effort to literally throw my anxiety on Jesus. “All” - I dared not keep even one portion to try to handle by myself. That would mean total freedom from worry. “On Him” - I needed to throw it all on Jesus, the only One who could truly carry my burden. Why? “Because He cares for me.” Jesus really loves me and will take care of me, no matter what happens. He is still in control of my anxiety-producing situation and will bring great good out of it in my life and in the lives of those I love. My part is to believe and obey, to stand back and watch Him work. Too simple, you ask? Yes, but sometimes difficult to do. INSIGHT: Simple obedience to God's Word brings freedom from the cares which would drag us down. Easy to say - hard to do. But it is the key to enjoying Jesus' gift of peace. **************************************************

Future Anxiety
Scripture Focus: John 14:1-14 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you” (John 14:1-2).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Trust and anxiety cannot abide in the same place at the same time. We are either trusting or worrying. The Psalmist said, “When I am afraid, I will trust in you” (Psalm 56:3). Something which can cause us deep anxiety is our fear of the future. I recall worrying about how we would get through the teenage years with our three sons. More recently I have worried about retirement. Would we have enough income to continue to live in our home? My husband's Social Security would not even begin to meet our needs. Now I am faced with his diagnosis of early Alzheimers. How long

will I be able to take care of him? When do I take the car away? What will I do for income when I have to give up my day care? So many questions! I dare not look to the future and try to carry its worries. Jesus tells us that we must live one day at a time, trusting the uncertain future to our Father in Heaven. When we do that, we enjoy His provision of peace. INSIGHT: What a glorious certainty! Jesus is preparing a place for us and He will see that we get there in His perfect timing. So kiss worry about the future good-by! **************************************************

Depression and Anxiety
Scripture Focus: Psalm 42 “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. My soul is downcast within me” (Psalm 42:5-6).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------When my father died suddenly of a heart attack, I was plunged deeply into depression. I despaired of ever getting through the grief process. I wondered if I could ever look forward to life again. My zest for living was gone, and I simply endured the days. That was a dark, hopeless time. During those days I memorized Psalms 42, 43, and 51. Every day I prayed those verses back to God, especially the plea that God would restore his joy (see 51:12). God answered those desperate cries for help. After a year of counseling with a godly pastor, I was back on my feet. I became an encourager again instead of being the needy one. One day I looked more closely at today’s verses and noticed that depression and anxiety often go together. We are disturbed, we hurt, we withdraw. Hope hangs by a slender thread. Begin to look up and praise God for who He is. Lift your eyes off yourself and your problems and look to the only One who can really help. As you praise Him, He will fill your heart with His peace. INSIGHT: Praising God, even when you don't feel like it, begins to chase away the black clouds of depression and anxiety.

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Anxious Martha
Scripture Focus: Luke 10:38-42 “Martha, Martha . . . you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42)

-----------------------------------------------------------------------I wonder if Martha was a perfectionist, insisting that everything be just so. We know she was concerned about all the details of serving a special meal. After all, Jesus was a special guest. Then with all the disciples, she had a crowd to feed. She surely needed help in the kitchen. There was no way she could relax - not with the house full of company. One summer all our family came home - sons, wives, and grandchildren. There were 13 of us in our small house. Just figuring out where everyone would sleep was a challenge in itself. Then there were the meals to prepare for us all. I could sympathize with Martha. But Martha evidently took Jesus’ words to heart, because later she would host Him and the disciples again. This time Jesus did not rebuke her. I often serve guests one of my hearty soups with a simple dessert. I've learned that a meal does not have to be fancy and that conversation around the table is more important. The main thing is to keep Jesus in the center of our home. INSIGHT: Anxiety can make us irritable when things go wrong. Better a relaxed hostess more concerned for the people she serves than for perfection. **************************************************

Where to Turn in Trouble
Scripture Focus: 2 Chronicles 20:1-30 “O our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you” (2

Chronicles 20:12).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Israel was in trouble. Three different armies were massed on their border, so they did the only wise thing. They sought the Lord in fasting and prayer. God answered and gave them specific instructions. When they began to praise the Lord, the battle turned in their favor, and a great victory was won. Some years ago my husband’s remodeling job was in trouble. Dan turned to our pastor, who recommended we see a lawyer. After the lawyer told us we would lose if it went to court, we simply turned to the Lord alone. He delivered us from a situation that was totally beyond our control. Do you find yourself in a situation where you don't know what to do? The wisest thing to do is simply turn to the Lord and look to Him alone. Begin to praise and thank God, as Israel did long ago. Praise releases God's power. He may choose to act in your behalf or He will enable you to go on, even though the situation does not change. Over it all, He will let His gift of peace fill your heart. INSIGHT: When you don't know what to do, look to the Lord alone. He has the power to help, or He will enable you to endure. **************************************************

Learning Contentment
Scripture Focus: Philippians 4:10-23 “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty” (Philippians 4:11-12)

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Contentment is not an automatic response. It is something we must learn. When the apostle Paul was working for a living and preaching on the side, I'm sure he enjoyed a time of plenty. Then came the prison years when he was in need. He went from one extreme to another, but could say, “I've learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” While my husband Dan was a prison chaplain, we were in a time of plenty and were able to do a number of things with the extra income. But when he was suddenly relieved of his post, we had to do some real belt tightening. Knocking a full-time

income out of the monthly budget is no small item. We sold the second car, dropped my health insurance, and increased the day care license to 6-12 children so we could take a sixth child. It has been an adventure living week to week, watching God make the money go around even in high expense months. Am I content? Well, I am learning, and through it all, I have found Jesus to be a kind and patient teacher. INSIGHT: The Lord is going to bring one situation after another into your life so you can learn contentment. Thank Him and go on. **************************************************

A Gentle and Peaceful Spirit
Scripture Focus: 1 Peter 3:1-7 “[Your beauty] should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight" (1 Peter 3:4).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Dan and I recently had some communication breakdowns. One occurred when we were headed to the community work center to hold a church service. Dan packed in his briefcase all I would need to teach the women. However, we ended up at the work center with only the box of songbooks. Dan said, “I told you to pick up the briefcase.” I raised my voice and replied, “You didn't say anything to me!” (There was no gentle spirit expressed.) I went in to lead singing with the women while Dan went home for the missing briefcase. A few mornings later, he left at 7:30 to get gas and didn't return until after 10. I kept my cool, believing there must be a good explanation why he was gone so long. On his return, he explained he had been putting an inmate on the bus. I was thankful that I had not hit him with an accusing, “Where have you been?” My anxiety over the missing briefcase had made me lash out at Dan, but later a gentle spirit kept me from saying something I would regret. That gentle spirit came as I allowed Jesus' Spirit to fill my heart. INSIGHT: An anxious spirit may lash out in unkind words and actions. But a gentle spirit smoothes things out for others. **************************************************

Anxiety About Tomorrow
Scripture Focus: Matthew 6:25-34 “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34). -----------------------------------------------------------------------Look at today's troubles like a bundle of sticks. There's no problem if we carry only that bundle. But if you add yesterday's sticks and tomorrow's sticks to your load, it becomes unbearable. I have watched my mother deteriorate through Alzheimers and have cared for her at various times. When I think of losing my husband through the same disease, the emotional pain is nearly unbearable. I dare not look down the future and try to carry tomorrow's load today. I must live only for today. I can easily bear the amount of forgetfulness I see in Dan today, and I will trust God for tomorrow. When I realized Dan might have Alzheimers, I cried out to God, “Lord, I need to hear from You!” The next morning as I awoke, the first words in my mind came from the old hymn, “The clouds you so much dread will break with blessing on your head.” What a comfort that was to me, and how I have clung to it over these last months! Our Lord has special grace for us as we trust Him one day at a time. INSIGHT: Tomorrow will have its own share of troubles and trials. Live one day at a time with your eyes fixed on the Lord. **************************************************

Do Not Fret
Scripture Focus: Psalm 37:1-8 “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes” (Psalm 37:7). -----------------------------------------------------------------------There's nothing harder than waiting, especially when a situation seems to demand action and God appears to be taking entirely too long to rescue us. We fret when we agitate in our minds, allowing our thoughts to gnaw or wear away. We just can't

quiet those troubling thoughts. But God's command is to stop fretting and to be still, to be at peace as we wait patiently. God is at work. In His perfect timing, our need will be met. In my day care work, I’ve experienced God filling two openings immediately, and I've experienced long waits. At one point I wanted only a full-time child, so turned down all part-timers. I also did not feel ready for a newborn with my two very active four-year-olds. When I finally made up my mind to accept an infant, the right call came. When the Lord fills a day care opening, He brings the right child at the right time, even if we have to wait. God had promised to give David the throne of Israel - but not right away. David needed to learn to keep his heart still while he waited God's timing. INSIGHT: To fret is to waste energy in a useless pastime. To rest in the Lord shows that you trust Him to meet your need in His perfect timing. **************************************************

Know My Anxious Thoughts
Scripture Focus: Psalm 139:13-24 “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24). -----------------------------------------------------------------------When our middle son, John, graduated from high school, he prepared to leave home. He loaded his saddle and belongings into his pickup and struck out for Montana to be a cowboy. Within a month he was home again. Later he left again to find a ranch job in Oregon. He went with a friend who was not a good influence. Weeks went by with no word of any kind - no letters, no phone calls. We had no idea where he was or what he was doing. My mother's heart yearned to hear something. If I had prayed, “Lord, know my anxious thoughts,” I'm sure He would have pointed out several that were tumbling around in my mind. When word finally came from John, the world was a brighter place. Whatever our situation, God looks deep in our hearts and puts His finger on our anxious thoughts. As Warren Meyers writes, “God is seeking to bless you through whatever He allows to happen in your life.” When we let go our anxiety, He brings

peace to our hearts. INSIGHT: Anxious thoughts do not come from God. Let Him point out what makes Him sad and follow Him as He leads you in the path of peace. **************************************************

Rooted in the Divine
Scripture Focus: Jeremiah 17:1-10 “He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit” (Jeremiah 17:8). -----------------------------------------------------------------------The prophet Jeremiah contrasts two ways of life, trusting in man or trusting in God. The choice is ours. We cheat ourselves when we put our full trust in human resources, for disappointment awaits us. Government programs get bogged down. Products do not live up to their advertised benefits. Promises are broken, and rewards are given to the less worthy. Even trusted friends and loved ones let us down. Jeremiah says that when we put our trust in man, we are like a bush in a parched land. When we trust in the Lord, we do not have the visible props that would seem to justify our trust. But Jeremiah says we are like a tree with its roots nourished by a constant source of water. God never fails us. He is always available with a listening ear and a word of comfort. Let the problems in your life today cause your roots to go down deep into God's love. Count on Him. He is a never-failing source of all you will need to flourish in hard places. INSIGHT: Where are you placing your trust? In friends who may fail you, or in the unfailing God, whose ear is always open to your cry? **************************************************

Calm and Steady in Ministry
Scripture Focus:

2 Timothy 4:1-8 “But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:5).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Has God given you a ministry? Do you need encouragement? Have you suffered rejection? Paul encouraged young Timothy to keep on teaching and preaching even though many would turn away from the truth. As my husband Dan and I minister in the prison and community work center for women we are never concerned about numbers. If only one woman comes to our Bible study, she usually opens up and shares when she would keep silent in a larger group. We've had very meaningful times with two or three and with ten. When we started our prison prayer group, we asked the Lord for three men. He gave us 13 that first day, which quickly jumped to 25, then 35-40. Now our room is at capacity and all for a prayer meeting. God just asks that we be faithful and leave the results to Him. We have peace knowing our labor is never in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58). The true rewards for faithful service will be given out in glory. INSIGHT: Minister with the gifts God has given you. Be steady and faithful, willing to suffer rejection, for great is your reward in heaven. **************************************************

A Quiet Soul
Scripture Focus: Matthew 11:25-29 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Most of us experience a stressful day, at least once in a while. Mishaps occur and frustration builds. Equipment breaks down. Customers complain. Children quarrel. The weather causes traffic delays. Coworkers thoughtlessly add to our load. Family members take us for granted. Someone speaks harshly to us and we wilt.

For some, though, every day is stressful. Many people feel as if their plates are full to overflowing. They cannot cope with one more problem. Are you stressed out by life? Would you like a calm and peaceful spirit within even while you cope with difficult circumstances? Jesus invites you to come to Him today. Just lay down your pride and the burden of trying to do everything on your own. Give your load to Him. Put on His yoke by giving the controls of your life to Him. The results will be blessed peace. You'll discover a quiet freedom from being tyrannized by the pressures in your life. Jesus promises that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. INSIGHT: The only way to real peace is through Jesus, who died and rose again to make it possible. Stop your striving and rest in Him. **************************************************

The Promise of His Presence
Scripture Focus: Isaiah 41:1-10 “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------God's promise in today's verse is for all time, for whatever happens in our lives. It is steady as a rock, for it is God Himself speaking. When my husband Dan was first diagnosed with Alzheimers, he went around sharing the news with everyone. I could talk to no one about it. I may have been in denial. During that time, Truitt Ford of Haven Ministries called us. As we talked, I finally broke my silence and shared with him about Dan. One word from our conversation that day has stuck with me - endurance. God will enable us to endure whatever the future holds for us. He will make a way and send whatever help is needed. There is nothing that we will go through in this life that lies outside the promises of God. He will be present in our trials. He will be our strength. He will be our perfect peace. He will be our wisdom. He will be our comfort and our encouragement. He will give grace. So lay aside your fear, worry, and anxiety. Cling to the promise of your never-failing

God. INSIGHT: When you have a need, cash in the promises of God. They are like money in the bank - and much more precious. **************************************************

A Cure for Anxiety
Scripture Focus: Philippians 4:1-9 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God, and the peace of God . . . will guard your hearts and your minds (Philippians 4:6-7).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------God has given us a formula that works. I've tried to live by it down through the years whenever I have been tempted to worry. When I shared in the prison that I was writing about anxiety and God's perfect peace, a young man came up to me saying that he was so anxious that he had not been able to eat. I asked, “What are you worried about?” He poured out his story, adding that he had been praying but it had not helped. I then asked, “Did you pray with thanksgiving?” “What do you mean?” he responded. I explained that we have to make an effort to quell anxious thoughts, to literally refuse them, then to pray about our concerns with thanksgiving. We need to lay it all out before the Lord and begin to thank Him for everything we can think of in the situation. It works! God's perfect peace does keep our minds and emotions. I hope that young man was able to find peace. We prayed with him, then left. INSIGHT: Worry leads to agitation of mind and heart, while prayer with thanksgiving leads to peace of mind and heart. **************************************************

An Untroubled Heart

Scripture Focus: John 14:15-31 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Can we go through life with an untroubled heart? Jesus says we can, because one of His most precious gifts to us is His peace. This means we can put up the barricades and refuse to let those troubling thoughts gain entrance. Lately when my husband and I have faced medical tests, I've refused to think of all that could be wrong. In the past, my thoughts would jump to the worst conclusions with worry about cancer or need for heart surgery. I'd think of the loss of work and the medical bills. When the results came in, I found I had worried about things that were not going to happen. All my worry was for nothing! Now I'm learning to resist those troubling thoughts. Jesus gives peace that will last, not the fragile, easily broken peace the world gives. In the troubled times of life we can refuse to listen to the whispers of the enemy, but choose instead to believe God. At that very moment a wonderful peace will come over our spirits. INSIGHT: A believing heart is an untroubled heart. Peace is the legacy of the Comforter Jesus has sent to be with us. **************************************************

With Heart and Mind
Scripture Focus: Proverbs 3:1-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Obeying today's Scripture is really hard to do! I’m always trying to figure things out and make specific plans for the future. I'm a real goal-setter and doer. I plan a budget and am disappointed when I can't make the money do what I want. Yet I've watched God overrule my plans again and again, working things out and meeting

our needs in spite of my inability to reach my goals. His ways are so different from ours. Our puny plans must make Him chuckle as He prepares a miracle in our behalf. He is waiting to say to us, “My child, when are you going to trust Me with all your heart and mind, and quit trying to figure things out?” We can answer, “Okay, Lord. I won’t get uptight when my plans don't work out. I'll do the best I can but trust You to overrule whenever necessary. Lord, there are times when I don't understand what you are doing in my life, but I know it's for the best, and I'm going to trust You. But you're going to have to remind me often not to ever lean on my own understanding!” INSIGHT: God is still - and will always be - the Blessed Controller of all things for your good and for His glory. Lean hard on Him. **************************************************

Safe in Jesus
Scripture Focus: Psalm 4 “You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound. I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:7-8).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Even when my children were small and my husband would be gone overnight on the truck, I never had trouble sleeping alone. Now in these retirement years when he is gone to a men's retreat, the same is true. Yet I’ve known nights when my thoughts were so troubled that sleep eluded me for hours. I wonder what David’s circumstances were when he penned this psalm. Was he fleeing from Saul? Still he was able to say, “I'm at peace. God is watching over me.” His heart was also filled with joy because God's presence was real. Joy and peace often go together like twins. When we lost our peace and joy we probably have lost our focus. We are looking at our needs and problems, not at the Lord.

We need to pray from God to the problem, not from the problem to God. Our focus is key to experiencing the peace and joy only God can give. Where is your focus today? Is it on God or on your problems? INSIGHT: The higher our focus the greater our joy and peace. Turn your eyes upon Jesus. He alone can meet your soul's deep needs. **************************************************

A Love for God's Word
Scripture Focus: Psalm 119:161-176 “Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble. . . May your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen your precepts” (Psalm 119:165, 173).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------The Word of God is vitally important in our lives. It reveals God’s ways and character to us. It is filled with great and precious promises that we can take to the bank of heaven. It is filled with examples of men and women who did great things for God, and it is filled with warnings of the wrong way to go. Love the Word of God. Spend time in it. Memorize it, thus giving the Holy Spirit portions to bring to your mind when you need them. Some time ago when I was troubled by depression, I memorized entire psalms. They built a buffer zone between my conscious and subconscious mind. There is great comfort in the Word of God, and the Holy Spirit is faithful to make it real in our lives. It is a source of strength and peace. We can literally pray the words of Scripture back to God, knowing we are praying according to God's will. Those prayers are sure to be answered. INSIGHT: The Word of God is essential to our growth in Christ. Neglect it and you will grow weak and unstable. Be filled with the Word and be filled with peace. **************************************************

Anchor Your Mind in God
Scripture Focus:

Isaiah 26:1-6 “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock eternal” (Isaiah 26:3-4).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------No matter what you are facing in life, it can be accepted with a peaceful heart. How? By maintaining your focus. That is by keeping your mind and your heart's eyes stayed on God. Do you remember how Peter actually walked on water? He could do so as long as he kept his eyes on Jesus. But when he began to look at the tempest around him, he began to sink. When he cried out in terror, “Lord, save me!” Jesus rescued him. He lovingly chided Peter, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:22-33). So long as we maintain our focus on God and His promises, we can live with difficulties. But the minute we focus on the situation, we begin to sink. May we have Peter's wisdom to immediately cry out to the Lord for help and get our eyes back on Him. Otherwise, we are in danger of sinking down into hopelessness. It's our choice: trust or sink. No matter what is troubling you today, ask yourself, “Where is my focus?” Keep your eyes on the Lord, even as you are being buffeted by a storm. INSIGHT: Maintain your focus on the only One who can really help in the storms of life and you will be at peace. **************************************************

God Leads in Peace
Scripture Focus: Isaiah 55 “You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands” (Isaiah 55:12).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------I remember clearly the day this promise became real to me. God had uprooted me and was moving me to a new home and a new town. I had packed the last of our

possessions in our little blue pickup, cleaned the house for the last time, and left the keys for the new owner. As I took down the calendar, I found Isaiah 55:12 was the verse for that day. As I drove from the foothills to the valley, I asked God to help me embrace His promise. Tears were streaming down my face as I left my home and friends of 19 years, but my heart was at peace because I knew in my heart that God was leading me. The adjustment ahead would be difficult, but I would soon take root once again and have the joy of being close to the state prison where God had called us to minister. Is the Lord asking you to leave your comfort zone, to launch out for Him? Don't be afraid to follow His leading. INSIGHT: Our Heavenly Father never lets us get too comfortable. He stirs up our nest and encourages us to fly. **************************************************

Plan of Hope
Scripture Focus: Jeremiah 29:1-14 “’For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, `Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------God gave this precious promise to Israel while they were in captivity far from their homeland. They were there because they had sinned and refused to turn back from their wicked ways even though He had warned them again and again. Now He promised that after 70 years he was going to take them back to the land of promise. He had not forsaken them but was planning great blessing for them. What are God’s plans for you, for me? We know one thing: He plans to make us like Jesus, whatever it takes. He plans to make us witnesses for Him. He plans to make us comforters to those who hurt. He plans to make us victorious. He plans to redeem our mistakes and bring great good out of them for ourselves and others. And that is only the beginning! God promises that His plans are to bless us through whatever He allows to come into our lives. Our place is to look for those blessings and not miss them entirely.

INSIGHT: God's purposes are always good, never evil, no matter what He allows to happen. His thoughts and ways are much higher than ours. We can trust Him fully. **************************************************

Jesus Calms the Storm
Scripture Focus: Mark 4:35-41 “He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, `Quiet, be still!' . . . He said to his disciples, `Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’” (Mark 4:39-40).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------It is dark and a fierce storm has suddenly come up. The boat is in danger of swamping. Jesus is asleep, oblivious to the emergency. The disciples wake him with the question, “Don't you care? We're about to drown.” How many time have we been in a storm and accused God of not caring? In the darkest hour we call out, “Lord, I'm really hurting and You appear to be doing nothing!” He hears our desperate cries and moves to still the storm in our lives, calming our hearts and minds with His peace. Then He often rebukes us. “Why did you panic? I've been in the boat with you all the time. I've felt every wave and the pressure of the wind.” Jesus is the great stiller of storms, bringing calm and peace in the midst of turmoil. Jill Briscoe says, “Jesus can see in the dark.” Even if you lose the sense of His presence, He is still there, for His promise is “`Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.' So we say with confidence, `The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid'“ (Hebrews 13:5-6). INSIGHT: When the storms of life rock our boat, Jesus is near. He meets you at your point of desperation and calms the storm. **************************************************

Our Peace Is in Jesus
Scripture Focus: John 16:19-33

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------The world rejected Jesus. Should we be surprised that it rejects us today? Jesus said, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first” (John 15:18). I’ve been doing a neighborhood survey, looking for people interested in a home Bible study. I did not have real freedom in going until I faced the fact that 90 percent of the people I contacted would likely reject me. I’m not “a people person,” so it has been very difficult to go. I've learned a lot about my neighborhood, and God has led me to a few receptive people around me. But I would not know if I didn't go and ask. On Saturday I attended a workshop on life style evangelism. Our leader said, “God is calling out someone in your neighborhood.” I thought, “I've knocked on a lot of doors, but I haven't found that person yet.” Then on Sunday I met a young couple eager to study God's Word. “Lord,” I prayed, “I've found them. Thank You, Lord, for sending me out.” INSIGHT: God is calling people in the world to Himself. Let's do our part to find them, knowing our peace is in Jesus and the world may reject us. **************************************************

Blood Bought Peace
Scripture Focus: Isaiah 53 “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Our peace was bought at a terrible price - the precious blood of Jesus Christ. God visited the punishment for our sins on His own beloved Son. Jesus was a lamb without spot and without blemish, a perfect sacrifice (see 1 Peter 1:19). While we are going our own way and living our self-centered lives, peace is a

fleeting thing or nonexistent. The burden and turmoil of living in sin exacts its price. God invites us, saying, “Come to Me. I will give you rest and peace. Accept the sacrifice of My Son in your behalf. Give Him the control of your life.” Jesus lifts the heavy burden, grants rest to the weary, strength to the faint hearted, peace to the troubled, and forgiveness of sin to the wandering ones. If you are thirsty, come and drink. If you are hungry, come and be satisfied. If you are troubled, come, find peace and rest. He is waiting. He invites you. He has paid the price. INSIGHT: Jesus purchased your peace on Calvary. The invitation is always open. You only need to make the decision to come to God on His terms. **************************************************

Fearful and Hiding Disciples
Scripture Focus: John 20:19-31 “When the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, `Peace be with you!’” (John 20:19)

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Picture the scene. Jesus has died. The disciples are rudderless without their teacher and leader. We find them hiding behind locked doors. Suddenly Jesus stands in their midst and speaks peace to their fearful hearts. Later, after Jesus endowed them with the Holy Spirit, He sent them forth to witness for Him. We find them in the Book of Acts speaking with great boldness. If God can change cringing, fearful disciples into bold witnesses for Him, then there is hope for me. When I determined to knock on every door in my neighborhood, I prayed for boldness. However, I was still afraid. Once I stopped on the sidewalk outside a home and could not make myself go up to the door. I turned and walked on home. My efforts have not become easier, but a few warm receptions have encouraged me to keep going and leave the results with God. I have peace when I remember Jesus is walking my neighborhood with me.

INSIGHT: God asks us to come out of hiding and leave our comfort zone and love the people around us. He replaces our fear with peace when we obey Him. **************************************************

A Spirit Controlled Mind-Set
Scripture Focus: Romans 8:1-11 “The mind of sinful men is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so” (Romans 8:6-7).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Where does fear come from? Not from God, for He “did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7). Fear is really self-centered. We want to be liked and accepted. We don't want people to reject us. Our pride gets in the way. It’s better to be focused on God. If He asks us to do something, He is going to empower us by His Spirit to do His will. When I first started in prison ministry, I was afraid to go to the women. I had been on a team with my husband working with men. Once when I was asked to visit a woman, I actually refused to go since I would have to talk with her alone. Thank God for His patience with us! Thank God for His Spirit who uses such weak vessels of clay! Remember that the spirit of fear is not of God. Be willing to be stretched, and dare to do what God lays on your heart. As you step out in faith, He will give you the spirit “of power, of love and self-discipline,” and His peace will be yours. INSIGHT: God has given us His Spirit to empower and give us boldness. Refuse fear. Accept the gift of His peace. **************************************************

Fruit of the Spirit
Scripture Focus: Galatians 5:13-26

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------When I cared for my mother, who had Alzheimers disease, I had opportunity to grow in patience, gentleness, and kindness. Evidently God has a lot more gardening to do in my life, now that my husband is going to need care. At times it seems easy to get frustrated and upset with him. I need to develop a sense of humor so I will smile more at the mistakes and communication glitches. Our Lord is very adept at putting us in situations where we must grow in one area or another. He tailors our circumstances to give us opportunities to learn from Him so that we can become Christlike. He brings people into our lives who challenge us to grow in love. Is there an area in which you sense your need to grow? God will design the special circumstances to help you develop that fruit of the Spirit. He is faithful to teach. Your part is to be faithful to learn from Him, and as you do, the Holy Spirit will produce fruit in you. INSIGHT: God is in the gardening business. He is growing the fruit of the Spirit in the lives of His children. **************************************************

Called to Peace
Scripture Focus: Colossians 3:1-17 “Over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts . . . and be thankful” (Colossians 3:1415).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------One of two things is going to rule in our hearts: anxiety or peace, self or the Holy Spirit. We have a constant choice to make. We can let fear rule, or we can let peace rule. We find ourselves in troubled circumstances - will it be anxiety or peace? A major storm breaks over our lives - will we trust or be afraid? It's dark and we have lost

the sense of Christ's presence - will we reach out to Him in faith or sink in despair? God hears every cry of our hearts, even the ones we can't put into words. He comes to us walking on the stormy waters and we don't recognize Him because He looks different. But He is there and He is about to speak to our hearts, calming the storm of fear. So many things come into our lives to disturb us, and these can produce anxiety. Refuse those anxious thoughts. Go to prayer. Lay it all out before the Lord with thanksgiving. He will surround your heart with His gift of peace. INSIGHT: God has called His children to peace. Their peace in troubled circumstances speaks of Christ to the world that looks on. **************************************************

Overflowing Peace
Scripture Focus: Romans 15:1-13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Hope is an effective antidote for anxiety. I went with my husband to see the doctor after his diagnosis of Alzheimers disease. I told the doctor, “I just need to hear from you what you told Dan.” The doctor assured me that with medication, Dan could continue to drive and do all the things he has been doing. I walked out of that office with tremendous hope. My spirit was much lighter. I trust God will give Dan and me a few more months, even years, to serve the Lord together. If we are going to be filled with you and peace, we are going to have to trust God with all our hearts. We will need to refuse anxious thoughts. We dare not look down the road, but live one day at a time. We can remember to carry only what God gives us to carry today. We need not pick up yesterday's load or add tomorrow's. It would be too much to bear. Comfort and encouragement come from the most unexpected sources. May you be filled with joy and peace as you trust in God.

INSIGHT: God's way is the way of peace. Anxiety comes from the old self. Live in the new life in Christ and be filled with peace and joy today. **************************************************

Going into the World
Scripture Focus: Matthew 28:16-20 "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them . . . and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you and surely I am with you always" (Matthew 28:19-20).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------God expects I will do something with the gift of salvation I have freely received. This priority is with me every day of my life and influences my entire ministry. God wants us to break the mold of self-centered world. The Bible, God's Manual for Life, is the building block of our world vision. Through His Word and the prompting of His Spirit, we catch the "go" of His command. William Carey, the father of modern missions, read the Bible and was convinced that reaching the world was the central responsibility of the church. "Daws" Trotman, founder of The Navigators, realized the foundation of the Bible would instill a vision for "going." Anything lesser than the Bible and its authority soon evaporates and becomes a forgotten emotion. In my Bible I wrote these words: "The Bible tells us what God wants us to do in the world; the newspapers tell us where He needs to do it and where we need to be prayerfully involved.” That's our priority. INSIGHT: The need of our hour is to believe God is God, and that He is a lot more interested in getting the good news of the Gospel out than we are. **************************************************

A Culture of Fear
Scripture Focus: Psalm 46 "God is our refuge and strength, and ever-present help in trouble. . . . The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. . . . Come and see the works

of the Lord" (Psalm 46:1, 7-8).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Despite the astounding prosperity of our nation, many of us face a bundle of phobias that dominate our personal lives. Our focus needs to be on Jesus Christ and His sovereign control. Psalm 46 refreshes us with who God is and what He wants for us in our fearful times. Sennacherib, king of superpower Assyria, was about to invade Judah. It was 701 BC - a frightening time for God's people. The psalmist confronts their fear with three simple truths about God. First, He is our Source of Strength. He is always present and ready to come to our rescue. Jesus states, "I am with you always" (Matthew 28:20). How reassuring, whatever our fear. Second, God is Our Peace. This psalm describes havoc, but God is present. He will help (v. 5). Our focus must not be on the perceived threat, but on God. Peace comes from His presence. Finally, God is Our Power! God is very active (vv. 8-11). We need to be still, stop striving in our own strength, and let God be God! INSIGHT: God can help us engage our world, not with arrogance, but with boldness and confidence that comes from knowing Him personally and trusting Him. **************************************************

Lost People Matter to God
Scripture Focus: Luke 15 "We had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found" (Luke 15:31).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------I was riding with a police officer in his squad car when he asked, "So Chappie, what makes your church any different than others around town?" Rather than talk about my church, I used the open door to talk about Jesus. I'm thankful I did, for the next night that police officer was shot while on duty. He hovered between life and death for weeks. Eventually he recovered. Both he and his wife have declared faith in Christ and visit our church at times. The lost have been found, and there is rejoicing

in heaven. Lost people to God, and they must matter to us as well. Jesus amplifies this in three special stories in Luke 15. The lost sheep is found by the shepherd. A lost coin is found. A lost son comes home. All three stories end in a celebration. Jesus is pleased when we seek spiritually lost people. Let's make the conscious effort to find those who are spiritually lost. Let's pursue them through prayer and take initiative to tell them about Jesus. Let's celebrate when the decision is made to follow Him. INSIGHT: We serve in faith. Jesus puts the condition of faith on us. We can't blame God for the miracles He did not do; we can only blame ourselves for tying His hands. **************************************************

Our Love Quotient
Scripture Focus: Romans 12:9-18 "Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves” (Romans 12:9-10)

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Caring must be a priority of life. It's a challenge to us from God. Further, research indicates a highly significant relationship between the love demonstrated by a church and its long-term growth potential. Growing churches possess on the average a measurably higher "love quotient" than declining churches. The love quotient is exercised through the invitation for a meal, a cup of coffee, even the amount of laughter in our churches. People would rather experience our Christian love than hear us talk about it. Jesus is our model. He took time for a centurion (police officer of the day), healing his servant. He found Levi (a tax collector of the day), invited him to follow, and then attended the banquet at Levi's home, meeting his friends. Out of his heart of love, He wept over the rebellion and sin in Jerusalem. More than once He fed the thousands who were hungry. He calls us to make time for people He brings into our lives, reaching them in their pain, allowing ourselves to be broken because of their sin, and offering a meal where possible. In doing so, our love quotient will rise. INSIGHT: God calls us to harmonious interaction with people He brings into our

lives. It made an eternal difference. **************************************************

Working Behind the Scenes
Scripture Focus: 2 Chronicles 2:11-16 "I am sending you Huram-Abi, a man of great skill, whose mother was from Dan and whose father was from Tyre. He is trained . . . experienced . . .will work with your craftsmen" (2 Chronicles 2:13-14).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------A skilled and gifted worker is vital to the plan and program of God. We don't read much about Huram-Abi, but what we do find tells us a great deal about him. His parents must have honed his skills carefully, for we discover he is described as one who can bring skill, training, and experience to a task. What a gift to those who are about to build the temple! Here is a man, not afraid to do the job and shoulder the responsibility. Each of us has been gifted by God. He sovereignly determines which gifts we have and the best place of service. He wants us to understand our gifts and integrate them into our lives and the focus of our serving. When we accomplish this, there's freedom to say yes when asked to serve and also to experience the joy of knowing we are in the center of His will. Research indicates that no factor influences the contentedness of Christians more than whether they are utilizing their gifts or not. Important, isn't it? INSIGHT: It's our task to discover and use our spiritual gifts in ways that will enhance the spread of the Gospel for the Kingdom of God. **************************************************

Priority of Alertness
Scripture Focus: Nehemiah 4:13-21 "Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other, and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked"

(Nehemiah 4:17-18).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------In Law Enforcement we train consistently for the moment of battle. Being alert is vital to survival. Once, in the middle of the night we were running radar on the interstate when a vehicle was "clocked and locked" at going close to 90 miles per hour. We eventually caught up and stopped the driver. We noticed quite a bit of movement in the vehicle, so my colleague remarked, "Get out and stay alert!" Obviously, that was all I needed. Our alertness paid off, and nothing drastic happened. Nehemiah and his work force had received threats from the enemy. They remained on alert as they continued their work. They were vigilant, armed and ready should the enemy attack. Satan's strategy hasn't changed. Peter warns us to be alert because our "enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8). Confidence in God doesn't mean that we can live carelessly. The forces of evil that come against us demand that we stay alert. INSIGHT: The ingredients of righteousness and the catalyst of courage will set into motion the power of God leading to victory **************************************************

Time to Pray
Scripture Focus: Luke 6:12-16 "One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God" (Luke 6:12).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Prayer brings the individual into fellowship with the ruler of the universe and releases His power into the world that desperately needs changing. Keeping it simple, two things are necessary for our prayer life to become practical. We need something to pray about, and we need a quiet place to pray. Jesus went to the mountainside, and apparently spent quality time at night in prayer. The result was the confirmation of the Twelve whom he designated as apostles. Can you imagine not spending time in prayer over this priority decision?

Each of us has the same amount of daily time. The use and management of our time depends on our system of values. Whatever seems of greatest importance will have our greatest priority. To the psalmist, prayer was a priority. "Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and He hears my voice" (Psalm 55:17). He knew what it was to exercise the open window of prayer. Prayer has no limit to space or geographical locations. It puts the one praying right on the front line of spiritual conflict and conquest. INSIGHT: As we pray, we are simply fulfilling God's appointed means of accomplishing His work in the world. **************************************************

The Power of Hope
Scripture Focus: Mark 10:46-52 "A blind man, Bartimaeus was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, `Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’" (Mark 10:46-47).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------The story of Bartimaeus gives us courage and hope when we need it! Here was a blind man in desperate need of the miracle of Jesus' touch. No one cared about this guy. He simply took up space and pleaded for help as a beggar. But this day was to be different. Bartimaeus heard that Jesus was coming and realized this was his chance to act. The crowd shouted, "Shut up!" but Jesus heard his plea. Bartimaeus' courage should challenge us today. At the moment of his greatest need, he was unwilling to sit quietly by and hope that some day he would have another opportunity to cry for help. This beggar didn't ask for the menial stuff - food or money. He asked for the miracle of his sight. He had lived in darkness long enough. How about you? Is there a deep personal problem that overwhelms you? What Jesus did for Bartimaeus, He can do for you. He's still in the miracle-working business. Jesus knew the need in Bartimaeus' life, but He wanted him to express it personally. Can you do that with your request? INSIGHT: God resides with us, if we allow Him into our lives. Praise flows into our hearts when we find our refuge in Him alone. **************************************************

The Priority of Choice
Scripture Focus: Joshua 24:14-21 "’Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve. . . . But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord’" (Joshua 24:15). -----------------------------------------------------------------------One author wrote, "The time is now to draw a clear, clean line of separation between the kingdom of heaven and the demon-induced values of the world system." We find ourselves swimming upstream as we see our nation slipping away from our Judeo-Christian heritage. The call of Joshua on Israel is God's call on us today. It's one of commitment! Recently, while attending a chaplain's workshop in Washington, DC, I had occasion to visit the Peace Officers Memorial. It's a white granite wall that has engraved on it the names of over 14,500 Law Enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty. I watched an officer who was tracing the engraved name of a friend. His pain was obvious. It would live with him the remainder of his life. Another officer standing next to me said, "I will never again be complacent on duty. This is a time of renewed commitment." Sacrifices move people. Let's keep in mind what God has done for us and remember that the enemy is demanding our allegiance too. Let's yield our hearts to Him (24:23). INSIGHT: If we fail to discern and deal with sin in our lives, we allow satanic forces to maintain points of control in our lives. **************************************************

The Uncluttered Life
Scripture Focus: Hebrews 12:1-3 "Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles us, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us" (Hebrews 12:1). -----------------------------------------------------------------------I laugh as I sit here at my desk, frustrated by the pile of books, stacks of articles to

read, bills to pay, and as of today, an appointment with my cardiologist for an angiogram later this week. I'm feeling the squeeze of the cluttered life. Discovering a problem with my heart has caused a quick assessment of my overload and the desire to shed the excess baggage. The author of Hebrews talks about "throwing off everything that hinders." Think of Jesus for a moment as He sent out His twelve disciples (Matthew 10). He reduced them to simple basics: one coat, one pair of sandals. No precious metals, no lingering, and no nonsense. There was work to be done, and the clutter-laden disciple could not be part of the race. With clutter in our lives, it’s hard to “run with perseverance" and to "fix our eyes on Jesus." (verse 2). Scripture urges us to examine ourselves. We need to be honest enough to deal with and shed whatever keeps us from the race. Tough assignment! INSIGHT: Sorting through the stuff of life, we must be able to distinguish between what is needful and what is expedient. **************************************************

Attitudes
Scripture Focus: Mark 10:35-45 "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45). -----------------------------------------------------------------------Since much of life revolves around relationships, we would do well to take a look at two key qualities of our attitude toward others. Jesus modeled for us the quality of being a servant. In serving others, we serve Him. This is revolutionary! It's easy to focus on the motivational competitions, plaques, and accolades, while we climb to the top. Yet Jesus calls on us to care for and serve each other. Then there is the issue of having a sensitive spirit. Just today I was talking with a friend who is in a difficult relationship. A big part of the problem is this person's lack of sensitivity. We evaluate our own ability and then expect others to keep up. But we must remember the words of Paul, "Warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, and help the weak, be patient with everyone" (1 Thessalonians 5:14). Each of these phrases describes the sensitivity needed toward others. Having the attitude of a servant with a sensitive spirit will go a long way in today's

world in being effective in our living for Christ. INSIGHT: It pleases God when He sees His own image and likeness reflected in us - like a father who sees himself in his son or a teacher who sees himself in his student. **************************************************

Give Me This Hill Country
Scripture Focus: Joshua 14:6-15 "I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I'm just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day”(Joshua 14:11-12) -----------------------------------------------------------------------Caleb knew God had promised the hill country to Israel. He also knew that the territory was the stronghold of giants known as the Anakim. Caleb teaches us how to deal with obstacles. He never lost focus. He held on to the promise God had given that the hill country would be his, and he never lost faith. He continually followed the Lord "wholeheartedly" because he was genuinely committed. Notice how he spoke his request, "Give me this hill country." He activated his faith in response to God's promise. James states, "You do not have because you do not ask God" (4:2). Caleb acted, defeated the giants, and took the land. Napoleon and his army won a Mediterranean island in battle. During the celebration, a young soldier was given audience with Napoleon. He said, "Give me this island!" Others laughed, but Napoleon took a piece of paper and deeded the island to the young soldier. When asked why, Napoleon responded, "He honored me with the magnitude of his request." INSIGHT: God wants to be honored by the magnitude of our requests, and desires that we receive great joy in the answers He provides. **************************************************

The Danger of Burnout
Scripture Focus:

Matthew 11:25-30 "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls" (Matthew 11:28-29).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Rest! It's an interesting New Testament word implying the relaxing or letting down of chords or strings, which have been strained or drawn tight. We are often tired, worn-out, and close to running on empty. It's calculated that one-third of us feel rushed all the time. More than 70 million people in America alone have trouble sleeping at night. We spend eight months of our lives opening junk mail, and two years trying to call people who aren't in or whose lines are busy. A husband/wife unit will work 90 hours a week, not including domestic duties. Any wonder we're tired? God is not the God of chaos, confusion, frustration, or irritability. He wants to take us deep into Himself, the place of solitude, rest, and prayer, of devotion and worship. He wants us rooted into an intimate relationship with Himself, to come and rest, listen to His voice of love, and find wisdom and courage to address whatever issue presents itself. INSIGHT: God wants us to have a genuine desire to dwell in His presence, listen to His voice, look at His beauty, taste His infinite goodness, and feast on His incarnate Word. **************************************************

To Celebrate Love
Scripture Focus: Proverbs 24:1-5 "By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures" (Proverbs 24:3-4).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Ideally, marriage is described as two people living in close communion and harmony with God and each other. But the words of Alvin Toffler in his book, The Third Wave, are too often true. He states, "Value systems splinter and crash, while the lifeboats of family, church and state are hurled madly about."

A house is built by wisdom. Through understanding it is stabilized. Knowledge brings fulfillment and satisfaction. Solomon gives three essential ingredients to make the home and our marriages solid: Wisdom - seeing with discernment Understanding - responding with insight Knowledge - learning with perception We need to see below the surface, sift through situations to gain genuine insight, and have a teachable spirit. And where will this come from? "The Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding" (Proverbs 2:6). Our Heavenly Father provides what we need. Now it's up to us. INSIGHT: To have the love relationships we need in our marriages, God has the tools to remodel us individually and together. **************************************************

Courage
Scripture Focus: 1 Samuel 17:32-47 "David said to the Philistine, ‘You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defiled.’” (1 Samuel 17:45).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Sooner or later we all need courage. David was no exception. West of Jerusalem, two armies gathered who were fierce enemies. The Philistines were against the Israelites. The Philistines thought they had the advantage through Goliath. This giant was the formidable obstacle against Israel. But the young shepherd David said, "No problem!" when he saw the giant. He asked, "Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?" (v. 26) David was not intimidated at all by this giant of an obstacle. He stood up to the challenge of the giant, and slew him with one rock from his slingshot. We can confront the obstacles of our lives from the things we learn from David.

He was confident. He prepared for battle with hours of practice with his weapon. He was courageous. He was not afraid to do what had to be done. He showed commitment as he joined the battle. And he was not afraid of confrontation. He went one on one to the giant. There are times when this must happen, or evil will triumph. INSIGHT: In our commitment of life to honor God, we shift the motives from self to God. In all things, we let Him have the preeminence. **************************************************

Being Realistic
Scripture Focus: 1 Chronicles 12:19-32 "Men of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what Israel should do - 200 chiefs, with all their relatives under their command" (1 Chronicles 12:32).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------The leaders of Issachar were men of quality and character. Their knowledge and judgment provided needed help in making decisions for the entire nation. We also need to have the pulse of what's happening in society. It's too easy to shy away from this responsibility, to run from issues and conflict, rather than face and engage it. We know the social symptoms that are leading us to a dysfunctional and decaying civilization. But we also must come to grips with the fact that as Christians, we have answers and time-tested principles of faith to change the direction of our nation. Jesus Christ did not warn us to run away, flee to the hills, hide our eyes, or back off, but to go into the fields and harvest them. We are to be faithful soldiers of our loving God until the Commander Himself returns. The men of Issachar were ready to step in and assume responsibility. They had intelligence and understanding, capable of discerning, and perceiving what was needed to support David and his system. God has given us Christians this ability. INSIGHT: The foundational beliefs and civic virtues are dear to us. We must not lose hope of the potential for spiritual renewal that awaits us. **************************************************

Beauty from Ashes

Scripture Focus: Isaiah 61:1-7 "He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives . . . to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning” (Isaiah 61:1,3).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------When we lived in Okinawa, we would periodically visit a glass factory where beautiful glass objects were created and crafted for sale to the public. What impressed me were the mounds of broken and shattered glass that littered the floor of the factory. Workers would walk about in their bare feet or wearing simple straw slippers, the broken glass not even affecting them. They would look for the appropriate color, melt it down, and begin the art of creating these beautiful works. This memory came back as I read that God creates a crown of beauty out of ashes. Again and again God has taken a shattered life from the floor of brokenness and created a new life, a new heart, and a person of beauty. We must never forget what God is capable of doing! He can do for us what we could not do for ourselves. In this new creation, God takes the broken, sinful person and covers him with His own divine righteousness. Out of the ash heap comes one who has been clothed with "garments of salvation." INSIGHT: God assures us there is peace beyond anguish, life beyond death, and love beyond fear. **************************************************

In the Face of Danger
Scripture Focus: Psalm 34:17-22 "The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them. Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him” (Psalm 34:7-8).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Whenever my pager vibrates and I notice the call back number is the police department, a rush of adrenaline begins to prepare me for some immediate emergency. It may be a call to a family dispute, an officer who needs assistance, or a tragedy where there's need for pastoral care.

It’s through faith that I’m immediately aware of God's presence. This word "encamps" is a military word, a word of action. In these kinds of tough circumstances I find God is ready for action. He steps in and gives me the strength for the encounter, the words to calm a broken heart or defuse an angry spirit, or to offer compassion to the deepest cry of the human heart. David wrote Psalm 34 when he was in a tense and dangerous time. The presence of the Lord surrounded him and will surround us as believers, leading to peace. In the words of A.W. Tozer, "At the heart of the Christian message is God Himself waiting for His redeemed children to push in to conscious awareness of His presence." INSIGHT: If we accept anything in place of the Scriptures, we are cheated and robbed, and that only leads to eternal confusion. **************************************************

The Bible
Scripture Focus: 1 Timothy 4:1-10 "Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives tales; rather, train yourself to be godly" (1 Timothy 4:7).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Years ago God created in me a deep hunger and thirst for His Word. In between classes at the State University I would find a booth in the back of a coffee shop, and for that hour I would study the scriptures. The words of the psalmist reflected my heart: "Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long" (Psalm 119:97). The foundation of biblical truth gives joy to our spirits, brings victory over sin, gives direction for our witness, clarifies our relationship with God, and offers hope -- to name only a few of its benefits. It is the power of God for salvation. It is like a magnet leading us to God's answers to tough problems. In his book, With God in a P.O.W. Camp, Lt. Commander Ralph Gaither said, "Immediately upon hearing a new verse . . . we committed it to memory . . . Those Bible verses meant more than I can express in words. They gave strength for the days which passed by under constant threat of torture or punishment." That's the power of God's Word whether in a North Vietnamese prison camp or in our daily lives today.

INSIGHT: "The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God." (A.W. Tozer) **************************************************

A Matter of the Heart
Scripture Focus: 2 Corinthians 8:1-9 "And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God's will" (2 Corinthians 8:5).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Ministry and stewardship begin with a right attitude of the heart. Today's passage relates to the need for financial management of God's work, but goes much deeper than that. It defines what we mean by being a Christian. First, we need the heart of God. Jesus said, "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:35). Our commitment to love results in giving. God so loved that He gave, and He wants His people to do the same. The world can overlook our verbiage, but not our supernatural love proven through our giving. We need the heart of a mission. The needs of the world are overwhelming. Whatever plans we may have for our involvement, and the resources that we give to that effort, are what help turn good intentions into actions. We also need to have the heart of discipleship. The Macedonians gave themselves to the Lord first. When He has first place with us, we will help others - giving to them as God has given to us. INSIGHT: Stewardship is God's resources, deployed through God's people, to accomplish God's mission. **************************************************

The Cross
Scripture Focus: 1 Peter 2:21-25

"He Himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed”(1 Peter 2:24).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------We must never forget the cross! George MacLeod of Scotland wrote, "I simply argue that the cross should be raised at the center of the marketplace as well as on the steeple of the church. . . .Jesus was not crucified in a church between two candles, but on a cross between two thieves; on the town's garbage dump; at a crossroad, so cosmopolitan they had to write this title in Hebrew and Latin and Greek . . . where cynics talk smut, and thieves curse, and solders gamble. . . . That is where he died." Never forget it! He died in your place and mine and in His death He made atonement for the sins of the whole world. Now we are to live for righteousness. Being declared "just," we have risen to walk in the new life empowered by the Holy Spirit who lives within us. This has to be a priority that determines our level of commitment. It is our responsibility of faith to deal with the cross. We do that in one of two ways: we either flee it or die upon it. INSIGHT: Jesus Christ by His death on the Cross made it possible for a sinner to exchange his sin for Christ's righteousness. We are not compelled to accept it, but we have that choice. **************************************************

Secure in Him
Scripture Focus: Zephaniah 3:14-17 "The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------The day of judgment against Israel is now past and her King is reigning over her. God is exalting His people with gladness and song, resting in quiet joy and finding delight in His people. This verse was given me by a good friend the night before I went in for some medical tests. Like most of us, I believe that God is present, sovereign, and knows all things. The human side of me deals with the uncertainty and anxiety of such times.

The verse is a great reminder of God’s personal care. First, there's the assurance of His presence and strength. God is with us. Then He takes great delight in us. God leaps in happiness over us! In the times of quietness, His love becomes more evident than ever. He actually sings for joy over the pleasure He finds in us. How can we not be impressed with His love, concern, and presence with us as we face the uncertainties of life? Victor Hugo said, “Nothing in all the world is as powerful as an idea whose time has come." It's time for us to enjoy God through all of life. INSIGHT: We know that God is love. For that reason He is the source of all the love there is. **************************************************

The Value of Words
Scripture Focus: Luke 4:14-20 "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed" (Luke 4:18-19).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Words are cheap these days. They surround us through advertisements, signs, newspapers, magazines, screens, and chalkboards. They move, flicker on and off, trying to grasp our attention and motivate us to action. But in the end, they are merely words. What a contrast with the words of Jesus! He spoke the words in our Scripture today while in the synagogue of Nazareth. While He read from the scroll of Isaiah, those listening who were poor, prisoners, blind, and oppressed heard the person of the living Messiah. Healing, strength, and hope flowed through His words. The Word of God is not something from some long-ago time, but a word for the present. As Jesus speaks and we listen, He becomes our companion for our journey. To not enjoy His presence yields to the entrapment of the worries of our daily lives, and we struggle to survive. Without His presence and His word to us, His Spirit is extinguished and we become the victims of bitterness and resentment. INSIGHT: In His presence we release our hardened hearts and become people of

gratitude, inviting Him to touch our innermost being and give us a fresh sense of direction. **************************************************

King of Dings
Scripture Focus: Jeremiah 33:1-8 "Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know" (Jeremiah 33:3). "Nothing is too hard for you" (Jeremiah 32:17).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------In our area is a van that advertises its company's service as the King of Dings. They specialize in repairing the "dings" that cars have picked up. Jesus certainly is the King of spiritual dings. How often have we wanted to get the lumps of sin removed, to receive the needed forgiveness for a rotten spirit, the necessary cleansing from a terrible attitude. Sometimes because these failings are "small," we don't deal with them. Yet God specializes in helping us with these dings! He is interested, not aloof or disconnected. Moses asked the Israelites, “What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him?" (Deuteronomy 4:7) Other nations had better weaponry, greater wealth, and larger armies, but they didn't have what Israel had - the God who would respond when they called. What are the dings in your life? Are you willing to trust them to Him who is near and invites you to call on Him? INSIGHT: The devil is not frightened by our human efforts, but he shudders when we begin to lift up our hearts to God. **************************************************

The Need for Compassion
Scripture Focus:

Matthew 9:35-38 "He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few’” (Matthew 9:36-37).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Perhaps there has never been a greater need for compassion than today. This word compassion means, “to suffer with.” It expresses the wrenching of the gut! All around Jesus were many for whom life had little or no meaning. He cared that they were worn down to the point of exhaustion and scattered all over the place. Sound like life today? Our society contributes to such confusion. It's tough to maintain identity and meaningful relationships in the jungle of bureaucracy, specialization, and competition. Mobility and constant change also contribute to feelings of rootlessness and lack of stability. There's much pain in our lives, but what a privilege when we do not have to live alone in our pain. Compassion takes radical faith and love, freely given to us by Him, allowing us to enter the fellowship of the weak, bringing peace and hope to those who suffer. You can tell someone who is hurting, "I can't take your pain, but I can promise you that I won't leave you alone." Compassion begins right where we are. INSIGHT: As the Beloved of God, Jesus will guide our thoughts, words, and actions. He is the Rock on which the ministry of compassion is built. **************************************************

Discipleship
Scripture Focus: Matthew 7:24-29 "Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain . . . beat against that house; yet it did not fall” (Matthew 7:24-25).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------As an instructor at the law enforcement academy, I watch closely how future officers gravitate toward one of the other instructors. He's like a magnet - well thought of, powerful, skilled, and very knowledgeable. He has been in law enforcement for over 35 years. There's nothing he hasn't experienced. Essentially, he's training "disciples" for future service as law enforcement officers.

Jesus is enrolling students in the master class of life. As believers we enjoy the hope of eternal life, but, as Dallas Willard writes, we need to learn how to "interact with the grace and spirit of God to access fully the provisions and character intended for us in the gift of eternal life." This involves hearing Jesus' words and practicing what He tells us to do. The Gospel is to be worked out through our lives. Its purpose is practical, not merely academic. When we dare to accept the challenge of hearing and practicing the words and life of Jesus, we will find our foundation in life to be solid, regardless of the storms. INSIGHT: Jesus comes and brings us the life we hunger for. That life is in Him and allows the endurance we need, no matter what circumstances we face. **************************************************

What About Our Nation?
Scripture Focus: Ephesians 6:12-15 "Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but . . . against the power of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God” (Ephesians 6:12-13).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Living in Okinawa, Japan during the Vietnam era, I often talked to veterans of combat. They told of the horror of battle and their overwhelming fear of being surrounded by the enemy. One man said, "The enemy just would not let up!" That’s Satan’s strategy! He’s out to destroy us, our families, and our nation. What about our nation? We agree that Jesus Christ is the only One who can bring moral and intellectual integrity. But you and I have a responsibility. We must demonstrate our faith and conviction through spiritual and physical action. We are to be involved in the proclaiming of Jesus Christ to every person (Matthew 28:18-20). We are also called to be involved in our culture as faithful citizens. The battle is a spiritual one and must be fought in the power of the Spirit. In the words of Paul, "The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds" (2 Corinthians 10:4). Spiritual weapons wielded by godly believers can demolish the forces of evil. INSIGHT: The boldness we need is not taught through a seminar, but is imparted only by the Holy Spirit of God. **************************************************

And They Worshipped
Scripture Focus: Revelation 5:9-14 "’To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!' The four living creatures said, ‘Amen,' and the elders fell down and worshipped” ((Revelation 5:13-14).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Heaven is a place of worship, but what about today? Worship is the highest priority in God's Word, and we need to focus on worship as our primary responsibility before God. David expressed this when he said, "One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple" (Psalm 27:4). He wrote that God inhabits the praises of His people, living in the center of our praise (22:3). When we worship God, He is in His natural environment, at home. Worship precedes effective service. It is the antidote for discouragement, and dispels the spirit of darkness. Further, worship is a passion of God. To worship is to please God. "True worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks" (John 4:23). Our effectiveness as believers is not found in outward activity or service, but in the One who stands behind it. INSIGHT: Worship is a verb, and is an activity we are involved in as a response to what God has asked of His people. It is not passive, but participative. **************************************************

Good and Very Good
Scripture Focus: Genesis 1:1-10 “In him we were also chosen…according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we…might be for the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:11-12).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). What a beginning! God carefully and systematically created a perfect world for the crowning act of His creation - humans. The language used in Genesis is unmistakably

personal. From the beginning God reveals that we have been created in His image for intelligent and meaningful relationships. God has endowed us with amazing creative imagination. Is it any wonder that praising God is an act of intelligent worship? A careful reading of Genesis 1 reveals at each stage of creation that God declared it “good.” But on the sixth day of creation when God made people, He pronounced it “very good” (verse 31). We are a part of God’s creation and the more we know God and see the evidence of His creation, the stronger our reason to praise Him. Love is like that. Loving relationships result in adoration and praise. God is Creator and sovereign of all. Let’s praise God for who He is, for His sustaining presence, and for what He has done. Insight: Each day, like the Creation week, brings new opportunities to praise and worship God. At the end of each day, can you say it was “very good”? **************************************************

Good Cooking
Scripture Focus: Genesis 1:28-31 “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). “For everything God created is good” (1Timothy 4:4).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------My wife is a good cook. No, she’s a splendid cook! So if you turned your nose up at a meal in my home, I would think you might not know a good meal if Betty Crocker delivered it personally. I am thankful for the work and talent my wife puts forth, and I am careful to express my appreciation. Likewise, when we make the right assessment of God’s activity in the world, we praise Him. At the end of God’s creative work, God stepped back and assessed His work. “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). So when we echo God’s assessment, “very good,” we praise God, and our acclaim may be about anything that God is or has done. Our adoration of Jesus – spoken or thought – reflects how much or little we value His life, death, resurrection, and present priestly ministry. That’s praise.

We will praise throughout eternity. “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!” (Revelation 7:12) Insight: Can you name some evidences that God is good? Keep the awareness of God’s goodness alive in your heart through praise. **************************************************

God’s Glory Near Us
Scripture Focus: Exodus 22:15-20 “Moses said, ‘Now show me your glory’” (Exodus 33:18). “[Jesus] which we have hear, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched” (1 John 1:1).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------God may seem untouchable because He is described with theological words like omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, and absolute perfection. God is awesome. Because God is infinitely beyond us, He may also seem distant; but God is near. When Moses begged to see God’s glory, God revealed His personal, intimate qualities of goodness, compassion, graciousness, patience, love, faithfulness, and justice. God is anything but cold and distant. Moses begged for what God already planned to show us through His Son Jesus. God came near in the person of Jesus. John wrote that he had heard, seen, and touched Jesus! God comes so close to us through Jesus that we are granted to see even more of His glory than Moses had the privilege to see. True, God in infinitely beyond us, but He is also intimately near. God is warm and personal. We can trust and come close to Him. Insight: God revealed to Moses His goodness, compassion, patience, love, faithfulness, and justice. The same God is near you today. **************************************************

The Giver of Gifts

Scripture Focus: Deuteronomy 8:6-18 “When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 8:10-11).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------The children of Israel suffered greatly at the hands of cruel taskmasters. In their pain and poverty they cried out; God heard their plea. He delivered them with a display of unimaginable power, and He graciously led them to a land of their own – a valuable and productive land. Before He allowed them to possess their new home, He warned them of the seductive effects of prosperity. Wealth has an alluring power. It woos us to love God’s gifts and forget the One who has given them. We are blessed to live in the greatest time of sustained economic prosperity in the richest country. Even our poor, who struggle to make ends meet with meager resources available through social welfare programs, are well-to-do when compared to impoverished in the third world nations. God has lavished our land with plenty. Materialism calls us with inviting, yet deadly appeal. How can we resist it? When we fill our mouths with praise for the Giver of all, our ears will no longer hear the siren calls of His gifts. Insight: Let us daily praise God, the giver of all gifts, and acknowledge our complete dependence on Him for all that we possess. **************************************************

Praise the Lord
Scripture Focus: Ruth 4:13-22 “The women said to Naomi: ‘Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer’” (Ruth 4:14).

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Some of us began this new year struggling with brokenness. The events of the past twelve months have left us battling illness, facing financial hardships, or grieving each day for a loved one. Such pain can leave a person broken. The early chapters of the book of Ruth tell of Naomi’s brokenness. After losing her husband and two sons, she returns home with only her daughter-in-law. Naomi changes her name to Mara, meaning “the Almighty has made my life very bitter” (1:20). By the end of the book, though, God has blessed Naomi with a grandson who fills the legal position of kinsman-redeemer. As God provided for her, her friends encouraged her to praise the Lord. The Bible teaches that Jesus, our Redeemer, redeems us from our sins, lavishes His love and compassion on us, and heals our brokenness (see Psalm 103:1-14). Let’s praise the Lord that He has not left us without a Redeemer. Insight: In this new year, let’s focus on Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, and look for ways that He heals our brokenness. **************************************************

He’s Worthy of Praise
Scripture Focus: 1 Chronicles 16:24-29 “Sing to the Lord, all the earth, proclaim his salvation day after day…For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods” (1 Chronicles 16:23, 25).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------The doctor looked across the table, first at my wife and then to me, then said the “C” word. “We need to do further testing, of course, but there are three lumps on the thyroid. One looks especially suspect. It may be cancerous.” A sudden fear gripped my heart as I immediately pondered the worse case scenario. My thoughts ran wildly out of control. Oh Lord, I cried inwardly, please don’t allow this to happen to us! For a brief moment, which seemed like an eternity, I questioned the goodness of my Lord.

The Chronicler writes, “Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise” (verse 25). No matter what circumstances face us or how piercing the pain, we can turn our gaze heavenward, knowing that our Father is worthy of all praise and honor. We serve a God who is truly greater and “above all gods” because He loved us so much that He sent His beloved Son to die on the cross for our sins (John 3:16) Insight: Take a moment right now to thank our heavenly Father for His greatness. He alone is worthy to be praised. **************************************************

Deliverance in Adversity
Scripture Focus: Psalm 7 “O Lord my God, I take refuge in you … I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High” (Psalm 7:1, 17).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------The psalms bring comfort and encouragement to those who love God. In the New Testament this book is quoted and alluded to more than any other. The richness of its theological expression is reflected in Jesus’ teachings. We’re not surprised to learn that the Gospel writers made frequent references to the Psalms as they recorded the life of Jesus. Psalm 7 is a prayer of help and deliverance as David’s enemies drew near. He pleads his innocence in verses 3-5. Have you been wrongly accused? Do you feel there is no way out? Often, the more we protest our innocence the more difficult our situation becomes. David’s example is good for us. He petitioned God with honest and open appraisal of his spiritual condition. Self-examination and spiritual reflection are important biblical principles. David concluded his psalm with a promise to praise God. Today, can you look over the rough spots of your life and lift your heart in praise to God? Insight: A heart overflowing with thankfulness is often a heart overflowing in song. Are you singing today? May the Lord help us give thanks in all circumstances. **************************************************

Secure in an Unstable World
Scripture Focus: Psalm 46 “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear … The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress” (Psalm 46:1-2,7).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Security companies are big business, promising to protect our homes, our cars, and our health. Nevertheless, security eludes us all; no matter how much we pay. Infants need the shelter of a safe home in order to survive. But even children who grow up in good homes find themselves feeling insecure at times. Adults also need protection from physical, emotional, social, and spiritual danger. God created us with a need for safety that only He can fill. At times we may rely on ourselves, but self-protection always falls short. We can’t even protect those we love. While imprisoned in the Nazi concentration camp, Betsy ten Boom told her sister, “Corrie, you cannot protect me. You must not try.” Betsy often reminded her, “God is with us.” Corrie trusted her sister. After Betsy’s death, Corrie placed her security in God alone. Are you trusting people, money, or something else to fulfill you life? God is the only refuge we have. All others are deceptions. Insight: God resides with us, if we allow Him into our lives. Praise flows into our hearts when we find our refuge in Him alone. **************************************************

Living Praise
Scripture Focus: Psalm 63 “Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands” (Psalm 63:3-4). ------------------------------------------------------------------------

News spread like wildfire through the missionary community, “The guerrillas just kidnapped Tim and Steve and took them up the mountain.” Early one Sunday morning in January 1993, a group of heavily armed Colombian guerrillas appeared at the mission base, snuggled at the foot of the Andes Mountains. After rounding up the missionaries at gunpoint, they forced them to line up against a wall. Several missionary men bravely attempted to convince their captors not to harm the children. The rebel in charge pointed his weapon at one missionary, demanding that he step out from the crowd. After another missionary pleaded for him because his wife was expecting a child, a rebel ordered his release. Instead, the guerrillas took missionaries Tim Van Dyke and Steve Welsh as hostages. Months later, they both died in a crossfire between the Colombian Army and the Marxist guerrillas. David wrote, “I will praise you as long as I live.” Tim and Steve did just that and now rejoice in His presence. Insight: We are called to praise and worship the Lord each day with our lips and our lives – wherever He asks us to serve Him. **************************************************

Celebration of Praise
Scripture Focus: Psalm 89:5-8 “The heavens praise your wonders, O Lord, your faithfulness too … For who in the skies above can compare with the Lord? Who is like the Lord among the heavenly beings?” (Psalm 89:5-6). -----------------------------------------------------------------------Recently our daughter spoke to her youth group about the challenge of living on the mission field as a missionary kid (MK). She read her testimony: “My name is Deanna and I am a MK in Colombia, South America, the most violent country in this hemisphere. I am neither a martyr nor a saint and do not even get A’s in school. I am just an average 16-yearold living in this hurting world. I want to share something that is really important to me.

There have been many hard journeys that I have had to fact, but when I look back I thank God for every single one of them…. Just the other night, I met with some other MKs who are hurting, and we started to pray for revival to break out in my school. At the end of the meeting we all sensed the presence of the Lord in our midst. I don’t know what the future of this world holds, but I do know that I want to spend every second of every day glorifying and praising my wonderful and awesome heavenly Father for giving me the opportunity to serve and live for him.” Insight: We do not have to live in a dangerous country in order to celebrate God’s goodness. He takes care of His children everywhere. **************************************************

Let Him Hear Your Joy
Scripture Focus: Psalm 100 “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. … Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise” (Psalm 100:1-2,4). -----------------------------------------------------------------------In just a few weeks, million of television sets around the globe will invite a trancelike devotion from avid football fans. As the Super Bowl unfolds, some will whoop with delight; others will groan in frustration. In spite of the passion of the fans, a few people will be oblivious to the game. “Who won?” they’ll ask at the end. It’s not hard to spot a true fan. The same holds true in worship. People with a passion for God, like the writer of today’s psalm, can’t hold it in. They burst with enthusiasm. They invite the whole world to join them in joyful praise. Notice the way they tell us to worship – “Shout for joy,” “worship with gladness,” and “come before Him with joyful songs.” There’s a time to be still and know that the Lord is God, but there’s also a time to throw away our self-imposed restraint and lavish God with expressions of delight and gratitude. Sunday, as you gather with other believers around the timeless story

of our Creator and Shepherd, let Him hear your joy. Insight: God desires and deserves our wholehearted praise. Let your delight show in the way you sing to Him and serve Him. **************************************************

God's Eternal Love
Scripture Focus: Psalm 117:1-118:19 “Praise the Lord, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples. For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord” (Psalm 117). -----------------------------------------------------------------------In Greek Mythology people worshipped multiple gods. They had a god for the moon, a god for the sun, a god for the wind, and a god for …. Well, you get the message. Some of the gods were moral and some were immoral, and sometimes they exchanged those characteristics. Ancient people had to keep up with the horoscope to determine which gods were doing what, when, or how. Christians are blessed because our God is always the same – yesterday, today, and tomorrow (Hebrews 13:8). God is always moral, righteous, and holy. He loves us and is faithful all the time. God has unlimited resources to meet our needs. Wherever we go, He is there. While we meditate on God and contemplate His greatness, love, and faithfulness, our hearts are moved to offer Him praise. No matter what you face toady, you can count on three certainties: God is great. He is faithful. He loves you. Insight: How glorious to know that God’s love endures forever. He not only loves you, but delivered His love in the person of Jesus Christ. What a mighty God you serve! **************************************************

God Our Sustainer
Scripture Focus:

Psalm 139:13-18 “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (Psalm 139:13-14).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------In His power and presence, God begins the process of creating a person when a woman conceives. Imagine how difficult it must be to create a person! All parts must fit in the right place and must function in accordance with an intricate design. The Scriptures give us a picture of a benevolent Father knitting and weaving a child into existence. God breathes the breath of life into newly developed lungs, and hands the infant to its mother for further nurture and care. The immune system that God designed in each person works to ensure that people remain healthy. This system works well in an involuntary way, even when we aren’t aware of activity in our bodies. But the fall of mankind scheduled an appointment with death for each person. Our Creator took this into consideration when we were “fearfully and wonderfully make.” God breathed a living soul into each person’s breast. The sol is an eternal spiritual person. The beauty of salvation is that we never stop living. Insight: Praise God for His loving kindness in supplying our needs and blessing our time on earth. **************************************************

The Solid Rock
Scripture Focus: Psalm 144:1-10 “Praise be to the Lord my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle” (Psalm 144:1). “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge” (Psalm 18:2).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------An insurance company uses a large, immovable rock as a corporate symbol of trustworthiness and security. A huge, steadfast rock poses a powerful image. In our

world, everything constantly changes. As a result, many people are attracted to something they can depend on, something that will be immediately available when needed in time of stress. David understood he could depend on the Lord as steadfast and reliable. He faced many battles and changes throughout his life, yet he looked to God to give him strength and help him face those challenges. Our battles are different than David’s, but they make us struggle, nonetheless. When we face loneliness, aging, or sickness, we wonder where to turn. The Lord is our Rock. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow (Hebrews 13:8). He is steadfast and trustworthy. He will never fail us. Let’s join David in giving praise to the Lord, our solid Rock. Insight: Where do you turn to face the battles of life? Turn to the Lord, your Rock. Praise Him for being steadfast. **************************************************

God is My Salvation
Scripture Focus: Isaiah 12:1-6 "I will praise you, O Lord…Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord, is my strength and my song. He has become my salvation" (Isaiah 12:1-2).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------God is always merciful and is not willing that anyone should perish (2 Peter 3:9). However, God is angry about the wicked and their disobedient, selfish attitude toward sin. Yet, He will forgive them and give them abundant life if they call on the name of Jesus and forsake their sin. Have you ever felt that God was angry with you because of a habit or behavior that you could not quit? We believers struggle to find victory and sometimes are driven to despair. Years may pass before we find spiritual deliverance in spite of our insistent prayers. We are robbed of our joy and approach God cautiously, like a disobedient puppy approaching its master. The only relief comes through a spiritually charged relationship with the Lord and a renewed commitment to change our behavior.

We know from the Bible that the earnest and persistent prayers of believers are always before God. What joy we experience when victory arrives and displaces our frustration with satisfaction! Insight: Isaiah proclaimed: "The glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it" (Isaiah 40:5). Are you looking forward to that day? **************************************************

Competing for Glory
Scripture Focus: Isaiah 42:5-9 "I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols" (Isaiah 42:8). "How can I let myself be defamed? I will not yield my glory to another” (Isaiah 48:11).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Following the soccer tournament, children from the losing team walked slowly off the field, looking dejected. "Everyone's a winner," their coach repeated as he reminded them that win or lose, playing the game has value. Many people believe that the same perspective applies to worship. "Believe as you see fit - faith has its own reward." This viewpoint, called pluralism, promotes the idea that all opinions are equally valid. In fact, we're told that above all, we must never declare one faith right and another wrong. In its quest to eliminate all competition between differing viewpoints, pluralism has created a worldview that directly competes with God. He declares that He alone is God and there is no other. Through the prophet Isaiah, God issued a challenge to all other "gods" to prove that they can hear and act and display knowledge - that they exist. God pronounced all competitors false and not gods at all. He alone is God. He alone is worthy of praise, and He will not share His glory with another. Insight: The God of the Bible alone is worthy of praise. We must not be ashamed of the exclusive claims of Christianity, but proclaim His unique glory to the world. **************************************************

Hope in Darkness
Scripture Focus: Lamentations 3:22-23 "Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:2223).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------When Jeremiah, author of Lamentations, proclaimed the Word of the Lord, it brought him floggings, near-death experiences, deep rejection, and hurt. He was broken. Jeremiah felt that he was at the end of his endurance. At the bottom of his pit in life, Jeremiah focused on the faithfulness of God. He went on to say, "The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him" (verse 25). This happens to all of us at some point in life. Suddenly, and without the slightest warning, darkness can fall on our lives. Death can come to someone we love. The destruction of our neighborhoods or houses by fire, flood, wind, earthquake, or war, can lurk in the future. Our financial position can collapse with shifting market value. Our lives can fall apart. Will we be ready? In the center of his pain, Jeremiah was able to praise God. God is good and He remains faithful. When you experience a pit in life, remember God's love and faithfulness. Think of how faithfully He has cared for you in the past. Praise Him! Insight: Hope in Christ shines even amid pain and deep grief. It may seem faint at times, but it will be refreshed daily by the Lord, for He is faithful. **************************************************

The Light of the World
Scripture Focus: Matthew 5:13-18 "You are the light of the world. . . . In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:14, 16).

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Twelve-year-old David trudged through the freshly fallen snow to shovel the walkway for an elderly man who lives near his church. David will not be paid. He won't even get a thank-you for his efforts. But he hopes that this kind deed will warm the man's heart to learn about Jesus. Jesus referred to actions like David’s when He taught today's verse to His followers. Not only did Jesus challenge them to be "the light of the world," but He gave them a goal for shining their lights before others: "so that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." We don’t know how many times David will shovel the sidewalk before that elderly man begins to see light of Jesus through his actions. But Jesus challenges us to persevere in letting our light shine for Him. We can let our lights shine by calling someone who's alone, or sending a card to one who's ill, or loaning a tool to a new neighbor. Let's find ways to let our lights shine so others will see our good deeds and praise our Father in heaven. Insight: Help others see God at work in your life so that they will praise Him. Let your light shine brightly to those around you. **************************************************

What a Waste!
Scripture Focus: Mark 14:1-11 "Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, `Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year's wages and the money given to the poor’” (Mark 14:4-5).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------A broken heirloom lay on the floor and an overwhelming fragrance, sweet as nectar, hung in the air. Mary had poured out an entire bottle of rare ointment on Jesus - the whole thing! Even if someone saved a year's wages it would barely cover the cost to replace it. It didn’t take long for the pragmatic people in the room to recover from the shock. They began to snipe among themselves, "Why this waste of perfume?" They had a point. Selling such a treasure and giving away the money would have helped a lot

of people. Jesus immediately defended Mary. “Leave her alone. Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me" (verse 6). We need this lesson about the values of Jesus’ kingdom. What is wasteful to some is beautiful to Him. Thrifty stewardship and faithful discipleship often travel hand-inhand. But sometimes our desire to show gratitude to Jesus will lead us to ignore balance sheets and bottom lines. When that happens, forget the critics and break open your treasured gift at His feet. Insight: Sometimes a measured response to the infinite love of God seems cheap. Don't resist the Spirit's prompting to show your gratitude in unusual ways. **************************************************

In Praise of Innocence
Scripture Focus: Luke 23:44-49 "Now when the centurion saw what had happened, he began praising God, saying, ‘Certainly this man was innocent'" (Luke 23:47, NASB).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------He had seen countless criminals nailed to a cross. But this "criminal" was significantly different. The centurion in charge of Jesus' crucifixion was impressed with who Jesus was and how He died. The foreboding darkness at high noon and the violent earthquake did not escape the centurion's notice. But Jesus' command over His own death riveted the attention of this commander of one hundred soldiers. In full control, Jesus called out with a loud voice, "Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit." He confidently entrusted His spirit to the Father's care. God granted the Gentile centurion unusual sensitivity to the character of Jesus. Awestruck, he praised God and said, "Certainly this man was innocent." In Chapter 23, Luke emphasizes Jesus’ innocence - with the testimonies of Pilate, Herod, and the thief on the cross (verses 14-15, 41). Convinced of Jesus' innocence, the centurion praised God. Are you convinced of His innocence? When

was the last time you praised God for His spotless Lamb? Insight: Faith in the Innocent One frees us from guilt. This is cause for praise! Take time to praise Him throughout the day. **************************************************

God's Promises; Our Praises
Scripture Focus: Luke 24:50-53 "While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God” (Luke 24:51-53).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------The Bible is filled with commands to praise the Lord. But why commands? One would think a follower of Jesus would want to praise Him. In reality, many Christians seldom utter the phrase, "Praise the Lord!" Are they deliberately disobedient? I don't think so. Most likely, they have lost sight of God's precious promises. Before Jesus ascended into heaven, He reminded His followers, "I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high" (verse 49). Jesus was referring to the promised Holy Spirit who would indwell all true believers. Why were Jesus’ followers so joyful? Because they anticipated the promised Spirit of Christ. They stayed at the temple, praising God (verse 53). Have you lost sight of God’s precious promises? Ask Him to give you the joy of rediscovery. Search for them in the Scriptures. Memorize them. Pray them back to God and claim them as your own. Then deliberately praise Him with your heart and your lips. Insight: "Praise the Lord!" is a command to be obeyed and a privilege to be enjoyed. Praise God today for His precious promises. **************************************************

Praise in Peril
Scripture Focus: Acts 16:25-34 "He put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:24-25).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Testimony times in worship services stir our hearts to worship because of the many exciting things God accomplishes in people's lives. Praise the Lord! Seldom, however, do the testimonies praise God in the midst of a crisis or difficulty. We are quick to thank God when good things happen. But do we also thank Him when times are hard? The ability to praise God in the midst of peril reveals the depth of our praise reservoir. The lives of Paul and Silas overflowed in a spirit of praise. Picture the scene of their late night praise and testimony time. It occurred, of all places, in a jail cell. Earlier that day they had been severely flogged, and now they were fastened in the stocks. Though times looked desperate, Paul and Silas saw it as a time to worship God. They had learned to praise in peril. God miraculously freed them through an earthquake and the jailer and his household came to believe in the Lord Jesus. Indeed, praise God! Insight: Have you thanked God today for lighting up your life and for giving you His Word to light up the path you walk for Him each day? **************************************************

Adopted by God
Scripture Focus: Ephesians 1:3-10 "In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in

accordance with his pleasure and will - to the praise of his glorious grace" (Ephesians 1:5-6).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------We had a family portrait taken shortly before my father died. Mom and Dad are surrounded by four couples - my sister, my brothers, and I, and our spouses. In the center, straddling Mom and Dad's knees, is two-year-old Matt - their first grandchild.

The scene may sound typical, but if I showed you the picture, you'd quickly conclude someone doesn't fit - little Matt. His skin color is different from the rest of the family. As an adopted child, he may not have our genes, but he does have our hearts. We love Matt as if he were one of the family, because he is one of the family. The portrait of God’s household shows a similar "mismatch." None of His earthly children belong in the picture. Each of us came into His family by adoption. Though "we were by nature objects of wrath" (2:3), God now has us in His heart. He treated us like family, because we are family. Try using Paul's prayer in Ephesians 1 to guide you in praising God for the blessing you enjoy as His child. Insight: Praise God for forgiving your sins and setting you free, but His most amazing gift may be adopting you as His child. **************************************************

Energizing our Prayers
Scripture Focus: Philemon 1-7 "I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, because I hear about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all saints” (Philemon 4-5).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------If we were honest, we'd probably have to admit that sometimes we don't feel like praising God. Our worship reduces to a whimper. When writing the letter to Philemon, Paul's praise perspective is energized by reflections on his friend. Paul asks Philemon to forgive his runaway slave Onesimus

who, during his escape, caused significant difficulties. As Paul begins the letter, he recalls his prayers for his friend. Paul could go before God with a heart of thanksgiving because of Philemon's faith and love. Those vital traits help us forgive. But what is more, they invigorate our prayers with thanksgiving. It is interesting to note that Paul had heard of these virtues in Philemon. It appears that Philemon regularly manifested these character traits. When our praise perspective needs a boost, perhaps we should try opening our eyes and ears to God's work through other people. When we see or hear expressions of faith, love, or other virtues, we should pray for others and give praise and glory to God. Insight: Let's be on alert, looking and listening for acts of faith and love. Then let's use these to energize our personal praise perspective. **************************************************

Complaint or Praise?
Scripture Focus: James 5:13-16 "Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise" (James 5:13). "I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips” (Psalm 34:1).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------It seems natural to behave according to the situations that surround us. If we have abundance of natural resources, contentment characterizes our outlook. If we lack the necessities of life, sorrow and anxiety often fill our existence. What is God’s attitude toward this behavior? According to James, God wants us to look to Him in prayer regardless of our surroundings. If we suffer because we lack our daily support, we should look to our Father in prayer, trusting Him to keep His promises to us. If we have received gracious gifts, we should praise Him. Remember Job in the Old Testament? He received many blessings from God, and he praised Him. Later, afflictions from God visited him. He didn't complain against God, but still praised Him.

Today we remember Job as a man of whom God spoke well - because of his attitude. How does God appraise us? Let’s start today looking to God in prayer - and praise - regardless of our circumstances. Insight: Praise God, knowing that your life is not controlled by circumstances below, but by power from above. **************************************************

Praise for Amazing Grace
Scripture Focus: 1 Peter 1:3-12 "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Words like those from the classic hymn “Amazing Grace” fill Christians with an inexpressible and glorious joy (verse 8). Peter understood such euphoria and called for praise from those who know Jesus. Let’s look at phrases Peter used that tie in with the hymn: Mercy – we deserved punishment but God showered us with forgiveness. Amazing grace how sweet the sound. New Birth – we were dead, but in Christ we are alive. And we can continually experience renewal of life by walking with Him. That saved a wretch like me. Living Hope – our lives are not based on a temporal desire for good times. No! Our lives look to a life with a promise of eternal glory and peace. I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see. Peter notes that the great servants of the Old Testament did not see the fulfillment of salvation in Christ. Not even angels, who praise Him at the beginning of creation, understood what God does through new life in Christ. But we know. And so we praise!

Insight: Salvation may be the greatest reason you praise God. May that reality fill your heart with worship today. **************************************************

Better Than Gold
Scripture Focus: 1 Peter 1:6-9 "These have come so that your faith - of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire - may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Peter 1:7).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------One important challenge Christians have to face is accepting the possibility of experiencing joy, even when things do not turn out as they would like. Is this your problem? Evidently the church in Asia Minor was suffering all kinds of trials. Peter urged them to see beyond their present trials. Sometimes we worry ourselves sick over imaginary situations that never eventuate. What a waste of time and energy! Peter stresses the fact that even though faith may be tested, praise and honor result. He used an illustration understood by his readers when he told them that the refiner's fire was heated to purify the gold. Without heat, the dross would not separate and leave the gold in its purest form. James expressed a similar truth, "knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance " (James 1:3, NASB). Suffering is not something we choose, but the end result is a life of praise, honor and glory. Insight: When you are hurting, ask the Lord to help you see the bigger picture one that includes Him in your life. **************************************************

A Contemptuous Title
Scripture Focus:

1 Peter 4:12-19 "However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name" (1 Peter 4:16).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Ugly signs once peered out of windows in restaurants and shops throughout our country. Though small, these signs communicated a large message of hatred and bigotry: "Whites only." Followers of Christ were first called "Christians" in a similar era. Opponents coined the title as a sneering expression of contempt. They thought the label alone justified hatred and hostility. Peter wrote to encourage his friends to stand fast in the fire. Storm clouds of persecution gathered on the horizon. Soon all that bore that name would suffer. He challenged them to remember that suffering is not a foreign intrusion into the Christian experience. Indeed, Jesus Himself taught that all who identify with Him would suffer. In our culture, the title Christian bears little stigma. It has achieved social acceptability. However, we who live with the passionate commitment that Christ demands and deserves will face opposition. Our response? We must joyfully praise God for the privilege of suffering for Him. Insight: Thank God for the privilege of serving Christ. Determine that you will magnify Him through your life, in times of happiness and times of pain. **************************************************

Perspective for Praise
Scripture Focus: Revelation 5:11-14 "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!" (Revelation 5:13).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------I don't like ping-pong - especially when I'm the ball. I try to keep my patience when people bounce me back and forth from one office to another as I search for the manager who can authorize something for me. It happens on the phone too. "No, I

cannot help you. Call this number…." Ping-pong, ping-pong. I try to keep a positive perspective. I praise God because only on earth can people play ping-pong with me. The red tape reminds me that God's perfect rule is coming soon. “The Lamb on the throne” clearly refers to the absolute, perfect authority of Jesus' rule. It marks the beginning of a new era. Past are the headaches caused by bureaucracy and red tape. Ahead is the unending scope of God's righteous reign, the uncomplicated journey with Him into eternity, the time when everything that should be done gets done. No wonder every creature in heaven and on earth sings praises to the Lamb on the throne. Praise God! Insight: Turn your frustration into a confident prayer of hope the next time someone wants to play ping-pong with your life. **************************************************

Our Heavenly Employment
Scripture Focus: Revelation 19:5-6 "Then a voice came from the throne, saying: `Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, both small and great!'" (Revelation 19:5).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------For the person who wants to work, an extended period of unemployment is misery. Sadly, some people conceive of heaven as a place of perpetual idleness. What will be our heavenly employment status? In John’s vision, an authoritative voice came from the heavenly throne room, saying, "Praise our God, all you his servants." Every one of God's saved servants will have a job in heaven. Our chief occupation will be to praise Him. In this world, privileges are often reserve for those with social standing, political power, or wealth. But in heaven, the privilege of praise will extend to "both small and great!" God is an equal opportunity employer. Each servant will enjoy perpetual job satisfaction and eternal benefits. Praise helps us here and now. It increases our faith and gives us a heavenly

perspective. Praise makes us aware of God's presence and causes the devil to flee. It can be a testimony to other Christians. Praise can help lead someone to faith in Jesus. Insight: Since praising God will be our heavenly occupation, why not get on-the-job training now? Praise displaces earthly concerns with heavenly desires. **************************************************

Night is Not Forever
Scripture Focus: Revelation 22:1-7 "There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light…Behold, I am coming soon!” (Revelation 22:5,7).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------A dark room can be a frightening place for children. Many adults are also afraid of the dark. This fear is not imaginary, but real - and for valid reasons. Dangers lurk in the shadows. A spiritually dark world can also frighten us at times. Jesus tells us that the world is dark, but He came to be the light of the world. However, "Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed" (John 3:20). Darkness symbolizes evil. Light is good. Jesus told us to let our lights shine in this world (Matthew 5:16). But brightening up this world is difficult. In Christ, God promises us another world - one that is not dark. The home that Jesus is preparing for His followers contains no pain, no suffering, no darkness. Praise God for the light that He has prepared for us in heaven. The light of heaven is God Himself. Ponder it and praise Him daily. There will be no fear of shadows, because there will be no more night! Insight: God is Himself our light and heaven is our hope. He will give you grace to beam His light into the world until Jesus returns. **************************************************

The God-Man
Scripture Focus: John 14:6-11 "Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness" (Philippians 2:6-7).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------It was God's perfect plan - to send His Son to completely man. That's an oxymoron. God and man are opposites, but God delights in paradox. He specializes in the unexpected. It was simple for Him, "For nothing is impossible with God" (Luke 1:37). But His plan boggles the human mind. God knew there was no other way to bridge the gap that sin had made between people and God. His Son was the only One who could save us, so God didn't hesitate to put His plan into action. He was not sending His Son in spite of people's sinfulness, but because of it. A baby with a human mother and a Heavenly Father was the only solution for our sin problem. If the baby were born to a human mother and father, He would be as imperfect and sinful as the rest of us, not a fit sacrifice for anyone's sins. On the other hand, if He were only divine, He couldn't do the work necessary for redemption. Only a God-Man could do the job. And He did. INSIGHT: That God would plan to sacrifice His only Son for my eternal benefit overwhelms me. I'll never understand it, but I joyfully accept it. Have you accepted it? **************************************************

Born of a Woman
Scripture Focus: Galatians 3:26 4:5 "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel" (Isaiah 7:14).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------We read in the Old Testament about the problems of King Ahaz. As the prophet Isaiah told him what God wanted him to do, suddenly, a clear prophecy about Jesus Christ was given! Did Ahaz realize what he was hearing? Did he understand that God was giving him details about the coming Messiah? Many years later, Matthew

quoted that Old Testament statement in his Gospel, noting that Jesus, God's Son, fulfilled that prophecy when He was born to the virgin Mary (Matthew 1:22-23). Mary, the imperfect but dedicated woman of earth, was a vital part of God's plan for redemption. She gave Him humanity that allowed Him to identify with our needs and our joys. Only a man born of a woman could later be described as one "who has been tempted in every way, just as we are" (Hebrews 4:15). James made it clear that God could never be tempted (James 1:13). But only God could remain without sin in the midst of temptation. And He stands ready to help us today when we are tempted. INSIGHT: Someone has said that Jesus, the only man who never sinned, is the only man who will bear the marks of sin in His body for eternity. The marks of our sin, that is. **************************************************

Descended from David
Scripture Focus: Psalm 89:30-37 "Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness" (Isaiah 9:7).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Was it just an accident that Jesus was born into the line of David, Israel's favorite king? Of course not! God engineered it, promising David hundreds of years before Jesus' birth, "Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever" (2 Samuel 7:16). David was an extraordinary king; anointed as a mere youth, a great warrior, a compassionate leader, a loyal friend, a man after God's own heart! In fact, he displayed many of the characteristics of the Savior who would follow in his line many years later. They were both misunderstood by those in high authority who were jealous of them, but loved and revered by those in need. There was, of course, a major difference between them. David was a sinner; Jesus was the perfect sacrifice for sin. There's God's paradox: Jesus, made mortal through the line of Israel's greatest king, was the one who gave that king immortality. God's perfect plan of redemption works forwards and backwards!

INSIGHT: David asked God for His way and His truth (see Psalm 25). Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth" (John 14:6). He was that for David, and He is that for you. **************************************************

An Earthy Beginning
Scripture Focus: Luke 2:1-7 "The time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn" (Luke 2:6-7).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------The story of Jesus' birth is so familiar it has become almost like a fairy tale to many people. Children can tell the story with all the warm, fuzzy details: the tired, pregnant woman riding on a donkey to Bethlehem; her husband knocking on the doors of all the inns in town, being turned away until finally a kind innkeeper tells him they can spend the night in his stable; the baby lying in the sweet-smelling hay with animals looking on in wonder, and a star shining brightly overhead. However, some of those details are not in the Bible. Where do we read that Mary rode on a donkey? And maybe there was only one inn in town! Sweet smelling hay in the stable? Have you ever been in a barn with animals in it? Did a special star shine over the stable that night? The star led the wise men to the house where Jesus was - two years later! Jesus’ birth was an event with earthy smells, pain, and discomfort - a rough beginning for a baby who would experience an even rougher ending. It was God's way of saving a world of rough sinners. INSIGHT: May we never get so wrapped up in the details of His birth that we miss the focal point of it all - Jesus, the Way, in a manger. The only Way for any of us. **************************************************

A King in Disguise
Scripture Focus:

Matthew 2:1-12 "After Jesus was born . . . Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, `Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him’" (Matthew 2:1-2).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------A popular Christmas song asks, "How Should a King Come?" The wise men thought the answer was obvious - in a royal palace with the best of everything. That's why when they looked for a new King of the Jews, they went to the Jewish capital city, Jerusalem. But that, of course, was not the place to find God's Son. It's true that He was a king, but not the kind of king people were expecting. A king, no matter how gracious and interested in his people, is separated from them by his exalted position. Jesus came to earth to bridge that kind of gap between God and people. The wise men expected to find Jesus in a place of power and grandeur, but they immediately recognized Him for who He was when they found Him in a simple house in a small village. He may not have looked like a king, but they gave him gifts fit for a king. They saw Him with eyes of faith. Many people never saw past Jesus’ disguise; others were upset by it. A few saw His heart, and knew He was a king the world had never seen before. INSIGHT: Isn't it amazing that what Jesus, God's Son, King of all the earth, wants most is to be King of our hearts? **************************************************

A Fugitive
Scripture Focus: Matthew 2:13-23 "An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. `Get up,' he said, `take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt . . . for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him’" (Matthew 2:13).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Throughout Jesus' life on earth Satan did his best to get rid of Him to thwart God's plan of redemption. It started when Jesus was just a toddler. One day He was

receiving expensive gifts from Eastern visitors; the next day he was running for His life. God warned Joseph to take Mary and the child and get out of Bethlehem before Herod's soldiers came to kill Jesus. Joseph didn't waste any time, but quietly left at night. Soon Herod realized that the wise men were not going to report back to him about where to find the baby he considered such a threat to his career. With an astounding disregard for human life, he ordered his soldiers to go to Bethlehem and kill all the boys two years old and under, assuming that Jesus would be among them. But Satan’s plan didn’t work. Jesus was safe. It wouldn't be the last time Jesus' life was in danger. Satan didn't give up until he accomplished what he had set out to do. But Jesus' death didn't end God's plan - it fulfilled it! INSIGHT: Satan has plans for us. Thank God, His plans are greater, and so is His power to save us! **************************************************

Prince of Peace
Scripture Focus: Ephesians 2:13-22 "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid" (John 14:27).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------The concept of Jesus as the Prince of Peace has never been clear to most people. Like the Jews of old, many today think Jesus came to stop all fighting and disharmony on earth. But Jesus Himself explained that His peace is not like the peace the world gives. A popular song says, "Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me." I would sing, "Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin in me." Why the distinction? Jesus, the Prince of Peace, came to make it possible for us to have peace with God. The peace He brings is an inner peace of heart and soul. If everyone's heart was at peace with God, peace between nations and individuals wouldn't be a problem. Peace between people is a natural outgrowth of their individual peace with God. Jesus encouraged us to live peaceably with one another. And Paul said, "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone" (Romans 12:18). He knew there would never be total peace on earth until Jesus comes again to

rule. INSIGHT: The best way we can promote world peace is to share the message of God's love through Jesus Christ with as many people as we can while we're here. **************************************************

Wonderful Counselor
Scripture Focus: Psalm 16:7-11 "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God . . ." (Isaiah 9:6).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Lord, You are my Counselor, the One that I run to when I'm confused, discouraged, and don't know what to do. When my adrenaline's pumping from busyness or stress, I remember that You said, "Come; I'll give you rest." When I have choices but can't seem to get my mind in gear, I talk to You and, somehow, You make the answers clear. When I'm feeling fragile and my self-esteem is shot, You tell me that You love me - I guess I just forgot. Your Word's my daily guidebook; what would I do without it? It truly lights my pathway. There's just no doubt about it! How do those who don't know You get along each day? Who gives them advice about what to do and say? You're the perfect Counselor; Your counsel's always true. I can't imagine what my life would be like without You. INSIGHT: Your Counselor's office hours are 24 hours a day. In fact, He's with you all the time to give you all the help you need to live for Him.

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Son of Man
Scripture Focus: Luke 2:41-52 "Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. `Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?' they asked. `Isn't this the carpenter's son?’" (Matthew 13:54-55) -----------------------------------------------------------------------When people in His hometown heard Jesus teaching God's Word with authority, they didn't connect Him with His true Father, God, but with his earthly stepfather, Joseph. And why not? The Bible tells us that Jesus treated Joseph like His true Father and obeyed him and His mother, Mary. Jesus, the Son of God, put Himself in a position of obeying people that He created. He was perfect and sinless; they were imperfect and sinful, like every other human. But God trusted them to raise His only Son, and it was Jesus' responsibility to love, honor, and obey them as any son would. Jesus learned from them what it meant to be a created being. How often He must have had scrapes and cuts and sore muscles working in the carpenter's shop with Joseph. As He hammered nails into boards, did He think about the nails that would one day be hammered into His hands? How frustrating it must have been for Him to live in a fragile human body, to get tired and hungry and sweaty, for the limitless Creator to be a limited Son of man. INSIGHT: Because of our sin, Jesus became vulnerable to pain, weakness, and death. But His resurrection brought us victory forever. **************************************************

Tempted Like Me
Scripture Focus: Luke 4:1-13 "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are -yet was without sin" (Hebrews 4:15).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------We don't like to think that Jesus was truly tempted. It sounds too much like sin, even though He never yielded to temptation. Don't we almost look on temptation as sin? We feel ashamed when we have been enticed, even if we don't give in. But temptation is a normal part of life on this earth. No one is exempt from temptation of some kind. That’s why Jesus began Him ministry facing Satan's lures. He wasn't going to go away. Jesus' temptation was not an easy experience for Him. We may picture Him quickly answering Satan's propositions with majestic indifference to sin, but the writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus "suffered when he was tempted" (2:18). Fighting temptation can be physical and mental anguish. When His confrontation with Satan was over, "angels came and attended him" (Matthew 4:11). No, it wasn't easy for Him, and it guaranteed that He would understand how hard it is for us. "Pray that you will not fall into temptation, " He told His sleepy disciples (Luke 22:40). He understands. He's been there. INSIGHT: Jesus' temptation was not an isolated incident. He faced and

conquered temptations every day, and so can we as we depend on Him to help us resist.
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Messiah for the Masses
Scripture Focus: Luke 2:8-20 "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls" (Matthew 11:28-29). -----------------------------------------------------------------------When Jesus arrived on this planet, the announcement of His birth was not made to the high and mighty, the wealthy and privileged. No, the first to hear of it were shepherds in the fields, guarding their sheep. Shepherds were low on the social scale. Nobody considered them important enough to receive word of a new king, let alone be the first! But God did, because Jesus came to be God with everyday, average people. He could not have reached them if He had been born in a palace, pampered and protected from the real world. So He was born in a stable, and His first visitors were shepherds with calloused hands and sunburned skin.

When He taught, He used stories and descriptions of the hard, working-class lives average people lived. He spoke of burdens and weariness, hunger and thirst, pain and suffering - things so familiar to most in His audience. They had given up hope, but Jesus brought them hope, not by offering them financial assistance or easier workloads, but by telling them how to have peace with God. INSIGHT: Jesus promised, "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10). Life can be full only when He is in charge of it. **************************************************

The Storyteller
Scripture Focus: Luke 8:4-18 "Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables. . . . So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet: `I will open my mouth in parables. I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world" (Matthew 13:34-35). -----------------------------------------------------------------------The great God of the universe came to earth and spoke directly to people. In a mighty, thundering voice with powerful words and angelic music? No, with stories! Jesus was a terrific storyteller. He spoke powerful words with vital truths couched in simple stories about everyday life. And the people loved it. They came in droves to see if He would perform a miracle, but they stayed to listen to His stories. Did they grasp the amazing truth they were hearing as they listened to the story of the Good Samaritan? Did they understand the point of the Sower and the Seed? Did they recognize that the father who waited for his Lost Son was actually the Heavenly Father who waited for them? Even Jesus' closest friends often didn't get it, but He patiently explained the hidden truths. The Pharisees listened to His stories critically and only understood enough to realize that He was sometimes talking about them. The stories worked then, and still do, because Jesus knows how we learn and what we need to know. INSIGHT: How thankful we should be that Jesus' stories of "things hidden since the creation of the world" were written down to instruct us. **************************************************

Gentle Jesus
Scripture Focus: Isaiah 42:1-7 "He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young" (Isaiah 40:11).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------An old children's hymn refers to God's Son as "Gentle Jesus, Meek and Mild." Maybe the song is no longer popular because we have a somewhat different image of Him these days. The classic paintings of a mild, fragile, other-worldly looking Jesus have been replaced with images of a vigorous man with muscles and energy and personality. Whatever His physical attributes were, we know Jesus was a gentle man. He wasn't afraid to shed tears in public or hug children or tell His friends He loved them. He rarely displayed anger or impatience, and seemed always to have time for those who came to Him in need. His gentleness was misinterpreted by some as weakness. He didn't react the way they wanted Him to. He didn't push people or try to control them. He taught them God's truths, then let them choose whether or not to believe Him. He didn't argue with His enemies, but merely pointed out how far they were from God's will. He quietly demonstrated the fruit of the Spirit in every aspect of His life. INSIGHT: When you think about Jesus' gentleness and patience with people, do you want to treat others more gently for His sake? **************************************************

An Obedient Son
Scripture Focus: Isaiah 50:4-9 "I will not speak with you much longer, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on me, but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me" (John 14:30-31).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------God's plan of redemption was totally tied up in His Son's obedience of an impossible assignment. Jesus was to leave His perfect existence in heaven, be born as a human baby in a dirty cattle stall, grow up in a poor family in a despised town, teach crowds of ignorant people and heal their physical problems, face almost constant opposition and persecution resulting in a humiliating, undeserved death, be buried in a borrowed tomb, then come back to life and spend another 40 days teaching His followers, many of whom would understand little of what He had tried to teach them! That may be a little harsh, but so was Jesus' life on earth. Do we take for granted what Jesus did for us? It can't have been easy, though He didn't complain. He simply obeyed His Father, every day in every way for his 33 years on earth. Who could blame Him when He asked God to spare Him some of the suffering, but vowed, "Not my will, but yours be done"? (Luke 22:42) His obedience made all the difference for you and me. INSIGHT: How can you fail to obey Him when His unselfish obedience has literally saved your life in every way that a life can be saved? **************************************************

God's Glory Revealed
Scripture Focus: Matthew 17:1-8 "He said to me, `You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will display my splendor. . . . I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring My salvation to the ends of the earth’" (Isaiah 49:3, 6).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------In Old Testament times God's glory was revealed in fire, thunder, lightning, and a thick cloud on a mountain with a trumpet blast (Exodus 19:16-19), and later in a cloud over the Tent of Meeting (40:34-35). In New Testament times God chose to reveal His glory in His Son. Peter, James, and John were terrified whey they saw their Friend and Teacher transformed. The blinding light that seemed to shine out from within Him and the Father`s voice speaking aloud His approval made them cower in fear, hiding their eyes from something they felt they should not see. Then suddenly they felt His

touch as Jesus told them, "Don't be afraid." And He was their Friend again. They had actually seen only a very small glimpse of God's glory. Jesus had told them that they would be able to see His full glory when He returned someday (see Matthew 16:27). It was a promise, not just for Jesus' disciples, but for all believers. As the old Gospel song says, "What a day, glorious day that will be!" INSIGHT: Isaiah proclaimed: "The glory of the Lord will be revealed and all mankind together will see it" (Isaiah 40:5). Are you looking forward to that day? **************************************************

The Good Shepherd
Scripture Focus: John 10:1-18 "He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth" (Micah 5:4).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Hundreds of years before Jesus was born, prophets described the Messiah as a Shepherd. Speaking to some faultfinding Pharisees one day, Jesus revealed that He was the Good Shepherd. Most people didn't understand what He was saying they thought he was mad! But others began to discern that there was more to this Teacher than met the eye. Maybe they should listen to Him more carefully. Actually, many of the Pharisees considered themselves shepherds of God`s people. But they certainly didn't act like caring shepherds. Jesus did. Had the Pharisees watched Jesus with uncritical eyes, they would have had to admit that He was indeed a true Shepherd. He spent His days loving people, caring for their needs, leading them to follow God, bringing the lost back to the fold, warning them of the danger around them, looking out for their best and eternal interests. But Jesus, the Good Shepherd, went far beyond the responsibilities of a shepherd. He gave His life for the sheep, so they'd never have to be lost again. INSIGHT: The concept of Jesus as our Shepherd is a reassuring, calming thought. Let it provide peace to your heart today.

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Suffered as We Do
Scripture Focus: Isaiah 53 "In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering" (Hebrews 2:10).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Once Adam and Eve lived an idyllic life in the Garden of Eden. Then they sinned, and suffering entered the world. Suffering is part of life on earth, and when Jesus came, for the most part, He submitted Himself to the restrictions of life on Planet Earth. He, who had created the human body, learned physical pain: backaches, sore feet, bee stings, headaches, and worse. How could He possibly understand us if He didn't make Himself vulnerable to weakness and pain? But Jesus didn't merely taste the bitter things of life; He drank deeply of physical pain and mental anguish far more than we ever will. The Bible speaks of His suffering in heart-rending words: He was crushed, stricken, cut off, despised and rejected, pierced, oppressed. Only when He had gone through all that, and even death itself, could He identify with us on the deepest level and meet the requirement for being our Savior and High Priest. Never again can we say, "Nobody understands what I'm going through!" Jesus understands completely. INSIGHT: Jesus not only understands and identifies with our problems, He also knows what to do about them! **************************************************

Friend of Outcasts
Scripture Focus: Luke 19:1-10 "But the Pharisees . . . complained to his disciples, `Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?' Jesus answered them . . . ‘I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance’" (Luke 5:30-31).

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Tax collectors, women with ruined reputations, Gentiles, poor fishermen and shepherds, Samaritans - they were outcasts as far as "the people who mattered" were concerned. They weren't worth bothering about. Yet these were the people Jesus befriended. He spent time with them, listened to them, and loved them when no one else would. He showed them that God's love was not just directed at the wealthy and the religious. In fact, Jesus said it was these obviously sinful people who had brought Him to earth. Suddenly, they had value! God cared about them, not because of who they were or what they could do for Him, but because He had created them and loved them as they were - warts and all. He even told stories that made poor beggars and despised Samaritans the heroes! The religious leaders couldn't understand it. They believed God was their exclusive property. He was not for these wretched outcasts! But Jesus proved they were wrong. God's love was for everyone - and it still is. INSIGHT: God isn't impressed by physical beauty or wealth or position. He loves you as much as He loves every other person because He made you. **************************************************

A Servant
Scripture Focus: John 13:1-17 "For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves" (Luke 22:27).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------People's attitudes about service have not changed much since New Testament times. It wasn't popular then to be a servant, and it isn't now. Who aspires to be on the bottom rung of the ladder? Jesus made some surprising statements about being a servant. He made it clear to everyone that He had come down to this earth to serve others. He said He had not come to be served, but to serve. It was obvious that His disciples didn't like it when Jesus talked about serving one another. And when He went so far as to kneel down before them to wash their dirty feet, Peter was horrified! Someone once said, “In heaven’s reckoning, the way up is down." Jesus' whole life

illustrated that concept. He put Himself in the position of having nothing, so He could give us everything. Perhaps we are hesitant to serve because we feel the need to prove our worth to others. We don't want to do anything that is "beneath" us. Nothing was "beneath" Jesus. His service said, "I want to do this for you because God loves you and so do I." INSIGHT: Are you spiritually crisp? Does your service crackle with the supernatural? If God is not in it, it's as soggy as yesterday's corn flakes! **************************************************

Misunderstood
Scripture Focus: Mark 3:20-35 "Many of them said, `He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?' But others said, ‘These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?’" (John 10:20-21)

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Jesus did things and made statements no one else ever had, and people’s reactions to Him varied. Some believed and recognized that He had come from God. But many refused to believe what He said and they misunderstood His motives. They accused God's Son of working for the devil! It wasn’t that Jesus ever did anything to support that accusation. It was just that when people refused to believe the truth, they had to come up with an alternate idea to explain Him, ridiculous as it was. Even His own family misunderstood Him. They came, at one point, as a group to "take charge of him." Did they, like many others, believe Jesus was an unbalanced religious fanatic who needed His family to take proper care of His needs since He wasn't taking care of them Himself? We don't have a clear picture of His family's opinion of Him except that Jesus' own brothers didn't believe in Him until much later. Jesus warned that those who believe in Him would be misunderstood. He knew what He was talking about.

INSIGHT: People still believe a lie more easily than the truth. But we must share the truth of Jesus Christ, whether we're misunderstood or not. That's what Jesus asks us to do. **************************************************

Available
Scripture Focus: Mark 5:21-42 "Little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them. Jesus said, `Let the little children come to me" (Matthew 19:13-14).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------It is a scene many artists have illustrated, and it often brings tears to the eyes: Jesus, surrounded by clamoring crowds of people including Pharisees, and a rich young man who is waiting anxiously to talk with Him; but the Savior is taking time to lovingly hold young children in His arms and bless them. It moves us because it reminds us of the Son of God's availability to each of us - young or old, poor or wealthy, VIP or "nobody." Jesus’ disciples wanted to carry on with the business at hand. No interruptions, please! But Jesus didn't have an agenda, except to share God's love with people. He knew He had only three years to accomplish what His Father had sent Him to earth to do, but He always had time for anyone who needed Him, day or night. A popular Gospel song says of Jesus, “He’s got all the time in the world." That's certainly true now, but even when He was living on borrowed time on earth He never turned people away. He still doesn't. He invites us to come, and He is always available. INSIGHT: If we Christians were available to needy people, as Jesus was, we would find a lot more individuals eager to listen to our witness of God's love. **************************************************

The Light of the World
Scripture Focus: John 1:4-12 "When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, `I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" (John 8:12).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------The wise men followed the light of a star to find Jesus, the Light of the World. They worshiped Him as Lord, but they couldn't have understood that the light He was bringing to the world would make that star look like the feeble glow of a flashlight with a weak battery. His light would change everything. People were stumbling around in the darkness of sin when the Light of Life suddenly appeared with the message, "Look at Me. I am proof that God loves you and wants to bring you into His light." Many people were not attracted to God’s light. They "loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil" (John 3:19). The light exposed their sinfulness. They couldn't hide any more. When people came to Jesus, His light showed up their faults and weaknesses. He didn't make people comfortable. He made them see what they were, but He also told them what they could become. “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned" (Isaiah 9:2). INSIGHT: Have you thanked God today for lighting up your life and for giving you His Word to light up the path you walk for Him each day? **************************************************

The Teacher
Scripture Focus: John 7:14-18 "When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his

teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law" (Matthew 7:28-29).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Jesus was a master Teacher. He used a variety of methods to communicate important truths clearly, concisely, and simply. And His everyday actions reinforced what He taught. That doesn’t mean, of course, that everyone understood or accepted what He taught. His lessons were often hard to take. He didn't say what people wanted to hear. He taught the truth, and the truth is sometimes a difficult pill to swallow. Jesus, like every teacher, had a tough schedule to follow. There were constant interruptions when He was teaching His core group of 12, and He often ended up speaking to hundreds, even thousands of people at a time, as crowds followed Him, afraid to miss anything. His classrooms were mountainsides and beaches, homes and synagogues, street corners and fishing boats. He could preach a fiery sermon, but He rarely did. He usually sat and talked, telling a story or two, but He taught with authority and knew His subject inside out. It was the subject of salvation, and He eventually gave His life for it. INSIGHT: As we read the Gospels, Jesus continues to teach us how to have eternal life and how to live every day of that life to glorify God. **************************************************

The Promise Keeper
Scripture Focus: John 14:1-6 "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------God promised that His Son would come to earth, and He came. He promised that Jesus would suffer and die for our sins, and He did. Jesus promised that He would defeat death and come back to life after three days, and He did. When Jesus makes a promise, He keeps it.

Jesus promised His disciples that He would prepare each of them - and us - a place in heaven. When the time was right He would return and take them - and us - to heaven to live with Him. He hasn't kept that promise yet, but He will. There's no reason to doubt Him. His record as Promise Keeper is perfect. Some of Jesus’ disciples may have expected Him to return during their lifetime, but He didn't. Every generation since then has lived with the possibility of His promise being fulfilled before they die, but He hasn't come. He has a good reason for not keeping His promise yet. He wants to give maximum time for more people to commit their lives to Him. He doesn't want to leave anyone behind. Jesus is a Promise Keeper, but He's also a merciful Savior. INSIGHT: Be prepared! Today could be the day Jesus keeps His promise to return. Is there someone you need to witness to before the time is up? **************************************************

Immanuel
Scripture Focus: Philippians 2:5-11 "All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: `The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel - which means, "God with us."’" (Matthew 1:22-23).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Jesus came to earth to be the God who is with us. He arrived quietly with no earthly fanfare, though heaven threw out all the stops with an angelic announcement to frightened shepherds. He experienced early that being God on earth came with numerous problems - physical restrictions and discomforts, rejection and misunderstanding, pain and suffering. He was hounded by unbelieving religious leaders and pursued by persistent crowds of needy people. His closest friends never understood Him and His enemies found fault with everything He did. But in fewer years than the average person had even in those times, Jesus walked and talked with people, helped them and healed them, raised the dead and raised controversy, bringing peace to the hearts of some and turmoil to many. He never failed to show God's love, reaching out to others even as He was dying. Jesus brought the mighty God of the universe down to take the hand of the blind beggar in the street. He lived and died and lived again to accomplish God's plan of redemption for you and me.

INSIGHT: No matter what we do for Jesus or what we give up for Him, it will never equal what He paid to redeem us. **************************************************

Rejected
Scripture Focus: Luke 4:14-30 "He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not" (Isaiah 53:3).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------The Son of God rejected by people? How dare they? He created them. The creator may reject his creation, but it had never happened the other way around! But that's what can happen when freedom of choice is part of the equation. God created man with a free will and man used it to spurn the One who loved him most. God knew when He set in action His plan of redemption that many would not accept it. The Old Testament prophet Isaiah described in detail how people would reject the Savior. That would be their choice. Salvation would be meaningless if people were forced to receive it. God intended it to be a free gift, though conversely, its very freeness would greatly limit the number of people who would accept it. Jesus knew long before He came to earth that rejection would be an everyday experience for Him. Yet in spite of the rejection, God's purpose was accomplished. You can reject God's plan, but you cannot stop it. INSIGHT: Jesus warned that believing in Him can bring rejection to us too. But He promised to give us strength and courage to face whatever comes. **************************************************

The Savior
Scripture Focus: Matthew 1:18-21 "This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance (and for this we labor

and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe" (1 Timothy 4:9-10).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------God said to His people, "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:9). So it should come as no surprise that when it came to the Savior, God was thinking one thing and people were thinking another. Many Jewish people were looking for a strong political leader to free them from Roman rule. Others wanted a Savior who would deliver them from sickness and physical difficulties. As usual, the people were thinking too small. God’s thoughts were much bigger. His plans were for a Savior who would deliver people from sin and spiritual death. He was looking at the needs of all people for all time, not just what the Jews thought they needed at that point in time. Obviously, God knew what we needed – a spiritual makeover that could come only through the substitutionary death of His sinless Son. Jesus the Savior didn't come to change the world around us, but to change us from the inside out. INSIGHT: God gave people what they needed rather than what they wanted. Even when you don't know what to ask for, He knows what you need. **************************************************

Son of God
Scripture Focus: John 5:16-27 "Heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, `This is my son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased’” (Matthew 3:16-17).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------The Trinity has always been a mystery that we cannot fully understand, but can only accept by faith. It's been a stumbling block to many, as it was to many Jews in Jesus' day. They refused to accept His close relationship with God. When Jesus referred to God as His own Father, it made them mad enough to kill Him! They could handle the idea that God is the Father of all, but when Jesus claimed equality with God, they accused Him of blasphemy.

Jesus consistently pointed out that it was impossible for Him to do anything except in dependence on His Father. The miracles He performed, the truth He spoke, the love He demonstrated - all were from God. "It is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work," Jesus told His disciples (John 14:10). People were not attracted to Jesus just because He showed love and concern for them. It was because His love was God's love, unlike any love they had ever experienced before. It was a supernatural, agape love that made the difference in His life, and in His death. INSIGHT: When we receive Jesus as Savior, He fills us with the same love God gave him, and it becomes our responsibility to share it with others. **************************************************

Triumphant Over Death
Scripture Focus: 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, 20-28, 55-57 "God made you alive with Christ. . . . And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross" (Colossians 2:13, 15).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------The apostle Paul painted a wonderful picture of Jesus the Conqueror in Colossians 2. His words call to mind a Roman general leading his captives through the city streets so everyone can see the evidence of his victory. But the enemies Jesus triumphed over were Satan and death. And the result of His triumph is our salvation. Satan began trying to defeat the Savior and get rid of Him when Jesus was a baby, and he kept trying for 33 years. He must have laughed to see Jesus on the cross, but his pleasure didn't last long. Before the devil had time to throw a victory banquet, Jesus was out of the tomb and alive again! What had seemed like victory for Satan was actually defeat. Jesus’ death was not the end; it was the beginning. With His resurrection, the stinger was pulled out of death forever. "Because I live, you also will live," Jesus promised the disciples (John 14:19). Physical death is no longer something to fear because for the Christian it isn't final. It opens up into life with Him in heaven forever.

INSIGHT: Death is the most frightening aspect of life on earth for most people. But if you know Jesus, you're ready for what's on the other side. **************************************************

The Life
Scripture Focus: John 11:17-27 "Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men" (John 1:3-4).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Jesus was there at the beginning, even before the beginning. All life was created by Him and for Him (Colossians 1:16-17). He holds the life of every creature, including you, in His hand (Job 12:10). He orchestrates life on earth and holds everything together (Colossians 1:17). He willingly came to earth to give all people a second chance at life (John 3:16). His own life on earth was an enigma, not at all what most people were expecting (Matthew 13:54-55). In His living, He revealed the character of God (John 14:10). And in His dying, He demonstrated the depth of God's love (Romans 5:8). When He came back to life three days after a cruel death, He proved that He didn't just create life. Jesus Christ is life - the Bread of Life, the Living Water, the Fountain of Life, Life Eternal - your life, if you have put your trust in Him. INSIGHT: In the new life Jesus Christ has given you, do people see the character of God and the depth of His love? **************************************************

The Only Way
Scripture Focus: Acts 4:1-12 "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen Him" (John 14:6-7).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------I am always amazed when I hear seemingly intelligent “religious” people say that there are many different ways to God. The fact is that God did not have a Plan A, a Plan B, and a Plan C for getting to heaven. The Bible clearly states that Jesus is the only way - period. The apostle Peter couldn't have put it more clearly when he said, "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). Many of the people I’ve heard make the "many ways to God" statement claim to believe the Bible and even to believe that Jesus is God's Son. I want to ask them, "Do you really think God would have sent His only Son to earth to be mistreated and misunderstood, to die a horrible death, if there had been any other way? Would Jesus have willingly gone through all that pain and suffering if it were not necessary?" Jesus Himself insisted that He is the only way to God. He gave up His life to make that statement true. INSIGHT: Have you thanked God today for showing you the way to Him? Have you told someone else about it? **************************************************

God Does Not Lie
Scripture Focus: Titus 1:1-5 “Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith . . . a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time” (Titus 1:1-2).

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An election year brings out a plethora of candidates for political office. They vie for our votes and vow to reward our votes with a more efficient government and improved living. Promises roll off the lips of some of them as smoothly as watery jelly spreads over toast. Of course, even the most well-intentioned candidates cannot guarantee anything. Their promises are subject to favorable circumstances and their ability to persuade their peers to get on the same political platform. However, God’s promises are unconditional. Neither human being, spirit being, nor adverse circumstance can thwart His will. He cannot lie, as our key verse affirms. He will bring to pass every promise He has made. As important as it is to vote for the best possible political candidates, it is far more important to affirm Jesus Christ as personal Savior. God has promised eternal life to all who believe on Jesus (John 3:16). That's a promise you and I can claim confidently, because God “does not lie” (Titus 1:2). INSIGHT: Because God's integrity is flawless and His power is infinite, He can be trusted to keep every promise He has made. **************************************************

God's First Promise
Scripture Focus: Genesis 3:9-15 “So the Lord God said to the serpent . . . `and I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel’” (Genesis 3:14-15).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Anyone old enough to remember the end of World War II can recall the spontaneous celebrations that accompanied the Allied victory. Strangers hugged one another. Horns sounded. Joy spilled into the streets from offices and factories. Even greater joy should accompany realization that Jesus Christ won a decisive victory over Satan, the most hostile, ruthless enemy the human race has ever known. Satan, the enemy of our souls, was obsessed with his plan to supplant God, rule God's creation, and trap every soul in eternal darkness. But he lost the war at Calvary. There, Jesus bore our sins, took the punishment we deserved, and died in our place. Then three days later, He arose bodily from the tomb, demonstrating conclusively that He had thwarted Satan's plan, destroyed his power, and rescued

you and me from his clutches. On the cross, He had crushed Satan's head. Satan still assaults us and wins an occasional battle, but he lost the war at Calvary. Let's celebrate joyfully the victory our Savior achieved for us! INSIGHT: Because Jesus died and rose again, believers are victors over, not victims of, the devil. Every day should be a victory celebration day. **************************************************

A Promise of Success
Scripture Focus: Joshua 1:1-9 “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it . . . be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful” (Joshua 1:8).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Books on success are plentiful. Readers can learn how to succeed at almost anything – from building a patio to amassing a fortune. Of course, no book left unread can accomplish anything. Reportedly, a warehouse stacked with copies of a book on how to get rid of termites had to be condemned because it was being devoured by termites. Perhaps the warehouse manager needed to read that book and apply its instructions. I can’t recommend a book on successful termite riddance, patio construction, or fortune building, but I can recommend one for building a successful life. It's the Bible. But just owning a copy does not guarantee success. The key to success lies in treasuring its truths, obeying its commands, and applying its principles. Just as God promised Joshua, if you do these things, “you will be prosperous and successful” (v. 8). You may not become rich or famous, but your life will be so full of blessings that your joy and influence will spill over to others. And that result is the measure of true success. INSIGHT: Success measured only by human standards is temporal, but success measured by the standard of God's will is eternal. **************************************************

How Hungry Are You?
Scripture Focus: Matthew 5:1-6 “His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them, saying . . . `Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled’” (Matthew 5:12, 6).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------You've seen the slim, trim, athletic types in the drink-a-can-way-to-slimness commercials, haven't you? Their smiles and testimonials make drinking their product seem more taste satisfying and more filling than digging into a prime rib dinner topped off with banana cream pie. I may be a bit skeptical, but I wonder if the smiles have more to do with the actors' fees than the stuff in the can. My wife and I tried one of those diet beverages once – just once – for lunch. By late afternoon we thought we would die of starvation. I guess we just aren't cut out to be liquid dieters. Jesus promised that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled – satisfied. The question is, how great is our appetite for righteousness? The Bible relates a pauper-to-prince story about a man named Mephibosheth (2 Samuel 9). King David showered him with kindness and allowed him to eat at the king's table daily. Mephibosheth would feast to his heart's content. Let's dine at King Jesus' table every day. He has invited us to do so. INSIGHT: God never fails to satisfy the voracious appetites for those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. **************************************************

God Is Always with Us!
Scripture Focus: Hebrews 13:1-6 “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, `Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5).

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January 2, 2000, a cute baby girl was found by grocery store employees on a shelf in the diaper section of their store in Denver, Colorado. The umbilical cord was still attached to her little body. Not a pleasant way for a new life to enter a new millennium! Baby Maxine (named by the store’s employees) is just one of many babies abandoned each year. Was her mother a frightened teenager? A completely selfish, heartless woman? Someone who believed she could not provide a suitable environment for her baby? We may never know the answer. Believers are God’s children. The apostle John called us His “little born ones” (Greek translation, 1 John 3:1). We may feel unworthy of this loving relationship, but this feeling does not alter the fact that we belong to God. He loves us regardless of our looks, level of education, occupation, social status, or economic ranking. And He will never abandon us. Nor will He leave us – even for a second. That's a promise (Hebrews 13:5). INSIGHT: Whether our circumstances are favorable or harsh, our Heavenly Father is with us, not only day by day but also moment by moment. **************************************************

If He Clothes the Lilies
Scripture Focus: Matthew 6:28-32 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these” (Matthew 6:28-29).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------As I've reflected on today's Scripture, I have to acknowledge that not once in my 55 years have I lacked adequate clothing. During lean times of my childhood, I wore trousers lovingly sewn by my mother from material salvaged from my Dad's worn suit pants. I was also well acquainted with hand-me-downs from my older sisters. But naked? Never! We in Western society struggle to comprehend what it must be like to have to trust God for basic needs, like clothing, but even in the lowliest countries, the poor are usually clothed in some manner. Only the young are naked, which is acceptable in

their cultures. Still, these people suffer, and the Lord hears their cries. Though He is often rejected by these suffering nations, God clothes them. God dresses the flowers with glorious splendor, though their lives are fleeting. Incredibly, He graces our shoulders with eternal robes of righteousness cleansed in the blood of the Lamb. As Jesus asked His disciples, ”Why do you worry?” INSIGHT: Take time today to thank the Lord for His abundant provision for your needs. Then intercede for the needs of people who are destitute. **************************************************

Significantly Tested
Scripture Focus: Deuteronomy 8:1-5 “Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart” (Deuteronomy 8:2).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------“Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart” (Deuteronomy 8:2). Why did God allow my mother to get cancer?” my neighbor asked. ”She is such a good woman! I'm so angry at Him! Don't you ever get upset with God?” “I think I’ve been more hurt than angry,” I responded. ”And I've asked my fair share of whys when things have been rough.” Then we talked candidly about the truth that our loyalty shouldn't depend on God sparing us from suffering. We live in a corrupt world, and we're not immune to its pain. The good news is that we don't suffer alone or without hope. God is with us! There’s nothing like a test in your life to bring to the surface what's in your heart toward God. Anger? Resentment? Profound disappointment? Those things may have been there all along, yet they stayed hidden. We can all smile in church and joyfully sing hymns when things are going great, but a pure heart learns to cherish God and keep His commandments in the midst of anguish and brokenness solely because He is so worthy of honor.

INSIGHT: Whatever the cost, ask God to make your heart a proper home for His precious Holy Spirit to reside. **************************************************

Significantly Interceding
Scripture Focus: Luke 22:28-34 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Jesus prays for us! Jesus Christ, the King of kings, is praying for His brothers and sisters on the earth that their faith will stand up against every storm in life. This is ”goose bump truth” – it's so magnificently thrilling to you and me. While on earth, Jesus offered petitions with loud cries and tears (Hebrews 5:7). He doesn't pray halfheartedly, as we do at times. He storms the gates of heaven on our behalf! Are you presently being tested, as Peter was so long ago? Well, my friend, you are so significantly valued by God that He has ordained His glorious Son to pray for you. Jesus experienced every temptation known to the human race, so He prays from His heart with a passion we've never touched in prayer to the Almighty. Who upholds the widow as she buries her husband? Who strengthens the parents of a dying child? Who kneels beside the brokenhearted? Who stands by and supports when everyone else has turned aside? Who? It's Jesus! INSIGHT: Thank Jesus for the many times He has taken His place before Father God and prayed for you in your time of need. **************************************************

Friday Night Fish Fry
Scripture Focus: 2 Corinthians 1:3-7

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). -----------------------------------------------------------------------Friday nights mean one thing in Wisconsin: Fish Fry. One Friday night while enjoying fried haddock at a small diner, I overheard a conversation. ”Is it true the doctor told you that the baby is in a breech position?” a frazzled waitress asked her obviously pregnant coworker. “Yes,” the other waitress sighed. “I’m just glad this is the last Friday night crowd I'm working.” As I listened, I felt a burden to pray for the weary young woman. Being exhausted myself, I felt neither faith nor zeal. Yet by the time our bill came, I knew what the Spirit was prompting me to do. I motioned the waitress to our table. “Miss?” I began. ”I couldn't help overhearing you mention your baby's breech position. May I pray for you?” “Oh, yes!” she replied. Without hesitation, that fearful mother-to-be sat next to me. As we prayed, the God of all comfort reached out to her. Because we are significantly His, the Spirit within us can make us instruments of comfort to others as we have received His comfort in our times of need. INSIGHT: Ask the God of all comfort to touch your heart with compassion for others, wherever you are today and whatever this day brings to you. **************************************************

Silent Night
Scripture Focus: Revelation 3:19-22 “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20). -----------------------------------------------------------------------In the early 1920s, my grandfather assembled a Super Heterodyne radio, which was a step above the original crystal sets. Every Monday evening there was a very

special event: Silent Night. All local programs went off the air so that area listeners could receive distant radio stations without interference. My dad's family would gather around their radio in Illinois to enjoy stations from as far away as Pennsylvania and New York. Listening to my father share this memory led me to reflect on my own need for a Silent Night, a regularly scheduled time to turn off the static in my life caused by local programming. All the cares of my everyday schedule tend to make it difficult for me to tune in clearly that Divine Voice trying to communicate truth and wholeness to me. Our key verse is addressed to the church of Laodicea. ”Here I am!” our Lord exclaims. “Can't you hear? I'm at the very threshold of your heart, longing to share Myself with you. Will you receive Me and let Me satisfy your deepest longings?” INSIGHT: Open wide your heart to welcome your beloved Savior and rejoice in your communion with Him. **************************************************

Conspicuously Loved
Scripture Focus: Song of Songs 2:1-6 “He has taken me to the banquet hall, and his banner over me is love” (Song of Songs 2:4) “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness” (Jeremiah 31:3). -----------------------------------------------------------------------Our verse from Song of Songs is the basis for a popular chorus. Unfortunately, biblical truth sometimes loses its punch if repeated often enough. Let's take a closer look at the verse. The Hebrew prime root for banner literally means “to flaunt, to be conspicuous.” I’m reminded of a field in Wisconsin that has been used by young men to publicly declare their love for their girlfriends. Messages are laboriously spelled out with white painted stones for passersby to read. My friend, we are of such significance to the Lord that He chose to display

conspicuously before the whole world His love for us. Only instead of raising a flag or spelling out His message with stones, He raised a cross. This banner woven with His suffering, pain, and anguish had to be displayed so that one day there might be a joyful celebration. Someday, when the wedding celebration of the Lamb has come, when Jesus' bride has made herself ready, Jesus will acknowledge us before the hosts of heaven (Revelation 19:7). INSIGHT: Picture the event when you are called to the triumphant banquet in heaven. Dressed in linens of righteousness you will be presented to the Father. **************************************************

God's Signet Ring
Scripture Focus: Haggai 2:20-23 “`On that day,' declares the Lord Almighty, `I will take you, my servant Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel,' declares the Lord, `and I will make you like my signet ring, for I have chosen you’” (Haggai 2:23). -----------------------------------------------------------------------The prophet Haggai was speaking for God for Zerubbabel, governor of Judah. He prophesied that though a time of great shaking was coming upon the earth, the Lord would raise him up and empower him. Signet rings and seals were signs of authority and authenticity in ancient times. The rings were engraved with unique designs, inset with semiprecious stones, and used to make seal impressions to denote ownership or authorization. As New Testament believers, we are also touched by God's signet ring. Our lives are scrolls which have been marked by Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of the saints. To further secure this divine transaction of our salvation, God imprints His heavenly designed signet ring into the seal. It is there for our protection from evil and authorizes us to do battle with evil as we are empowered by God. When the enemy of our souls sees that imprinted seal, he cringes, for he fully understands its eternal, legal significance. INSIGHT: God's signet ring on your life authenticates your surrender to His

lordship, and warns every evil being, ”This life belongs to I AM!” **************************************************

Only God Can . . .
Scripture Focus: Genesis 1:26-31 “Then God said, `Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over . . . all the earth.' . . . And the man became a living being” (Genesis 1:26; 2:7).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Please do not use your cameras,” the guide instructed us as we began our car tour of Amish farmlands. ”The Amish will not allow their photographs to be taken because they believe that only God can make a face.” This poignant statement touched my heart as once again I was reminded of being significantly His. We were fearfully and wonderfully made, knitted together by the Master Craftsman. Tenderly He created our faces, making each one uniquely His eternal design. Only God can create a face. Talented artists have fashioned remarkable images of the human face, yet their most prized works remain secondhand likenesses, mere reflections of the Creator's genius. Only God can create a face. We tend to value most highly the faces determined to be notable by our standards of beauty. To God, the most comely face is the one expectantly upturned, seeking Him. He beholds the features He has lovingly sculpted, and rejoices, ”How beautiful you are to Me!” INSIGHT: Remember that God's eyes are searching the earth to show Himself strong to those whose faces are looking up to Him. **************************************************

Break Our Hearts
Scripture Focus: Jeremiah 23:9-14 “My heart is broken within me; all my bones tremble. I am like a drunken man, like a man overcome by wine, because of the Lord and his holy words” (Jeremiah 23:9).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Let my heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God.” So wrote Bob Pierce, founder of World Vision, over 40 years ago as he grieved over the thousands of suffering children he encountered during the Korean War. He felt he was sharing God's grief. How wonderful if this gracious heart cry could resound again before God's throne as multitudes of Christians echoed Bob Pierce's plea. Rather than remaining so vulnerable to broken hearts caused by ugly gossip, disappointing relationships, or thwarted ambitions, could we dare to allow our hearts to be touched by the grief of God? Jeremiah’s heart was broken as he compared the holy words of God to the realities of how the people of earth were conducting themselves. His bones trembled as he viewed all the evil around him from God's perspective and was overcome with pain. One of the highest honors of belonging to God is to be allowed to glimpse the concerns of His heart and to partake of His burdens. INSIGHT: Do you dare to ask the Lord to open your eyes to see the world as He sees it and to open your heart to share His pain? **************************************************

The Everlasting Arms
Scripture Focus: Deuteronomy 33:26-29 “There is no one like the God of Jeshurun, who rides on the heavens to help you and on the clouds in his majesty. The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:26-27).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Aster Prentice, missionary to Liberia, gazed from the airplane window at the sparkling Mediterranean Sea below. She noticed that beneath the cresting waves on the surface, there was a strong, steady current flowing in the opposite direction. When she asked the pilot about the current, he told her, ”I've seen it every flight.” This phenomena reminded Aster of God’s presence in her life. Throughout the turmoil of her 38 years as a missionary, the constant awareness of God's sustaining

power coursing through beneath the surface of events was a sweet blessing. “God has been a continuous source of strength to me. He brought me through every trial, including the day I worked beside our Liberian friends as we dug my husband's grave,” she shared quietly. In the hours I spent with Aster, I seemed transported to Liberia. Her stories were filled with great adventures, and I savored the wonders of God's everlasting arms holding her up through it all. And I knew those same arms were holding me! INSIGHT: Your eternal God is holding you today in His loving embrace, as He will hold you through every crisis. **************************************************

I'd Rather Eat Manna
Scripture Focus: Numbers 11:31-34 “Now a wind went out from the Lord and drove quail in from the sea. It brought them down all around the camp to about three feet above the ground, as far as a day’s walk in any direction” (Numbers 11:31).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------About six weeks after the Lord delivered Israel out of Egypt, the people began to grumble against Moses. ”At least in Egypt we had all the food we wanted,” they complained. ”Now we're all going to starve in this awful desert!” Hearing their complaints, the Lord rained down bread from heaven called manna, which the Israelites collected for their food. The manna was small and round, like coriander seed, with a honey taste. The Israelites cooked it in a pot or made it into cakes. ”He gave a command to the skies above and opened the doors of the heavens; he rained down manna for the people to eat, he gave them the grain of heaven. Men ate the bread of angels; he sent them all the food they could eat” (Psalm 78:23-25). Was Israel delighted in being fed directly from God's hand? No. They soon became bored with manna and craved meat. God angrily granted quail. He sent quail in such abundance that each person had at least 60 bushels full! I’d rather eat manna. I’d rather enjoy God’s best gifts for me. INSIGHT: May the Lord forgive us when we crave the meat of this world more than

the Bread of Life – Jesus Christ. **************************************************

My Pathfinder
Scripture Focus: Psalm 32:8-11 “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which . . . must be controlled by bit and bridle” (Psalm 32:8-9).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------The King James Version reads, ”I will guide thee with mine eye” (v.8). What a beautiful picture of God's personal guidance! While preparing dinner one night, I caught my young son dipping his hand into the cookie jar. Without saying a word, I calmly gave him “the look.” He quickly withdrew his hand, smiled sheepishly, and ran out of the kitchen. Do you sometimes feel God’s look when you are about to make a foolish, or even spiritually dangerous decision, when suddenly the Holy Spirit quickens your heart, and you change your course? God both warns and encourages us. Because we are of such significance to the Lord, He has elected to instruct us through His Word. He empowers us to obey its teachings through the indwelling of His Holy Spirit. Then He gives light to our path, carefully watching our every step. God promises to do His part. All He ask us is that we do not resist His direction, but respond to Him with our full cooperation. INSIGHT: God is your beloved pathfinder. He watches over you with love and wisdom in your daily journey. Trust His guidance. **************************************************

God Has Plans for Us
Scripture Focus:

Psalm 138 “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O Lord, endures forever – do not abandon the works of your hands” (Psalm 138:8).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------In 1980, my husband and I left a large denomination. I had been actively associated with it since birth. The separation left me quite distressed and feeling perplexed about our future. This body of churches represented much more than doctrines to me. It was the Sunday School teachers who had patiently encouraged me, the pastor who watched me become a young woman, and the friends with whom I had shared laughter and tears for over 30 years. During this juncture in my spiritual journey the Holy Spirit shed needed light through our key verse for today. I discovered that God had a purpose to fulfill in our departure! What I had seen as an ending, God knew was just one more step in His plan for my life – a plan He had every intention of fulfilling. We’re the work of God’s hands, and He won’t abandon this task of molding us to fit perfectly into His purposes. No matter how uncertain our situation may be, we can be confident that God is not the least distracted from His goal of completing the good and perfect work He has begun in us (Philippians 1:6). INSIGHT: You and I are clay in the Potter's hands, and He is making something beautiful of our lives, as we yield to Him. **************************************************

Lofty Perspective
Scripture Focus: Deuteronomy 33:12-19 “Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders” (Deuteronomy 33:12).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------The holiday shopping season was at its peak when I noticed a toddler in the bustling crowd. He held his father's hand, yet panic filled him as he was seemingly engulfed by a sea of adult legs. Sensing his son’s predicament, the father lifted his son up and carefully nestled him safely on his shoulders. Immediately the fear left, the boy smiled at his father, and

they continued through the festive mall. This shopping expedition had taken on a whole new perspective for the lad now that he was above the crowd. What a tender portrait of paternal love and innocent trust. The Lord wants us to experience this same kind of security and rest in Him. When we're feeling overwhelmed by distress or fear, we need to look up. Abba Father is waiting to lift us up, place us between His majestic shoulders, and give us a transformed perspective of our situation. From this divine position, we may even begin to relax and enjoy the scene around us! That's how God intends us to view life. INSIGHT: Are you fearful today? Do you feel overwhelmed by the pressures that seem ready to crush you? Let God lift you up by His power and grace. **************************************************

My Father
Scripture Focus: Hebrews 12:7-13 “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? . . . . God disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness” (Hebrews 12:7, 10).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------The writer of Hebrews helps us understand the place hardship can have in our lives. God wants us to endure hardships as discipline because He uses them for our ultimate good. The fruits of our struggles are holiness, righteousness, and peace. As a parent, I learned that it required a loving commitment to discipline my small children rather than always giving in to their desires. I assumed this parental responsibility because I wanted them to grow up to be caring, responsible, and productive adults. If God kept us free from pain and sorrow, and blessed our every endeavor, we would risk becoming like spoiled, undisciplined children. We might even begin to credit our own abilities as the source of our prosperity. Our soulish tendency to make foolish, self-centered decisions would also increase. God is our loving Father, and wants much more for us than an empty, materialistic

life. He knows the personal fulfillment that comes from reaching out rather than taking in. And He yearns for us to grow in our likeness to Him. INSIGHT: As God's children, we should reflect His character, and His character is most effectively produced through His consistent discipline. **************************************************

Running to Win
Scripture Focus: 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize . . . We do it to get a crown that will last forever” (1 Corinthians 9:24-25).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Intrigued by Paul's analogy of the Christian life being like a race, I sought the advice of a young friend who had participated in track competition. Some of her insights can help us identify the obstacles that may hinder us from winning our spiritual races. Obstacle 1: Underestimating the discipline and training required to win. Weeks of exercise and perfecting pacing precede a race that takes only minutes to perform. We are called to a life of self-discipline. Obstacle 2: Looking at other runners, rather than keeping your eyes focused on the goal. In our case, the goal is Jesus Christ. Comparing ourselves to other runners is a sure way to lose the race. Obstacle 3: Allowing other influences like emotions, or weather conditions to affect your race. No matter what the conditions, our goal must always be to run to win. Keep focused on the One who awaits you at the finish line with His welcoming cheer, ”Well done!” Obstacle 4: Ignoring the need for a coach. Humility is needed to accept and apply the Word of God and the seasoned counsel of other believers. INSIGHT: It is easy to allow an obstacle to get us off track in our race. Depend on the Lord to help you keep your focus on Jesus. **************************************************

Don't Forget!
Scripture Focus: 2 Peter 1:10-15 “I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me” (2 Peter 1:13-14).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Sometimes we become so consumed by earthly cares that we neglect to live in the power of the simple truths of the Gospel. We forget our rich spiritual heritage in Christ which uniquely marks us as being significantly His. Peter reminds us of this as he opens his second letter. We have everything we need to live a godly life. God's great promises enable us to participate in the divine nature and escape the world's evil corruption. By incorporating virtues into our characters such as faith, goodness, discipline, patience, kindness, and love, we will be effective, productive Christians. By living uprightly, we will not be easily tripped up by sin, and our heavenly homecoming will be glorious! Peter knew that the believers he addressed in his letter understood these basic truths and were firmly established in them. Aware that his death was imminent, Peter was striving to refresh their memories of truths they should never forget. He warned, ”Saints of God, remember who you are!” INSIGHT: Spiritual myopia and moral blindness result when we ignore elementary kingdom truth. Ask Christ to keep you ever mindful of His precious promises and grace. **************************************************

No Shrinking Violets
Scripture Focus: Hebrews 10:32-39 “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised . . . But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed” (Hebrews 10:36, 39).

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My heart was tugged when my young son complained, “I don’t want to get all my shots again!” But the shots were needed. The aggressive chemotherapy and radiation required for a high risk bone marrow transplant had negated the protection of his childhood immunizations. “But remember how brave you were in the hospital when they did all sorts of painful procedures for your transplant?” I asked, hoping to encourage him. ”You survived organ rejection, a blood transfusion reaction, those awful mouth sores, high fevers, and so many needle pokes. Don't lose your courage now when the battle is nearly over!” This type of dilemma is basically what the writer of Hebrews addressed. He was saying, “Remember when you stood your ground under intense suffering? Don't throw away your confidence now!” Because Jesus Christ lives in our hearts, we are not of those who shrink back in fear. We straighten up, call for the sustaining power of the resurrected King, and go forth until His coming. INSIGHT: Depend on Christ to strengthen your heart for the challenges of the future. Ask Him to help you remember your past triumphs in Him. **************************************************

Beloved Confidant
Scripture Focus: Psalm 25:8-15 “Who, then, is the man that fears the Lord? He will instruct him in the way chosen for him . . . The Lord confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant know to them” (Psalm 25: 12, 14).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------When we revere the Lord and walk in His ways, He chooses to share His heart with us. I have many acquaintances, but only a few significant friends with whom I am comfortable sharing my inner thoughts and dreams. A bond of trust must be established before we feel the freedom to confide in one another. This bond is usually based on the conviction that our friends want the best for us and have consistently proved their loyalty.

God longs for close fellowship with us. But, just as in human relationships, a track record of trust needs to be established. He won't share His secrets nor reveal His holiness to those who carelessly handle His love and ignore His moral standards. The concept of our magnificent God desiring to consult with us should stir us to fervently seek Him. No human fellowship could ever be so prized as an intimate friendship with the Lord. David prayed longingly, ”Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me . . . My hope is in you all day long” (vv 4-5). INSIGHT: Do you yearn to have ears made fit through God's grace to partake of His covenant secrets? Then revere Him and walk in all His ways. **************************************************

He Gives Hope
Scripture Focus: Psalm 119:49-56 “I have put my hope in your laws . . . Remember your word to your servant, for you have given me hope. My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life” (Psalm 119:43, 49-50).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------In countless trials over the years, God has graciously given me words of hope. Some words were like little nudges to get me out of a period of spiritual laziness. Other words were so strong they set my feet solidly on the Rock of my salvation when everything else in my life was in utter turmoil. When my heart was broken and my emotions nearly out of control, the Lord asked me in Micah's words, ”Why do you now cry aloud – have you no king? Has your counselor perished, that pain seizes you like that of a woman in labor?” (4:9) This word transformed my life. I will never again cry as one who has no hope, for I indeed have a King above all kings! When my son had less than a 10 percent chance of survival from severe aplastic anemia (a fatal blood disorder), God spoke to me through John 11:4,”This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it.” Daniel not only miraculously survived, his story has touched thousands of hearts for the glory of God. INSIGHT: God's words of hope come to us when we commit ourselves to put our

hope in His laws, and they sustain us through times that seem hopeless. **************************************************

Overflowing Well
Scripture Focus: Isaiah 12 “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation” (Isaiah 12:3).”Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him” (John 7:38).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------The blessings others receive from you and me come from the well of salvation which the Lord has so abundantly filled within us. The well is so full of refreshment that it is impossible to keep the joy for ourselves alone. Those around us can't help but be splashed by its restorative waters. There are Christians in my life whose presence at my doorstep lifts my spirits. One look into their eyes, one glance at their reassuring smiles, and I am touched by the waters from their spirit's well. They bring the joy of the Lord into my home. I have come to treasure the well of my salvation. Many times I run with abandon with my empty cup, drawing deeply for the healing waters. Why wait? Why stay stuck in our troubles? Why allow a parched spirit to bring us down when the living water is so near? Jesus promised us streams, and I believe they are rushing waters because of His awesome power. When we hesitate to avail ourselves of the abundance of joy being held out by our loving God, we also shut off the blessed supply to others. INSIGHT: Draw deeply from the well of salvation today so that others can partake of the joy the Lord gives you. **************************************************

Why Me?
Scripture Focus: Philippians 3:12-16

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me . . .I press on toward the goal to win the prize” (Philippians 3: 12, 14).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Paul wrote to the Christians at Philippi while he was imprisoned, and his letter stands as a timeless tribute to his faith in God. Bible scholars debate on whether Paul wrote it while he was incarcerated at Caesarea or in Rome. However, the one commonality of all Paul's prison stays was his continuous joy in all circumstances. How did he maintain such joy in the midst of suffering? He overcame all obstacles because he put Christ in the center of his life when God dramatically took hold of him on the Damascus Road. Paul marveled that this awesome salvation had come to him through Christ. He pressed on to know God intimately. Paul’s hunger to know God should cause us to reflect on our attitude concerning the wonder of God also taking hold of our lives. Most of us ask the Lord, ”Why me?” only when we experience trials we think we don't deserve. Have you ever asked the Lord, ”Why me?” in terms of the miracle of your salvation? INSIGHT: Being significantly His includes following Paul's example of counting all things as loss to gain Christ. **************************************************

Because We Are His
Scripture Focus: Mark 9:38-41 “I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward” (Mark 9:41).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------In our key verse for today Jesus speaks of a wonderful aspect of belonging to God. People who are kind to us are blessed by God simply because we belong to Him and bear the name of His precious Son. My oldest son David once had a teacher who so loved and cared about him that I longed to bless her in return. He was my child, and there was no way this teacher was not going to be rewarded for her kindly interest and second-mile dedication to his progress. According to our Scripture, this is exactly how God feels toward those

who show kindness toward His children. God has blessing upon blessing in His storehouse. He has plenty left over for the unbeliever who shows favor to Christians. “I will bless those who bless you,” He promised Abraham (Genesis 12:3). God stands oh so eager to bless all His creatures, and He grieves over those who earn His displeasure through their own foolish attitudes and actions. INSIGHT: You are special to God! Because you are His child, He never fails to cover you and those around you with His favor. **************************************************

So Precious Our Tears
Scripture Focus: Psalm 56:1-8 “Record my lament; list my tears on your scroll – are they not in your record?” (Psalm 56:8)”Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book?” (KJV).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Some day God is going to wipe our tears and remove our sorrows forever. But for now, we have reason to weep, and the psalmist understood how precious to God are the tears of His children. Publicly, we try to carry on, keep a smile, and dry our tears quickly lest we make people uncomfortable. Outward displays of grief such as crying are reserved for times of tragedy or death. What about all of those other times we cry in secret? What about the private tears of frustration, emotional pain, deep disappointment, or just plain sadness? God sees each tear. Our tears are of such importance to Him that He records them in His book and stores them in a bottle. Now this could be argued as merely an allegorical reference to God's compassion. Yet, when I have found myself crying alone in the dark places of my life, I have been aware of a holy Presence with me. I know my tears are noteworthy to Him. INSIGHT: Are you secretly shedding tears today? Be comforted by the knowledge that God sees, cares, and will reveal His tender love for you. **************************************************

He Is Altogether Lovely
Scripture Focus: Song of Songs 5:10-16 “His mouth is sweetness itself; he is altogether lovely. This is my lover, this is my friend” (Song of Songs 5:16).”You will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand” (Psalm 16:11).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------We've been on a mutual journey to discover what it means to be significantly His. We have found God's words to be sweet, life-giving, redeeming, and of infinite comfort. We have looked on the risen Christ, who has chosen to reveal Himself to us, and have seen His beauty. How blessed we are to find our significance in Him alone. To call Jesus Christ “Friend” is perhaps the most incredible revelation of finding our place in Him. God's plan for us is to invite a hurting world to ”Come meet my Friend!” rather than offering them a cold, impersonal religion. Our assurance of our significance to God radiates an inner joy that attracts others to Him. One of the highest compliments I have ever received was posed in a request, ”I want to know Jesus the way you do.” The person who asked for my help in drawing nearer to God will never know what her words did for me. They reminded me never to become so engrossed working for Christ that I cannot see Him clearly through the busyness. INSIGHT: The tender love of God can transform this seemingly ordinary day. Take a moment now to meet with Him. **************************************************

Significantly His
Scripture Focus: Genesis 22:13-18 “Because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you . . . and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me” (Genesis 22:16-18).

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Amplifiers carried the speaker's earnest tones as he boldly challenged us, “What is your Isaac? What or whom does the Lord want you to put on the altar tonight? What is most dear to your heart?” A holy silence filled the Kansas City Arena as several thousand believers attending a conference bowed their heads to inquire of the Lord what they might be withholding from Him. I felt uniquely alone with God in that cavernous auditorium. “Offer up to Me your need to feel significantly used in the church,” the Lord gently decreed. ”That is your Isaac. I want you to learn to find your significance in Me alone.” Until recently, my husband Paul had pastored a local congregation, and I had played an integral role in the ministry. I had been anxiously awaiting our next spiritual assignment, but now God seemed to be calling me aside for a time. The theme of this month's devotional readings was birthed that night as I asked God to help me explore and discover the joy and beauty of being significantly His. INSIGHT: Ask the Lord to keep you spiritually young, flexible, and never hesitant to sit at Jesus' feet and listen to His voice. **************************************************

The King's Chambers
Scripture Focus: Song of Songs 1:1-5 “Your love is more delightful than wine. Pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes . . . Take me away with you – let us hurry! Let the king bring me into his chambers” (Song of Songs 1:2-4).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------The compelling love for her waiting bridegroom emboldens the bride to enter the wedding chamber. The mystery surrounding the consummation of their union causes a certain shyness to grip her, yet the fervor of her love longs to be expressed in this most intimate relationship. Why do we, like the shy bride, spend an inordinate amount of time primping outside the wedding chamber, rather than blissfully entering in? Could it be that our need to be doing significant things for God is rooted in our lack of understanding our true significance to Him? Could it be that we stay busy primping in the outer courts

because we are afraid that if we enter the King's chambers we will ultimately disappoint Him? Two millennia ago our Bridegroom saw us filthy in our sins. We were not clothed in beauty nor holiness. Yet He was still so filled with love for us that He turned toward Calvary and faced the ultimate shame, pain, and death for us. INSIGHT: Do you hesitate to draw close to your Lord? Ask Him to pour on you the grace you need to finally open the door to the King's chambers. **************************************************

Commune with Me
Scripture Focus: Song of Songs 2:11-15 “In the hiding places on the mountainside, show me your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely” (Song of Songs 2:14).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Referring to his singing, the speaker joked, ”I have a prison voice. It’s always behind a few bars and doesn't know where the key is.” To the Lord's ears, though, his voice is more soothing than a mother's lullaby, and sweeter than a child's earnest song. When we sing praise to the Savior and express our love for Him, we all sound just wonderful. When we choose to turn things of this world and the myriad demands on our time, when we lift our eyes upward to gaze on our beloved Lord, we are profoundly beautiful to Him. Who can fathom His acceptance of us and His delight in us? We are prone to judge beauty outward – the good cheekbones, the flawless complexion, and the sculpted figure. Society values our worth by what we accomplish, our status in the community, our careers, our talents. Who is this Mighty One who looks on the lowly with compassion and grace? Who is this Awesome Being who takes pleasure in the least among us? He is the Holy God who calls out to you now in the secret place, ”Come away with Me, My beloved!” INSIGHT: Ask the Lord to give you a vision of the beauty of the hiding places of the mountain where you will hear His voice. **************************************************

”Pray for Me, Baby!”
Scripture Focus: Hebrews 4:13-16 “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------My husband and I were walking along a busy city street. “I’m collecting for the homeless. Won't you help?” a rather scruffy man asked as he approached us. He appeared to be middle-aged, his face etched with years of hard living. “What organization do your represent? “ my husband asked. “Me,” he replied sheepishly. Taking a moment to pray silently, Paul gave the man some money. While I was observing this exchange, God suddenly allowed me to feel a portion of the yearning love He has for this homeless man. Without hesitation, I walked over and embraced him. “God cares deeply about you,” I assured him. “Pray for me, Baby,” he whispered, as he turned to join the crowds on the sidewalk. “I promise,” I replied to his retreating figure. I have continued to pray for him, knowing that God knows exactly whom I am bringing to the throne of grace. For this man, brought low by unknown circumstances, is of highest significance to God. INSIGHT: God's sympathy toward human weakness is boundless. Ask Him to help you share His love with others. **************************************************

If He Feeds the Birds
Scripture Focus:

Matthew 6:25-27 “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:26).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Leon Franck and his delightful wife Arlene are the founders of my favorite spot for times of personal rest and reflection: Prayer Valley. In a charming, rustic lodge set on 160 acres of rolling wooded hills near La Crosse, Wisconsin, the Francks have devoted themselves to teaching Christians more about the beauty and power of prayer. Taking on the responsibility of preparing prayer seminars, cooking, and caring for their guests, maintaining the grounds, and being pleasant hosts has been quite a tall order for the Francks. They also face ongoing financial challenges. Does this ministry require great faith? Not according to Leon. “I have plenty of faith,” he shared with our seminar group. ”What I don't have enough of is trust!” We groaned in empathy, fully understanding the difference between faith and trust, and knowing that trust is by far the more difficult. It requires that we embrace our significance to God, even while enduring difficult circumstances. If He feeds the birds, surely He will also be our Heavenly Provider. INSIGHT: You have faith to believe that God will take care of your needs. Do you trust Him to do so – today as you face an unexpected problem? **************************************************

If He Clothes the Lilies
Scripture Focus: Matthew 6:28-32 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these” (Matthew 6:28-29).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------As I've reflected on today's Scripture, I have to acknowledge that not once in my 55

years have I lacked adequate clothing. During lean times of my childhood, I wore trousers lovingly sewn by my mother from material salvaged from my Dad's worn suit pants. I was also well acquainted with hand-me-downs from my older sisters. But naked? Never! We in Western society struggle to comprehend what it must be like to have to trust God for basic needs, like clothing, but even in the lowliest countries, the poor are usually clothed in some manner. Only the young are naked, which is acceptable in their cultures. Still, these people suffer, and the Lord hears their cries. Though He is often rejected by these suffering nations, God clothes them. God dresses the flowers with glorious splendor, though their lives are fleeting. Incredibly, He graces our shoulders with eternal robes of righteousness cleansed in the blood of the Lamb. As Jesus asked His disciples, ”Why do you worry?” INSIGHT: Take time today to thank the Lord for His abundant provision for your needs. Then intercede for the needs of people who are destitute. **************************************************

Significantly Tested
Scripture Focus: Deuteronomy 8:1-5 “Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart” (Deuteronomy 8:2).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------“Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart” (Deuteronomy 8:2). Why did God allow my mother to get cancer?” my neighbor asked. ”She is such a good woman! I'm so angry at Him! Don't you ever get upset with God?” “I think I’ve been more hurt than angry,” I responded. ”And I've asked my fair share of whys when things have been rough.” Then we talked candidly about the truth that our loyalty shouldn't depend on God sparing us from suffering. We live in a corrupt world, and we're not immune to its

pain. The good news is that we don't suffer alone or without hope. God is with us! There’s nothing like a test in your life to bring to the surface what's in your heart toward God. Anger? Resentment? Profound disappointment? Those things may have been there all along, yet they stayed hidden. We can all smile in church and joyfully sing hymns when things are going great, but a pure heart learns to cherish God and keep His commandments in the midst of anguish and brokenness solely because He is so worthy of honor. INSIGHT: Whatever the cost, ask God to make your heart a proper home for His precious Holy Spirit to reside. **************************************************

Significantly Interceding
Scripture Focus: Luke 22:28-34 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Jesus prays for us! Jesus Christ, the King of kings, is praying for His brothers and sisters on the earth that their faith will stand up against every storm in life. This is ”goose bump truth” – it's so magnificently thrilling to you and me. While on earth, Jesus offered petitions with loud cries and tears (Hebrews 5:7). He doesn't pray halfheartedly, as we do at times. He storms the gates of heaven on our behalf! Are you presently being tested, as Peter was so long ago? Well, my friend, you are so significantly valued by God that He has ordained His glorious Son to pray for you. Jesus experienced every temptation known to the human race, so He prays from His heart with a passion we've never touched in prayer to the Almighty. Who upholds the widow as she buries her husband? Who strengthens the parents of a dying child? Who kneels beside the brokenhearted? Who stands by and supports when everyone else has turned aside? Who? It's Jesus! INSIGHT: Thank Jesus for the many times He has taken His place before Father God and prayed for you in your time of need.

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Friday Night Fish Fry
Scripture Focus: 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). -----------------------------------------------------------------------Friday nights mean one thing in Wisconsin: Fish Fry. One Friday night while enjoying fried haddock at a small diner, I overheard a conversation. ”Is it true the doctor told you that the baby is in a breech position?” a frazzled waitress asked her obviously pregnant coworker. “Yes,” the other waitress sighed. “I’m just glad this is the last Friday night crowd I'm working.” As I listened, I felt a burden to pray for the weary young woman. Being exhausted myself, I felt neither faith nor zeal. Yet by the time our bill came, I knew what the Spirit was prompting me to do. I motioned the waitress to our table. “Miss?” I began. ”I couldn't help overhearing you mention your baby's breech position. May I pray for you?” “Oh, yes!” she replied. Without hesitation, that fearful mother-to-be sat next to me. As we prayed, the God of all comfort reached out to her. Because we are significantly His, the Spirit within us can make us instruments of comfort to others as we have received His comfort in our times of need. INSIGHT: Ask the God of all comfort to touch your heart with compassion for others, wherever you are today and whatever this day brings to you. **************************************************

Silent Night
Scripture Focus:

Revelation 3:19-22 “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20). -----------------------------------------------------------------------In the early 1920s, my grandfather assembled a Super Heterodyne radio, which was a step above the original crystal sets. Every Monday evening there was a very special event: Silent Night. All local programs went off the air so that area listeners could receive distant radio stations without interference. My dad's family would gather around their radio in Illinois to enjoy stations from as far away as Pennsylvania and New York. Listening to my father share this memory led me to reflect on my own need for a Silent Night, a regularly scheduled time to turn off the static in my life caused by local programming. All the cares of my everyday schedule tend to make it difficult for me to tune in clearly that Divine Voice trying to communicate truth and wholeness to me. Our key verse is addressed to the church of Laodicea. ”Here I am!” our Lord exclaims. “Can't you hear? I'm at the very threshold of your heart, longing to share Myself with you. Will you receive Me and let Me satisfy your deepest longings?” INSIGHT: Open wide your heart to welcome your beloved Savior and rejoice in your communion with Him. **************************************************

Conspicuously Loved
Scripture Focus: Song of Songs 2:1-6 “He has taken me to the banquet hall, and his banner over me is love” (Song of Songs 2:4) “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness” (Jeremiah 31:3). -----------------------------------------------------------------------Our verse from Song of Songs is the basis for a popular chorus. Unfortunately, biblical truth sometimes loses its punch if repeated often enough. Let's take a closer

look at the verse. The Hebrew prime root for banner literally means “to flaunt, to be conspicuous.” I’m reminded of a field in Wisconsin that has been used by young men to publicly declare their love for their girlfriends. Messages are laboriously spelled out with white painted stones for passersby to read. My friend, we are of such significance to the Lord that He chose to display conspicuously before the whole world His love for us. Only instead of raising a flag or spelling out His message with stones, He raised a cross. This banner woven with His suffering, pain, and anguish had to be displayed so that one day there might be a joyful celebration. Someday, when the wedding celebration of the Lamb has come, when Jesus' bride has made herself ready, Jesus will acknowledge us before the hosts of heaven (Revelation 19:7). INSIGHT: Picture the event when you are called to the triumphant banquet in heaven. Dressed in linens of righteousness you will be presented to the Father. **************************************************

God's Signet Ring
Scripture Focus: Haggai 2:20-23 “`On that day,' declares the Lord Almighty, `I will take you, my servant Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel,' declares the Lord, `and I will make you like my signet ring, for I have chosen you’” (Haggai 2:23). -----------------------------------------------------------------------The prophet Haggai was speaking for God for Zerubbabel, governor of Judah. He prophesied that though a time of great shaking was coming upon the earth, the Lord would raise him up and empower him. Signet rings and seals were signs of authority and authenticity in ancient times. The rings were engraved with unique designs, inset with semiprecious stones, and used to make seal impressions to denote ownership or authorization. As New Testament believers, we are also touched by God's signet ring. Our lives are scrolls which have been marked by Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of the saints.

To further secure this divine transaction of our salvation, God imprints His heavenly designed signet ring into the seal. It is there for our protection from evil and authorizes us to do battle with evil as we are empowered by God. When the enemy of our souls sees that imprinted seal, he cringes, for he fully understands its eternal, legal significance. INSIGHT: God's signet ring on your life authenticates your surrender to His lordship, and warns every evil being, ”This life belongs to I AM!” **************************************************

Only God Can . . .
Scripture Focus: Genesis 1:26-31 “Then God said, `Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over . . . all the earth.' . . . And the man became a living being” (Genesis 1:26; 2:7).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Please do not use your cameras,” the guide instructed us as we began our car tour of Amish farmlands. ”The Amish will not allow their photographs to be taken because they believe that only God can make a face.” This poignant statement touched my heart as once again I was reminded of being significantly His. We were fearfully and wonderfully made, knitted together by the Master Craftsman. Tenderly He created our faces, making each one uniquely His eternal design. Only God can create a face. Talented artists have fashioned remarkable images of the human face, yet their most prized works remain secondhand likenesses, mere reflections of the Creator's genius. Only God can create a face. We tend to value most highly the faces determined to be notable by our standards of beauty. To God, the most comely face is the one expectantly upturned, seeking Him. He beholds the features He has lovingly sculpted, and rejoices, ”How beautiful you are to Me!” INSIGHT: Remember that God's eyes are searching the earth to show Himself strong to those whose faces are looking up to Him. **************************************************

Break Our Hearts
Scripture Focus: Jeremiah 23:9-14 “My heart is broken within me; all my bones tremble. I am like a drunken man, like a man overcome by wine, because of the Lord and his holy words” (Jeremiah 23:9).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Let my heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God.” So wrote Bob Pierce, founder of World Vision, over 40 years ago as he grieved over the thousands of suffering children he encountered during the Korean War. He felt he was sharing God's grief. How wonderful if this gracious heart cry could resound again before God's throne as multitudes of Christians echoed Bob Pierce's plea. Rather than remaining so vulnerable to broken hearts caused by ugly gossip, disappointing relationships, or thwarted ambitions, could we dare to allow our hearts to be touched by the grief of God? Jeremiah’s heart was broken as he compared the holy words of God to the realities of how the people of earth were conducting themselves. His bones trembled as he viewed all the evil around him from God's perspective and was overcome with pain. One of the highest honors of belonging to God is to be allowed to glimpse the concerns of His heart and to partake of His burdens. INSIGHT: Do you dare to ask the Lord to open your eyes to see the world as He sees it and to open your heart to share His pain? **************************************************

The Everlasting Arms
Scripture Focus: Deuteronomy 33:26-29 “There is no one like the God of Jeshurun, who rides on the heavens to help you and on the clouds in his majesty. The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:26-27).

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Aster Prentice, missionary to Liberia, gazed from the airplane window at the sparkling Mediterranean Sea below. She noticed that beneath the cresting waves on the surface, there was a strong, steady current flowing in the opposite direction. When she asked the pilot about the current, he told her, ”I've seen it every flight.” This phenomena reminded Aster of God’s presence in her life. Throughout the turmoil of her 38 years as a missionary, the constant awareness of God's sustaining power coursing through beneath the surface of events was a sweet blessing. “God has been a continuous source of strength to me. He brought me through every trial, including the day I worked beside our Liberian friends as we dug my husband's grave,” she shared quietly. In the hours I spent with Aster, I seemed transported to Liberia. Her stories were filled with great adventures, and I savored the wonders of God's everlasting arms holding her up through it all. And I knew those same arms were holding me! INSIGHT: Your eternal God is holding you today in His loving embrace, as He will hold you through every crisis. **************************************************

I'd Rather Eat Manna
Scripture Focus: Numbers 11:31-34 “Now a wind went out from the Lord and drove quail in from the sea. It brought them down all around the camp to about three feet above the ground, as far as a day’s walk in any direction” (Numbers 11:31).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------About six weeks after the Lord delivered Israel out of Egypt, the people began to grumble against Moses. ”At least in Egypt we had all the food we wanted,” they complained. ”Now we're all going to starve in this awful desert!” Hearing their complaints, the Lord rained down bread from heaven called manna, which the Israelites collected for their food. The manna was small and round, like coriander seed, with a honey taste. The Israelites cooked it in a pot or made it into cakes. ”He gave a command to the skies above and opened the doors of the heavens; he rained down manna for the people to eat, he gave them the grain of

heaven. Men ate the bread of angels; he sent them all the food they could eat” (Psalm 78:23-25). Was Israel delighted in being fed directly from God's hand? No. They soon became bored with manna and craved meat. God angrily granted quail. He sent quail in such abundance that each person had at least 60 bushels full! I’d rather eat manna. I’d rather enjoy God’s best gifts for me. INSIGHT: May the Lord forgive us when we crave the meat of this world more than the Bread of Life – Jesus Christ. **************************************************

My Pathfinder
Scripture Focus: Psalm 32:8-11 “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which . . . must be controlled by bit and bridle” (Psalm 32:8-9).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------The King James Version reads, ”I will guide thee with mine eye” (v.8). What a beautiful picture of God's personal guidance! While preparing dinner one night, I caught my young son dipping his hand into the cookie jar. Without saying a word, I calmly gave him “the look.” He quickly withdrew his hand, smiled sheepishly, and ran out of the kitchen. Do you sometimes feel God’s look when you are about to make a foolish, or even spiritually dangerous decision, when suddenly the Holy Spirit quickens your heart, and you change your course? God both warns and encourages us. Because we are of such significance to the Lord, He has elected to instruct us through His Word. He empowers us to obey its teachings through the indwelling of His Holy Spirit. Then He gives light to our path, carefully watching our every step. God promises to do His part. All He ask us is that we do not resist His direction, but respond to Him with our full cooperation. INSIGHT: God is your beloved pathfinder. He watches over you with love and

wisdom in your daily journey. Trust His guidance. **************************************************

God Has Plans for Us
Scripture Focus: Psalm 138 “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O Lord, endures forever – do not abandon the works of your hands” (Psalm 138:8).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------In 1980, my husband and I left a large denomination. I had been actively associated with it since birth. The separation left me quite distressed and feeling perplexed about our future. This body of churches represented much more than doctrines to me. It was the Sunday School teachers who had patiently encouraged me, the pastor who watched me become a young woman, and the friends with whom I had shared laughter and tears for over 30 years. During this juncture in my spiritual journey the Holy Spirit shed needed light through our key verse for today. I discovered that God had a purpose to fulfill in our departure! What I had seen as an ending, God knew was just one more step in His plan for my life – a plan He had every intention of fulfilling. We’re the work of God’s hands, and He won’t abandon this task of molding us to fit perfectly into His purposes. No matter how uncertain our situation may be, we can be confident that God is not the least distracted from His goal of completing the good and perfect work He has begun in us (Philippians 1:6). INSIGHT: You and I are clay in the Potter's hands, and He is making something beautiful of our lives, as we yield to Him. **************************************************

Lofty Perspective
Scripture Focus: Deuteronomy 33:12-19 “Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders” (Deuteronomy 33:12).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------The holiday shopping season was at its peak when I noticed a toddler in the bustling crowd. He held his father's hand, yet panic filled him as he was seemingly engulfed by a sea of adult legs. Sensing his son’s predicament, the father lifted his son up and carefully nestled him safely on his shoulders. Immediately the fear left, the boy smiled at his father, and they continued through the festive mall. This shopping expedition had taken on a whole new perspective for the lad now that he was above the crowd. What a tender portrait of paternal love and innocent trust. The Lord wants us to experience this same kind of security and rest in Him. When we're feeling overwhelmed by distress or fear, we need to look up. Abba Father is waiting to lift us up, place us between His majestic shoulders, and give us a transformed perspective of our situation. From this divine position, we may even begin to relax and enjoy the scene around us! That's how God intends us to view life. INSIGHT: Are you fearful today? Do you feel overwhelmed by the pressures that seem ready to crush you? Let God lift you up by His power and grace. **************************************************

My Father
Scripture Focus: Hebrews 12:7-13 “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? . . . . God disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness” (Hebrews 12:7, 10).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------The writer of Hebrews helps us understand the place hardship can have in our lives. God wants us to endure hardships as discipline because He uses them for our ultimate good. The fruits of our struggles are holiness, righteousness, and peace. As a parent, I learned that it required a loving commitment to discipline my small children rather than always giving in to their desires. I assumed this parental responsibility because I wanted them to grow up to be caring, responsible, and

productive adults. If God kept us free from pain and sorrow, and blessed our every endeavor, we would risk becoming like spoiled, undisciplined children. We might even begin to credit our own abilities as the source of our prosperity. Our soulish tendency to make foolish, self-centered decisions would also increase. God is our loving Father, and wants much more for us than an empty, materialistic life. He knows the personal fulfillment that comes from reaching out rather than taking in. And He yearns for us to grow in our likeness to Him. INSIGHT: As God's children, we should reflect His character, and His character is most effectively produced through His consistent discipline. **************************************************

Running to Win
Scripture Focus: 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize . . . We do it to get a crown that will last forever” (1 Corinthians 9:24-25).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Intrigued by Paul's analogy of the Christian life being like a race, I sought the advice of a young friend who had participated in track competition. Some of her insights can help us identify the obstacles that may hinder us from winning our spiritual races. Obstacle 1: Underestimating the discipline and training required to win. Weeks of exercise and perfecting pacing precede a race that takes only minutes to perform. We are called to a life of self-discipline. Obstacle 2: Looking at other runners, rather than keeping your eyes focused on the goal. In our case, the goal is Jesus Christ. Comparing ourselves to other runners is a sure way to lose the race. Obstacle 3: Allowing other influences like emotions, or weather conditions to affect your race. No matter what the conditions, our goal must always be to run to win. Keep focused on the One who awaits you at the finish line with His welcoming

cheer, ”Well done!” Obstacle 4: Ignoring the need for a coach. Humility is needed to accept and apply the Word of God and the seasoned counsel of other believers. INSIGHT: It is easy to allow an obstacle to get us off track in our race. Depend on the Lord to help you keep your focus on Jesus. **************************************************

Don't Forget!
Scripture Focus: 2 Peter 1:10-15 “I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me” (2 Peter 1:13-14).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Sometimes we become so consumed by earthly cares that we neglect to live in the power of the simple truths of the Gospel. We forget our rich spiritual heritage in Christ which uniquely marks us as being significantly His. Peter reminds us of this as he opens his second letter. We have everything we need to live a godly life. God's great promises enable us to participate in the divine nature and escape the world's evil corruption. By incorporating virtues into our characters such as faith, goodness, discipline, patience, kindness, and love, we will be effective, productive Christians. By living uprightly, we will not be easily tripped up by sin, and our heavenly homecoming will be glorious! Peter knew that the believers he addressed in his letter understood these basic truths and were firmly established in them. Aware that his death was imminent, Peter was striving to refresh their memories of truths they should never forget. He warned, ”Saints of God, remember who you are!” INSIGHT: Spiritual myopia and moral blindness result when we ignore elementary kingdom truth. Ask Christ to keep you ever mindful of His precious promises and grace. **************************************************

No Shrinking Violets
Scripture Focus: Hebrews 10:32-39 “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised . . . But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed” (Hebrews 10:36, 39).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------My heart was tugged when my young son complained, “I don’t want to get all my shots again!” But the shots were needed. The aggressive chemotherapy and radiation required for a high risk bone marrow transplant had negated the protection of his childhood immunizations. “But remember how brave you were in the hospital when they did all sorts of painful procedures for your transplant?” I asked, hoping to encourage him. ”You survived organ rejection, a blood transfusion reaction, those awful mouth sores, high fevers, and so many needle pokes. Don't lose your courage now when the battle is nearly over!” This type of dilemma is basically what the writer of Hebrews addressed. He was saying, “Remember when you stood your ground under intense suffering? Don't throw away your confidence now!” Because Jesus Christ lives in our hearts, we are not of those who shrink back in fear. We straighten up, call for the sustaining power of the resurrected King, and go forth until His coming. INSIGHT: Depend on Christ to strengthen your heart for the challenges of the future. Ask Him to help you remember your past triumphs in Him. **************************************************

Beloved Confidant
Scripture Focus: Psalm 25:8-15 “Who, then, is the man that fears the Lord? He will instruct him in the way chosen for him . . . The Lord confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant know to them” (Psalm 25: 12, 14).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------When we revere the Lord and walk in His ways, He chooses to share His heart with us. I have many acquaintances, but only a few significant friends with whom I am comfortable sharing my inner thoughts and dreams. A bond of trust must be established before we feel the freedom to confide in one another. This bond is usually based on the conviction that our friends want the best for us and have consistently proved their loyalty. God longs for close fellowship with us. But, just as in human relationships, a track record of trust needs to be established. He won't share His secrets nor reveal His holiness to those who carelessly handle His love and ignore His moral standards. The concept of our magnificent God desiring to consult with us should stir us to fervently seek Him. No human fellowship could ever be so prized as an intimate friendship with the Lord. David prayed longingly, ”Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me . . . My hope is in you all day long” (vv 4-5). INSIGHT: Do you yearn to have ears made fit through God's grace to partake of His covenant secrets? Then revere Him and walk in all His ways. **************************************************

He Gives Hope
Scripture Focus: Psalm 119:49-56 “I have put my hope in your laws . . . Remember your word to your servant, for you have given me hope. My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life” (Psalm 119:43, 49-50).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------In countless trials over the years, God has graciously given me words of hope. Some words were like little nudges to get me out of a period of spiritual laziness. Other words were so strong they set my feet solidly on the Rock of my salvation when everything else in my life was in utter turmoil. When my heart was broken and my emotions nearly out of control, the Lord asked me in Micah's words, ”Why do you now cry aloud – have you no king? Has your counselor perished, that pain seizes you like that of a woman in labor?” (4:9) This

word transformed my life. I will never again cry as one who has no hope, for I indeed have a King above all kings! When my son had less than a 10 percent chance of survival from severe aplastic anemia (a fatal blood disorder), God spoke to me through John 11:4,”This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it.” Daniel not only miraculously survived, his story has touched thousands of hearts for the glory of God. INSIGHT: God's words of hope come to us when we commit ourselves to put our hope in His laws, and they sustain us through times that seem hopeless. **************************************************

Overflowing Well
Scripture Focus: Isaiah 12 “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation” (Isaiah 12:3).”Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him” (John 7:38).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------The blessings others receive from you and me come from the well of salvation which the Lord has so abundantly filled within us. The well is so full of refreshment that it is impossible to keep the joy for ourselves alone. Those around us can't help but be splashed by its restorative waters. There are Christians in my life whose presence at my doorstep lifts my spirits. One look into their eyes, one glance at their reassuring smiles, and I am touched by the waters from their spirit's well. They bring the joy of the Lord into my home. I have come to treasure the well of my salvation. Many times I run with abandon with my empty cup, drawing deeply for the healing waters. Why wait? Why stay stuck in our troubles? Why allow a parched spirit to bring us down when the living water is so near? Jesus promised us streams, and I believe they are rushing waters because of His awesome power. When we hesitate to avail ourselves of the abundance of joy being held out by our loving God, we also shut off the blessed supply to others. INSIGHT: Draw deeply from the well of salvation today so that others can partake

of the joy the Lord gives you. **************************************************

Why Me?
Scripture Focus: Philippians 3:12-16 “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me . . .I press on toward the goal to win the prize” (Philippians 3: 12, 14).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Paul wrote to the Christians at Philippi while he was imprisoned, and his letter stands as a timeless tribute to his faith in God. Bible scholars debate on whether Paul wrote it while he was incarcerated at Caesarea or in Rome. However, the one commonality of all Paul's prison stays was his continuous joy in all circumstances. How did he maintain such joy in the midst of suffering? He overcame all obstacles because he put Christ in the center of his life when God dramatically took hold of him on the Damascus Road. Paul marveled that this awesome salvation had come to him through Christ. He pressed on to know God intimately. Paul’s hunger to know God should cause us to reflect on our attitude concerning the wonder of God also taking hold of our lives. Most of us ask the Lord, ”Why me?” only when we experience trials we think we don't deserve. Have you ever asked the Lord, ”Why me?” in terms of the miracle of your salvation? INSIGHT: Being significantly His includes following Paul's example of counting all things as loss to gain Christ. **************************************************

Because We Are His
Scripture Focus: Mark 9:38-41 “I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward” (Mark 9:41).

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In our key verse for today Jesus speaks of a wonderful aspect of belonging to God. People who are kind to us are blessed by God simply because we belong to Him and bear the name of His precious Son. My oldest son David once had a teacher who so loved and cared about him that I longed to bless her in return. He was my child, and there was no way this teacher was not going to be rewarded for her kindly interest and second-mile dedication to his progress. According to our Scripture, this is exactly how God feels toward those who show kindness toward His children. God has blessing upon blessing in His storehouse. He has plenty left over for the unbeliever who shows favor to Christians. “I will bless those who bless you,” He promised Abraham (Genesis 12:3). God stands oh so eager to bless all His creatures, and He grieves over those who earn His displeasure through their own foolish attitudes and actions. INSIGHT: You are special to God! Because you are His child, He never fails to cover you and those around you with His favor. **************************************************

So Precious Our Tears
Scripture Focus: Psalm 56:1-8 “Record my lament; list my tears on your scroll – are they not in your record?” (Psalm 56:8)”Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book?” (KJV).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Some day God is going to wipe our tears and remove our sorrows forever. But for now, we have reason to weep, and the psalmist understood how precious to God are the tears of His children. Publicly, we try to carry on, keep a smile, and dry our tears quickly lest we make people uncomfortable. Outward displays of grief such as crying are reserved for times of tragedy or death. What about all of those other times we cry in secret? What about the private tears of frustration, emotional pain, deep disappointment, or just plain sadness?

God sees each tear. Our tears are of such importance to Him that He records them in His book and stores them in a bottle. Now this could be argued as merely an allegorical reference to God's compassion. Yet, when I have found myself crying alone in the dark places of my life, I have been aware of a holy Presence with me. I know my tears are noteworthy to Him. INSIGHT: Are you secretly shedding tears today? Be comforted by the knowledge that God sees, cares, and will reveal His tender love for you. **************************************************

He Is Altogether Lovely
Scripture Focus: Song of Songs 5:10-16 “His mouth is sweetness itself; he is altogether lovely. This is my lover, this is my friend” (Song of Songs 5:16).”You will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand” (Psalm 16:11).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------We've been on a mutual journey to discover what it means to be significantly His. We have found God's words to be sweet, life-giving, redeeming, and of infinite comfort. We have looked on the risen Christ, who has chosen to reveal Himself to us, and have seen His beauty. How blessed we are to find our significance in Him alone. To call Jesus Christ “Friend” is perhaps the most incredible revelation of finding our place in Him. God's plan for us is to invite a hurting world to ”Come meet my Friend!” rather than offering them a cold, impersonal religion. Our assurance of our significance to God radiates an inner joy that attracts others to Him. One of the highest compliments I have ever received was posed in a request, ”I want to know Jesus the way you do.” The person who asked for my help in drawing nearer to God will never know what her words did for me. They reminded me never to become so engrossed working for Christ that I cannot see Him clearly through the busyness. INSIGHT: The tender love of God can transform this seemingly ordinary day. Take a moment now to meet with Him. **************************************************

Reflection
Scripture Focus: John 17:20-26 “I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that You sent Me and have loved them even as You have loved Me” (John 17:23).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Jesus' prayer for us recorded in John 17 reveals that the result of our loving one another will be that the world will know that the Father sent Him and that He loves us as much as He loved Jesus. There is no higher significance than this. Until we shed our false humility and become vulnerable to the power of God's intimate love for us, we won't know how to truly receive each other. It is humanly impossible to come into complete biblical unity while operating solely in our own ability to love. Considering this, it is not selfish to ask God to reveal His love for us. In fact, it is imperative for the health of Christ's body. There is a spiritual curiosity growing among unbelievers. They are searching for a way of life, a belief system that will make them feel accepted, complete, and loved. They won't find it in divided churches, but they will see it in believers who are transformed by God, who nestles them close to His heart. Who can resist a God who loves His people so uniquely, so significantly. INSIGHT: The same love that rested on the Son of God as He walked this earth is covering you today. Walk in His love. **************************************************

Prayer Power
Scripture Focus: James 5:13-18 “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).

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Jesus prayed – powerfully, effectively, regularly. He prayed early in the morning and spent whole nights in prayer. He prayed on a mountainside and in an upper room. He prayed in a garden while His closest friends slept nearby. He even prayed while hanging on the cross. It must have been something beautiful to see – Jesus talking to His Heavenly Father. Indeed, His disciples were so enamored with Jesus' prayers that they asked Him to teach them to pray. James must have been impressed as well. As Jesus' half-brother, James was perfectly positioned to observe, and later proclaim, “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective”(v. 16). James knew firsthand just how powerfully and effectively Jesus prayed. Without doubt, when Jesus prayed, His Father listened. We have His promise that when we pray, His Father is still listening (Matthew 7:11). He is listening. How faithfully are we praying? INSIGHT: The same power that electrified Jesus' prayers is readily available to us. May we follow His example and access the power of prayer regularly. **************************************************

Worthy of Praise
Scripture Focus: 2 Samuel 22 “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge . . . I call to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies” (2 Samuel 22:2-4).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------David knew the meaning of the word “pain.” In his song of praise to God, he recalled those times when violent men sought to murder him. Using graphic language, he recalled when waves of death swirled around him (v. 5), when his enemies overpowered him and disaster overtook him (vv. 18-19). Yet through all his troubles, God never abandoned him. God remained his rock, fortress, deliverer. He was David's refuse, shield, horn of salvation, his stronghold, and savior (vv. 1-3).

God heard David’s cries (v. 7), sent angels to fight for him (v. 11), scattered his enemies (v. 15), rescued him (v. 20), rewarded him (v. 25), remained faithful to him (v. 26), saved him (v. 28), strengthened him (v. 33), and showed him His unfailing kindness (v. 51). God does not change. What He did for David, He will do for us. He promises to be with us always. Thus, we too can declare, “The Lord lives! Praise be to my Rock!” (v. 47). INSIGHT: We praise God by expressing to Him and to others who He is and what He does. Let's follow David's example and praise Him today, for He is worthy. **************************************************

He Hears Us
Scripture Focus: Psalm 10 “You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry, defending the fatherless and the oppressed, in order that man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more” (Psalm 10:17-18). -----------------------------------------------------------------------Do you ever wonder if your prayers merely bounce off your ceiling as if God is absent, deaf, or indifferent to your cries? If so, you are not alone. The author of Psalm 10 wondered the same thing. In a moment of utter desperation, the psalmist cried out in confusion: “Why, O Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” (v. 1) Sound familiar? If so, wonder no more! God has made us a sacred promise, a solemn pledge that we can take to the bank. The promise is this: Whenever we pray, He hears the pleas of our hearts. In a world of uncertainty, you and I can be certain of this: God is not absent. He is not deaf. He is never indifferent to the prayers of His children. He promises to comfort the afflicted, encourage the discouraged, defend the defenseless, and protect the oppressed (vv. 17-18). No matter how difficult your circumstances are today, He hears you. “The Lord is King for ever and ever” (v. 16). How awesome it is to be a child of the King!

INSIGHT: Personalize Psalm 10:17 and claim God's promise as your own. Thank Him for hearing your desire. Be encouraged that He listens to your cry. **************************************************

“Your Will Be Done”
Scripture Focus: Matthew 6:5-15 “This, then, is how you should pray: `Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9-10).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Generations of Christians have cherished, memorized, and quoted repeatedly Matthew 6:9-13, called the Lord's Prayer. These sacred words have been set to music, printed on plaques, embroidered on fine linens, and displayed in countless homes. Rightly so. For in a mere five verses, Jesus provided His followers then and now with a brilliant blueprint, a practical pattern, a timeless template to follow whenever we pray. The Lord's Prayer is a biblical masterpiece, and at its heart are the four words, “Your will be done” (v. 10). Here Jesus defined prayer not as a means but rather as the discipline whereby surrendered people discern what God wants. Prayer was never intended to be a person's selfish expression of his own will, but rather a voluntary submission to God's will. "Prayer changes things,” so reads a bumper sticker. Actually, it is something even more powerful: Prayer changes us – from selfishly demanding our will to humbly submitting to His will. INSIGHT: While asking His Father to spare Him from the cross, Jesus twice prayed, “Your will be done” (Matthew 26:39, 42). What does this tell you about prayer? **************************************************

Blessed Boldness
Scripture Focus: Psalm 138 “When I called, you answered me; you made me bold and stouthearted. May all the kings of the earth praise you, O Lord . . . for the glory of the Lord is great” (Psalm

138; 3-5). -----------------------------------------------------------------------David was in serious trouble. He states categorically, “Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes” (v.7). Question: How did David deal with his troubles? Answer: David knew from his past experiences that whenever he called out to God, his Heavenly Father faithfully answered his cry. Let’s notice just how God answered. There is no mention in Scripture of God changing David's circumstances. Indeed, an examination of his life reveals a king who, though successful and blessed by God, was continually in trouble. He was hated by his enemies, hunted by his son, threatened by his foes, and forced to flee for his life and hide in the hills. God did not change David’s circumstances; God changed David's heart. God responded to David's prayers by giving him the boldness and strength to face his trials with confidence. David knew he would win; his enemies would lose. INSIGHT: What God did for David, He will do for you. You can be sure He will fulfill His purposes for your life. **************************************************

Prayer for Kings
Scripture Focus: 1 Timothy 2:1-8 “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Timothy 2:1-2). -----------------------------------------------------------------------The “Separation of Church and State” has many of us ducking for cover – needlessly. Contrary to the belief of some, the Bible does not call for our silence regarding the moral issues of our day, even when questions concerning abortion, gay rights, and the character of our leaders are viewed through a political lens. Quite the opposite, the Bible encourages our involvement in the political process, especially in the context of prayer. Paul urged us to pray for our leaders. He made it clear that our daily lives are

profoundly affected by the decisions of our leaders. We pray for them so “that we may live peaceful and quiet lives.” This was true in Bible times, and it's just as true today. We also pray for our leaders because God wants all people to be saved (v. 4). Imagine the impact of a high-profile leader receiving Christ and encouraging the whole country to do the same. It happened in Daniel's day (Daniel 4). It happened in Jonah's day (Jonah 3). Perhaps it will happen in our day – if we pray. INSIGHT: Romans 13:1 reveals God's role in determining national leaders. We should pray for His will to be done, especially when we have an opportunity to cast a vote. **************************************************

Enduring Love
Scripture Focus: 1 Chronicles 16:7-36 “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. Cry out `Save us, O God our Savior . . . that we may give thanks to your holy name.' . . . Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel” (1 Chronicles 16: 34-36). -----------------------------------------------------------------------Are all of David's songs included in the book of Psalms? Surprisingly, the answer is no. Indeed, one of his most beautiful compositions – a glorious hymn of praise – can be found in 1 Chronicles 16. What an occasion of celebration it was! The Ark of God, a symbol of God's presence among His people, had just arrived and been placed in the Tabernacle. The choir, under the capable leadership of Asaph, began to sing. The words of their hymn were recorded for our benefit. An examination of it reveals four vital aspects of our praise to God: 1. 2. 3. 4. Praise declares the glory of who God is. Praise recalls the greatness of what God has done. Praise remembers the promises that God has made. Praise thanks God for His goodness to us, His people.

God alone is worthy of our worship. He alone is worthy of our devotion. He alone is worthy of our praise. For His love alone endures forever! INSIGHT: Reflect on the four aspects of praise. Write down your thoughts and sing them to the Lord. He will love it! **************************************************

He Prays for Us
Scripture Focus: Romans 8:18-27 “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express” (Romans 8:26). -----------------------------------------------------------------------The difference between an optimist and a pessimist is simply a matter of perspective. Paul had every reason to be a pessimist: The Corinthian church had compromised. The Galatians believed a lie. The Ephesians were under attack from spiritual forces of evil. The Colossians fell under the spell of heretics. Timothy wanted to quit. The devil himself attacked Paul (2 Corinthians 11:7). As if that were not enough, Paul continuously faced unimaginable trials. Yet he remained an optimist! What kept him going? Perspective. He knew that he was a child of God, and nothing could ever change that (Romans 8:22-25). He knew that temporary trials didn't compare to eternal blessings (vv. 18-21). He knew that when he couldn't pray, the Spirit faithfully prayed for him (vv. 26-27). And when the Spirit prays, His prayers are answered! Feeling a bit discouraged today? Spend some time in Romans 8. Be encouraged. The Holy Spirit is praying for you right now. INSIGHT: The Holy Spirit prays for you. Jesus prays for you too (Romans 8:34). Pretty powerful prayer partners! **************************************************

When God Says No

Scripture Focus: 2 Corinthians 12:1-10 “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, `My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness'“ (2 Corinthians 12:8-9). -----------------------------------------------------------------------Has God ever answered your prayers with a resounding no? If so, you’re in good company. The same thing happened to Paul. The apostle never identifies his specific need, which he called a “thorn in my flesh.” He purposely keeps it general so that the lessons we learn from his experience will apply equally to us, no matter what our afflictions may be. But we do know this: 1. Paul’s problems was so severe that he refers to it as a “messenger of Satan” (v. 7). 2. 8). 3. It caused Paul so much agony that he pleaded three times for its removal (v. Each time, God said no. Why?

By saying no, God taught Paul – and us – two great lessons. First, no matter what our particular problems may be, God's grace is enough for us. He never abandons us in our trials. Rather, He goes through them with us. Second, God’s power is best seen through our weaknesses, not our strengths. When we are truly weak, we are truly strong (v. 10). INSIGHT: Are you feeling weak today? The fact is, you may be stronger than you can possibly imagine – strengthened by the power of Almighty God! **************************************************

Cherished Sin
Scripture Focus: Psalm 66 “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened . . . Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me!” (Psalm 66:18, 20)

-----------------------------------------------------------------------God is not always obligated to hear the prayers of his children. Make no mistake about it: God loves to hear and to answer our prayers. Indeed, Jesus encouraged His disciples by teaching them how to pray. He told them a story to encourage them to keep praying and not give up (Luke 11:5-10). He compares Himself to a loving father who delights in giving good gifts to his children (vv. 11-13). What then could possibly cause Him to greet our prayers with a deafened ear? Two words: cherished sin. We all sin. That’s not the issue. How we regard our sin is the issue. If we respond to our sins with contrition and confession, God will forgive us (1 John 1:9). But if we delight in our sins and in the pleasure they bring, God will not listen. Why should He? It's the height of hypocrisy for someone to talk to the God against whom he is willfully rebelling. It's a “broken and contrite heart” that God will not despise (Psalm 51:17). INSIGHT: David knew about a broken and contrite heart. Read Psalm 51 for the supreme example of the words of a sincerely broken man. **************************************************

A Holy Habit
Scripture Focus: Daniel 6 “Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he . . . prayed . . .just as he had done before” (Daniel 6: 10). -----------------------------------------------------------------------No one could intimidate Daniel. Like anyone in public life, Daniel had his detractors. His rise to power in the Babylonian government surely upset the ambitious locals who saw him as a foreigner who had no right to hold such a lofty position. They plotted to do him in. They decided to attack Daniel at his only point of vulnerability – his uncompromising faith in God. Daniel’s enemies convinced the king to pass a law forbidding anyone to pray for an entire month to anyone other than the king himself. Daniel would not be deterred. Three times each day Daniel literally placed his life on the line. Sure, he could have prayed in private. No one would have known. But secrecy was not Daniel's style. He was prepared on ninety separate occasions, if need be, to open his window,

face his beloved Jerusalem, and pray in full public view “just as he had done before.” Prayer was a holy habit Daniel would not compromise. How much value do you place on your prayer life? INSIGHT: No law, no threat, no penalty would stop Daniel from praying every day. I wonder, What would it take to stop us from praying? **************************************************

Saved to Sing
Scripture Focus: Psalm 96 “Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day” (Psalm 96:1-2). -----------------------------------------------------------------------We usually think of prayer as us talking and God listening. But three times in our key verses for today, God invites us to sing to Him. Apparently, God delights in musical prayers. Note the context of His invitation. We sing to the Lord about our salvation. Indeed, the moment we confessed to God that we had rebelled against Him, admitted that we could do nothing to save ourselves from the penalty of our sin, and received Jesus Christ as the only one who could save us from our sins, from that moment He gave us something to sing about! When did you receive Jesus Christ as your Savior? What series of events led you to that pivotal moment when you made your most important decision? If Jesus is truly your Savior, you have something to sing about. If not, here's great news: You can receive Him right now. A simple prayer will do it: “God have mercy on me, a sinner”(Luke 18:13). Once you've prayed this prayer, you too can join the chorus! INSIGHT: Do you have a song in your heart today? Sing! It doesn't matter if there is no one to hear you. Sing to the Lord, who gave you something to sing about – eternal life. **************************************************

Pleasing God
Scripture Focus:

Luke 10:38-42 “The Lord detests the sacrifice of the wicked, but the prayer of the upright pleases him. The Lord detests the way of the wicked but he loves those who pursue righteousness” (Proverbs 15: 8-9). -----------------------------------------------------------------------There's a fascinating account in Luke 10 involving two sisters, Mary and Martha. It seems that Jesus and His disciples dropped in one day to spend some time with their friends. Because hospitality is a virtue in the Middle East, the sisters sprang into action in order to welcome their guests and provide them with refreshments. However, the mood in the home quickly changed from one of peaceful enjoyment to tense frustration when Mary stopped working and sat down at Jesus' feet. When Martha asked Jesus to rebuke her sister and order Mary back to work, Jesus surprisingly rebuked Martha instead, saying that Mary had chosen the “better” option. What would Jesus say to us today? Would He praise us for doing so many things to please Him? Or, as in the case of Martha, would He rather have us stop doing so much and start talking to Him? I have a hunch that it would be that latter. In the wise words of Proverbs, it's not the work but the prayer of the upright that pleases Him (Proverbs 15:8). INSIGHT: God loves you not for what you do but for who you are. It's not your business He wants – it's you He wants. **************************************************

Call Upon Me
Scripture Focus: Psalm 50 “Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me” (Psalm 50: 1415).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------You may find this hard to believe, but I actually heard a speaker condemning his listeners for calling out to God in their times of trouble. “You're making God a Mister Fix-It man,” he explained. “You are using Him like a crutch.”

I thought to myself, “Maybe so. But in a sense I'm like a crippled man whose life sometimes seems broken.” Let’s be honest. There are some situations we cannot fix, times when we need divine intervention. Sin has left us in a spiritually crippled condition. We need a touch that only God can give. Is it really wrong for us to call upon God when we so desperately need Him? Far from it. God Himself instructs us to call upon Him in our “day of trouble” (v. 15). For some of us, the “day of trouble” is every day! It's as if we deny God the honor due Him when we don't call out to Him during those times when we need Him most. So with all due respect to the above-mentioned speaker, I for one will keep on calling! What about you? INSIGHT: Has God ever rescued you after you called on Him in a time of trouble? Honor Him by praising Him for that today. **************************************************

Morning and Evening
Scripture Focus: Psalm 55 “Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice. He ransoms me unharmed from the battle waged against me, even though many oppose me” (Psalm 55:17-18).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------The background of Psalm 55 brings all 23 of its verses into crystal-clear focus. David is obviously in trouble. He admits that his heart is in anguish (v. 4). “Fear and trembling have beset me” he confesses (v. 5). He wants to run away and hide (v. 6). He was being threatened; his reputation was under attack (v. 11). What could possibly have been causing him so much grief? He gives the answer: David was betrayed by his friend (vv. 12-14). David uses a number of intimate images to describe his former friend – he calls him a “companion,” “close friend,” someone with whom he enjoyed “sweet fellowship,” someone with whom he walked in harmony. Not anymore. And the anguish of betrayal became almost too great for David to bear. Perhaps you know exactly how David felt.

David did the only thing he could do under these circumstances – he turned to his God, to the One who would never betray him. And David rejoiced that God was there – present, available, interested – evening, morning, and noon. INSIGHT: God is available to you, as He was to David, evening, morning, and noon – every moment of every day. **************************************************

Praying Alone
Scripture Focus: Matthew 14:22-36 “After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat was already a considerable distance from land” (Matthew 14:23-24).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Jesus must have been exhausted. He had just fed thousands literally by creating food on the spot. He knew that He was in for a long night because He had just sent His disciples to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. He knew that once they set sail, a storm would nearly sink their boat. He would come to them in their moments of terror and would calm the tempest. When the disciples would finally collapse on the shore, the sick would besiege them, begging to be healed. Anticipating all these events, Jesus went alone to pray. He lingered in the presence of His Heavenly Father, soaking in the refreshment that He so badly needed. He remained alone so long that by the time He finished, the sun had set and the evening had come. It was time well spent. He was prepared to deal with whatever lay before Him. How hectic is your schedule? What do you need to neglect in order to spend some time alone with God? If Jesus needed to do it, how much more do you and I? INSIGHT: It was right for Jesus to spend some time alone. It's right for you to do the same, but wrong to feel guilty about it! **************************************************

Praise Him!
Scripture Focus:

Psalm 150 “Praise the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary . . . Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness. Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet” (Psalm 150:1-3).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Prayer has many faces. The biblical writers used several different words to describe the varied aspects of prayer: intercession, when we pray for others; adoration, when we express to God our wonder and awe at His majesty; thanksgiving, when we tell God how grateful we are for His goodness to us; supplication, when we share with God our own needs and requests; and praise, when we recite before God and others who He is, “His surpassing greatness,” what He has done, and “His acts of power” (v. 2). Psalm 150 reminds us how good it is to praise our God. As we read this psalm, we cannot miss the link between praise and music. And sometimes singing alone is not enough. Note the list of instruments mentioned in the psalm: trumpet, harp, lyre, tambourine, strings, flute, cymbals. Praise God today. Sing in your heart. Listen to a recording. But above all, express praise to God for who He is. INSIGHT: Perhaps the most worthwhile thing you can do today is to set some time apart to simply praise the Lord. **************************************************

Praying Wisely
Scripture Focus: James 1:1-8 “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt” (James 1:5-6).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Wisdom has become a rather rare commodity. There just aren’t many wise people around these days. Think about it. How many truly wise people do you know? I wonder, how much do you and I value wisdom? How badly do we want to be truly wise?

Let’s define our terms. “Knowledge” is simply the accumulation of facts. In our socalled information age, knowledge is relatively easy to acquire. Wisdom takes knowledge to a whole different level. Wisdom is the proper application of that knowledge. From a biblical perspective, wisdom is the God-given ability to view a life situation from His perspective – that is, to think biblically, or as some would say, to think “Christianly.” When God allowed Solomon to ask anything, Israel's young king requested wisdom (1 Kings 3). God granted him his desire. God invites us to do the same with the promise in today's verses. When we ask Him for wisdom, He will give us what we request in generous amounts. INSIGHT: Many people don't really want to know how God views their situations. Be sure you do, because if you pray for wisdom, you'll get it! **************************************************

Be Still
Scripture Focus: Psalm 46 “`Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.' The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress” (Psalm 46:10-11).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------We don't need to say much when we pray. The effectiveness of our prayers is not measured by the number of words that we lift Heavenward. Sometimes our best praying is done in absolute silence, when we say nothing. Televisions or stereos are usually blaring in the background in most homes today. When they drive, most people instinctively turn on the radio. Portable compact disc players sell in the millions because people become nervous when their brains are denied audio stimulation. In the midst of all this noise, God says, “Be still!” Something happens in silence that can’t happen at any other time. In the absence of noise we have an opportunity to think, to reflect, to meditate, to gain a proper perspective on life. That's the point of Psalm 46. When the world seems to be crumbling down around our feet, God commands us to be still. It's in that stillness that we remember that God is God, that He's in charge, He's in control, and He “will be exalted in the earth.”

INSIGHT: Perhaps the effectiveness of our prayers ought not be measured by our sounds, but rather by our silence in the presence of our God. **************************************************

Jesus Is Coming
Scripture Focus: 1 Peter 4:7-19 “The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:7-8).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------What a glorious time in which to live! Yesterday's biblical prophecies are today’s headlines. There can be no doubt that on every level we are headed toward a climax of human history. Consider this: The weather is changing worldwide as long-standing records are broken almost monthly. We are greeted to a constant barrage of natural disasters such as floods and earthquakes at a pace never seen before. The economy may be good, but unstable worldwide with swings in the stock market that leave the heads of experts spinning. Rogue states are building their own nuclear arsenals that could destabilize the world geographically and politically. How should we respond to these dizzying events? Peter gives us the answer: “Be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray” (v. 7). While we do not ignore current events, we keep our focus on God. We trust Him, knowing He is in control. We live in loving obedience in His Word, knowing that Jesus is coming again. INSIGHT: You can't control the future, but you can talk to the One who does – whose glory is about to be revealed. **************************************************

Spiritual Warfare
Scripture Focus:

Ephesians 6:10-20 “Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Pray also for me” (Ephesians 6:18-19).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------We are embroiled in a spiritual battle against supernatural powers, and we need supernatural resources to stand firm in this war. The apostle Paul outlines for us the various pieces of armor that we should don daily. But the armor is useless unless it's worn by a living person. What, then, is the life-giving breath of a believer? Paul calls it prayer. In verse 18, Paul answers four questions: 1. How should we pray? Answer: In the Spirit, trusting Him to lead us as we pray. 2. When should we pray? Answer: On all occasions, since the devil attacks on all occasions. 3. What kinds of prayers should we pray? Answer: Every kind, such as asking, praising, thanking, and confessing. 4. Who should we pray for? Answer: All the saints.

Paul moves from the theoretical to the practical when he humbly says “Pray also for me.” In the heat of spiritual battle, Paul depended on the prayers of the saints. Who is depending on ours? INSIGHT: When you pray for others, for what should you ask? Paul tell us – twice! Pray that they will share the Gospel fearlessly (vv. 19-20). **************************************************

Prison Praying
Scripture Focus: Acts 16:16-34 “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them . . . At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody’s chains came loose” (Acts 16:25-26).

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It must have been quite a sight: Paul and Silas praying and singing while the other prisoners languished in their dark and dank jail cells. The imprisonment of these two followed hard on the heels of their being attacked by a mob, stripped by the guards, and savagely beaten. They were incarcerated in the inner cell – a cell within a cell – meaning they had no sunlight or access to the outside world. And for good measure, the feet of these two servants of Christ were fastened in stocks. Some believers would have been seriously tempted to turn their backs on God, figuring that when the moment of truth came, it was He who had turned His back on them. But Paul and Silas understood something: Jesus promised them and us that “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). They didn't shrink from it; they expected it. So should we. Jesus followed up His dire promise with these encouraging words: “Take heart! I have overcome the world” (v. 33). So shall we! INSIGHT: The jailer was saved that night. People aren't impressed by how we're doing in good times; they want to know if our faith works in bad times. **************************************************

Pray to Forgive
Scripture Focus: Matthew 6:5-15 “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors . . . For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Matthew 6:12, 14).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Jesus told a story, almost as a commentary on today’s key verses. Peter had asked Jesus, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother? Up to seven times?” (Matthew 18:21) Jesus' response is legendary. “Seventy-seven times.” (Most translations read, “Seventy times seven.”) Jesus’ story involved a slave who owed his master some ten million dollars by today's reckoning. When he was sentenced to prison, he begged the king for mercy, and the king forgave him this enormous debt. So far, so good. But this same nowforgiven slave found a friend who owed him a few dollars. Would the forgiven slave forgive the debt of his friend? No way! He ordered him to prison, and went on his merry and forgiven way – until the king found out. The king was understandably furious and had him thrown into prison. Get the point? We who hurt the King have been forgiven an impossible debt.

Should we not therefore forgive those who have hurt us – not just seven times – but as often as we have been hurt. INSIGHT: Bitterness left unchecked will destroy us. God tells us to never stop forgiving because once we stop forgiving, we begin destroying ourselves **************************************************

If My People
Scripture Focus: 2 Chronicles 7:11-22 “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I . . . forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------God made the promise in today's verse to Solomon immediately upon Solomon’s completing the Temple. It was and is a sacred and solemn promise, a covenant, between God and His people (the Jews) and His Land (Israel). While this promise has specific application to Israel, the principle behind this promise is applicable to others. For example, When Jonah preached to the people of Nineveh, warning them of impending doom, they repented and turned from their sin. God forgave them and spared them punishment (Jonah 3). Any nation, including our own, that will collectively humble itself before God, pray to Him, seek His face, and turn from its wicked ways will experience His healing touch. We are at a crossroads as a country. The battle is on for the soul of a nation. As Abraham prayed for God to spare Sodom (Genesis 18:22-33), may we continually pray that God will spare our land the judgment we so justly deserve. INSIGHT: Nineveh repented and was spared. One hundred years later, the Ninevites refused to repent and were judged. Past blessing does not guarantee future forgiveness. **************************************************

You Don't Get It
Scripture Focus: James 4:1-10

“You want something but don't get it . . . You cannot have what you want . . . When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:2-3).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Apparently, some early Christians fell into the trap of thinking of God as some kind of heavenly Santa Claus. Their prayer lives had degenerated into a love-fest wherein the people they loved the most were themselves. They peppered God with litanies of requests for all of the stuff they wanted Him to give them. They had become so self-centered, in fact, that they were routinely quarreling with one another, eaten up with jealousy because others had what they craved to own. Do you know anyone like that? There actually are places in the Bible where God says He will not answer someone's prayers. Today's passage in James is one of them. When a person's prayers are motivated by a quest for pleasure rather than God's glory, God says, “You do not receive” (v. 3). God has not changed how He views self-centered prayers. What is the antidote for this virus of the soul? “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up” (v. 10). INSIGHT: Prayer was never intended to force God to bend His will to ours. Rather, prayer was intended to bend our wills to His. **************************************************

Learning to Wait
Scripture Focus: Psalm 37:1-11 “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this . . .Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him” (Psalm 37:4-5, 7).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Many of us underline favorite verses in our Bibles. Almost certain promise that He will give us the desires of our hearts when we delight ourselves in Him (v. 4). Eagerly we tell God our desires. Then we look expectantly for Him to grant what we have requested. When nothing happens as we wish, we are disappointed. What went wrong?

David gives the answer. Our part is not to voice our desires and expect them all to be fulfilled. Rather, we are to delight ourselves in the Lord by knowing Him and pleasing Him, thus making Him our Number One priority. When He has first place, we'll find our desires becoming more in harmony with what He desires for us. Then David points to our need to wait patiently for the Lord to answer. This does not come naturally to us, but in the waiting time we learn to believe that God's way and His timing is best. We learn to yield to His will for us, and to accept that His blessing on our lives is more important than anything we could have included in our listing of desires. INSIGHT: What is your desire today? Ask the Lord to make delighting in Him your greatest desire. Then wait patiently for Him to work in your life. **************************************************

Holy, Holy, Holy
Scripture Focus: Revelation 4:1-11 “Day and night they never stop saying: `Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come’ . . . `You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor’” (Revelation 4:8, 11).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Two nights ago, I went to a Christian rock concert. My ears are still ringing. For twoand-a-half hours I stood transfixed in utter amazement as 2,500 young people screamed, swayed, jumped, bounced, and raised their hands stageward, trying in vain to touch their musical heroes. I felt so old. Having had two days to ruminate on those images burned into my mind, I've come to an understanding of what bothered me so much. Every song, and I do mean every song, was about me – how much Jesus loves me, how much Jesus blesses me, all the things Jesus wants to give me, how He made heaven just for me, how He wants more than anything to become friends with me, – me, me, me. As I have scanned the archives of my mind, I cannot recall one lyric of one song that had anything to do with Him. That is quite the contrast to the lyrics that will reverberate day and night throughout heaven. “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory.” There, it's all about Him.

INSIGHT: You can start today speaking the language of heaven's songs. You can voice your worship to your Lord and God, giving Him the glory and offering Him the love of your heart. **************************************************

Boldly Go
Scripture Focus: Hebrews 4:1-16 “We have one who has been tempted . . . just as we are . . . Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------"I understand. I can relate.” Can you think of any words that bring greater comfort to someone in the grip of trial and temptation? Aren't you thankful that God became a man, and therefore felt what you feel, experienced what you experience, and faced the things that you face? Indeed, Jesus “has been tempted in every way, just as we are” – and here's the key – “yet was without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Jesus does understand. He can relate. And He can do so from the standpoint of one who has faced temptation victoriously. This fact carries with it some implications. 1. Jesus sympathizes with our weaknesses.

2. God’s is a throne of grace. He is ready, able, and willing “to forgive . . . and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). 3. We can approach Jesus with complete confidence and receive His mercy.

Feel weak? Overwhelmed? Failed lately? Jesus loves you. He wants to welcome you with open arms. Go to Him now, boldly. INSIGHT: God forsook His own Son to punish Him in our place (Matthew 27:46). He will never, ever forsake you. **************************************************

Without Ceasing
Scripture Focus: 1 Thess. 5:12-24 “Be kind to . . . everyone. Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit's fire” (1 Thessalonians 5:15-19).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------God used a 12-year-old junior higher to teach me the single most important lesson about prayer that I ever learned. Here's how it happened. I was coaching a girl’s softball team. At crucial moment during an important game, Jen stepped up to the plate, dug in her cleats, gripped her bat, and focused on the pitcher. Jen hit a slow roller to the shortstop and flew down the baseline, hitting the bag just ahead of the throw. “Safe,” yelled the umpire. I was standing in the first base coaching box, and was therefore perfectly positioned to hear Jen whisper, “That was a neat hit, huh?” “Yeah,” I said “It was.” Jen blushed and sheepishly admitted, “Oh, I wasn't talking to you. I was talking to God.” That is what the Bible calls praying “continually,” or as other translations put it, “without ceasing.” God is a constant companion. Prayer without ceasing is simply a matter of our inviting Him to come along with us and sharing every moment with our Best Friend. INSIGHT: It is possible to walk with God, to communicate with Him as your constant companion. Why not walk with Him throughout today? **************************************************

Your Will Be Done
Scripture Focus: Matthew 26:36-46 “He went away a second time and prayed, `My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done’” (Matthew 26:42).

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Paul made an amazing statement when he wrote that Jesus, “being found in appearance as a man, humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8, emphasis mine). Make no mistake about it – Jesus did not want to die. Who can blame Him? Crucifixion remains the most torturous form of capital punishment ever devised. Jesus faced the unbridled wrath of the men who brutalized Him. He as well faced the full fury of the wrath of God, who punished Him in our place as He bore in His own body your sins and mine. With all of the incomprehensible suffering staring Him in the face, He knelt in the tranquillity of a garden and humbly prayed, “May this cup (of suffering) be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39). Thank God He was obedient! Some day every person will bow before Jesus. Have you bowed your knees and received Christ as your Savior and Lord? Can you pray to your Father in heaven, “Your will be done”? INSIGHT: Jesus obeyed by dying in submission to His Father's will. You can now obey by living today in submission to your Father's will. **************************************************

Walking with God
Scripture Focus: Psalm 145 "Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts" (Psalm 145:3-4).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Walking with God the King is not the privilege reserved for only a few. You and I can walk with Him every day. The only requirement is having a heart that is open and responsive to Him. David, who wrote Psalm 145, gives us a pattern to follow. First of all, we are called to praise God the King every Day for who He is (vv. 1-2). Then we are instructed to pass on to others what we know of Him through His Word and through His actions in our lives. Our story of faith is to be told from "one

generation" to the next (v. 4). We are to talk about God's works and His mighty acts. In a weekly Bible class that I teach, I constantly remind the older generation that they are living witnesses to the works of God in their lives, their families, and the history of the church. We need also to exercise the tenderness of God (v. 8). We need to be gracious free and spontaneous in offering good to others. We are to show compassion - kind, gentle, and tender. Finally, we are to live in view of eternity (v 13). INSIGHT: Be faithful in sharing your faith and the work of God in your life. Open your heart to invite others to "come and see the works of the Lord" (Psalm 46:8). **************************************************

Coming Home
Scripture Focus: Luke 15:11-32 "I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: `Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son . . .' so he got up and went to his father" (Luke 15: 18-20).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------We cannot walk with God until, like the wandering son in Jesus' story, we have decided to come home to God. The fact is that no matter how good we are and how our family and friends admire us, we have each chosen to go our own way. We have been seeking paths that promise self-fulfillment. God pictures us as sheep who have gone astray and have turned to ways that appeal to us (Isaiah 53:6). While we are following the paths of our own choosing, we can talk about God, we can sing about Him, even give to His church, but we cannot walk with Him. To do so, we need to make the decision to go His way. When we take Him at His word and receive His Son as Savior, an amazing miracle occurs. God welcomes us into His arms and makes us His dearly loved children (John 1:12). There's an exuberant celebration in heaven, and we can begin our daily walk with God on Planet Earth. Have you come home to God? If you haven't, today would be a good Day to make that decision.

INSIGHT: It's possible to talk about walking with God and even to think we are doing so. But our walk does not begin until we make the decision to come home His way. **************************************************

Walking in Step
Scripture Focus: 1 John 1 "If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another" (1 John 1:6-7). -----------------------------------------------------------------------A couple walks together, obviously enjoying their companionship. They walk in step, holding hands, conversing freely, and glancing at each other with smiles. Suddenly there's a change. Though we can't hear what was said, we can't miss the signals that they've had a disagreement. They keep walking, but are no longer in step. There's a distance between them - both in space and in spirit. In our daily walk with God we can enjoy sweet companionship. We listen to His voice and respond from an open heart. We delight in Him and know He is fulfilling the desires of our hearts (Psalm 37:4). Then something happens that spoils the picture. We step out of the light of His fellowship by harboring an attitude or action of darkness. God calls this sin. We are no longer in step with Him. But we don't have to stay out of step. God has provided the way to immediate restoration. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness"(1 John 1:9). INSIGHT: Are you walking in step with God today? If you are not enjoying His sweet companionship, take His remedy to come back and walk in step with Him. **************************************************

Walking in Love
Scripture Focus:

1 Corinthians 13 "Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us" (1 John 4:11-12).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------I received a phone call from a young person asking me to give her a ride to a friend's home. She had struggled with others in her family, had been asked to leave. As we drove to the friend's home, we talked about her problems. "What's the use?" she asked. "I'm tired of living. No one really cares and loves me." So many people can identify with this young person. Love is an ingredient that is vital to every person. The heartbeat of healthy, open relationships is God's special love. In 1 Corinthians 13 Paul describes the place and value of love. Take away love, and our lives and relationships are a big zero (vv. 1-3). Love needs to be demonstrated in patience, kindness, and rejoicing with the truth (vv. 4-7). Love is like a magnet that brings people together. Such love focuses on the needs of others. Love is a long-term investment (vv 7-8, 13). In tough times, authentic love will not retreat, but navigate through the storm. God's desire is that our Christlike love be the practice of our daily walk. INSIGHT: We are reminded that love wills the good of all and never will bring harm or evil to any. **************************************************

Living on Alert
Scripture Focus: Matthew 24:30-44 "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come . . . So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him" (Matthew 24:42, 44). -----------------------------------------------------------------------Through the years numbers of people have attempted to set a date when Christ will return. Though they were sincere, their efforts have all been to no avail. Christ wants us to focus instead on living on alert until He comes.

To help us do this, he told a story of a noble man who left on a journey and wanted his servants to go on with the business of living while he was away (Luke 19:11-24). From this we learn that we are to be diligent in our thinking, planning, working, investing in His kingdom, and serving until our Lord returns. We also need to live godly lives as we wait for His return. Paul's instructions to Titus are for us as well. We are to follow a life of integrity, purity, and spiritual vitality (Titus 2:11-14). We need to be prepared to meet Jesus face to face at any moment. We are to be on guard, aware of dangers that threaten our walk with God, and humbly acknowledge our dependence on Him for strength to live on alert. INSIGHT: Have we become so comfortable in our earthly life that we are failing to look for Jesus' coming again? **************************************************

Walking in Freedom
Scripture Focus: Micah 7:14-20 "You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea" (Micah 7:18-19). -----------------------------------------------------------------------On several occasions I have traveled to the Pacific Island of Saipan. Winging our way from Guam for the short trip, the pilot would make reference to the Marianas Trench in the ocean below, the deepest known point on Earth's surface. His comments reminded me of God's compassion in dealing with our sinfulness. He has hurled all our wrongdoing into the depths of the sea. What great news! No one can possibly locate them or raise them to view. Never again will they confront us. Through the work of Jesus on the cross and His resurrection from the dead, He has taken away our transgressions. "As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us" (Psalm 103:12). There's no way we can measure how far those sins have been taken. What freedom to celebrate, and it begins through our confession. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and

will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). INSIGHT: When you confess and forsake sin, you can celebrate your freedom, knowing that God has removed it forever. **************************************************

Walking in Forgiveness
Scripture Focus: Matthew 18:21-35 “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, `Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?' Jesus answered, `I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times’” (Matthew 18: 21-22). -----------------------------------------------------------------------A picture from the Vietnam war is etched in my memory. It captures the anguish of a young Vietnamese woman running from her village, hoping to escape the horror of napalm that was burning her body. Believing that no one was left in the village, an American pilot had ordered its destruction. In 1996 the young woman, Kim Phuc was invited to speak at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. In her words, she offered to forgive the pilot if they ever met. Little did she know that John Plummer was in the audience. After the ceremony they met. The pilot said over and over, “I'm sorry.” Kim responded, “It's all right. I forgive.” Though scarred for life, she had become a believer in Jesus Christ. So had John! They both understood God's forgiveness and now had the ability and compassion to offer and receive the needed forgiveness for themselves. Do you live with the strain of painful memory of wounds from others? Jesus tells you, “Forgive them as I have forgiven you” (see Colossians 3:13). INSIGHT: Have you trusted God to forgive your wrongdoing against Him? Can you do anything less than forgive the wrongdoing of another against you? **************************************************

Walking in Fitness
Scripture Focus: 1 Thess. 5:12-28 “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). -----------------------------------------------------------------------We hear much these Days about the need to keep physically fit. Counselors give advice on such topics as diet, exercise, and coping with stress, and having regular medical checkups. The apostle Paul gave advice on keeping spiritually fit, something that is even more important to our wellbeing. First, God wants us to be joyful. This joy comes as a direct result of experiencing God's grace. The similar Hebrew word pictures a frisky young lamb skipping around for joy! Notice also that God wants us to be a people of prayer. We are to pray for what is good and what will avert evil. In praying continually, we will talk to God about everything that concerns us. This enables us to meet difficulties with confidence in Him and to learn to see all of life from His perspective. For fitness, God wants us to be thankful at all times, in all circumstances. The sin of ingratitude drains our vitality while thankfulness infuses our spirits with zest. INSIGHT: For spiritual fitness, let your daily walk with God be filled with joyfulness, thanksgiving, and a prayerful spirit. **************************************************

Serious Faith
Scripture Focus: 1 Timothy 1:1-15 “These promote controversies rather than God's work – which is by faith. The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1Timothy 1:4-5). ------------------------------------------------------------------------

Paul wrote to his spiritual son Timothy about his responsibilities in ministry. He needed to battle unsound theology, false doctrine, and controversy in the church. This was heavy duty for a young Christian worker, and perhaps we are thankful that we do not have a responsibility like that. However, Paul's counsel to Timothy was so practical that it applies to you and me in our walk with God. Everything begins with a foundation of love. This love is the love of choice and the will, characterized by self-denial and self-sacrifice for the benefit of others. Such love can only come from a “pure heart” that is open before God and others. It also comes from a “good conscience,” daily knowing and doing God's will, leading us to be productive and satisfied. Finally, such love comes through “sincere faith.” After Jesus washed His disciples’ feet, He said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35). INSIGHT: Do you long to be a person of great faith? Link your faith with your love that springs from a pure heart, and a good conscience. **************************************************

Have a Caring Heart
Scripture Focus: John 3:16-21 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). -----------------------------------------------------------------------We know today's key verse well, don't we? But how much does its truth influence our daily living? Do we reflect the spirit of caring for others and bringing them to Christ? The central purpose and focus behind God's sacrifice of His Son is found in His promise that “whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” We don’t have to look far to recognize that our nation is deeply torn over issues that blast away at society: violent crimes, racism, broken families, and a subculture that promotes anti-God lifestyles. The only hope is the Gospel! Isaiah the prophet spoke of a time when the earth would be full of the knowledge of the Lord (Isaiah 11:9). In spite of the sinfulness of mankind, God will keep His promise, and His plan is to involve you and me in a vital way. We are to penetrate the darkness of this sinful world with our persistent and passionate praying, and we

are to go out to the world, beginning with our neighbors, planting the seed of the Gospel. INSIGHT: God cares for the whole world. When you walk with Him, you will have a heart that cares. How will you express your caring heart today? **************************************************

Four Priorities
Scripture Focus: Philippians 1:21-30 “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27). “Offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1). -----------------------------------------------------------------------Several times a year, it is my privilege to give instruction at the Iowa Enforcement Academy. In one class I discuss “The Role of the Chaplain in Law Enforcement.” It's an opportunity to offer recruits the friendship of a chaplain. In a few months they will be assigned to the streets where they will be faced with some of the evils and tragedies of society. A chaplain can be very helpful in such a time to the officer and the individuals involved in the difficulty. We ask our chaplains to have four priorities and the fact is that each of us would do well to practice these as well. First, God calls us to be available. Our credibility suffers if we are not willing to help when the call comes. Second, God wants us to be visible. We need to be in contact with people. If you are not both available and visible, they will not call on us in the time of need. Third, God wants us to be adaptable. If we are going to relate to others, we must be flexible. Finally, God calls us to be honest, people of integrity. INSIGHT: It's important to be available, visible, adaptable, and credible. We must have an acceptable life before there can be acceptable service. **************************************************

An Unknown Path
Scripture Focus: Psalm 32

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you” (Psalm 32:8). -----------------------------------------------------------------------Our human nature wants to see where we are going, but often God guides us one step at a time. He leads us along an unknown path on which we can't see ahead. The prophet Jeremiah said, “He has barred my way with blocks of stone; he has made my paths crooked” (Lamentations 3:9). God doesn’t have to explain His daily dealings with us. He only promises that He will lead us in the way He wants us to go. Then it is up to us to trust Him enough to obey when He gives us those step by step directions. God knows us better than we know ourselves. He is acquainted with all our ways, and He will only guide us in what is best for us and for His glory. The simple fact is that He is there with us, close beside us on the path of life. That is sufficient for us to have peace of heart and mind. His Word is good enough for us to have the confidence that He will never mislead us, and in His time, we will know and see the final destination – even when it appears that for now we are in a holding pattern. INSIGHT: We need times of trusting God in prayer so that the still, small voice of our Savior can cut through the howl of life, offering His peace of heart and mind. **************************************************

Learning to Love
Scripture Focus: 1 John 3:11-24 “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers . . . Let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:16, 18). -----------------------------------------------------------------------We're told that in today's society, three out of every four people will hurt you if given an opportunity. One in four is genuinely kind, willing to help. You and I have the privilege of being that “fourth” person! First, though, we need to work through our fear of closeness and love. We need to give up our “fig leaves” – those things we use to shield ourselves from others. In our walk with God, we learn it is okay to cry as well as laugh with others.

As Police Chaplain, I was called at 2:30 one morning to deliver a “death message.” It was difficult to tell the parents that their teenage son had died, but in the hours we spent together that night, they shared a variety of memories of their boy. As we cried and laughed together, our bond was strengthened. In becoming that “fourth person,” we need to be willing to risk openness, to allow others to meet our own needs as they see them, and to respond with appreciation when kindness and love is offered. To not be able to do this robs us of the opportunity to express God's love to them. INSIGHT: What emotionally wounded people need is love, acceptance, encouragement, forgiveness, and compassion – expressed by you and me. **************************************************

Finding Our Niche
Scripture Focus: Psalm 71:14-24 “My mouth will tell of your righteousness . . . I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, O Sovereign Lord; I will proclaim your righteousness, yours alone” (Psalm 71:15-16).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Each of us is responsible for ministry. God has a niche for you in His service. Here are six ideas of how to discover your special place: 1. Seek God’s call and direction for using your spiritual gifts, talents, past life experiences, and personality. 2. Ask God to lead you to His goal for your life. Dream big, because if you can handle it, it's too small. 3. See life through His eyes. Develop a hatred for sin, the generosity of His grace, and a broken heart for those who do not know Christ. 4. Develop steps to have your vision become a reality. Where best can you serve Him? How can you demonstrate God's love to others? 5. Look for ways to develop your life of discipleship – first for yourself and then in the life of another person.

6. Commit yourself to wholeheartedly following and serving God. Remove the clutter and static that keeps you from hearing His voice. Live in a spirit of readiness to respond to His leading. INSIGHT: Dare to be definite with God. Dare to lay hold of His promises and to wait in faith until He shows you where and how He wants you to serve. **************************************************

Heart Inspection
Scripture Focus: 1 Samuel 16:1-13 “Do not consider his appearance or his height . . . The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Our culture is preoccupied with appearance, spending billions of dollars yearly on designer label clothing, the “right” shoes for sports, cosmetics, diet programs, and tanning studios. Yet the value of a person lies in what can't be seen. God told the prophet Samuel to anoint the next king of Israel. Jesse had seven impressive sons, and one insignificant little guy out in the hills attending the sheep. That shepherd boy was chosen. God had checked out David's heart, his emotions, will, intellect, desires, and put His stamp of blessing and approval on him. God is working in the hidden areas of your life. He sees the strengths that others may never notice. He identifies areas of your life that you need to work on before they become serious problems. Let God give you a heart inspection today. David recognized that what is impressive to people isn't necessarily impressive to God. Check out Psalm 139:23-24 and accept God's evaluation as He continues to work and develop your heart. INSIGHT: A.W. Tozer observed, “The widest thing in the universe is not space; it is the potential capacity of the human heart.” **************************************************

Counting the Cost
Scripture Focus: Luke 14:25-35 “Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple . . . If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 14:27, 9:23).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------It seems that Jesus purposefully made following Him desperately hard, and thus deliberately thinned out the ranks of would-be disciples. He could have emphasized the rewards that awaited His followers, but instead spoke of the high cost. Thus those who followed Him did so with their eyes open. Jesus issued two invitations. First, “Come unto me” and second, “Come after Me.” It's this second part that is His call to sacrificial service. Jesus gave indispensable conditions to following Him as a disciple. First, there must be an unrivaled love for Him (14:26). No other love in our heart can claim first place. There can be no clash in loyalties within family or self. To the church in Ephesus, Jesus pointed out that they had “forsaken their first love” (Revelation 2:4). Jesus also called for a commitment to carrying the cross, allowing it to touch the conduct of life (Luke 14:27). It's the voluntary choice to bear the shame of being identified with Christ. Finally, there must be unqualified surrender of all we have (v. 33). INSIGHT: Christ's gift and call to us is not complete until all the desires of our life and heart have been reduced to one. **************************************************

The Dragon of Fear
Scripture Focus: Psalm 27 “The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid? . . Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart” (Psalm 27:1, 14).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Fears and phobias can dominate our minds, reduce our strength, and keep us restless. David had reason to fear, yet in Psalm 27 he tells how he handled the dragon of fear. King Saul targeted David as a threat to him. He wanted to produce injury or even death to David. Though David had become a fugitive and was being pursued by Saul, he was calm in his fearless confidence in God. He relied on God as his “light” (v. 1). God alone would give him direction and guidance. God was also his “salvation,” the one who alone could deliver him. As “stronghold,” God defended and protected David, giving him confidence. In times of worry, our mindset needs to be on God. More than 10 years ago, my son Dave, a friend, and I were involved in a serious boating accident on the Rock River in Illinois. A jet boat broadsided our kayak, throwing us into the river. As I came to the surface, I couldn't see either of the others. Immediately my focus was on God and my need for His help. God was there. He provided, and the other two survived. INSIGHT: Make a list of your fears. As they occur, admit them, identify them, and call them by name as you turn them over to God. **************************************************

Advice for a New Day
Scripture Focus: 2 Timothy 4:9-22 “At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me . . . But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed” (2 Timothy 4:16-17).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------The apostle Paul was in a Roman prison, apparently rearrested as part of Nero's persecution of Christians. He was in a cold cell, in chains, and with no hope of deliverance. Writing his last letter, he asked Timothy to hurry and make one final visit before his execution. Talk about affliction! Paul refused to allow bitterness and revenge to control his attitude toward others. Some had deserted him and let him down. Demas, a close associate, had “utterly

forsaken” him. Alexander had opposed him. Yet Paul determined to leave any judgment with God. Paul never gave up on the task God had given him. Timothy was to bring the “books” – papyrus scrolls, possibly the Old Testament books, and the “parchments” – expensively prepared animal hides used for writing letters. Up until the end of life, Paul walked with God. He found the presence of Christ sufficient to sustain him. He could be optimistic about the future even as he faced death. Christ was his ultimate companion in that hour. INSIGHT: Do you say, “I can't handle it”? God can! You may face a situation beyond your reserves, but never beyond God's resources. **************************************************

Walking with Jesus as Lord
Scripture Focus: Mark 4:35-41 “He said to his disciples, `Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?' They were terrified and asked each other, `Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!’” (Mark 4:40-41).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Soon Jesus would ask His disciples, “Who do you say I am?” (8:29) To help prepare them for this question, He demonstrated His unlimited power over the natural world. Jesus and His disciples left the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, and began a trip across the lake. As we read the Gospel account, it is as if He were saying, “You don't know it yet, but you need Me.” He knew a storm was ahead; they didn’t. He knew they would need Him as never before; they didn't. Some of these men had worked the sea and were confident – until the storm hit. Violent waves threatened to sink the boat and take their lives. Jesus was not merely a passenger. He proved to be the captain. The disciples called on Him as their Teacher. He proved that He had “all the fullness of the Deity” (Colossians 2:9). He spoke to the sea, “Quiet! Be still.” Suddenly there was complete calm. When Jesus is Lord, our lives are under His control. What He did in the storm, He can do for us as we walk each day with Him.

INSIGHT: The understanding that your life is in the control of God is the most liberating belief that can come into your mind and heart. **************************************************

Called Alongside
Scripture Focus: 1 Thess. 5:8-15 “Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone” (1 Thessalonians 5:13-14).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------The apostle Paul was writing from his heart as he expressed concern for people who need special care. Living in the “fast lane” of society today, we find little time to follow through on his words. Yet we need to take this seriously, because we all know people who would fall into each category of our key verse. As we speed right on by in our busy lives, we miss the opportunity for service. Paul says it’s our responsibility to give critical attention to the needs of certain people. We are to “warn those who are idle.” It's our place to confront and challenge those who are unruly, undisciplined, and disorderly. We are to “encourage the timid,” the constant worriers, small-souled, the discouraged who live on the dark side of life. We are to “help the weak,” who are exhausted and burned out. Rather than turning away from them, we need to stand close enough to catch them as they are about to collapse. We need to love them in Christ so they know they are not abandoned. Finally, it is our role to exercise patience. It's all practical advice for us as we walk with God today. INSIGHT: It may be time consuming to stand by a person with special needs. But your patience may bring the fresh spark that will enable that one to press on. **************************************************

The Power of Prayer
Scripture Focus: James 5:13-20 “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective . . . Whoever turns a

sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins” (James 5:16, 20).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Some of my closest friends are Christian cops. I was with an officer late one night when he clocked a vehicle coming toward us at a high rate of speed. He spun around, stopped the driver, and issued a warning. When he returned to his squad car, the officer said, “I hope you don't mind, but I always pray by name for people that I stop.” When I asked him how God had answered such prayers, he mentioned a young girl whom he had stopped one day for erratic driving. In their conversation, she began to share with him a troubled life. He offered godly direction: change your driving behavior; find a good church in your community; get into a solid youth group, and make some Christian friends. Maybe six months went by and he was ticketing another driver in about the same area. A vehicle coming his direction slowed down, turned around, and pulled behind his squad car. It was the same young girl. She said, “I want you to know I have done what you suggested, and God has changed my life. Thank you!” INSIGHT: God promises that your energetic, passionate prayers for another have the power to accomplish much. **************************************************

A Prisoner of Hope
Scripture Focus: Zechariah 9:11-17 “Because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit. Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you” (Zechariah 9:11-12).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------God is in the business of transforming “prisoners of waterless pits” into “prisoners of hope.” The people of Jerusalem were held prisoners of Babylon, but they were also “prisoners of hope” as they dreamed about their homeland. That hope became reality as they rebuilt their temple and their city. As Christians we are “prisoners of hope,” enjoying our walk with Christ on earth and anticipating spending eternity with Him.

While driving one afternoon, I heard the police dispatcher call for the chaplain. I headed for the home of a young man who had taken his own life. Over the next few hours with his family, I realized they had no hope. As “prisoners of hope” we have the answer to such a dilemma. Our God is the God of all hope “who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20). Jesus Christ has come to set us free, firmly bonding us to Him forever. In this bonding, we find God making us vibrant people of hope. INSIGHT: Hope is power that drives the Christian life, allowing us to accomplish the routine duties and deal with the gigantic problems of any Day. **************************************************

The Baggage of Victory
Scripture Focus: 2 Chronicles 25:1-16 “How long will you love delusions and seek false gods?” (Psalm 4:2). “Why do you consult this people's gods, which could not save their own people from your hand?” (2 Chronicles 25:15)

-----------------------------------------------------------------------After a spiritual victory, it is easy to let our guard down, assuming that the battle is over. If we're not careful, our pride will convince us that we are really something. Suddenly we're swept from the time of victory to one of defeat – embracing the very evil we had set out to destroy. Gradually we find ourselves fearful and fighting defeat again. Amaziah, King of Judah achieved victory when he followed directions of a man of God as he went off to war. Then in his strength, he yielded to the enticement of bringing back the gods of the people whose army he had just defeated. Perhaps he thought by doing this he would have no future threat from Edom. It’s easy for us to make the same mistake when we turn from walking with God to run after power, recognition, money – false gods that have become symbols of our society. We find a freedom in Christ, only to be compromised as we accept the gods of society. But the cost is great not only to ourselves but also to those God planned for us to serve.

INSIGHT: The path of spiritual history is strewn with lives wounded and wrecked by those who have compromised their faith for alignment with the world. **************************************************

The Practice of Prayer
Scripture Focus: Daniel 6:1-16 “Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice” (Psalm 55:17). “Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before” (Daniel 6:10).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Our world seems to have a crisis every day. It's easy to be swept away by commentators, editorials, and talk shows. Yet, how important that in a time of real or perceived crisis, we exercise the privilege of prayer, as Daniel did. Daniel was a genuine leader, and King Darius knew it. He was distinguished, trustworthy, neither corrupt nor negligent (see vv. 3-4). Daniel was in his 80s by this time, and yet still a respected leader. However, his enemies hatched a plan that the king approved and could not change. Essentially it meant that the only person prayed to for a period of 30 Days was the king. Punishment was a one-way trip to the den of lions. Though Daniel was aware of this, he continued to pray to his God, as was his custom. For Daniel, praying was an essential part of his walk with God. Some of us turn to God only in crisis, but God is pleased when our praying is a natural part of our lives and we take opportunity to pray no matter what circumstances we face. INSIGHT: Someone has said that prayer is our means of involving the all-powerful God in our personal battle with the enemy of our souls. **************************************************

Walk with a Generous Heart
Scripture Focus: Luke 19:1-10 “Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, `Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of

my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount” (Luke 19:8).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Zacchaeus was no friend of the people. To finance the great world-empire, the Romans levied heavy taxes against all people under their control. A Jew who chose to work for Rome as a tax gatherer was considered by his people to be a traitor. Further, it was known that such tax gatherers made themselves rich by gouging their fellow Jews. No wonder the crowds were angry at Jesus when He went to the home of Zacchaeus. We don’t have a record of what went on at the dinner table, but we do know that when Zacchaeus emerged, he made a dramatic announcement. An inward change had taken place and was witnessed to by his outward action. When Jesus came into his life, He changed both Zacchaeus' heart and his behavior. Today when we think of stewardship, we seem to limit our contribution to the Lord to 10 percent and think we are being generous. When the life of Zacchaeus was changed, it was marked by his staggering generosity. Jesus declared, “Today salvation has come to this house” (v. 9). INSIGHT: You can never out-give God. How completely do you trust Him with all that you own? **************************************************

The Danger of Little Sins
Scripture Focus: Hebrews 3:12-19 “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness” (Hebrews 3:13).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------It happens quietly and subtly, over a period of time that hardness of heart sets in with disastrous results. There's a creeping apathy toward serving Christ and a tendency to question God's love and care. One day such a person wakes up and asks, “What happened?” We find our answers illustrated in the historic city of Ephesus. This cultural and commercial center was located at the mouth of the Cayster River. Ephesus was

noted for its busy harbor activity, its amphitheater, gymnasiums, and the magnificent Temple of Diana. However, the city lost its attraction. Silty sedimentary particles slowly filled the harbor and eventually separated the harbor from the city, creating a loss in economic revenue and a decline in life. It can happen spiritually, as well. We read that the Church in Ephesus lost its “first love” (Rev. 2:4). The Ephesians' fervor for Christ became cold when the silt of sin gradually accumulated, robbing people of genuine life in Christ and causing them to detour from their daily walk with Him. INSIGHT: Satan uses the little things, like particles of silt, to ruin us! We need to deal with unresolved anger, bitterness, grumbling, and other stuff that leads to a hardened heart. **************************************************

Being a Negotiator
Scripture Focus: Proverbs 15:1-13 “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger . . . The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life” (Proverbs 15:1, 4).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Working with people in Law Enforcement, I enjoy additional training that better equips me as a chaplain and reserve police officer. I listened one day as a prime hostage negotiator described serious situations in which he hoped and prayed there would be no injury or death. My instructor, a man of faith, said that he always follows one main principle from today's verse. A gentle answer will more often than not dissolve hostility. A rising voice almost always triggers an angry response. The basic goal of negotiating is movement back to the point of departure. It works for a reversal in direction, a strong commitment to turning around. It's also what we call repentance. Think about the power you have to respond in love with a gentle answer. Many people around you are “hostages” of circumstances, often beyond their control. Your quiet response becomes to them the very peace of Christ, and hope for the future. As you walk with Him, the Lord can use you to turn them back to where they will listen to Him.

INSIGHT: Becoming a better listener with a gentle answer will make you a more patient person and will enhance the quality of your relationships. **************************************************

The Small Stuff
Scripture Focus: Romans 8:28-39 “I am convinced that neither death nor life . . . neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Most people today are looking for ways to calm down, make their lives more peaceful and caring. In an effort to bring things under control, they schedule their days. However, more often than not, they have to cope with interruptions. Plans suddenly change, people don't do what they promised to do, an unexpected problem arises, someone needs to pour out a heartache – the list goes on. Is it really worth getting upset over? No matter how carefully I schedule my activities, many days are filled with small stuff – stuff that I need to allow for, if I am walking in step with my Master. Christians have always had to face hardships in assorted forms: persecution, illness, imprisonment, and even death! Yet God is with us. It is impossible to be separated from Him. In light of this, it should be no big deal that I have had to alter my plans because of the small stuff. Nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God” (v. 39). That's worth holding on to! INSIGHT: As I walk with God, I will meet essential deadlines, achieve my goals, and take care of my responsibilities, despite altered plans. **************************************************

Seeing the Unseen
Scripture Focus: 2 Corinthians 4:7-18

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------A woman was so upset over a disagreement that she was ready to leave her church. A Christian counselor listened to her complaints and then surprised her by saying they were beside the point. “What really matters,” he said, “is your relationship with Jesus.” It all boils down to that. Even though Christ is invisible to us, He Himself lives within us, filling us with His power. It's true that we are mere “jars of clay.” Such clay pots of the early days were cheap, breakable, and replaceable, but served a variety of necessary household functions, from holding documents to garbage. God does His finest work in our vulnerable condition. It is His “all surpassing power” that overcomes our flaws. Thus our weakness is not fatal but actually essential for displaying God's power. Instead of being discouraged by our humanness, we need to let our inner spirit be renewed daily, so that we can grow and mature into a Christlike person as we walk with Him. Our hardship today is “light” compared to our hope of eternity. INSIGHT: Your weakness need not cripple you, but actually strengthen you, as you rely on Christ as the source of your power. **************************************************

Foundation of Confidence
Scripture Focus: Daniel 10 “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them” (Daniel 10:12).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Law enforcement personnel are being trained to be ready for any emergency, especially the threat of terrorism. I serve as a member of a “first-responder” program in our area that is destined to be called on for incidents of large magnitude that might affect our community. While we constantly train and are updated on procedures, the real hope is found in the fact that God is exercising His master plan and permits the rise of evil forces and also orchestrates their fall. Through it all, He

draws unbelievers to Himself and brings about eternal good for His children. In the words of Paul, “he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him” (Acts 17:26-27). We live in time of insecurity and the great truth is that God's objective for mankind through His sovereign management is to draw people to Himself. We have optimism about the future because of our confidence in God's Word. INSIGHT: We stand in awe of believers in Bible days. but we have access to the same source of power as they did. We too can have confidence to live effective lives of faith. **************************************************

Bringing Others Along
Scripture Focus: Acts 1:6-11 “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). A friend commits herself to a three-day walk to raise funds for cancer. She cannot do it alone, nor does she want to. There's rigorous training needed for the 60-mile walk, and obviously there's need to raise financial support to meet the goals. She looks for some to join her in the walk and to support her. You and I are committed to our personal walk – a walk with God. As we draw close to Him, we share His heart for the lost. He is not willing for any to perish but for all to come into the shelter of His mercy and salvation (2 Peter 3:9). We commit to walking in step with Him and to bringing others along. But we know we can't do it alone. And we don’t have to! God Himself has provided the message we need to share.

He will give us the inner freedom to share our message, and He has promised the power to make our witness effective! Open your hearts to others. Invite them come along on your walk with God. INSIGHT: Drawing close to God convinces us of the power of the Gospel – to transform us and to do the same for others. **************************************************

Fresh and New
Scripture Focus: 2 Corinthians 5:14-21 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:17-18).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Everything was new for Tom. A month ago he had met Jesus Christ. Now his feelings and attitudes were changing. He was changing, for God the Holy Spirit was working His miracles within. God really is at work in people. He is taking us and in Christ, is reshaping our lives and our experiences to give us meaning and joy. He's proving in us the reality of what He promises when He says He will make us new creations. When you come to Christ, He gives you His life and you're new. Not only you, but everything about your life has become new. The old things have passed away: old attitudes, old ways of living, old feelings about yourself and others, all these things are simply unimportant and inoperative now. When a cocoon bursts, and the caterpillar that formed it emerges transformed, it doesn't have to learn to fly. The butterfly waits briefly for the sun to dry its wings, and then launches into flight. But all that's implied by newness in Christ isn't something we experience automatically. You and I have to learn to fly. INSIGHT: Stretch your wings. Launch yourself into the new life Christ has given you. He's there to make it a reality for you. **************************************************

Putting on "the New Self"
Scripture Focus: Colossians 3:3-10 "You have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator" (Colossians 3:910).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------When you and I come to Christ, we are given new life. We're made new. But at the same time the old, while "gone" as far as its power to hold and control us is concerned, remains a part of our personality. It's because of this that the Bible urges believers to consider themselves dead to all that characterizes the old life, and to "put on the new self" which is "being renewed." As Christians, you and I can go on living in the same old way. We can become discouraged, or bitter, or struggle compulsively to earn God's gifts, but we don't have to. We have the potential to go on to that fresh, full-color kind of life God offers us. Trying to live the Christian life while being governed by the feelings and values and beliefs developed over years of living without Christ leads to tragic disappointment. God has made available the "all things" that become new for you in Christ as you "put on the new self" that is "being renewed" (Colossians 3:10). INSIGHT: You'll lose out on "the new" if you try to live your Christian life, guided by the principles that moved you before you came to Christ. Reach out by faith to "the new." **************************************************

Life Comes First
Scripture Focus: Philippians 2:5-8 "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have

life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10). -----------------------------------------------------------------------Many world religions offer various pathways to human fulfillment. Christianity isn't something new to try - some promising philosophy or set of moral standards to guide behavior. Christianity is at heart a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ, who, being God, entered our world as a human being. He came to let us know what God is like, and how much God loves us. And He came to bring us a great gift, the gift of life. The Bible pictures us as imprisoned by sin in a state of living death. We're trapped within the confines of the material universe, cut off from contact with God. Yet it is fellowship with God that alone enables us to grow to our true potential! Created as we were in God's image, the human personality only truly lives when relationship with God frees us to grow and become all that our Creator intends. Jesus broke into our prison to free us, securing our release in His death on the cross. He took the full burden of our every guilty thought and act, and in exchange gave us forgiveness and life. INSIGHT: You must possess new life before you can experience it. And your possession of life depends totally on your relationship with Jesus Christ, the Lifegiver. **************************************************

You're Special as a Person
Scripture Focus: Genesis 1:26-31 "Then God said, `Let us make man in our image, in our likeness' . . . So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them" (Genesis 1:26-27).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------The Genesis history of Creation gives us the first glimpse of our specialness. There we see God create a universe, fashion a world, and enrich it with life - all as a gift for His most special creation, man. It's only of humans that God says, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness." And it was to humanity that God gave the privilege of using, subduing, and caring for the whole earth. If you wonder how special people are to the Lord, look through chapter two of

Genesis and see how completely God planned to meet every human need: giving us responsibility, the opportunity to choose and act, meaningful work, beauty to enjoy, two sexes that we might know union, and a personal relationship with a loving Creator. Person hood is the stamp of the eternal on every human being who comes into our world. Because each human being is a person, bearing this likeness to the Creator, each person is special and important to God. You're special - and have always been special. INSIGHT: We can find much to appreciate and love in the image of the Creator in each person, no matter how warped by sin an individual's personality may be. **************************************************

You're Special as a Son
Scripture Focus: Romans 5:6-11 "Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God - children born not of natural descent . . .but born of God" (John 1:12-13). -----------------------------------------------------------------------To affirm the specialness of every individual doesn't' deny the fact of sin, or the tragic reality that apart from Christ people are cut off from God and under condemnation. The Bible even labels the non-Christian as an enemy of God, a person who has chosen to resist and rebel against Him. But what "special" enemies we've been! "God demonstrates His own love toward us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." And more, "when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son" (Romans 5:8,10). God alone understands the dreadful seriousness of sin. He faces the antagonism people feel for Him. And He loved His enemies enough to die for them. To God, you were always special. Long before you knew or loved Him, He loved you. Yet, as a Christian, you've become even more special to Him. From being a "special enemy" you've become a "special son." As a member of His family, you're even more an object of His love. INSIGHT: God wept over you when you were only a stranger. Now that you're His

precious child, He is filled with joy to hold you close. **************************************************

Constant Love
Scripture Focus: Romans 8:31-39 "If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all - how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?" (Romans 8:31-32). -----------------------------------------------------------------------How special are you? The specialness God demonstrated in Creation fades to insignificance when you see your importance affirmed in Christ's death. God didn't spare His own Son. You were so important to God that He gave His dearest and His best to bring you into His family! God sees you as a child whom He loves. We lose this perspective so easily because we're used to evaluating ourselves by our actions. We tend to feel ourselves valuable or worthless depending on how we're behaving. But this way of self-evaluation is one of those "old things" that passes away for us when we become Christians. Your being loved does not depend on what you do. You're loved because of who you are - a person whom God loves and whom He declares is special to Him! God didn't decide to send Jesus because you had done something to cause Him to value you. It was all grace; and "grace" means God's own love flowing freely to you because He is love - not because you've earned His appreciation. INSIGHT: The lines of love by which you're tied to God as His child can never be severed. You're much too special to God for Him to let you be torn away. **************************************************

Love's Impact
Scripture Focus: Ephesians 3:14-21

"I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power . . . to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ" (Ephesians 3:17-18). -----------------------------------------------------------------------The Christian who realizes his specialness to God is freed from destructive selfcriticism. He's freed from struggling to earn God's gifts. He's freed to love others and to see them as special too. Accepting the fact of your own specialness and feeling loved is a basic first step toward becoming a loving person. A Christlike love is only possible for one who shares Christ's attitude toward human beings. And that must begin with an attitude toward ourselves of acceptance and joy at our specialness and a full confidence that we are loved. Actually, this is the focus of our Scripture reading for today, one of the Bible's richest prayers for believers: that we might realize how loved we are. You're standing on a hill, with all creation around you. You look to each horizon. As far as you can see it stretches, a shimmering mantle of God's love. You look up; you peer down. It's everywhere, enfolding you in the center of a love that has no limits and no end. That's the width and length and height and depth of God's love for you. INSIGHT: You are standing in the very center of God's love. Thank Him that you really are special to Him today. **************************************************

About Guilt
Scripture Focus: Psalm 32 "Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit" (Psalm 32:1-2). -----------------------------------------------------------------------When we think back to the fact that God loves us, we may begin to wonder about guilt and guilt feelings that we encounter. Love certainly doesn't design life to drive us to shame, failure, and despair! What is the role of guilt in our lives? And how should we handle it? Actually, God didn't give us a sense of guilt to torment us but to alert us to the

reality of sin. Guilt feelings do for the heart what pain does for the body. God has programmed feelings into our personalities to warn of the reality of a sin which can destroy us - and to direct our attention to Jesus, the only One who can deal with that guilt! However, when our failures make us feel ashamed, it is possible for us to turn our focus instead to the things we do well. Rather than looking to Jesus, we look at others with self-righteousness as we try to hide our own weakness by downgrading others! This never leads to freedom. Jesus alone provides the remedy. He can banish guilt through His complete forgiveness and cleansing. INSIGHT: Guilt has one very simple function in our lives - to direct our attention to Jesus, who alone can give forgiveness and cleansing. **************************************************

About Forgiveness
Scripture Focus: Psalm 103 "Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits - who forgives all your sins" (Psalm 103:2-3). "I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more (Jeremiah 31: 34). -----------------------------------------------------------------------The words translated "forgive" are fascinating to explore. In the Old Testament, the major word means literally, to send off. The New Testament picks up the same theme, with one word that emphasizes be gracious to and another restates the term send-off. Instead of responding to sin with the judgment it deserves, God has determined to be gracious. He reaches out in love to touch the sinner. Touching us in love He sends off our sin. This is why we come to Jesus when we sense guilt. Jesus continues to send off sin. He knows our inadequacies and how prone to failure we are. He touches us, and sends away our weaknesses. Jesus knows our perverseness and how quickly we turn to our own way. He touches us, and sends away the results of our willfulness and the willfulness itself. And then He remembers our sins no more. No more torment with memories, no more struggles to do better, no more discouragement just trust in His forgiveness. INSIGHT: The fact that we sin is something we need to recognize and admit - and then turn our attention quickly to Jesus! **************************************************

About Cleansing
Scripture Focus: 1 John 1:5-10 "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrightousness" (1 John 1:8-9). -----------------------------------------------------------------------Even after conversion, we sin, but we can face our sins, so that the guilt will be gone. We'll be free to forget them and the disappointment they brought, even as God forgets. Here's how: When we confess our sins to Jesus, He forgives our sins and washes away all our unrighteousness. He sends away our past failures and gives us power to walk a new life! He is able to get on with the business of making us more and more like Him. Learning to live as a forgiven person, then is utterly vital to your new life. When you feel guilty, or know that you've sinned, turn to Jesus right away. Don't wallow in shame. Don't pretend, and build walls of self-righteousness to hide your failures. Don't even try harder to make up for what you've done or haven't done. Come to Jesus right away to confess your sin. And realize that when you do face sin this way, Jesus sends off your sin and pours new strength into you for that new life He's given you to live. INSIGHT: When sin has been confessed and forgiven, forget it. And get on with the business of living for Jesus! **************************************************

Extending Forgiveness
Scripture Focus: Isaiah 53 "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:6). ------------------------------------------------------------------------

Learning to accept forgiveness is closely associated with learning to extend it. Remember we are to live with others as God lives with us! Other people are as inadequate and prone to failure as we are. Other people are as susceptible to the impulse to do evil. Shall we respond to them in anger and judgment (our natural reactions, especially if we bear the brunt of their sin), when God has responded to our sins with forgiveness? No wonder the Bible calls on us to bear with one another and be gracious in forgiving one another! It is a great relief to be freed from the dreadful tension of expecting perfection in other people. It is wonderful to accept people as they are, and to approach them with the free offer of a relationship based on God's kind of forgiveness - not with the demand they improve or with an insistence that they be ashamed. Through forgiveness, we unlock all of life to God's cleansing and transforming power. INSIGHT: Are you critical of others, disappointed in them and angry at them at the same time? You're forgiven, and so are they. So live as a forgiven person! **************************************************

Set Free!
Scripture Focus: Psalm 32:1-7 "Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered . . . I said, `I will confess my transgressions to the Lord' - and you forgave the guilt of my sin" (Psalm 32:1, 5). -----------------------------------------------------------------------Counting on God's love, welcoming His forgiveness, opens the doors of the personality to dynamic growth. It's love - not guilt or dissatisfaction or shame - that has power to change a person for the better. God is set on changing us. He didn't rescue us from our old way of life simply to let us settle back hopelessly into it. In He very first touch on your life, He had your transformation in mind. Scripture makes very clear what this transformation is. Put most simply, it is becoming like God not only in person hood, but, in holiness. So the Apostle Peter urges us, "Be holy in every part of your lives, for the one who has called you is

himself holy. The scripture says: `You shall be holy, for I am holy'" (1 Peter 1:15-16, PH). A little later in this New Testament letter, God shares the reason holiness is possible. "You have been born again," and as Phillips paraphrases it, "the live, permanent Word of the living God has given you His own indestructible heredity" (1 Peter 1:23, PH). INSIGHT: God uses love and forgiveness to free us from the old and set us on the way to being new. **************************************************

Incomplete but Accepted
Scripture Focus: 1 John 3:1-3 "Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." (1 John 3:2). -----------------------------------------------------------------------Sometimes while we're on the way toward Christ-likeness, we become discouraged. We feel we ought to be farther along than we are. We're incomplete. But we're accepted. And loved. All our lives we'll be incomplete - but accepted. We'll never reach the goal of full Christ-likeness - not until we see Him at His coming. But our life is to be one of growth toward Christ-likeness. At first we'll be babes - stumbling and falling, reaching out curiously and fumblingly to touch things we shouldn't. But we'll be loved by our Father. And accepted. Later we'll be like a 10-year-old. Fascinated by the wonders of our new world, exploring, but not ready yet for commitment to a special path that may be our life's ministry. We'll look then at older Christians and be frustrated with ourselves. But we'll be loved by our Father. And accepted. Looking backward, we'll be able to see that we are no longer what we were. Looking forward, we'll see that we're not yet what we'd like to be. INSIGHT: When we look at ourselves, we shouldn't be ashamed or self-satisfied. We're to rest in the fact that we're loved by our Father as we are. We're accepted. **************************************************

Growth
Scripture Focus: John 15:1-10 "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love" (John 15:9-10).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------How do we grow as Christians? The Bible has a very basic answer. Growth depends on our daily relationship with Jesus. Growth comes time spent in reliance on Jesus; the experience that helps is that of living "in" Him. Jesus is "the true vine." As the vine, Jesus is the One who has the power to produce the fruit of righteousness. We can never produce the fruit of Jesus' likeness without Him. So He tells us to "abide" in Him. Simply put, this means He wants us to stay close to Him, so close that His life will flow through us and we can begin to show His fruit. Jesus explains just what he means by staying close to Him. First, He stresses God's love for us. God has given His love to us, and He will not change. Then Jesus says, "I have also loved you; abide in my love." Jesus wants us to stay close to Him so that we can experience the fullness of what that love can mean. Then, second, He speaks of obedience, of responding when God speaks. Keeping Jesus' commands is the key to the abiding relationship. INSIGHT: It's as we live in Jesus, abiding in Him and drawing life from Him, that our lives and our personalities are changed by His touch. **************************************************

Hand in Hand
Scripture Focus: 1 Corinthians 12:4-27 "Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good . . . All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one,

just as he determines" (1 Corinthians 12: 7, 11).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------When God brings people to Himself, He also brings them together. He puts them together in His Church, which the New Testament often calls a body. And how exciting this simile is! Members of a body (hand and wrist, arms and torso) are truly close to each other. Members of a body need each other. A foot can't get along without the hand, or the eye without the ear. The members of a body are subject to the same guidance. The head directs and coordinates the movements of the whole. God gives each Christian special abilities to help the growth of others. Each of these special abilities with which we enrich others' lives comes from the Holy Spirit. God is working in us to touch others. Being with others in the body means that you not only receive but you contribute as well. You're an important member of the family of God, important to your brothers and your sisters because God intends to help and bless them through you. You are not alone. You need other Christians, and they need you. INSIGHT: The world's competitive "go it alone" approach isn't for you. You stand side by side, hand in hand with a whole family of brothers and sisters God has given you. **************************************************

Deserted? Never!
Scripture Focus: Matthew 11:28-30 "God has said, `Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.' So we say with confidence, `The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?'" (Hebrews 13:5-6)

-----------------------------------------------------------------------We have a Person with us, One who has promised never to desert us or forsake us. God gave Audrey, a growing Christian, a passage that helped her understand the very special way He was there for her. It was Jesus' words in Matthew 11:28-30 in which He invited her to link up with Him, to let Him teach her. Audrey said, "I was a

tired struggler, trying to do it all myself. You see, I found that in Jesus' time the mature ox wore a heavy yoke, and the younger ox walked by its side, with no weight on its yoke at all. The younger ox was simply being trained by the older animal. Jesus said, `I will give you only light burdens.' I found I could be like those little oxen if only I'd trust Jesus with my life: my present and my future." It's a beautiful picture, and a true one: walking through life with Jesus at your side, turning your burdens and all of life, your present and your future over to Him, knowing that He will never leave you, and that as you trust Him, He'll take the weight of the load and live out His own life through you. INSIGHT: All this is yours, God's gift to you in Jesus. You'll never walk alone. You have Jesus by your side to take the weight of your load and live out His own life through you. **************************************************

God's Word for Life Now
Scripture Focus: Matthew 7:24-27 "The Lord commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the Lord our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive" (Deuteronomy 6:24).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------The Word of God cuts across all the confusion around us and illuminates our world with light. He shows us what is right and best. God shows us how to live. Our approach to the Word should be, "I am going to seek guidance every Day in the Bible, and do what God shows me." This heart attitude is important, because Scripture always connects God's revelation and our response of obedience. Sometimes the word "obedience" brings up a rather grim picture. We visualize a sullen child or a slave forced to do something against his will by a bitter and angry adult. The very idea of "command" conveys overtones of force and coercion, and an intense desire to be free. But the Bible maintains a very different tone. It's the tone of a Person who speaks out strongly, but always in love, and who wants to warn us away from anything that might harm us and lead us into a safe path. God's commands are to be obeyed, not to avoid His anger, but to assure a secure life. We can obey God, confident that He wills only our good.

INSIGHT: God's commands are to be obeyed, not to avoid His anger, but to assure a secure life. **************************************************

A Warning
Scripture Focus: Hebrews 3:7-19 "Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience" (Hebrews 4:11).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------God's people, freed from slavery in Egypt, were poised on the borders of Palestine. God spoke clearly, telling them to take the land He had promised. They heard what He said, but they refused to obey! They were afraid of the people living in the land, afraid that God would desert them, afraid to step out to enjoy the new life God planned for them. God revealed the tragic consequences of their refusal to act on His command. They would be wanderers in the wilderness, knowing only the dusty and desolate places until that whole generation died and a new generation grew up that would follow God's leading. This is exactly what happened. Now the writer of the Hebrews letter warns you to watch out that the same thing doesn't happen to you. If you refuse to obey when you hear God's voice today, then your life too will be a wilderness. You can only find rest by faith, the kind of faith that believes so firmly in God that it steps out to act on His Word. Faith is trust that relies so firmly on Another that there's no hesitation in obeying. INSIGHT: We can leave the wilderness of spiritual dryness and defeat and know God's peace and joy if we hear His voice and respond. **************************************************

Love and Obedience
Scripture Focus: John 14:15-24

"If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him" (John 14: 23).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------The Old Testament points out that God's commands are spoken for our benefit; His motive is clearly one of love. But love works both ways, for only love will move us to obey those commands. Jesus introduces this theme by making a statement: "If you love Me, you will obey what I command" (v. 15). When we love Him obedience follows. Obedience is not compliance - it's commitment to Him. God only counts as "obedience" that which involves our hearts as well as our behavior. And the thing that moves our hearts is love. When we love God, we will be obedient. But even with love motivating us, we're unable to respond adequately. That's why Jesus has given us the Holy Spirit, who stays with us and brings us out of the wilderness of our own inadequacy. Further, Jesus makes it possible for us to actually experience His presence and reality. When we hear and do God's Word as a love response, Jesus makes Himself known to us in a personal way. Oh, the rewards of obedience that springs from love! INSIGHT: Love leads to obedience. When you obey, living in the center of God's love, God is there in a special and experiential way. **************************************************

Leaving It with God
Scripture Focus: Philippians 4:4-9 "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God . . . will guard your hearts and your minds (Philippians 4:6-7).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Is it possible to "commit the day" to God each morning and by this simple action bring the day into perspective? Does it sound presumptuous to promise God that this day would be His day? No!

That's what Paul talks about in our verses for today. After encouraging us to rejoice in the Lord, who is near (v. 5), He encourages us to leave everything in His loving hands. Life, Paul is saying, isn't something to face with worry and doubt. Life is something to commit to God, letting Him know our needs and concerns, and then leaving them all with Him. When we learn to leave everything with God, then peace will guard our hearts and minds in every circumstance. How do we react when things go wrong? How do you respond to disappointment? To pain? To public embarrassment? These things and others like them do not have to throw you out of control. You can reach out faith's hand to take the assurance that God is in charge of that day and that circumstance, and then enjoy the deep, inexplicable peace that comes when you leave it all with God. INSIGHT: When you commit yourself to God, confident that His will is best, God will assure that He is in charge and give you a peace that cannot be explained other than it is His gift. **************************************************

God's Will
Scripture Focus: Psalm 32 "I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye" (Psalm 32:8, KJV).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------God has a general plan in His Word for all His children but does not give His specific will in all details. God cares about these details, because He cares deeply about you. As you commit yourself to Him, God will let you know His will for you individually. He can help you make decisions by closing doors that you try. Or He can use circumstances. But basically, He wants you to ask Him to let you know where He wants you to go and then commit your decisions to Him. God's promise go guide you with His eye is a beautiful picture of a person gazing into the face of the Lord for direction - so close to Him that he can look deep into the very pupil of His eye, and, by watching the eye, see which direction the Lord is looking.

This is why learning to commit your day to Jesus is so important. When you abandon anxiety and bring everything to God, your attention is focused on Him. Then, with your eyes on Him, He is free to guide you with His glance. If your life is committed to Jesus, He will direct you, and you will have peace. INSIGHT: God wants you to be close to Him, looking to Him so intently, that you can sense and respond when He guides you with a glance. **************************************************

Depending on God
Scripture Focus: Psalm 37:1-9 "Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust in him" (Psalm 37:4-5).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Committing yourself to God and depending on Him frees you to attack each day with vigor and confidence - not self-confidence but confidence in God. Our Scripture passage helps us see what the attitudes of commitment and dependence involve. It's easy to look at other people - people who don't know God - and be envious of their prosperity (vv. 1-2). Rather than fretting ourselves or being overcome with envy and anxiety, we're to take an entirely different approach to life. This different approach begins with trust in the Lord and doing good (v. 3). Our security will be found and experienced as we trust Him. "Delight yourself in the Lord" is a second aspect of this approach to life. Enjoy God! And He has a very special promise to give you "the desires of your heart" (v. 4). God will even work within you to help you want what He has planned for you. The invitation to "commit your way to the Lord" also has an exciting promise attached - He will act when we leave our problems to Him (v. 6). INSIGHT: As you commit your days to Him, bringing everything to Him in prayer, God will bring His peace into your life. You'll know His will for you, and you'll see Him act. **************************************************

Life's Overflow
Scripture Focus: 2 Corinthians 5:15-21 "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:34-35).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Jesus calls us to be His witnesses. What we are communicating is really life. It's the life we have in Jesus - a new life that frees us and changes us as persons - that will compel the conviction in others that this Jesus we talk about is real. "Witness" involves the visible expression of our life. It's the overflow of our new life that attracts, and that gives us the opportunity to explain in words that Jesus is the source of our newness. Understood this way, witness isn't something you do - witness is who you are. And who you are is made visible in certain distinct ways. First, a visible, Christ-like love within the family of God is incontrovertible proof to the world that Jesus is real, and that those who love are His followers. Another way you witness by who you are comes as the fruit of the Holy Spirit is worked in your life (Galatians 5:22-23). Finally, love opens our eyes to see that Jesus died for all, and we have the motivation to communicate the message of reconciliation. INSIGHT: Let Jesus fill up your life until it overflows. In the overflow you'll bring to others around you the water of life. **************************************************

One Another
Scripture Focus: Romans 15:1-7 "Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ"

(Galatians 6:2). "Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds" (Hebrews 10:24).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Jesus didn't love us long distance. He saw our need, and hurried to meet it. He came into our world, reached out to us, and met that need. Sometimes you and I may feel a need to be loved. How often do we sit back, and wait for someone to take the first step? When no one reaches out to us, we're deeply hurt. But when we look at Jesus' example, we find that He didn't sit back and wait, or criticize people for not loving Him. Instead, He took the initiative. Jesus' kind of love reaches out to people first. So reaching out is something that He expects from us. Jesus wants us to care for "one another." That phrase occurs over and over again in the New Testament, and wherever it occurs, it defines in a practical and operational way just how love reaches out. Love means getting close enough to each other to hurt and be hurt. We are to forgive one another, accept, carry burdens, and stimulate one another to expressions of caring - not in our own power, but with Jesus' love being expressed through us. INSIGHT: Jesus calls us to be linked with other Christians in intimacy, sharing our lives in meaningful ways. You don't have to go it alone any more. **************************************************

Something to Grow On
Scripture Focus: Luke 11:1-13 "If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him" (Luke 11:13).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Why does God present Himself as our Father? Because He wants us to grows in a relationship with Him in which we learn to depend on Him. Such dependence is a healthy and good thing - a thing designed to help us grow as we rely on His unconditional love for us and His overwhelming power to do what is right for us. Jesus taught a prayer that begins by recognizing God as Father and moves on to ask Him for all things: direction (His will), sustenance (daily bread), forgiveness,

guidance, and deliverance. Jesus calls our attention to the fact that life is not "doing something for God," but rather living in awareness that God delights in doing things for us. God not only invites us to come to Him; He promises to respond as a perfectly good and completely loving Father. Further, this God of almighty power bends not only to notice us and supply our needs but also to give of His strength to us when we grow weary and fail (Isaiah 40:28-31). INSIGHT: You can bring every need and desire to God. You can be sure He is listening, willingly. You can be sure He'll answer. You can be sure His answer will be good. **************************************************

Dependence
Scripture Focus: Matthew 6:25-34 "Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself" (Matthew 6:33-34).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Seeing God as our loving, all-powerful Father calls out a unique response from us. It's a totally new approach to life, one marked by total dependence. Jesus presents a deed to freedom from feeling anxious about our physical needs. He points out that if our Heavenly Father feeds birds, His care will most certainly extend to His children all the days of our lives. Jesus also gives us freedom from worry about things. Others who do not know God will worry, hoping to find in things the security and peace for which they yearn. But for you and me, knowing God as Father, there is another source of security entirely. Our Father knows our needs and we know our Father! With our anxiety relieved, we're free to concentrate on the real meaning of life for us. With dependence comes a new direction for life, and a promise. The direction? Seek first of all for His will to be all that matters to us. The promise? God our Father will not fail us.

INSIGHT: In depending on God you have a new approach to life based on His lovecommitment to you. He has accepted you as His child and calls Himself your Father. **************************************************

Savior from Sins Past
Scripture Focus: Romans 4:1-8 "Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him" (Romans 4:78).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------God guides believers in Christ - sometimes dramatically and supernaturally, more often by giving those believers wisdom to make good choices. However He does it, He has promised to guide His children. David wrote, "He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake" (Psalm 23:3). If a Christian goes off down paths that aren't "paths of righteousness," he's showing that God did not guide him - you can count on it. That's why we must read God's Word daily so that we'll be clear-minded and sharp to discern His righteous ways. In Scripture certain things are explicitly forbidden. In those areas we don't need more guidance, we simply need obedience. Let's be aware that we're naturally selfcentered and willful. Our "old nature" would love to talk us into disobedience and make excuses when we step off the path. There's not one of us who doesn't need to keep surrendering to the will of our loving and all wise God. He leads in the paths of righteousness. What is for His honor is for our good as well. INSIGHT: God promises to guide us in ways that are righteous. His ways will bring honor to Him and blessing to us. **************************************************

Savior from Present Sin
Scripture Focus: Romans 6:1-14

"For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin - because anyone ho has died has been freed from sin" (Romans 6:6-7).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Like an awesome river current, sin pounds into us, constantly tugging and pulling, clawing at us until it threatens to sweep us along by its power. Yet, in presenting Jesus as Savior, the Bible promises us the power to move upstream. The current will always be there during our earthly life. But with Jesus present, the current need not sweep us away, or even hold us back! The concept of "dead to sin" is a key to understanding what Jesus means to us as daily as Savior. Our "old self," that part of our personality that is in sin's swift current and so easily swept along, was crucified with Him, in order that it might be rendered inoperative in our daily life. So how do we experience freedom from the constant tug downstream? By counting on the Savior now. We really are "dead to sin" in that its pull need not carry us along any more. We'll feel the pull, but we are free to not let it control us. We need to offer God all that we are now, and let Him use us as instruments of His righteousness. INSIGHT: You can live a new life, in which God takes all you are and infuses you with His life and with His righteousness. **************************************************

What Lies Ahead for Us?
Scripture Focus: Romans 8:18-25 "Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is" (1 John 3:2).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Sin's impact has been felt by all of creation. Pollution, corruption, and deterioration have marked the physical universe as well as our moral experience. We've known hurt and pain, alienation and guilt, shame and bitterness, prejudice and injury, war and poverty. Sin has warped not only the individual but all of society.

In providing salvation to us, Jesus touches everything with healing grace. Paul envisions the creation itself set free from its slavery to corruption, breaking into the "glorious freedom of the children of God" (Romans 8:21). We see ourselves, freed not only from the power but even the presence of sin. We don't know a lot abut the future, but God promises eternity stretching out in endless and purified existence. We will be freed not only from the power but even the presence of sin. While we don't know exactly what we will be like, we know we will be like Jesus! The end toward which our life is moving, Christ-likeness, will be fully realized. We will be forever and totally free. INSIGHT: Someday we will look at Jesus, and with awe and full understanding, we will realize what it means for Him to be our Savior. **************************************************

God's Special Gift
Scripture Focus: John 16:5-16 "When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me" (John 15:26).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------The Holy Spirit is God's gift to us. Jesus told his disciples on the crucifixion eve that it would be to their advantage that He leave them, for if He did not go away, the Counselor [Helper] would not come. It was better for them (and for us) that God the Holy Spirit come than that the Son stay! The Spirit's name is important: Counselor, sometimes translated Comforter, which means in the original to stand alongside. Jesus' leaving didn't mean that His followers were to be deserted. Far from it. After Jesus' resurrection and ascension to heaven, God the Holy Spirit was sent as our permanent Companion. In the Person of the Holy Spirit, God takes His stand with us. He is here. In every situation, the Helper we need to give us strength and wisdom is with us! God has given Himself to us! He relates to us in grace. God intends to give freely. This is just what He has done in giving us the Spirit to be our Companion. INSIGHT: The Holy Spirit's presence in your life is a divine Presence to let you

know that you are a most precious possession of your Heavenly Father.

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The Spirit's Presence in Us
Scripture Focus: Galatians 5:22-25 "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control . . . Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit" (Galatians 5:22-23, 25).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Why has the Spirit come to be our Companion? What does He intend to do in us? First, He produces fruit in our lives. God has always been concerned more with whom we are than with what we do. He has announced His intention to reshape us until we are like Jesus in character and love. The love the Spirit produces in us is Jesus' love. But there's more. The Holy Spirit also teaches us, opening our minds to the Word and bringing to mind truths we need to apply as we live (John 14:26). In this ministry, He is called our Counselor. Another unique work of the Holy Spirit is to minister through us - both to nonChristians with whom we share the Gospel (John 16:8-11), and to believers, as we share through the spiritual gifts He has given (1 Corinthians 12; Romans 12). We can speak and leave the results to Him. The Bible often speaks of God as enabling us and providing strength. The Spirit applied the benefits of Jesus' death to us to give us new life; now He stays with us to strengthen us and energize us. INSIGHT: The Holy Spirit is at work in you now, and you can count on His companionship. Yet He keeps the spotlight always on Jesus, and your eyes are to be on Jesus too. **************************************************

The Principle of Paradox
Scripture Focus: Philippians 2:1-6 "Taking the very nature of a servant . . . he humbled himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place" (Philippians 2:7-9).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------A man is tallest when he kneels - so said G. K. Chesterton. And here is the paradox of what God is teaching us about servanthood. Being a servant is a humble business. It is the sort of thing that is usually considered demeaning to one's pride. And therein is the secret, isn't it? Pride was Adam's problem. It has been our problem right along. It is the core of the old nature. Humility - it is a word that seems quite out of place in today's world of superstars, top billing, power, and fame. Pride and a desire to be one step ahead of everyone else is part and parcel of living in our media-saturated western world. But humility is basic to the servant. And in humility we rise to the highest expression of Christ's nature. C.H. MacIntosh reminds us that in Christ's sacrificial death there was nothing in it humanly but stench of death, dust, blood, perspiration, and the smell of the Romans' horses. But in the midst of this terrible odor there went up to the Father's nostrils the "sweet-smelling savor of obedience." INSIGHT: Christ's power makes humility possible. Trust Him with your pride. Let Him make you tall as you kneel. **************************************************

Reasonable Service
Scripture Focus: Romans 12:1-8 "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your

bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service" (Romans 12:1, KJV).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Why, we ask, is presenting our bodies to God a reasonable service? Let's thin of what our God has done for us. Consider His grace - that despite our wanderings, as the Good Shepherd He continues to hold us. Consider His mercy - that despite our ever-present sinful nature, a thousand times of turning away from Him, He continues to love us. Consider His faithfulness - that though our hearts are fickle, often turning after other temporary and little gods, His faithfulness is sure. Consider His love - love that would reach out to the most vile and wretched of men, that would love you and me in spite of what we are. Consider His humiliation - the Lord of Glory who came to earth to be beaten, reviled, spit on, crucified, and denied by the very ones who claimed to love Him. Consider His kingship - the Lord of Glory who spoke and worlds were created, who has promised to prepare a place for us. Us! INSIGHT: Reasonable service? Yes, but far more than reasonable. It is a priceless privilege - this service in Jesus' name. **************************************************

Locked into the System
Scripture Focus: Romans 12:1-8 "Don't let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold, but let God re-make you so that your whole attitude of mind is changed" (Romans 12:2, PH).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------There's nothing so out of step with the world's ambitions than aspiring to be a servant! But that is what God wants us to be - servants.

Everything around us suggests that we should work and work hard to get ahead. Who is it we're to get ahead of? Or what? Some years ago a bestseller suggested that we win in this life by intimidating others. Can you imagine a book that sells a million copies by suggesting that we win by serving? Hardly! But think about it. What more direct, evident, and lovely way to set your own life in contrast to those around you than by being a servant? In Romans 12 the Apostle Paul talks about serving other Christians. It's a natural place to start, isn't it? Serve those you love - those close to you. Genuinely serve them. Then, as Jesus did, serve the others around you, particularly those in need of your love and service. Are you locked into the world system? Jesus calls us to something quite different servanthood. INSIGHT: When Jesus remakes your mind from within, your heart's desire will be that of a servant. Will you let Him do it? **************************************************

Does He Really Care?
Scripture Focus: Luke 7:1-10 "When Jesus had finished saying all this in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. There a centurion's servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die" (Luke 7:1-2).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Thus opens one of the most remarkable stories of faith in the New Testament. Jesus never saw the man He healed or the one who made the request - or at least so the text indicates. Here is a Gentile, not a member of the house of Israel, yet Jesus turns aside to heal his servant. Jesus respected both the centurion's unusual faith and the love he had for his servant. The reason: Jesus was Himself a servant. Reflect on Daniel, God's servant who refused to bow before the king - choosing rather to honor the one true God. The king, trapped in a law he hated but could not

reverse, acknowledged to Daniel, "May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!" (Daniel 6:16) Even this king who had not bowed his knee to Jehovah understood that God looks after His own. Do you wonder if you can risk the role of a servant when the entire world recommends against it? Rely on Jesus' promise, "I will never leave you nor forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5, KJV). INSIGHT: Your Lord can be trusted. His promise is especially precious to those who have left all to follow Him. **************************************************

In Someone Else's Hands
Scripture Focus: Hebrews 11:1-6 "Without faith it is impossible to please God" (Hebrews 11:6). "The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself to me" (Galatians 2:20).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------When we become servants, we really are putting ourselves in Someone else's hands. It's the sort of thing we don't like to do, however. "I'll take care of myself, thank you" is a familiar phrase. The turning over of ourselves is another part of servanthood that Jesus teaches us. Because He turned Himself over to the Father and became a servant for our sakes, He can now work in our lives every day, helping each of us do the same. As servants we become lost or identified with Another. That's what faith is - trusting ourselves to Someone else. Jesus did jut that - everyday. And, when you consider it, that's exactly what being faithful is - placing your trust in Someone day after day. After more than two million miles of air travel, my getting on the plane still requires faith, for at 39,000 feet, my life is most certainly not in my own hands. I am in the hands of the pilot. You may feel as though you're at "39,000 feet" with circumstances that are just too complex. Jesus the servant trusted Himself to His Father. Can you?

INSIGHT: The only hope we have for servanthood is trusting Him who gives all life and conquers death. **************************************************

Cause and Effect
Scripture Focus: Philippians 2:1-11 "[Christ Jesus] made himself nothing, taking the taking the very nature of a servant . . . Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name" (Philippians 2:7,9).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Effects do have causes. We're in a day when that sort of thinking is unpopular. Some would have us believe that we are the result of random events in the universe - the universe itself being the result of random happenings shrouded in dim pasts. The Scripture talks about case and effect. One of the most beautiful examples is in its discussion of servanthood. Jesus is the subject when Paul writes, "Therefore God exalted Him" (v.9). Did you notice that "therefore"? It means as a result of. "So what?" you ask. Here's the point - there are consequences for how we live our lives. In this case, God has highly exalted Jesus because He humbled Himself and became a servant. Check your life. Are you living as though something will come of what you're doing? Or are you living as though your affairs are just a random jumble of events, of no great meaning to anyone else, much less God? Know that He cares! INSIGHT: One of life's joys is that God in heaven really does care. Know that what you do today as a servant has lasting significance. **************************************************

Say "Yes"
Scripture Focus: Hebrews 5:7-10

"Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him" (Hebrews 5:8-9).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Ever been in love - truly in love? One thing you have an intense desire to do whatever your lover wants you to do. Would you think of that as obedience? Probably not. It is much more like pleasing the other person. Jesus was "obedient to death - even death on a cross" (Philippians 2:8). Have you ever thought that if Jesus had wanted to go to the cross, the act would have been robbed of much of its meaning? No, He didn't want the cross, but He did want to be obedient. It's the nature of a true servant. We come back to faith again, for the real issue of obedience is whether we can trust God, knowing that He knows the whole picture; that He has our best interests in mind; that in obedience we will find our greatest joy. Jose Bonino says that we know God to the extent we are obedient. Knowing God is not some theological exercise, intellectual game, or emotional trip. It is understanding God's will and doing it. INSIGHT: Do you love God? Then ask Him to teach you obedience. Ask Him to give you a willing heart and the strength to respond to His desires today. **************************************************

Assets and Servants
Scripture Focus: Matthew 25:14-30 "For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods" (Matthew 25:14, KJV).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------The man wrote that he had been in a massive accident, which had left him completely paralyzed, but now he had begun to recover the use of his upper body and wanted to do something for Christ. He had a typewriter. "Could I type labels for your organization?" he wrote.

My return letter indicated we could use his help. And the man's reply was, "I wept for joy when I realized that I could do something for God." We each have assets - valuable assets Jesus has given us to use: hands that work, a mind that functions, feet that walk, eyes that see. When we put these assets at His disposal, He takes what we think are the ordinary things of our lives and makes something extraordinary out of them. Assets are given to us as a trust. Most of us have much - bodies that function, minds that work, and "things" we need. What will we say as servants when Jesus returns and asks how we have used those assets? Are we "trading" with them daily in His name, asking Him to multiply their value? INSIGHT: All that you have is from God's hand. Acknowledge your dependence on Him, and ask Him for wisdom to use wisely what He has given. **************************************************

Acting on What We Know
Scripture Focus: Luke 12:15-48 "That servant who knows his master's will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows . . . From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded" (Luke 12:47-48).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------In most cases it's no good saying, "I do not know what God wants me to do." For usually God's will has been clearly revealed. More often than not in the Scripture the Lord has shown what kind of people He wants us to be, how He wants us to act. Now certainly there are daily perplexities - where to go, how to handle a situation circumstances in which we need God's Spirit to guide us. However, our Master has revealed His plan - His basic desire for us. He has told us we are dependent on Him, not ourselves, that He is coming again, and that we are accountable for what we have done with our lives. He has reminded us that we should live always ready to see Him at any time. In fact, we are more joyous as we live in real anticipation of His coming. A gold mine of God's will is in Romans 12 and 13. The specific principles there are part of the Master's plan for us. Read these chapters, asking God to give you the

power to make them part of your own life. Then trust Him to work through you. INSIGHT: The challenge is not more information, but faith and the will to act on what we already know. **************************************************

Divided Loyalties
Scripture Focus: Luke 16:1-15 "No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money" (Luke 16:13).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Having worked over the years in cities like Berlin, Vienna, and Prague, one gets an occasional glimpse into the world of espionage and intrigue. It is an empty world, for there is no life so lonely as that of the double agent. The spy who serves both sides is filled with terror and mistrust. Jesus says that when an individual seeks to please both worlds he retains no confidence in either. And isn't one of life's basic needs a desire to have someone in whom to place absolute trust? This need cannot be met, says our Lord, for the person who tries to serve two masters. Is the Christian life just a disguise - a handy "cover" for your real allegiance to the world system of money and power? Do you wear the Christian disguise, thinking that it makes you more respectable, or that it takes care of your conscience? Jesus calls His servants to absolute loyalty. It is not an arbitrary demand. Rather, it is the door to His riches - riches like true confidence, peace, and His daily supply of encouragement. INSIGHT: Working both sides never works. Cast in with Jesus, and when you do, that loyalty gives you everything else. **************************************************

Right Motives

Scripture Focus: Ephesians 6:5-9 "Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters . . . in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; not with eye-service, as men pleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart" (Ephesians 6:5-6, KJV).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------There is a certain sense in which it seems especially spiritual to be a servant. We can be looking for the affirmation of people. It is so nice to have others think we have a gracious, servant spirit - and to have them let us know they think so. But if we play for that kind of applause we already have our reward. Remember Jesus' admonition about fasting? We should wash our faces, leave our closets of prayer with a smile, and let the joy of the Lord be on our countenances (Matthew 6:16-18). If we go through the day with a dark, pained, sacrificial countenance, seeking consolation from others - we have our reward. So it is with our servanthood. Oh, it's true that as we have the spirit of a servant there will be those who recognize it and who, in Christlike affirmation, respond with appreciation. But that is quite a different thing, isn't it? That's the by-product, not the goal. Do we have the right motive in our servanthood? INSIGHT: Be a servant because of your love for Christ and His love for others - not for applause or recognition. **************************************************

Servants Versus Friends
Scripture Focus: John 15:1-17 "I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you" (John 15:15).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Friends - real, genuine friends of the King! Access to the court. Privileged to His plans. Associated with His name - and with that association all the glory, power, and security that comes with kingship. Remember how grand the words used to sound,

"Lord of the Manor"? But think of "Lord of Creation"! This Lord of Creation has called us to the spirit of a servant, both in our service to Him and to others. But our place? That's quite different. We are positioned as children of the King. His friends! A conversation revolved around what we know of another's affairs. Someone speaks with authority about how things really are. We listen with respect, for here is someone who has the confidence, the closeness, and the relationship with the one under discussion. In short, he has the privileged position. That's where we are, my friend. Jesus has given us all the Father gave Him: His Word, His Spirit, the full richness of all He is - ours as His friends, friends of God with the spirit of a servant. INSIGHT: Servanthood means most when we choose the role in response to Jesus. As His friend, it should be a natural choice. **************************************************

Living Responsibly
Scripture Focus: Luke 12:35-48 "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked" (Luke 12:48). -----------------------------------------------------------------------Servants are charged with living responsibly. That's what is unpleasant about it accountability. It is much more pleasurable, or so the Adversary would have us think, to "do our own thing." This living responsibly seems to raise the specter of consequences in our own lives and in the lives of others around us. It brings to the surface all those things like performance, duty, and the fact that someone; somewhere really does know and care about what we do - even in our secret moments. We want to be autonomous free. Also, for some reason, there always seems to be a number of attractive alternatives to what one knows is right. Not unattractive. Attractive. Like satisfying my ego, my sensual nature, and my desire for ease. Then there's the option of procrastination, of just doing nothing. These options always seem to rise at a most vulnerable period - just when we should be acting responsibly.

But Jesus calls us to play for long-term stakes - the biggest prize. And any other option than responsible living is playing for the short-term. INSIGHT: Responsible living is made possible only by His power and it brings peace that no other alternative can offer. Ultimately it will bring that cherished, "Well done." **************************************************

The Energy Problem
Scripture Focus: 1 Thessal. 5:12-24 "May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless . . . The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it" (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Some time ago I wandered on the docks of Dakar, Senegal. It was early morning. The mist was just clearing, adding to the mystery of that exotic West African port. Her tramp steamers, little ferryboats, and fishing vessels were alive with activity. I stood by the towering hulk of a great freighter, reflecting on the complexity of her machinery, the beauty of her lines, and the tons of goods she could carry to the far corners of the world. She was just being refueled in preparation for another voyage. Without that vital energy in the form of petroleum, that ship would not carry an ounce of cargo anywhere. She, for all her wondrous character, would be worthless. Now that's exactly where we are. God has made us - wondrous potential. As His children we have been given the privilege of carrying the Good News. But without His power filling our lives, servanthood is an empty shell of our good intentions. Will you trust Him? He provided the power for servanthood - the only power that is possible. INSIGHT: Do you find the spirit of a servant impossible? Reflect on the promise of the One who started the good work in you. He will bring it to completion. **************************************************

Aspiring to Greater Things

Scripture Focus: Mark 10:35-45 "Whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:44-45).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------We all want to get ahead. We all want to know that our lives are growing in value, that for all our work and effort there will be some sort of reward someday. Two of Jesus' inner-circle of friends were concerned about the same thing. James and John wanted to be sure to have a place close to Jesus when He came into His kingdom. They figured that the hardships and obscurity they were enduring, the abandoning of their trade and the security of their incomes - well, it should be worth something when Jesus ascended to the thrown. Their ambitions were extraordinary - they wanted the seats that would flank His. Jesus' response is worth repeating here, for we each need His reminder. "Whoever among you wants to be great must become the servant of you all, and if he wants to be first among you he must be the slave of all men! For the Son of Man Himself has not come to be served but to serve and to give His life to set many others free" (vv. 44-45, PH). INSIGHT: Serve now and let the Father set you in the position of reward and prominence - when and how He will. **************************************************

The Joy of a Willing Heart
Scripture Focus: 1 Chronicles 29:1-9 "Who then is willing to consecrate his service this day unto the Lord?" (1 Chronicles 29:5, KJV) "This service that you perform . . . is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God" (2 Corinthians 9:12).

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There is nothing quite like the joy that comes from doing something for someone because you genuinely want to do it. Down inside there is a sense of satisfaction that renews our spirits. And it is that kind of willing spirit that we must bring to serving the Lord if we're to have the joy of being His servants. Grudging service will never do - either for the benefit of the kingdom or for the benefit of our own spirits. Condescension will never do, for there is no service so repulsive as that given in a demeaning way. No, it must be with a willing heart. "The people rejoiced at the willing response of their leaders," we read, "for they had given freely and wholeheartedly to the Lord" (1 Chronicles 29:9). David added his own wonder as everyone saw the joy of the situation. "Who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand" (v. 14). INSIGHT: Ask the Lord for the strength and the spirit of love to distribute, through your servanthood, the good things you have from Him. Your heart will be filled with joy! **************************************************

The Inescapable Conclusion
Scripture Focus: Romans 6:15-23 "But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching . . . You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness" (Romans 6:17:18).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------One Sunday afternoon as I took a long, reflective walk, familiar verses from Romans turned over and over in my mind. The conclusion was inevitable: You always serve something. Possibly you serve your ego. It may be your sense of power or success - the image you think others have of you. These masters are among the most readily found, but are by no means the only ones we cater to. You always serve something.

God calls us to make a conscious decision to serve Him. It is a call to turn away from sin, for sin is a master too, a dreaded master. And the reality is that those who do not serve Christ ultimately serve the only other possible master, Satan and his option - sin. Paul observes, "Thank God that you, who were at one time the servants of sin, honestly responded to the impact of Christ's teaching." He goes on, "Sin pays its servants: the wage is death. But God gives to those who serve Him: His free gift is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:17, 23, PH). INSIGHT: As you reflect during this day, ask, Whom am I serving? You are serving someone - that's certain. **************************************************

A Step at a Time
Scripture Focus: Genesis 24:1-31 "Blessed be the Lord God of my master Abraham, who hath not left destitute my master of his mercy and his truth: I being in the way, the Lord led me to the house of my master's brethren" (Genesis 24:27, KJV).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Actually the assignment was impossible. First of all, it was to go out and pick a wife for the heir of the empire. That was enough in itself. But on top of that, the description of the girl was ambiguous and the details as to where she would be found were virtually nonexistent. That's what Abraham's servant faced as he mounted his camel and started out. It was impossible - at least humanly. But this faithful servant went, trusting Abraham and God. Step by step God gave him ideas and questions to ask and individuals to talk with. Why God met the servant is clear - he was "in the way." He was doing what God wanted - obedience. He was doing it where and how God wanted it. In short, the servant was filling the prerequisites. The task seemed impossible, but the prerequisites were simple. They usually are. Just do those few things we know are right to do. And from all this Isaac received Rebekah, due to the faithfulness of a servant who

took things one step at a time. INSIGHT: Jesus is always ready to guide us just when we finally admit that we have come to nothing - to the end of our resources. **************************************************

Looking Out and Looking In
Scripture Focus: Matthew 20:20-28 "Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant . . . just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Matthew 20: 26, 28).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Lord, many times I wish it were possible to stop - to be served rather than, once again - for the hundredth or thousandth time - having to get up and serve when my body and mind and spirit are so weary. Lord, is it selfishness or is it just that I'm human? But I know - selfishness it just being human. All right, Lord, I admit that there are times when being a servant is beyond me. Like those times when I have a Christian sense of responsibility to someone who has been unkind. Or to someone who has been irresponsible with me. And, Lord, You want me to be a servant to them, to be responsible when you're not. Lord, how long can I go on giving out in this servant business? When do I take in? When do I get served? It's true that I am always looking in to my own hurts and needs when I should be looking out, ready to serve others. Help me, Lord, to keep looking to You so that I can, in turn, keep looking out, not in." INSIGHT: You can depend on the Lord's help as you rest in His power to give you strength to do what you cannot do on your own. **************************************************

Master
Scripture Focus:

Mark 10:17-23 "And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, `Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?" (Mark 10:17, KJV).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------The man was himself a ruler - the rich young ruler. Yet, despite his wealth and power he came running and knelt down in front of Jesus before all the people. He was serious about eternal life. Are you? The young ruler understood what it was to be a master, but he also understood that, in Jesus, he had found a Master of a different order. "Good Master" is what he called Jesus. And He is that - good. His servants never have to fear Him. But Jesus reminded this young ruler that all real goodness comes from God the Father. It does not stem naturally from our own hearts. But God is good and as His servants we know that all from His hand is good. No matter if it brings smiles and happiness or tears and sorrow - He can be trusted. The young ruler was faced with just one difficulty - his money. He was willing to take the servant's position on his knees before Jesus, but he gave away the fact that deep down inside he did not really trust this Master - with everything. INSIGHT: Do you believe God is truly good? Trust Him as the complete Master of your life. Believe that His goodness will provide you with everything you need. **************************************************

Keeping On
Scripture Focus: Hebrews 11 "His master replied, `Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!" (Matthew 25:31).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------There are some who would like to characterize the Christian experience of servanthood as one in which everything turns out all right - with happy endings to all

our stories. When the whole picture is viewed, there is no truer promise. In His hands we have certain victory and joy. Praise Him! But right now it is faithfulness that counts. We often hear sermons preached from faith's "hall of fame," Hebrews 11. But typically those sermons come from the chapter's first half, where everything turned out all right. The second half of the story tells of God's servants who wandered in the desert, lived in caves, and were sawn in two, but who faithful, "that they might gain a better resurrection" (Hebrews 11:35). What gallery are you playing to? If we play for this life's gallery we're bound to lose everything eventually. "What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?" (Mark 8:36) Trust Jesus with everything. He will give you the heart for faithfulness and the strength to walk with Him. INSIGHT: Keep on keeping on. Jesus is looking for those who are expecting the records to be kept in heaven. His joy is the eventual crown, and we will share in that joy, as we are faithful. **************************************************

Good Intentions; Bad Priorities
Scripture Focus: Luke 10:38-42 "Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, `Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!" (Luke 10:40).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------The Master had arrived and the house was in a flurry. It wasn't just that He was a very close friend, one they loved and spent considerable time with; it was that they had a sense of who He really was. It was natural, then, that Martha should think about the "over and above" kind of hospitality due such a guest. But here service was a disservice. For in trying to do something for Jesus, Martha was missing Jesus Himself. What a commentary - to be so busy serving the Lord that we don't spend time with Him. In spite of the fact that Jesus had come into the world as a servant - that He had called His disciples and friends (including you and me) to have the spirit of a

servant - He said to Martha, "Only one thing is really needed. Mary has chosen the best part and it must not be taken away from her!" (v. 42, PH). Serving is good, of course, but it should come after we have spent time with our Master. INSIGHT: Only a few, simple things in life really must be done, and the time we spend with the Lord is the most basic of all. **************************************************

In His Majesty's Service
Scripture Focus: 2 Corinthians 5:11-21 "We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God" (2 Corinthians 5:19-20).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------It is usually quite a privilege to serve an earthly king. But think about being a servant of The King - the One who made heaven and earth. Those in Scripture who delighted in calling themselves servants of Christ were numerous. Among them were Peter, Paul, Jude, Epaphras, and Timothy. There must be something to it. Paul spoke of ambassadorial service - speaking on behalf of The King. I was once in a diplomatic briefing in a foreign country. The ambassador stepped forward and started, "On behalf of my President, let me say . . ." It's the sort of thing people expect of ambassadors. Behind your words, fellow Christian, are the power and authority of The King. A W Tozer once indicated that when you find a person controlled by and filled with the Spirit of God, you see God walking among men. If you know Christ, in a very real sense you are God to those around you. Terrifying responsibility? No, because it is not our own brilliance, strength, or spirituality that makes it possible - it is His. INSIGHT: Jesus promises, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5). What a promise! What a remarkable adventure to be in His Majesty's service! **************************************************

Listening
Scripture Focus: 1 Samuel 3:1-18 "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening" (1 Samuel 3:9). "I will listen to what God the Lord will say; he promises peace to his people, his saints . . . Surely his salvation is near those who fear him" (Psalm 85:8-9).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------I was sitting in a coffee shop with an acquaintance. We were talking, or I should say I was talking, since it was apparent my friend's mind had decided to tune in somewhere else. It's a familiar problem for all of us, this matter of listening. Listening is one-half of verbal communication. As good listeners, we first of all must place real value in the person speaking. Then there must be attention to what is being said and an understanding of the words being spoken. And, finally, our reflection on the meaning or implications of the message is essential. As servants of the Lord we need to know His will - hear His voice. We listen to Him as we read His Word; then pray as we read, asking the Lord to help us understand the meaning. Read again slowly, thinking about the words and their meaning to us and our personal lives. This kind of attentive reading, prayer, and meditation is a first step toward good listening. INSIGHT: Your Master, who loves you beyond the ability of words to describe, wants to communicate with you out of the goodness and love of His heart. Are you listening? **************************************************

It's a Matter of Choice
Scripture Focus: Joshua 24:1-27 "Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness . . . But if serving the Lord

seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve" (Joshua 24:14-15).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------If it were a natural thing to have this spirit of a servant, then where would be our sense of dependence and the manifestation of God's power in our lives? Not only is servanthood an unnatural spirit to us; being a servant in the name of Christ is something that calls for a specific choice. Satan is active and wants our most selfish, independent spirit to dominate. But think of Christ Himself. He chose to become a servant, taking "the very nature of a servant" (Philippians 2:7). It speaks of a conscious, willing decision. Have you asked the Lord specifically, consciously, to fill you with His spirit of a servant? Coming to Him with such a request is the starting point. Then as we continue to seek to serve, we learn more and more of the servant's role. It's a role that is not always easy - certainly not ordinarily sought after. Of course, not choosing is choosing, isn't it? By letting this matter slip through our minds we have already chosen - in this case to step away from Jesus. INSIGHT: Have you chosen Christ? If not, would you consider Him now - choosing for Him? Then, if you already know Him, choose to serve Him by serving others in His name. **************************************************

Head and Heart Together
Scripture Focus: Hebrews 2:14-18; 4:14-16 "We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet was without sin" (Hebrews4:15).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Not far from my office is a little park. Dozens of times I have gone there to walk and pray, trying to get my head and heart together. Many a time it has been hard to see the path for the tears - tears at the prospect of having to do what I knew was right.

Does that sound strange? It's a fact that often the most basic test is whether we will obey the Lord when everything within cries out to do just the opposite. My conversations with others seeking to be Christ's servants only confirm it - that the agony of yielding my innermost heart to Him, to His way - that is the most difficult. But friend, Jesus was tempted in all the ways you are tempted. How well He understands that it is not just your mind making some kind of abstract decision. He sees your heart - with its dreams, its hopes, its love, its laughter, and its joys. He knows that the heart is the most formidable obstacle to being a true, obedient servant. Because He knows you perfectly, He promises to give you His strength to master your heart - for His sake. INSIGHT: When you know what is right, but want so badly to do something else that's when you can turn to Him for strength to get your head and heart together. **************************************************

Life Comes After Death
Scripture Focus: John 12:20-26 "The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be" (John 12:25-26).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Life is full of relationships: mother-daughter, employer-employee, husband-wife, friendships and acquaintances. Out of these relationships comes much of what makes life meaningful. A person left alone, absolutely alone, is a pathetic and maladjusted creature. It is this sort of picture Jesus paints for us in John 12. The servant who is not prepared to die to himself will eventually die alone, having never really lived. What a startling statement! Jesus says further that if we love our life here on earth and seek to cling to it selfishly, we will lose real life and its eternal glory. Real life - that's what we want - life in its fullness. It is important for us to see that Jesus put the whole thing in the context of servanthood and death. How strange, in light of the world's view of life. It's Jesus who gives life. As we give our life up to Him we, in fact, die to self. It's a true transformation. Jesus is our reason for living - no matter what place or task He's given us.

INSIGHT: The world says, "Get all you can get." "Hold to everything you can get your hands on." Jesus says, "Come to Me and find life - real life. I am the back side of death!" **************************************************

Mark of a Free Man
Scripture Focus: Galatians 5:13-15 "You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. (Galatians 5:13-14).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Next door you have a difficult neighbor. (No matter that he may view you the same way!) Or it may be a fellow employee or supervisor. When was the last time you took some flowers to the neighbor? When was the last time you took a pie you so carefully baked for your family and gave it to that neighbor - for them to enjoy? Paul doesn't suggest that this kind of servant spirit is to be reserved just for friends, those we love or like to be with. As with the Gospel we are called to share, our servant spirit is for everyone. As bearers of the Good News, we presume a great deal when we are selective in giving of ourselves. For what do we know about what God wants to do in the heart of that difficult neighbor, except that Christ died for and loves him? You see, the fresh flowers on your do nothing to speak to that neighbor of Christ's love. But given away, they speak volumes. The favorite pie, eaten by yourself, only speaks of self-indulgence if that same pie could help heal a neighbor's heart. INSIGHT: Free indeed! To give it all away and trust Him with the consequences that's a mark of a free man. **************************************************

Who Made the Appointment?
Scripture Focus: 1 Corinthians 9

"Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible" (1 Corinthians 9:19).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------It is always a good exercise to stop and realize again how we got where we are. Too often in our busy living we just let things slide along, assuming this or that, and eventually find ourselves coming to wrong conclusions. If you are a servant of Jesus Christ, how did you become such? Most certainly there was first the claim of Christ - His calling you to servanthood. Who made your appointment? Was it some other mortal? No, for then we would have had an earthly master, not a heavenly hope. We are called by Christ to this role - not by some individual. Further, we have chosen, of our free will, to take this assignment. It is something we have reached out to take as Christ offered it to us. It has not been forced on us. Remember? Christ chose to become a servant. It was a conscious act for Him, so He understands our hearts. All of this sets us free from human bondage. At the same time it give us that glorious freedom to serve, to make ourselves servant to every person. INSIGHT: We choose to be servants, knowing Christ has called us - Christ who lives in us and will bring us to glory for having accepted this privileged title: servant! **************************************************

Final Payments
Scripture Focus: Colossians 3:15-25 "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving" (Colossians 3:23-24).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Where are you expecting to receive your payment for living as Christ's servant here or there? Now or later? Many labor for wages paid every Friday night. If their labor is honest, those wages

are due them. Others make investments with their funds, expecting a payoff at some future date. For them, obviously, Fridays do not have the same significance. For a Christian it is vitally important to keep the world's and heaven's system of payments sorted out. They are different. If you're looking for Friday night wages for having lived as a servant, you are in for disappointment. But if you are investing in heaven, then your life as a servant is certain to be richly rewarded. Can you lay aside the short-term, short-lived benefits and toil for the lasting ones? Paul gives a most reassuring promise from God, "Your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory" (3:3-4). INSIGHT: Christ is our life now. His power and understanding with us is what makes servanthood possible. And He will be our glory in the future. Praise His name! **************************************************

Me a Theologian?
John 17:1-5 "Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent" (John 17:3). I heard someone say, "I don't want to hear theology, I need relevant teaching. The most relevant truth we can hear is good solid theology. What we believe profoundly influences our daily lives. In a sense, we're all theologians whether we know it or not, and what we believe about God is basic to everything else about us. To be a Christian, you don’t have to be a teacher or a lawyer or a technician, but you must be a theologian – a person who knows about God. You don't need to know seminary vocabulary, but you must understand some basic truths about God. Knowing God personally is essential to having eternal life. To ignore knowing God and Christ results in your own death. Jesus says, "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him" (John 3:36). You can't believe in someone you don't know. This month we will explore how you can be a theologian – and that's relevant truth! THIS WE BELIEVE: God wants to be known. He longs for you to have a close, intimate relationship with Him.

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Knowing God
2 Timothy 1 "I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day" (2 Timothy 1:12). We know from Scripture that without a knowledge of God, there’s no eternal life, but only eternal death. Yet, there's a difference between "knowledge" and "knowledge." The devil himself believes in God, and he trembles. You too can know about God, and even fear Him, but still be lost. But there’s a saving knowledge of God. He has built into every heart a leaning toward Himself, an aching hunger to know Him. Paul describes his bold confidence in God, "I am not ashamed, because I know . . . and am convinced." He had a calm assurance because he knew Christ personally. The truth about God and His Son as found in the Bible must be loved, embraced, and yielded to. I had been taught in my home and church about Jesus since I was a little boy. I don't remember when I didn't believe in Jesus. But I wasn't saved until one day I personally received the truth of Christ and gave myself to Him. THIS WE BELIEVE: Christianity is really a Person. God's saving truth is all wrapped up in the Person of Jesus Christ. **************************************************

God Knows All
Psalm 139:1-4 "For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him" (2 Chronicles 16:9). God never had to learn anything. He's never surprised by what people do or think. He is "perfect in knowledge" (Job 37:16). He knows all matters and knows all that matters. Maybe you’re wondering if God knows how you are hurting right now. Life is "the pits" for you. Oh, my friend, yes, yes, yes! He knows and He cares. In the book of Revelation Jesus Christ speaks to each of the seven churches, revealing His

complete knowledge of their different problems. To each one He says, "I know . . . I know . . . I know." God wants you to know Him, and to know that He knows you. He is omniscient – all knowing. We can know some things about God as we study nature. We can see His great power and His love of beauty and order, but that's only a partial picture. We get a complete insight into God as we learn about Him in the Bible and in the person of Jesus Christ. Christ is the fullness of God, the perfect, complete revelation of the Father. And this all-knowing God has searched you and knows every detail about you. THIS WE BELIEVE: The God of heaven and earth knows all – all about us and all about this universe. **************************************************

God Is Everywhere
Psalm 139:5-24 "You hem me in – behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?" (Psalm 139:5-7). God knows all things. That brings comfort to us. But there’s more! God is everywhere. David understood this when he said in effect, "You cannot go where God is not already there." One author expressed it this way: "God is over all things; under all things; outside all; within but not enclosed; without but not excluded; above but not raised up; below but now depressed; wholly above, presiding; wholly beneath, sustaining; wholly within, filling." What a magnificent God! He is with you right now. This can be scary, of course, if you're not right with Him through Christ. Or it's overwhelmingly glorious, as you know Christ, who brings you to God in complete peace and safety! He is with you and with all His own wherever they are in the world.

THIS WE BELIEVE: God is everywhere. He is with you right now, wherever you are. And He promises never to leave you. **************************************************

God Has All Power
Psalm 89:5-13 "To him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations" (Ephesians 3:20-21). God is omniscient – He knows all. God is also omnipotent – He is all-powerful. We are not playing word games here. You can live and die by these fundamental truths about God. God is all-powerful. There is nothing too hard for Him. We read in Genesis, "And God said, `Let there be light,' and there was light." That seems so simple, but it's actually a masterful understatement. God catapulted the whole universe into being by the power of His spoken word. Now that's omnipotence! And the Bible concludes with all God's creatures everywhere exclaiming, "Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty [or omnipotent] reigns!" (Revelation 19:6) Your rescue from sin is possible only because the Gospel is the power of Almighty God unto salvation (Romans 1:16). Furthermore, His power is at work within you today. Count on His power. No sin is too great for Him to conquer and forgive. No problem is too great for God to solve. THIS WE BELIEVE: God has all power, and His power is at work in you now. You never need to cave in to the obstacles and difficulties around you. **************************************************

The Trinity
Mark 1:9-13 "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:19-20). Augustine, the early church father, wrote, "If you can understand Him fully, He's not

God." One vast theological mystery is the Trinity of God: God is three persons and one God. We do not find this statement in the Bible, but the doctrine of God's being one and yet three is at the heart of true Christianity. We need to respond to God as He has revealed Himself to us. We cannot invent our own simplistic idea about God that seems easier to believe. If our faith doesn't correspond to God's great, amazing revelation, then we end up with no Christian faith at all. There are many Scriptures that specifically refer to the Trinity. For example, at the conclusion of Jesus' early ministry He spoke plainly of the Trinity when He said, "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in [or into] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (28:19). Jesus used that little word "into" meaning we are baptized "into the name," or "into" a relationship with the whole Triune God. THIS WE BELIEVE: God is three Persons and one God. You and I are under the care and lordship of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. **************************************************

The Trinity at Home
John 14:8-31 "If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth . . . We will come to him and make our home with him" (John 14:15-17; 23). The truth of the Trinity is really truth for the heart. Our hearts can enjoy what we nevertheless can't get our minds fully wrapped around! Certainly God had to reveal it; no human could ever imagine such a vast truth. Here and there over the Scriptures – in the New Testament particularly – God reveals what He wants us to know about the Trinity. Jesus often referred to it. When the disciples asked if He would show them the Father, He asked, "Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me?" (v. 10). Then He promised, "If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth" (vv. 15-17). There it is: Christ, the Father, and the Holy Spirit. Then He spoke about the relationship between the Trinity and the believer. He promised the Trinity's indwelling of love to all who believe and obey Him. "We will come to him and make our home with him" (v. 23). THIS WE BELIEVE: The Triune God will come and be your daily companion – at home, at work, and wherever you are.

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Justified
Romans 3:9-26 "This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace" (Romans 3:22-24). A man who commits a certain crime may pay the penalty of that crime by serving out a prison sentence. But when the prison door swings open and he walks out a free man, he still has a record. There are some residual results of his crime that will dog him the rest of his life. All of us have sinned. We’ve all broken God's law. God loves us, but He must also judge us as sinners. At His bar of justice, we're all found guilty. God cannot overlook our sins. How can He be true to His Word and still save us and bring us to heaven? How can He be just (or righteous) and still justify sinners? Here's what God did: He sent His own Son to the cross, and all our sin was laid on Him. He took our hell for us! "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21). What an incredible gift to us! Now, because at Calvary, Christ has taken our sins' penalty, God can be just and still totally pardon us who believe in Jesus. THIS WE BELIEVE: We are justified by faith in Christ, redeemed, forgiven, accepted in Jesus, made heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ. **************************************************

Faith Alone
Ephesians 2:1-10 "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9). Some of the early professing Christians felt uncomfortable with the truth of justification by faith alone – just as some still do today. They were like that jailer who

called to Paul and Silas, "What must I do to be saved?" They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved" (Acts 16:31). Paul's answer was, "What can you do? Man, you do anything! If you try to earn it by doing you can't have it." There were teachers in those days who came along saying, "Faith alone won't make it, folks. You must keep the Jewish law too." Paul argued that if anyone adds anything to the Gospel, it's another gospel. He wrote, "Know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ" (Galatians 2:16). If we add any other requirement to what Christ has done at the cross, we're saying, "Jesus didn't do enough. I must help Him save me!" No! Because of His love for us, God sent His Son to pay our penalty in full so we can be saved through faith. THIS WE BELIEVE: You are justified (made right with God) by faith alone. God is satisfied completely only by the death and resurrection of Christ. Jesus paid it all! **************************************************

Before the Judge
Romans 8:31-39 "Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus . . . is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us" (Romans 8:33-34). God says that every living person will one day stand before Him as Judge. Suppose you go to that great court. You're in Christ. You're dressed in His robes of righteousness. You've been made a new creation in Christ. You're now a child of God. You stand before the Judge's bench. He is holy and perfect, and nothing gets by Him. He knows you through and through. Jesus your Saviour is at His right hand. Apart from Christ, God would quickly pronounce you guilty. But because you stand before Him dressed in Christ's robes of perfect righteousness, God the Judge is also God your Father! And He says, "You are My very own child, by faith in My Son. You have no righteousness of your own, but you have been given the lovely righteousness of Christ – welcome home!" My friend, have you turned from all your self-help and works to Christ alone? What joy and peace awaits you when you stand before the Judge and hear that there is no charge against you! THIS WE BELIEVE: God the righteous Judge will bring no charge against you

when you stand before Him dressed in Christ's robes of perfect righteousness. **************************************************

His Punishment; Our Peace
Isaiah 53 "The punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:5-6). I will never forget when I received Christ and I knew I was forgiven. I had suffered from guilt, but oh the relief of knowing that all was now well between God and me. The atonement – it’s a key Bible word that describes what Christ did – that He became our reconciler, our at-one-ment-maker. You see, God has a sharp difference with us because of our sin. But He has reconciled us back to Him by the blood of His own beloved Son, shed on the cross. You and I need atonement. We’re naturally His enemies, because we're sinners. God is by nature holy, so we're simply not compatible. Our sins have separated us from God. Not a single one of us by nature is "at-one" with God. "We all like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way" (v. 6). But God goes on to explain the way we can be reconciled – made compatible with Him. In fact, it is the only way: "The Lord laid on him (on Christ) the iniquity of us all." THIS WE BELIEVE: Christ made it possible for us to be "at one" with God. He took our punishment so that we may have peace with God. **************************************************

Set Free!
Psalm 32:1-7 "Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered . . . I said, `I will confess my transgressions to the Lord' – and you forgave the guilt of my sin" (Psalm 32:1, 5). You and I have a tremendous need for atonement – for that "at-one-ment" with God. In our hearts we know that sin pays terrible wages. It pays you death – spiritual

death, that separation of your soul from a holy God. Maybe right now you’re feeling distant from God. You may feel so separated that you're embarrassed to talk to Him. This estrangement eats away at you and may even make you ill. David wrote, remembering when he had sinned and had not yet made it right with God, "When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long" (v. 3). There’s not only guilt that keeps eroding us, but there's the bondage that it leads to. At one of our conferences a young woman said, "Sin is so wearisome. It's so burdening!" You may be in the grip of alcohol, bitterness, anger, or self-pity. But Jesus came to forgive you, and to release you from all that, and to draw you close to Him again! In Christ "we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins" (Colossians 1:14). THIS WE BELIEVE: Through the blood of Jesus we can be set free from the guilt and bondage of sin. **************************************************

Final Sacrifice
Hebrews 7:23-28 "Such a high priest meets our need – one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens . . .He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself" (Hebrews7:26-27). In Old Testament times blood was considered sacred. No Jew was allowed to eat or drink or cook with blood. It symbolized the actual life of an animal, so God had commanded that no life should be sustained by the life of another. Yet the sacredness of the blood was the very reason God ordered His people who had sinned to take one of their finest young animals and make it a sacrifice to God – to shed its blood in place of their own, as an atonement for their own sin. By this, God was illustrating two truths: One, that sin was so horrendous that an innocent animal's life must be given to atone for it. God hates sin, because sin breaks our fellowship with Him and it destroys the sinner He loves. Second, God was teaching that by the offering of the blood of a sacrificial lamb, He was foretelling the coming of Christ, the ultimate Sacrifice for all sins. All the gruesome animal sacrifices pointed to that time when our Lord Jesus became, once for all, the final sacrifice for sin. No more has ever been needed. THIS WE BELIEVE: We are redeemed "with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect" (1 Peter 1:20).

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Set Apart for God
1 Thessalonians 4:1-12 "We instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more . . . It is God's will that you should be sanctified" (1 Thessalonians 4:1,3). In the Bible are special in-words for Christians – words that outsiders won’t understand. One of those Christian family words is "sanctification." Though it's a neglected term today, it's a good doctrinal word that has to do with the wonderful on you and in you. When you come to faith in Christ, you are set apart for God, you are placed into Christ, into His body by the Holy Spirit. God says you're brought out of the kingdom of darkness and you're put into the kingdom of His Son. Paul wrote to his friends, "God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth." Then in the next verse he gives the reason for their sanctification: "That you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14). God has called you to be set apart for Him. His glorious goal is to make you like Jesus – to make you think like Him, hate sin like Him, share all His heart. He has called you to be sanctified. THIS WE BELIEVE: Believers are very special because when they believed the truth, God by His Spirit set them apart for Himself. That's being sanctified. **************************************************

Position and Process
Romans 12 "We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all . . . By one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy" (Hebrews 10:10,14). Our key verses for today give us two significant insights into sanctification. First, we read that "We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." That says in the eyes of God we've already been made holy –

we're already sanctified. Then we read that we are "being made holy." That is, sanctification is also a present, ongoing process. We're set apart for God the moment we believe, and then from that moment on, we're processing that fact, living it out day by day in an ever-growing experience. There are both negative and positive parts to the process. The negative is to quit certain things. If sanctification means separation, then separate yourself from obvious sins, from people who spiritually drag you down, from activities and thoughts that degrade you. On the positive side, God asks us to be transformed – and it happens as we present our bodies to Him and ask Him to renew our minds (Romans 12:1-2). We become more and more like Jesus. THIS WE BELIEVE: Being set apart is both our position in Christ and our process in daily life. Christ has sanctified us, and Christ is sanctifying us. **************************************************

Peace with God
Romans 5:1-11 "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand " (Romans 5: 1-2). There's a story told about an old farmhand. Somebody asked him, "Have you really walked four miles to work every day for over 60 years? Why didn't you move closer to the farm?" "Well," the old guy replied, "I never was really sure if it was a permanent job." A lot of Christians are like that man – they aren't sure their salvation is really permanent. Year after year they live unsure of their acceptance with God. God wants us to know that we have peace with Him (Romans 5:1). True peace with God has been gained through the cross of Christ, but some believers never allow themselves to enjoy this peace. They don't feel worthy, or they don't think their past is truly forgiven. They have no peace. God also says we have "access by faith into this grace in which we now stand" (v. 2). The original Greek literally says we stand rooted in God's graciousness! God is happy with you in Christ!

Don’t insult God by doubting what He says. Enjoy the peace and comfort that is your right. THIS WE BELIEVE: Justification by faith alone is the key to having peace with God and the assurance that we stand in God's gracious acceptance of us. **************************************************

Blessed Assurance
1 John 5:11-15 "He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have life eternal" (1 John 5: 12-13). God wants believers everywhere to have assurance of their salvation. It’s amazing that people can read the plain statements in our key verses and still not be convinced. What's the problem? 1. Some people aren’t sure of their relationship with God because they actually have no relationship! They've never personally received Christ. 2. Others aren’t sure because they feel they need an amazing experience, some heavenly "zap." The important thing isn’t how you're saved but that you’re saved. 3. Some people are ignorant of the fact that they can be sure. If you've come to Christ as a sinner and you've committed yourself to the Savior and you want to live for Him, you don't have to wonder. 4. Some people may doubt their standing in Christ simply because they're in a time of depression. If you're experiencing a "down" time and you don’t feel like God's child, you need to believe anyway, and rejoice in the Word and not in your feelings. God won't abandon you.

THIS WE BELIEVE: We can have the blessed assurance that God is able to keep us. He won't drop the ball. We will fail Him, but He will never fail us.

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Give Me That Book
Psalm 119:89-112 "Your word, O Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens. Your faithfulness continues through all generations; you established the earth, and it endures. Your laws endure to this day, for all things serve you" (Psalm 119: 89-91). "I want to know one thing," wrote John Wesley, "the way to heaven. God Himself has condescended to teach the way. He hath written it down in a book. Oh, give me that book; at any price give me the Book of God! . . I sit down alone; only God is here. In His presence I open, I read His book – for this purpose: here I find the way to heaven!" The last 150 years has seen a giant resurgence of interest in the Bible. There has been a multiplication of Bibles, and as a result, we have seen serious Bible study, and in recent years, revival and renewal in many parts of the world. The advancement of the Bible makes the devil nervous. If he can't get us to doubt the Word, he tries to divert our attention away from it and to studying such topics as techniques for communicating, child raising, money handling, relating in marriage, recovering from this and that. Yet, all the while the Bible is there with help for all our needs. No wonder Wesley cried, "Oh, give me that Book. At any price, give me the Book of God!" THIS WE BELIEVE: The Bible, written over a period of 1600 years by 40 different writers, is unified. It flows with its message of God's love and salvation through Jesus Christ. **************************************************

Our Highest Authority
2 Timothy 3:14-17 "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The Bible is breathed out by God Himself. Some Bibles in other languages are title, "The Breath of God." God prepared human instruments to write His message. They were chosen to

express His words in their own languages but under His sovereign control. Therefore, we say that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. The apostle Peter explains, "Prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:21). Your Bible is a miracle book, a gift from God to tell about both Himself and yourself – and about this world, its origin and its future. The Bible is also your highest authority for your life, since it is the book through which God communicates to you. When I sit down each day to read my Bible, I take it into my hands with gratitude. I ask God to quiet me so that I can hear Him speak to my heart. He gives me a real sense of expectancy, and He does speak through the holy page. THIS WE BELIEVE: The Bible is infallible because it is breathed out by God Himself. We can depend on it as God's own Word to communicate with us. **************************************************

The Last Word
1 Peter 1:22-25 "It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law" (Luke 16:17). "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away" (Mark 13:31). What did Jesus Christ say about the Bible? He had a very high view of it. He never said, "Now, go easy! Don't take it too literally!" No, Jesus exalted the Scriptures, as we see in our key verses for today. He finalized matters by referring over and over to "It is written . . . it is written." That settled it. Case closed! The Bible defines its purpose doesn't claim to speak to every possible subject – but it does claim to teach all things necessary for our salvation and our godly living. Anne and I read through the Bible each year. It gives us the full sweep of Scripture over and over, and helps us not to neglect any part of it. Each book is God's Word and deserves our attention. As I read, I often write a prayer in the margin. For example, when I read, "I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God" (Romans 15:17), I wrote in the margin, "Yes, I do, too, Lord!" Let’s discipline ourselves to study the Bible and obey it, because it is indeed the last word for us. THIS WE BELIEVE: The Bible is the highest authority for our lives, our greatest

need for study, the focal point and the last word of our reading, teaching and learning. **************************************************

It's Settled!
Psalm 119:30-32 "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. I have taken an oath and confirmed it, that I will follow your righteous laws . . . Your statutes are my heritage forever, they are the joy of my heart" (Psalm 119: 105-106; 111). I can never forget the time I personally settled the matter of the authenticity of my Bible. I was a seminary student, and I was being challenged to think through my personal commitment to it. Pressures were being put on me to adopt a soft view of the Scripture – that it was an important book, of course, but not fully accurate. I remember walking out alone, thinking over this vital issue for myself. I weighed the arguments – and then I stopped in my tracks. In front of me was a crack in the cement sidewalk. I said, "Lord, I'm going to step over this crack, and when I do, I'm forever giving my allegiance to the Bible, as absolute authority in my life. I may not always understand it. But I'm going to stake my life and ministry on this book as Your Word." Then I stepped over that crack. I settled it then and there. Ever since I made that decision, God’s Word has been a lamp to my feet and light to my path. When questions have come, I've gone back to my commitment. I am living under the authority of the Word. THIS WE BELIEVE: The Bible is totally dependable. We can stake our eternal future on the principles given in the Bible. **************************************************

Our Forever Family
Ephesians 1:15-23 "God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way" (Ephesians 1:22-23). When you and I come to Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord, we become related. We’re now a forever family, for we're eternally bound as brothers and sisters in

Christ. No Christian lives a solo life. The moment we trust in Jesus alone for our salvation, we're all related. It's wonderful to be in the family of God, the Church of God! Let’s see what the Bible says about the Church. Many of the New Testament books were written to a local body of believers, but they (and our own local church) are only a tiny part of the great body of Christ – the Church, the true family of God, the body of Christ. This Church is both international and timeless, with current members on earth and millions more in heaven. Some on earth meet in secret in their homes while others meet unhindered in great numbers. The Church isn't an organization, a building, or a denomination. We who belong to Christ are like living cells fitted together in a human body. The Church is an organism – the Body of Christ. THIS WE BELIEVE: All who love Christ are part of the true Church, related to each other by the blood of Christ. They will spend eternity together, gloriously unified in Jesus. **************************************************

Handle With Care
Ephesians 4:1-16 " . . . Grow up into him, who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work" (Ephesians 4: 15-16). Anyone can create an organization, but only God can create an organism. Local churches are simply organizations – and we hope that those in the organization are also in the organism. Those of us in the organism, the Body of Christ, have a great responsibility to treat each other with care. Paul urges us, "Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace" (4:3). We're to keep and guard the unity that God has given us in Christ. We may try to make unity on the basis of doctrinal agreement, or organizational agreement, but real unity comes only through the Lord Jesus, who gives us His life and His Spirit. He didn't ask us to become one in His forever family. He simply made us one by sovereignly putting us together as part of His body. Whenever members of Christ's body are out of joint with each other, the pain is excruciating. He wants us to love each other. But when the body is working together in harmony and interdependence, it's beautiful.

THIS WE BELIEVE: All true believers – whenever they live and wherever they live – are part of the Body of Christ. We have a responsibility to relate to them in love. **************************************************

Our Glorious Future
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 "While we wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our Great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own" (Titus 2:13-14). In the nineteenth century, Adoniram Judson was one of the first Christian missionaries to go to Burma. Before long, because of his strong witness for Christ, he was put in prison. And there behind bars, Mr. Judson became terribly sick, with a high fever. Just then a letter arrived from a friend back home who did not know about all this trouble. He wrote, "Judson, how's the outlook?" Adoniram Judson wrote back, "The outlook is as bright as the promises of God!" We ask, "How come a fellow with so much trouble could be so full of hope?" The Bible uses the word "hope" to speak of happy expectation and anticipation of a sure thing. For example, the biblical phrase, "our blessed hope," refers to a specific future event: the glorious, certain appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. His second coming to earth fills the hearts of Christians with joyful anticipation. The thought of His coming should inspire us to live boldly, and have great optimism, as we look forward to the Lord's return. THIS WE BELIEVE: The promise of Christ's return gives us eager anticipation, for we know that God has planned a grand and glorious tomorrow. **************************************************

The Reward of Hope
Titus 3:1-8 "Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing" (2 Timothy 4:8). Our hope is rooted in Jesus' cross. Does that seem strange? It’s when we look back at Calvary that we get hope for tomorrow. Think of what His cross means to you and me. We were lost, slaves of sin, bound for hell, without hope – but God gave

His Son and redeemed us from our tragedy and lostness. But our hope isn’t rooted only in the past work of Christ. It's also founded on our present resources in Him. His promises give us every reason for optimism right now. We have confidence and optimism because of all God is doing in the present, as well as in the past. We have His promise that "he who began a good work in us will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 1:6). Christ is our hope for our past, our present and our future. He came, He's with us now, and one day He'll come again. And in that glorious day we will see Him faceto-face and receive from His hand the rewards He has promised us. Today we live in hope because we know and can fully trust the One in whom we have placed our faith. THIS WE BELIEVE: In Christ we have a blessed hope, based on what He has done for us in the past, what He is doing for us today, and what He promises to us in the future. **************************************************

From Here to There
Psalm 32 "I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you . . . Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord's unfailing love surrounds the man who trust in him" (Psalm 32:8, 10). It's wonderful when a child of God has the distinct knowledge that God is guiding him. He's hearing in his heart God's promised counsel. God tells us to run "the race marked out for us" (Hebrews 12:1). It is the specific piece of track marked out for each of us. We can follow that track when we rely on His promise, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight" (Proverbs 3:5-6). Now god never promises guidance before you need it, nor does He say how He is going to give direction. However, He does promise over and over that when you need it, you'll receive it. If you tend to get overanxious about decisions you must make, you need to take a good dose of the Scriptures we've just referred to. You need to believe that God is true to His Word, and that He has never ever failed anyone who trusted in Him. He

knows your problems. He also knows the time-frame you're facing in your decision. And best of all, He loves you. THIS WE BELIEVE: God has a purpose and plan for our lives, and He promises to guide us if we will trust Him step by step. **************************************************

Paths of Righteousness
Psalm 23 "He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me" (Psalm 23:3-4). God guides believers in Christ – sometimes dramatically and supernaturally, more often by giving those believers wisdom to make good choices. However He does it, He has promised, and He will guide His children. David wrote, "He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake" (v. 3). If a Christian goes off own paths that aren't "paths of righteousness," he's showing that God did not guide him – you can count on it. That's why we must read God's Word daily so that we'll be clear-minded and sharp to discern His righteous ways. In Scripture certain things are explicitly forbidden. In those areas, we don't need more guidance – we simply need obedience. Let's be aware that we're naturally self-centered and willful. Our "old nature" would love to talk us into disobedience and make excuses when we step off the path. There's not one of us who doesn't need to keep surrendering to the will of our loving and all wise God. He leads in the paths of righteousness. What's for His honor is for our good as well. THIS WE BELIEVE: God promises to guide us in ways that are righteous. His ways will bring honor to Him and blessing to us. **************************************************

Wisdom on Request
James 3:13-18 "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him" (James 1:5).

One of the greatest promises on guidance is in our key verse for today. The promise was written to Christians facing terrible persecution. They needed wisdom daily, to handle their trials so they wouldn't give up. God told them to ask for wisdom every day – and they'd get it. What is wisdom? Sanctified common sense. God's kind of wisdom is a humble spirit and a pure heart that loves peace and is "considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere" (3:17). The bottom line of all that is simply Christ likeness. When you have a tough decision to make and you need wisdom, be sure to ask yourself first what's the most Christ like thing you can do. And the better you get to know Him through His Word, the more surely you'll live in His will for your life. In your own strength that would be impossible to do. But you're not in your own strength! Christ lives in the believer, and you now have His power to do all that He asks of you. THIS WE BELIEVE: God has given an unconditional promise to give wisdom to us when we humbly ask Him for it. **************************************************

The Secret of Confidence
Psalm 25 "He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way . . . Who, then, is the man that fears the Lord? He will instruct him in the way chosen for him" (Psalm 25:9, 12). Life can get complex, can't it? Decisions can be tough. Too often it seems as if we have a mine field up ahead, and we need to feel that God is taking us by the hand and leading us safely through. God promises to guide the person who is humble. The one who thinks he has life all together doesn't qualify! God will let that fellow get into trouble – to humble him and make him teachable. Recognizing that you don’t have the wisdom to make a wise decision is the first step toward wisdom! If you feel inadequate and you ask Him for wisdom, you can be sure God will teach you His way. That means, however, you must truly want His way

When you desire God’s guidance, you need to go to His Word for His instructions. You also need to seek all the relevant facts about the question you are facing. While you are searching for all the information you can, you should also ask for godly advice from mature Christians. Then, as you do your part, you can trust God to make His will clear, and to instruct you in His chosen way. THIS WE BELIEVE: God will instruct believers in the way He has chosen for them. Our part is to sincerely want His way rather than our own. **************************************************

Wise Steps
1 Kings 12 "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight" (Proverbs 3:56). When King Rehoboam assumed the throne of Israel, he took over from King Solomon at the height of Israel's glory. Rehoboam was young and inexperienced, so he asked for advice. He went first to wise older men, who gave him good counsel, and then to his peers, whose bad counsel he decided to follow. So far as we know, he never asked God at all. Rehoboam made a tragic decision. He ruined his opportunity to be a great king, and he ruined his country. Rehoboam played the fool, and he blew a great opportunity. Christians may do the same. They feel they know better than God. They look for answers from everyone but God and His Word. That's the way to certain disaster. You didn’t get guidance by some three or four step technique as much as from your personal relationship with the Lord Himself. Maintain a close relationship with Him, and consciously take Him into every part of your thinking and doing – and you'll say with David, "He leadeth me." THIS WE BELIEVE: God reveals His way and Himself when we truly desire to have a personal relationship with Him, yielding to Him in every part of our lives. **************************************************

Light on My Path
Psalm 25

"When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" (John 8:12). We have been looking this month at various aspects of theology – basic truths about God. While it is important that we know these biblical truths intellectually, it is even more important that we know the Person who is revealed to us through the Scripture. This Person is both knowing and knowable. He knows us completely – every strength and weakness, every desire. And we can know Him, the God of heaven and earth, as a real, living Person. We have his promise, "The Lord confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them" (Psalm 25:14). If you want to know the right way to go in your life, "fix your eyes on Jesus" (see Hebrews 12:2). In the light of His presence you can see things a lot clearer. What would He have you do? He's wise and good and kind – He will never lead you astray. Go through each day with Jesus by your side. Christ, the light of the world, will shine on your pathway. THIS WE BELIEVE: Eternal life is knowing the only true God and His Son, Jesus Christ, whom the Father sent to be our Savior. **************************************************

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