September 20, 2021

Closer Than a Brother

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23). Whether we realize it or not, faithfulness is at the heart of all relationships. It is the very thing that prevents families and societies from falling apart. And it is the one element that has the ability to encourage us to persevere in times of failure and heartache. The psalmist writes, “The Lord preserves those who are true to him, but the proud he pays back in full” (Psalm 31:23). Therefore, it comes as no surprise that the apostle Paul lists faithfulness as one of the fruit of the Spirit. In fact, one of the first things we learn about God is that He is faithful. As children, we often sing the song “Jesus Loves Me,” and we know He does. No matter what we have done in the past or what we will […]
September 13, 2021

The Choice of Obedience

“And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands” (2 John 1:6). In his book of devotions Morning and Evening, Charles Spurgeon wrote, “[T]he first thing God requires of His child is obedience.” But human nature often rebels against obedience. The Bible is full of examples of individuals who disobeyed God. Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. Lot’s wife blatantly looked back to see the destruction of Sodom. Jonah refused to go to Nineveh. Moses struck the rock, instead of speaking to it as God commanded. We all can remember incidents when we have disobeyed—whether it was against an authority figure, a law of the land, or a Biblical principle. Most likely, we even remember our punishment or the consequences we suffered. The act of disobedience brings guilt, sadness, and shame. There is no long-lasting pleasure in getting our own way. It brings grief to our heavenly Father because He longs for us to walk with […]
September 6, 2021

A Jonah-Sized Challenge

“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12). After Jonah allowed God to use him, we see the greatest miracle in the book of Jonah: the salvation of the Ninevites. These cruel pagan people experienced one of the greatest revivals in Biblical history. The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. . . . When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened. (Jonah 3:5-6, 10) You may doubt your abilities or eloquence in sharing about Christ. You may […]
August 30, 2021
praying the word

Praying the Word

“Lord, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy; in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief” (Psalm 143:1). When we study the book of Jonah, we often focus on the miraculous journey he experienced inside a giant fish: “Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights” (Jonah 1:17). Yet the greater story is the transformation we see within Jonah through his model prayer during that underwater voyage. There is nothing that will bring us closer to the Lord than being in the belly of a fish. When we experience intense suffering, the best thing we can do is to pour out our hearts to God. Read Jonah 2. Why is Jonah’s prayer an example for us? Because Jonah is praying the Scripture. Many of the words he uses come from Psalms. Jonah 2:9 says, “But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will […]
August 23, 2021
handling storms

Reacting to the Storm

“Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent” (Revelation 3:19). There are many ways we can react to a storm. We can try to run away from its source, or we can keep ourselves so busy that we don’t have a moment’s rest for dwelling on our problems. But these human methods will not stop the storm nor help us learn from it and use it for our good and the good of others. How does God want us to react to our storms? He wants us to submit wholeheartedly to His will and to become willing servants to wherever He calls us. When confronted with his storm, Jonah knew what he had to do. He told the sailors, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea, . . . and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you” (Jonah 1:12). Jonah knew Almighty […]
August 16, 2021
storm

The Storms We Cause

“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). We can trace the origins of our storms to three primary sources. Some storms are of our own making—the direct consequence of sin in our lives. Other storms are caused by the actions of other people, and some are simply intended to test us. Read Jonah 1:4-16. In Jonah’s case, his storm was a direct consequence of his disobedience. When storms result from our sin, we must first repent of that sin before even attempting to work through the consequences.  My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, . . . Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? . . . No discipline […]
August 2, 2021

Keep Calm and Look Up

“A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found. But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy peace and prosperity” (Psalm 37:10-11). King Saul was on the hunt, but he wasn’t pursuing another army or some vile enemy of Israel. He was hoping to kill David, the man God had anointed to take his place on the throne. Along the way, Saul entered a cave. Unbeknownst to the murderous king, David crept up slowly behind him and cut off a corner of his robe. It wasn’t until Saul was back out in the wilderness that he heard David shouting from the mouth of the cave: “Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you; I said, ‘I will not lay my hand on my lord, because he is the Lord’s anointed'” (1 Samuel 24:10). Read Psalm 37. Have you ever wondered why some of the world’s most […]
July 26, 2021

Learning to Slay Giants

“But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57). When David was just a young man, he killed a giant named Goliath. People revel in victories like David’s. They like to know that it’s not always about who’s bigger, meaner, and better armed. That’s because we all face giants in our lives. Read Psalm 8. These giants are usually not of the nine-and-a-half-foot variety. The giants I’m talking about are the giants of fear, anxiety, worry, discouragement, and despondency. Sometimes they take the form of addiction, restlessness, envy, bitterness, or anger. But whatever they may be, these giants have one purpose in mind: to render the children of the living God ineffective. So, the question is: How do we defeat these giants? In our culture, we often try to understand ourselves and the problems we face without understanding God and His purpose for life. Many churches preach messages that encourage people […]
July 19, 2021

All My Fountains

“As they make music they will sing, ‘All my fountains are in you'” (Psalm 87:7). Read Psalm 87. Psalm 87:7 is about those of us who have been reborn in Christ. Here is what the psalmist said: “As they make music, they will sing, . . .” Sing what? “‘All my fountains are in you.'” Where are your fountains? Are they in material things? Are they in physical fitness? Are they in people—even those who are dearest and nearest to you? Are they in your identity? Are they in your occupation? Are they in your title? Are they in your family name? Are they in your reputation? God’s surrendered sons and daughters know the joy of being able to proclaim, “In Him are all my fountains! They are in Christ alone.” The financial markets may go up and down. Family and friends, even Christian friends, may fail you, but the grace of God will never fail you. The peace of […]
July 12, 2021

From Every Corner

“I will record Rahab and Babylon among those who acknowledge me—Philistia too, and Tyre, along with Cush—and will say, ‘This one was born in Zion'” (Psalm 87:4). We all want peace. In fact, the ancient people of God in the Old Testament were longing for peace. They looked forward to a day when that peace would be established by God Himself, and Psalm 87 reveals their longing for the peace of God. The psalmist was looking forward to the day when believers from every corner of the globe will come together with love for God and one another. In that day, the holy city will be founded on the Rock of Ages, the Lord Jesus Christ. Any ministry, any church, or any home that is not built on that foundation will crumble. Any foundation other than the Rock of Ages is sinking sand. People will come to God through Jesus Christ from every corner of the globe, from every tongue, […]
July 5, 2021

Responding to Fear

“In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8). How do you respond to fear? Do you run and hide, withdrawing into yourself? Do you try to distract yourself from fear with activities? The correct response to fear is not to surrender to it or to ignore it, but to overcome it with faith in God and absolute obedience to His Word. Scripture tells us, “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They 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 17:7-8). Many people trace their fears back to a loss of control. We experience fear when the stock market fluctuates. We experience fear when […]
June 28, 2021

The God Who Encourages Us

“‘Be strong, all you people of the land,’ declares the Lord, ‘and work. For I am with you,’ declares the Lord Almighty” (Haggai 2:4). The greatest encouragement is God with us. Read Haggai 2:4-9. God has something to say to His people in trying times. He wants to give us a word of encouragement; He wants us to stay strong. This was the message He brought to His people through the prophet Haggai. The year was 520 BC, and many Jewish people had just returned to Judea from exile. The people were busy rebuilding their homes and the temple of God. And then, suddenly, their world changed. Opposition from outside the community threatened their progress, and the people became discouraged. The temple construction stopped. God’s people were filled with uncertainty and apprehension. It was then that God gave a message to the prophet Haggai: “‘But now be strong, Zerubbabel,’ declares the Lord. ‘Be strong, Joshua son of Jozadak, the high […]