Tuesday, January 21
Psalm 28 The Lord is strength to his people, a safe refuge for his anointed one. (v.8 REB)
Everyone needs a safe place to fall; perhaps it’s your home or being with your family and loved ones. Maybe it’s not so much a place but a feeling of knowing you’re loved and can reach out to those who love you back. Are there people who love you just because you’re you—your parents, your children, a special friend, your spouse? When you feel loved, you find inner strength. What a precious gift, one that we all need.
Fortunately, I grew up in a loving family, a place where I truly knew I was loved unconditionally. Not everyone has been so blessed by their earthly families. The good news is that our God loves us totally and completely. His love is not conditional. It is unearned, undeserved, and totally one-way—from Him to you. There is nothing you can do to make the Lord love you more or love you less. My friends, that is Good News! Trust in the Lord and let Him be your safe refuge, your safe place to fall.
Genesis 9:1-17; Psalm 26; Hebrews 5:7-14; John 3:16-21
Wednesday, January 22
Psalm 38 O Lord, do not forsake me, be not far from me, O my God. Come quickly to help me, O Lord my Savior. (vv.21-22)
The pleading in this passage strikes a chord. There are times, when we may feel that God isn’t close by, that lead to a sense of urgency—but is this reality? No, the Lord is with us at all times and there is nothing that can separate us from Him. Paul’s letter to the Romans says in 8:38-39 “neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Another way to say this is simply, “If you don’t feel close to God, guess who moved?” There’s great truth in this quote from an old cross-stitch book and much reassurance knowing our God is steadfast and omnipresent.
Genesis 9:18-29; Hebrews 6:1-12; John 3:22-36
Thursday, January 23
John 4:1-15 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. (v.6a NIV)
Fatigue is a real thing and even Jesus, the Son of God, experienced being physically tired during his journeys. The effects of growing old are also very real for those of us blessed with the privilege of aging. Though our bodies change and often “speak” to us in ways they never did before, there’s a wisdom that comes with growing older. God’s love and mercy have a richer, deeper meaning. Later in this passage, Jesus offered the Samaritan woman “living water,” water that brings eternal life. That hope and God’s promise to be with us always make each day a gift from above.
Genesis 11:1-9; Psalm 37:1-18; Hebrews 6:13-20
Friday, January 24
John 4:16-26 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Then Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am he.” (vv.25-26)
Can you imagine speaking to a man and then being told he is Jesus, the Son of God, Emmanuel, Savior, the Messiah? What would you do? I have no idea! Despite the Samaritan woman’s human flaws and mistakes, she found the face-to-face encounter with Jesus a life-changing, hope-bringing experience. We may not see Jesus face-to-face, but we are invited to know and experience the unwavering, unconditional, unchanging, and complete love that God has for each of us, His children.
Genesis 11:27—12:8; Psalm 31; Hebrews 7:1-17
Saturday, January 25
John 4:27-42 “Thus the saying, ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.” (vv.37-38)
These words from John’s Gospel are as relevant today as when they were written centuries ago. All of us benefit from those who’ve gone before. Whether it’s life lessons or advances in technology or medical science, often our successes are products of seeds sown years before. The soil may not have been tilled adequately or perhaps there was not enough moisture. Whatever, the timing was not right until now. May we keep our eyes fixed on the goal, the end product, and trust that we’ve all stood on the shoulders of those who came before us. Jesus humbled himself, becoming human, and died on the cross for our sins, a reminder and example of true humility and a powerful lesson for us all.
Genesis 12:9—13:1; Psalms 30, 32; Hebrews 7:18-28
Sunday, January 26
Genesis 13:2-18 And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdsmen and thy herdsmen; for we are brethren. (v.8 ASV)
When I was answering the call to become an ordained deacon, I looked at the story of the first deacons called with new eyes. Their job was serving food (Acts 6:2-4), not voicing an opinion about what they served—or about what the apostles were preaching!
More recently, the Lord expanded this image for me. What if a waiter worked in a vegetarian restaurant, but he himself enjoyed steak and BBQ ribs at his own meals? Would that be okay for his own nourishment? Yes. Would it be okay for the waiter to sneer and criticize customers who came for the healthy vegetarian menu where he worked just because he liked a different cuisine? No.
It’s the same in God’s house, among His children. God is more concerned about peace and loving service between brothers and sisters in His household than about the particular menu they choose from among His chain of “restaurants.”
Psalm 63; Galatians 2:1-10; Mark 7:31-37
Monday, January 27
John 4:43-54 Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” (v.48 ESV)
Forty-five years ago, my girlfriend stood in front of a bunch of people and said she would love, honor, and obey me “till death do us part.” I had no way to prove it was so that day.
People sit front of their computer or smart phone and type in somewhere they want to go. Soon a total stranger they’ve never met drives up to their door, they get in the car, and believe the stranger will drive them safely to where they want to go.
In restaurants, I’ve told total strangers what I would like to eat and in a few minutes they set it before me. So far, I haven’t been harmed by eating it, though I haven’t seen where the food was prepared or who did the cooking.
In each case I believed without seeing proof first. So, I know it can be done. Why do I have such trouble believing God will keep His promises to me?
Genesis 14:1-24; Psalms 41, 52; Hebrews 8:1-13
Tuesday, January 28
John 5:1-18 When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” (v.6)
Sebastiaan van der Schrier, a social anxiety expert, says it’s easy to start a conversation with complete strangers. “You simply observe what is happening and you then ask a follow up question. Simple!” Even if the answer to your question should be obvious, people do enjoy a chance to talk about something they’re an expert at. Everyone is an expert at what they think. And they’re usually glad to tell you what that is!
After a moment, polite strangers who have answered your question are apt to ask you some return question and give you a chance to say what’s on your mind. The ice is broken.
Often, we begin our prayers as if God has asked and wants to know what we think. Do you ever get to that moment where you finally ask God what He has to say to you? Do you listen carefully and give Him time to say what’s on His mind?
Genesis 15:1-11, 17-21; Psalm 45; Hebrews 9:1-14
Wednesday, January 29
Psalm 119:49-72 You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees. (v.68 NIV)
When I was young, I used to get excited when my parents announced that we were going out for supper at an all-you-can-eat buffet. I knew that meant I could take as much as I wanted of the good stuff. That was good! But after a while, I learned that all buffets were not the same. If the food and selections offered were not very appealing to me, it made no difference that I could have all I wanted. I didn’t want much.
Sometimes the days following a political election are like that. I’ve voted for some person who was promising everything I liked. After the election, memory loss must set in, at least with the winning candidates. I don’t hear much from them until the next election.
It’s not enough to have the words and label that say you’re good. Actions speak louder. God knows that. That’s how He presents Himself to me. He not only is good, He does what is good for me.
Genesis 16:1-14; Hebrews 9:15-28; John 5:19-29
Thursday, January 30
John 5:30-47 “I can do nothing on My own initiative.” (v.30a NASB)
I am writing this alone in my house, at my computer. Just me.
Of course, someone else built the computer I’m using. Someone wrote the software code that is running the word processor on it. Someone else built the circuit boards and chips inside the computer. Someone else built the big screen where I can see what I’m punching into the keyboard I didn’t make. A stroke made it difficult for me to climb under the desk and connect cables between the computer, keyboard, and screen, so someone else did that for me. Someone is working at the local power plant tonight to generate the electricity to run the computer. Someone is running the internet connection that my modem is connected to. That’s how I was able to get the email from someone who gave me the assignment to write this short devotional entry.
But I’m doing that tonight all on my own. It’s hard for me to understand what Jesus’ problem was.
Genesis 16:15—17:14; Psalm 50; Hebrews 10:1-10