“Whom not having seen ye love; on whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice greatly with joy unspeakable and full of glory; receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:8-9, ASV).
Have you ever had a joy so heartfelt that you burst into song? A joy so deep that you felt there was no way you could express your thanksgiving to God except to sing? Paul and Silas did.
“But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns unto God…” Where were Paul and Silas? Acts 16:23 tells us they were in prison. Not only were they in prison with their feet held fast in stocks, but the magistrates had torn their garments off them and had beaten them with many stripes.
Can you imagine sitting in a cold and dank Roman prison with your feet in stocks and blood sliding down your back? The pain in your back would be bad enough to make you sick to your stomach. Your body might be in shock. What would you be doing if you had just been beaten and thrown into prison?
Paul and Silas were praying and singing praises to God loudly enough that the other prisoners could hear them. Might this cause them to receive a worse punishment? That didn’t frighten them because their trust was in God, and God rescued them. An earthquake shook the prison, the stocks holding them loosened, and the prison doors were opened.
Paul and Silas had a joy buried so deeply in their hearts that they rejoiced no matter the circumstances that beset them. That joy was based on their faith in Jesus Christ, their obedience to Him, and the promises He had given them.
Like Paul and Silas, may we have such great joy in the spiritual blessings that we have in Christ that we have to tell others. Our reason is the joy unspeakable we feel because of our belief in Christ.
Hymn: “He Gave Me A Song”
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for the song of joy you have put in my heart. Help me sing of You and Your Son even when troubles beset me. In Jesus’s name. Amen.
Where You Are
“What ails thee, Hagar? Fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he is” (Gen. 21:17, ASV).
Do you ever feel like God doesn’t hear you? That although your heart is full of sorrow, you’re not as bad off as others to whom God must attend? Or perhaps you feel that you and what you are doing are not important enough for God to care?
Hagar felt that way. Banished from the only home she had ever known, she wandered in the wilderness until her water ran out. She may have felt like she had nothing to live for, and she might have welcomed death, except for one thing. Her young son Ishmael was a stone’s throw away under a shrub. She couldn’t bear to watch him die, and she had given up hope.
But God heard her voice and the cry of Ishmael. He told an angel to tell her that Ishmael would become a great nation. He opened her eyes to see a well of water. Hagar and Ishmael lived because God took care of them. The angel said, “God heard the voice of the lad where he is.”
God hears your voice too, wherever you are. Are you in a wilderness where you can’t seem to accomplish anything? Maybe in a desert where you have lost all hope? Cry to God. He knows about your troubles, and he hears your voice where you are.
When we feel lost and alone, may we say with the Psalmist, “I will lift up mine eyes unto the mountains: From whence shall my help come? My help comes from Jehovah, Who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1, 2).
Hymn: “Does Jesus Care?”
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we know You care for us. You sent Your Son to die for us. You tell us over and over in Your word of Your love and care for us. Please help us to remember Your care in difficult times. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Jesus Loved Judas
“And Judas, who betrayed him, answered and said, Is it I, Rabbi? He saith unto him, Thou hast said” (Matthew 26:25).
Jesus had just washed the disciples’ feet. Not only Peter’s feet, but all twelve of the disciples’ feet, including the feet of Judas. When the Son of God returned to the table to finish eating, he said, “One of you shall betray me.”
As eleven shocked disciples looked at Jesus, and John asked Him who it was who would do such a thing, Judas probably sat there and said nothing. He might have had the thirty pieces of silver in his pocket. He knew where Jesus would go next, and perhaps he was thinking that when Jesus and the others arrived at the Mount of Olives, he could point him out. Was he planning the kiss even then? Did he have a smirk on his face when he asked Jesus, “Is it I, Rabbi?”
How sad Jesus must have been. Judas had been in the circle of His closest friends, and yet he still did not understand who Jesus was. He had heard Jesus’s teaching and seen His miracles. He knew the power of Christ over death, nature, evil spirits, and diseases. But he had hardened his heart. Jesus knew Judas the whole time, knew what he would do, and yet He washed his feet. And Jesus’s sadness was compounded because He knew Judas would not be in paradise with Him.
When we sin, are we betraying Jesus? Yes. Our sin causes others to look on Christ and His mission with contempt. It brings harm to the church that Jesus died for. Yet Jesus still loves us, even as He loved Judas. Judas gave up all chances to repent. We will sin. But unlike Judas, may we quickly turn back to God and confess our sin and repent. God still loves us.
Hymn: “Out Of My Bondage”
Prayer: Heavenly Father, when I sin against You, let me be quick to return to You in humble repentance. In Jesus’s name. Amen.
A Fresh Start
“For I know my transgressions; and my sin is ever before me” (Psalm 51:3).
We all know the story of King David’s sin with Bathsheba. It was a double sin, committing murder and adultery. The thought of doing either one would shock and horrify most of us. To Christians, those are among the worst sins. Yet God forgave David.
Saul, who became the apostle Paul, also did things we would never think right. He was probably guilty of murder, as he had Christians persecuted. God forgave Saul and gave him a fresh start as a messenger of His love. After his conversion, Saul often thought about his terrible deeds (1Timothy 1:15).
If we sin, God forgives us because He loves us. When we are in Christ, He forgives us because Jesus paid for our sins. Paul reminds us that God gives us mercy to show forth all His longsuffering and to let Paul be an example of all who believe (1 Timothy 1:16).
God tells us that if we confess our sins He will forgive us (1 John 1:9). The promise of forgiveness is so much stronger for us when we see examples of God’s love and mercy all through the Bible. Think of King Manasseh, who did much evil, but repented and was forgiven (2 Chronicles 33). Jonah ran away from God and didn’t obey Him, but God saved him. Of course we think of Peter, who denied Jesus three times, yet God forgave him and used him mightily in the church.
Have we committed such sins as these men? Most of us will say no, but we know we have sinned and need forgiveness. As those in the Bible whom God forgave, we also can have a fresh start by repenting and turning to God.
Hymn: “Bring Christ Your Broken Life”
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we know we have sinned and fallen short of Your glory. Please forgive us, and grant to us the joy of knowing we have a fresh start in Your kingdom. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
A Sense of Need
“And my God shall supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
What do you need? A bigger house? A new car? Wellness and health of body and mind? Perhaps it is in everyone’s nature to desire material things that he thinks he needs. Many covet things that will make life easier or give them a longer and more comfortable life. But what do we really need?
Philippians 4:19 promises that God will supply our every need. We have to remember that this is God talking, not man. God does not view things as we do. He did not send His Son to give us things. Jesus did not come to make man rich, or healthy, or sane, although He did lots of healing of people’s bodies and minds while He was on Earth.
Jesus came to give our soul everything it needs. If we were hungry, we would think we need food. If we had no house, we would believe we need a place to live. If we were so poor we could not pay for the comforts of life, we would desire money.
But what if the doctor told you that you had a week to live? Or what if Jesus were to come today? What would you need? Would it be something material? No. Your biggest need would be for God—for His presence, His comfort, His care, and His promise that you will be with Him for eternity. In the end, all that would matter is that you have God.
The most precious possession we can have is friendship with God. Psalm 118 says, “Oh give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good; for his lovingkindness endures forever.” The rest of the psalm tells why. We cannot live without God. He is our greatest need.
Hymn: “I Need Thee Every Hour”
Prayer: Heavenly Father, let us never forget that we need You and to know that You are there for us and that You will help us when we call on You in prayer. In Jesus’s name. Amen.
A Cup of Hot Tea
“Behold the birds of the heaven, that they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns: and your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you of much more value than they?” (Matthew 6:26).
This morning I carried my daily cup of hot tea to my computer desk and took a long sip. Its soothing warmth seemed to sink clear down to my toes, then spread through the rest of me. It reminded me of God’s love. Even the small comforts of our lives are gifts from our Father’s bountiful hand.
I can see the cup of tea. I can feel its physical warmth and comfort. On the other hand, I can’t see God’s love nor reach out and touch it. Maybe that is why sometimes a minutia of doubt creeps into my mind. Perhaps that’s why my inner soul cries out, “God, please love me and take care of me.”
Then I say to myself, “Silly you. God does love you. He sent His Son to die for you.” I think of all the times God has seen me through hard times. I remember His unseen presence in the midst of dangers and toils. A sense of His unfailing love radiates through my body, bringing calm and peace.
The theme of God’s Word is His love and kindness toward us. Our Father is the very essence of love. He loves mankind, and He loves us individually. Nothing can separate us from God’s love.
The next time life seems to be bearing down on me, I will remember that God loves me and is with me. Even though I can’t see His hand, I will reach up and take it and walk with Him through life’s troubles. My Father’s love and care will keep me until I truly walk with Him in heaven.
Hymn: “Yes, for Me He Careth”
Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me never to doubt Your love and care for me, even when times get rough. May I always trust in You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Birds of A Feather
Then Peter began to speak: "I now realize how true it is that God doesn not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right" (Acts 10:34, 35, NIV).
A short time after moving to Colorado, I saw a beautiful bird with black and white feathers. For some time, I laughed at its antics and enjoyed its song. Then I asked a friend what kind of bird it was, and she said, "Oh, that's a magpie. It's a scavenger and is related to the vulture." Related to a vulture? My opinion of the bird changed instantly. Since then, I have learned more about the playful magpie. It will eat dead things, but it's an omnivore and mates for life. It's not such a bad bird after all.
Just like I did with the magpie, people can attribute characteristics to others without knowing all the facts. Japanese Americans were interred during World War II just because they were Japanese. During the time of the Cold War, many Americans were afraid of all Russians. Some Americans tend to see all Muslims and peoples from certain countries of the Middle East as evil. They base their opinions of all on the actions of a few. Contrary to the saying, "birds of a feather" don't always flock together.
The Bible pleads for love and tolerance. God told Peter in a vision that His salvation and the Gospel were for all. God has promised that all nations will be represented in heaven. May we never forget that God loves all no matter who they are or where they come from. Donna Wittlif