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A Great Light

Today's Devotional





The people walking in darkness have seen a great light. Isaiah 9:2

In 2018, twelve Thai boys and their soccer coach descended into a mazelike cave, intending to enjoy an afternoon adventure. Due to unexpected rising water that forced them deeper and deeper into the cavern, it was two-and-a-half weeks before rescuers led them out. Dive teams, thwarted by rising water, attempted the rescue as the boys sat on a small rock shelf with only six flickering flashlights. They spent hours in darkness, hoping that somehow light—and help—would break through.

The prophet Isaiah described a world of brooding darkness, one overrun by violence and greed, shattered by rebellion and anguish (Isaiah 8:22). Nothing but ruin; hope’s candle flickering and fading, sputtering before succumbing to dark nothingness. And yet, Isaiah insisted, this dim despair was not the end. Because of God’s mercy, soon “there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress” (9:1). God would never abandon His people in shadowy ruin. The prophet announced hope for his people then and pointed to the time when Jesus would come to dispel the darkness sin has caused.

Jesus has come. And now we hear Isaiah’s words with renewed meaning: “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light,” Isaiah says. “On those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned” (v. 2).

No matter how dark the night, no matter how despairing our circumstances, we’re never forsaken in the dark. Jesus is here. A great Light shines.

How are you prone to experience darkness and despair? Consider this image of Jesus as the great light—how does this light renew you with hope?

God, there’s so much darkness. I fear sometimes that the darkness will overwhelm me. Be my great light. Shine on me with radiant love.

INSIGHT

King Ahaz of Judah, threatened by the armies of Israel and Syria (Isaiah 7:1–6), turned to Assyria for help instead of trusting in God (2 Kings 16:7–9). Because Ahaz didn’t turn to God, Isaiah warned that He’d instead use Assyria to punish Judah (Isaiah 7:17–25; 10:5–19). Of their unrepentant unfaithfulness, Isaiah warned that the people of Judah would “have no light of dawn” and be “thrust into utter darkness” (8:20, 22). But God loved them too much to leave them there. He’d bring them “a great light,” starting from Zebulun and Naphtali, lands in Israel’s far north ravaged by the Assyrians (9:1–3). Isaiah prophesied of a future time when “Galilee of the nations” (v. 1) (or “of the Gentiles”) would be honored. Seven hundred years later, Matthew tells us that this was fulfilled when Jesus, the light of the world, came into Galilee and did much of His public ministry there (Matthew 4:12–17).

By |2021-11-30T08:06:11-05:00November 30th, 2021|
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Trusting God in Opposition

Today's Devotional





But even if he does not . . . we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up. Daniel 3:18

Raised in a tribe in the Philippines opposed to belief in Christ, Esther received salvation through Jesus after an aunt prayed for her during Esther’s battle with a life-threatening illness. Today, Esther leads Bible studies in her local community in spite of threats of violence and even death. She serves joyfully, saying, “I can’t stop telling people about Jesus because I’ve experienced the power, love, goodness, and faithfulness of God in my life.”

Serving God in the face of opposition is a reality for many today just as it was for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, three young Israelites living in captivity in Babylon. In the book of Daniel, we learn that they refused to pray to a large golden image of King Nebuchadnezzar even when threatened with death. The men testified that God was capable of protecting them, but they chose to serve Him “even if” He didn’t rescue them (Daniel 3:18). When they were thrown into the fire, God actually joined them in their suffering (v. 25). To everyone’s amazement, they survived without even “a hair of their heads singed” (v. 27).

If we face suffering or persecution for an act of faith, ancient and modern examples remind us that God’s Spirit is present with us to strengthen and sustain us when we choose to obey Him, “even if” things turn out differently than we hope.

What are some ways you’ve chosen to follow God “even if”? What are ways He’s been with you?

God, thank You for loving me so generously. Help me to follow You with joy even in the face of opposition.

INSIGHT

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Daniel 3:12) were no strangers to adversity. Ripped from their homes in Judah and dragged into exile, they may have seen family members abused and killed. They’d likely suffered abuse themselves, and now they resided in a culture hostile to the one true God. Yet all this adversity seemed only to strengthen their faith. When they respectfully defied the king (vv. 16–18), Nebuchadnezzar took their refusal personally, intensifying his anger. Yet the three remained resolute, revering God alone.

By |2021-11-29T08:06:10-05:00November 29th, 2021|
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Insult to Injury

Today's Devotional

Read: Job 5:17–27 | Bible in a Year: Ezekiel 33–34; 1 Peter 5




Man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward. Job 5:7

During the Golden Age of radio, Fred Allen (1894–1956) used comedic pessimism to bring smiles to a generation living in the shadows of economic depression and a world at war. His sense of humor was born out of personal pain. Having lost his mother before he was three, he was later estranged from his father who struggled with addictions. He once rescued a young boy from the traffic of a busy New York City street with a memorable, “What’s the matter with you, kid? Don’t you want to grow up and have troubles?”

The life of Job unfolds in such troubled realism. When his early expressions of faith eventually gave way to despair, his friends multiplied his pain by adding insult to injury. With good sounding arguments they insisted that if he could admit his wrongs (Job 4:7–8) and learn from God’s correction, he would find strength to laugh in the face of his problems (5:22).

Job’s “comforters” meant well while being so wrong (1:6–12). Never could they have imagined that they would one day be invoked as examples of “With friends like that, who needs enemies?” Never could they have imagined the relief of Job praying for them, or why they would need prayer at all (42:7–9). Never could they have imagined how they foreshadowed the accusers of the One who suffered so much misunderstanding to become the source of our greatest joys.

How have others misjudged you, and how did you feel? When have you been critical of others whose pain you didn’t understand?

Father, like Job’s friends, I’m inclined to assume that the troubles of others are somehow deserved. Please help me live this day in the Spirit of Your Son rather than in the words and thoughts of the accuser.

INSIGHT

The book of Job is typically classified as Wisdom Literature, along with Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, and portions of Psalms. Proverbs and many Wisdom psalms emphasize that since God’s wisdom is woven into the creation of the universe, living with wisdom—in tune to God’s ways—is more likely to result in human flourishing. However, both Job and Ecclesiastes nuance that picture, emphasizing that injustice and suffering can occur through no fault of their victims.

Throughout the book of Job, Job’s friends echo sentiments found in the Wisdom Literature of Proverbs and Psalms (for example, compare Job 5:19–21 to Psalm 91:5–16). Job’s friends refuse to face the clear exceptions to these principles and in so doing show a staggering lack of compassion for Job. In the end, God chastises them for not speaking “the truth about me, as my servant Job has” (42:7).

By |2021-11-28T08:06:12-05:00November 28th, 2021|
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Bold Faith

Today's Devotional

Read: Acts 4:8–13 | Bible in a Year: Ezekiel 30–32; 1 Peter 4




Salvation is found in no one else. Acts 4:12

After Prem Pradhan’s (1924–1998) plane was shot down during World War II, he was wounded while parachuting to safety. As a result, he walked with a limp for the rest of his life. He once noted, “I have a lame leg. Isn’t it strange of God that He called [me] to preach the gospel in the Himalaya Mountains?” And preach in Nepal he did—but not without opposition that included imprisonment in “dungeons of death” where prisoners faced extreme conditions. In a span of fifteen years, Prem spent ten years in fourteen different prisons. His bold witness, however, bore the fruit of changed lives for Christ that included guards and prisoners who took the message of Jesus to their own people.

The apostle Peter faced opposition due to his faith in Jesus and for being used by God to heal a “man who was lame” (Acts 4:9). But he used the opportunity to boldly speak for Christ (vv. 8–13).

Today, like Peter, we too may face opposition (v. 3), yet we have family members, co-workers, fellow students, and others we know who desperately need to hear about the One in whom “salvation is found” (v. 12), who died as payment for our sins and was raised from the dead as proof of His power to forgive (v. 10). May they hear as we prayerfully and boldly proclaim this good news of salvation found in Jesus.

How will you boldly share Jesus today? What keeps you from telling others about Him? How can you be better prepared to do so?

Father, thank You for what You’ve done for me. Help me, in Jesus’ name, to boldly share my faith with others.

INSIGHT

The word translated “unschooled” in Acts 4:13 is unique in the New Testament and is used only in this verse. In the original language, the word means “without letters, illiterate, without learning.” Peter and John were perceived by the religious leaders as being “unversed in the learning of the Jewish schools” (Greek dictionary). They were also referred to as “ordinary men,” a reference to a private person, one without the kind of knowledge or education that would be useful in the public square. In the minds of the religious elite, the apostles were “regular Joes.” But what they did possess—the empowerment of the Holy Spirit (v. 8)—more than compensated for their lack of formal religious training or sophistication. The Spirit continues to fill and embolden believers in Jesus today to proclaim His death and resurrection—even to those who reject Him (v. 11).

By |2021-11-27T08:06:06-05:00November 27th, 2021|
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Mighty Warrior

Today's Devotional





The Lord is with you, mighty warrior. Judges 6:12

Diet Eman was an ordinary, shy young woman in the Netherlands—in love, working, and enjoying time with family and friends—when the Germans invaded in 1940. As Diet (pronounced Deet) later wrote, “When there is danger on your doorstep, you want to act almost like an ostrich burying its head in the sand.” Yet Diet felt God calling her to resist the German oppressors, which included risking her life to find hiding places for Jews and other pursued people. This unassuming young woman became a warrior for God.

We find many stories in the Bible similar to Diet’s, stories of God using seemingly unlikely characters to serve Him. For instance, when the angel of the Lord approached Gideon, he proclaimed, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior” (Judges 6:12). Yet Gideon seemed anything but mighty. He’d been secretly threshing wheat away from the prying eyes of the Midianites, who oppressively controlled Israel at the time (vv. 1–6, 11). He was from the weakest clan of Israel (Manasseh) and the “least” in his family (v. 15). He didn’t feel up to God’s calling and even requested several signs. Yet God used him to defeat the cruel Midianites (see ch. 7).

God saw Gideon as “mighty.” And just as God was with and equipped Gideon, so He’s with us, His “dearly loved children” (Ephesians 5:1)—supplying all we need to live for and serve Him in little and big ways.

Who are some other Bible characters God used despite their weakness to accomplish much for Him? How has God moved you outside your comfort zone to serve Him?

God, I’m so thankful You don’t see me as I see myself. Help me to see myself as Your dearly loved child capable of doing big and small things in service to You.

INSIGHT

Judges 6 follows a pattern seen often in the book—Israel’s evil resulting in oppression, followed by Israel crying out to God, and God responding with deliverance. Judges 6 also differs from previous versions of this “pattern” in ways that indicate that both the evil and suffering in Israel is intensifying. In Judges 4, after the Israelites cry out for God’s help, Deborah immediately takes action. In chapter 6, however, after a much more extensive account of the Midianites’ oppression (vv. 2–6), God responds to the Israelites’ cry for deliverance by first chastising them (vv. 7–10).

Gideon emerges as a reluctant judge, his story echoing Moses’ commission. Both lacked confidence in their ability to act as God’s agents, but He commands and sends them anyway (Exodus 3:10; Judges 6:14). Both are granted signs of God’s presence and a promise that God is with them (Exodus 3:12; 4:1–9; Judges 6:16–23).

By |2021-11-26T08:06:07-05:00November 26th, 2021|
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A Thankful Heart

Today's Devotional





Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. Colossians 4:2

Seneca, the great philosopher of ancient Rome (4 bc–ad 65), was once accused by the empress Messalina of adultery. After the Senate sentenced Seneca to death, the emperor Claudius instead exiled him to Corsica, perhaps because he suspected the charge was false. This reprieve may have shaped Seneca’s view of thankfulness when he wrote: “homicides, tyrants, thieves, adulterers, robbers, sacrilegious men, and traitors there always will be, but worse than all these is the crime of ingratitude.”

A contemporary of Seneca’s, the apostle Paul, may have agreed. In Romans 1:21, he wrote that one of the triggers for the downward collapse of humankind was that they refused to give thanks to God. Writing to the church at Colossae, three times Paul challenged his fellow believers in Christ to gratitude. He said we should be “overflowing with thankfulness” (Colossians 2:7). As we let God’s peace “rule in [our] hearts,” we’re to respond with thankfulness (3:15). In fact, gratitude ought to characterize our prayers (4:2).

God’s great kindnesses to us remind us of one of life’s great realities. He not only deserves our love and worship, He also deserves our thankful hearts. Everything that’s good in life comes from Him (James 1:17).

With all we’ve been given in Christ, gratitude should be as natural as breathing. May we respond to God’s gracious gifts by expressing our gratitude to Him.

What are some of the biggest, most enduring blessings you’ve received in life? What everyday blessings have you experienced that are often easy to forget?

Loving Father, forgive me for the times I’ve taken You and Your blessings for granted. Create in me a thankful heart, so I’ll honor and praise You for all You’ve done and are doing.

INSIGHT

In Colossians 4:2–6, Paul draws our attention to his commitment to the Great Commission. Before we tell others about Jesus, Paul instructs us to spend time talking with God about those who don’t yet believe in Him. The Greek word translated “devote” (v. 2) means “to give attention to; to spend much time together.” Effective evangelism begins with praying for opportunities to share our faith in Jesus, asking for courage to talk about Him and for clarity of our message (vv. 3–4). We’re to “make the most of every opportunity” when it comes to sharing the good news (v. 5). Paul advocates living a life that draws others to Christ (v. 6). Jesus spoke of letting our “light shine before others, that they may see [our] good deeds” (Matthew 5:15–16). Peter tells us to “be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks . . . the reason for the hope that [we] have” (1 Peter 3:15).

By |2021-11-25T08:06:03-05:00November 25th, 2021|
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The Will of God

Today's Devotional

Read: Psalm 62 | Bible in a Year: Ezekiel 22–23; 1 Peter 1




Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Psalm 62:5

God’s will is sometimes hard to follow. He asks us to do the right things. He calls us to endure hardship without complaining; to love awkward people; to heed the voice inside us that says, You mustn’t; to take steps we’d rather not take. So, we must tell our souls all day long: “Hey soul, listen up. Be silent: Do what Jesus is asking you to do.”

“My soul waits in silence for God alone” (Psalm 62:1 nasb). “My soul, wait in silence for God alone” (62:5 nasb). The verses are similar, but different. David says something about his soul; then says something to his soul. “Waits in silence” addresses a decision, a settled state of mind. “Wait in silence” is David stirring his soul to remember that decision.

David determines to live in silence—quiet submission to God’s will. This is our calling as well, the thing for which we were created. We’ll be at peace when we’ve agreed: “Not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). This is our first and highest calling when we make Him Lord and the source of our deepest pleasure. “I desire to do your will,” the psalmist said (Psalm 40:8).

We must always ask for God’s help, of course, for our “hope comes from him” (62:5). When we ask for His help, He delivers it. God never asks us to do anything He won’t or can’t do.

When have you thought God’s will for you was difficult? How can you live in quiet submission?

I may not always understand Your will, Father, but I ask for help to submit to it. Teach me to trust Your good and faithful character. Please give me a submissive heart.

INSIGHT

The phrase “my salvation” appears four times in Psalm 62 (vv. 1, 2, 6, 7). Two related words in these verses are translated “salvation.” All find their root in the Hebrew verb yaw-shah’, which means “to save, to be saved, to be delivered.” David saw God as his true source of safety. In Psalm 27:1 he wrote, “The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear?” The Old Testament compound name Joshua (“the Lord is salvation”) includes this root. Jesus, whose name is explained in Matthew 1:21, is the New Testament rendering of Joshua.

By |2021-11-24T08:06:09-05:00November 24th, 2021|
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Sharing Hope

Today's Devotional





I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:11

As Emma shared how God helped her embrace her identity as His beloved child, she weaved Scripture into our conversation. I could barely figure out where the high school student stopped speaking her words and began quoting the words of God. When I commended her for being like a walking Bible, her brow furrowed. She hadn’t been intentionally reciting Scripture verses. Through daily reading of the Bible, the wisdom found in it had become a part of Emma’s everyday vocabulary. She rejoiced in God’s constant presence and enjoyed every opportunity He provided to share His truth with others. But Emma isn’t the first young person God has used to inspire others to prayerfully read, memorize, and apply Scripture.

When the apostle Paul encouraged Timothy to step into leadership, he demonstrated confidence in this young man (1 Timothy 4:11–16). Paul acknowledged that Timothy was rooted in Scripture from infancy (2 Timothy 3:15). Like Paul, Timothy faced doubters. Still, both men lived as if they believed all Scripture was “God-breathed.” They recognized Scripture was “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (vv. 16–17).

When we hide God’s wisdom in our hearts, His truth and love can pour into our conversations naturally. We can be like walking Bibles sharing God’s eternal hope wherever we go.

How do you hide Scripture in your heart and mind? How has God’s wisdom helped you share His truth with others?

Father, saturate my heart with Your wisdom so I can share You with others naturally and courageously.

INSIGHT

Timothy was Paul’s “true son in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2). We first see him in Acts 16:1–3, where we learn his “mother [Eunice] was Jewish and a believer.” Later we read that his grandmother Lois was also a believer (2 Timothy 1:5). Timothy lived in Lystra, and the believers there and in Iconium (about twenty miles north) spoke well of him (Acts 16:2). And so when Paul visited there during his second missionary journey, he took Timothy with him. But first, Paul circumcised him because of the local Jews who knew his father was a Greek or gentile (v. 3). Paul didn’t want to hinder the spread of the gospel to the Jews. Timothy became a loved companion and vital member of Paul’s missionary team and is mentioned throughout Paul’s letters. Today’s passage (2 Timothy 3:10–17), includes some of Paul’s final words to Timothy.

By |2021-11-23T08:06:10-05:00November 23rd, 2021|
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True Worshipers

Today's Devotional

Read: John 4:19–26 | Bible in a Year: Ezekiel 18–19; James 4




True worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth. John 4:23

She finally had the chance to visit the church. Inside, in the deepest part of the basement, she reached the small cave or grotto. Candles filled the narrow space and hanging lamps illuminated a corner of the floor. There it was—a fourteen-pointed silver star, covering a raised bit of the marble floor. She was in Bethlehem’s Grotto of the Nativity—the place marking the spot where according to tradition Christ was born. Yet the writer, Annie Dillard, felt less than impressed, realizing God was much bigger than that spot.

Still, such places have always held great significance in our faith stories. Another such place is mentioned in the conversation between Jesus and the woman at the well—the mountain where her “ancestors worshiped” (John 4:20), referring to Mount Gerizim (see Deuteronomy 11:29). It was sacred to the Samaritans, who contrasted it to the Jewish insistence that Jerusalem was where true worship occurred (v. 20). However, Jesus declared the time had arrived when worship was no longer specific to a place, but a Person: “the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth” (v. 23). The woman declared her faith in the Messiah, but she didn’t realize she was talking to Him. “Then Jesus declared, ‘I, the one speaking to you—I am he’ ” (v. 26).

God isn’t limited to any mountain or physical space. He’s present with us everywhere. The true pilgrimage we make each day is to approach His throne as we boldly say, “Our Father,” and He is there.

What difference does it make to you knowing that God is spirit, always and ever present? What will you praise Him for in this moment?

Father, thank You for Your constant presence no matter where I am.

INSIGHT

The events in John 4:19–26 take place in the context of Jesus asking a Samaritan woman to draw water for Him from a well (v. 7). This is significant because “Jews [didn’t] associate with Samaritans” (v. 9), and the handling of a container that had been held by a Samaritan would make Jesus ceremonially unclean. However, this doesn’t deter Him, and instead He tells the woman about her life and many husbands (vv. 16–18). That’s why she calls Him a prophet in verse 19. After Jesus explains that the location of our worship isn’t significant, the woman mentions the Messiah (v. 25). Jesus’ response in verse 26 that He’s the Messiah is a reference to God as the “I am” in the Old Testament (Exodus 3:14). In the Greek translation, the word he at the end of John 4:26 is absent and literally reads: “I am—the one who speaks to you.”

By |2021-11-22T08:06:09-05:00November 22nd, 2021|
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Labrador Angel

Today's Devotional

Read: Psalm 143 | Bible in a Year: Ezekiel 16–17; James 3




Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love. Psalm 143:8

In 2019, Cap Dashwood and his sweet black lab companion, Chaela (“Chae” in memory of his lab who died; “la,” Dashwood’s abbreviation for “Labrador angel”), accomplished something remarkable: reaching a mountain summit each day for 365 consecutive days.

Dashwood has a moving story to tell. He left home at sixteen, explaining simply, “Bad family life.” But these past wounds led him to find healing elsewhere. He explains, “Sometimes when you’re disappointed by people, you turn to something else. You know?” For Dashwood, mountain climbing and the unconditional love of his black lab companion has been a big part of that “something else.”

For those of us, like myself, who deeply love our animal companions, a big piece of why we do is the sweet, utterly unconditional love they pour out—a kind of love that’s rare. But I like to think the love they effortlessly give points to a much greater and deeper reality than the failures of others—God’s unshakable, boundless love upholding the universe.

In Psalm 143, as in many of his prayers, it’s only David’s faith in that unshakable, “unfailing love” (v. 12) that tethers him to hope in a time when he feels utterly alone. But a lifetime of walking with God gives him just enough strength to trust that the morning will “bring me word of your unfailing love” (v. 8).

Just enough hope to trust again and to let God lead the way to paths unknown (v. 8).

What signs of God’s unfailing, unending love do you see in the world around you? How have your experiences of the love of God through others or even animal companions given you renewed hope and courage?

Loving God, thank You for showing me how to believe in love and joy again. Help me to be a channel of that hope for others.

INSIGHT

Church tradition has categorized Psalm 143 as one of the seven penitential psalms (psalms of confession) in which the writer expresses sorrow and repentance for sins. But only verse 2 fits that description neatly. The primary point of the poem is David’s desperate request for deliverance. Verses 3–4 outline the problem: he’s hiding from his enemy—quite possibly his own son Absalom. All the remaining verses address God directly, either appealing to Him for help or extolling His righteousness and recalling His previous help in times of need. The penitential aspect of the second verse provides a model for us in our own pleas to God for deliverance from danger. The greatest rescue we need is from our own sin.

By |2021-11-21T08:06:09-05:00November 21st, 2021|
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