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Our Choices Matter

Today's Devotional

But he refused. Genesis 39:8

A swimming instructor in New Jersey saw a car sinking into Newark Bay and heard the driver inside screaming “I can’t swim” as his SUV quickly sank into the murky waters. As a crowd watched from shore, Anthony ran to the rocks along the edge, removed his prosthetic leg, and jumped in to rescue the sixty-eight-year-old man and help him safely to shore. Thanks to Anthony’s decisive action, another man was saved.

Our choices matter. Consider the patriarch Jacob, the father of many sons, who openly favored his seventeen-year-old son Joseph. He foolishly made Joseph “an ornate robe” (Genesis 37:3). The result? Joseph’s brothers hated him (v. 4); and when the opportunity arose, they sold him into slavery (v. 28). Yet because Joseph ended up in Egypt, God used him to preserve Jacob’s family and many others during a seven-year famine—despite Joseph’s brothers’ intention to harm him (see 50:20). The choice that set it all in motion was Joseph’s decision to be honorable and run from Potiphar’s wife (39:1–12). The result was prison (39:20) and an eventual meeting with Pharaoh (ch. 41).

Anthony may have had the advantage of training, but he still had to make a choice. When we love God and seek to serve Him, He helps us make life-affirming and God-honoring choices. If we haven’t already, we can begin by trusting Jesus.

What was the result of a recent choice you’ve made? How has God’s Spirit led you to make wise choices?

Dear God, help me to make wise decisions that honor You.


When dealing with sexual temptation, Scripture calls for prompt, decisive action. Joseph “ran out of the house” (Genesis 39:12) when confronted by Potiphar’s wife. In the New Testament, Paul says to “put to death . . . whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust” (Colossians 3:5). He also says to “flee from sexual immorality” (1 Corinthians 6:18). We’re to renounce all sexual sins because they directly attack our own bodies which “are temples of the Holy Spirit” (v. 19) and this violates the sacred sanctuary of God’s holy presence (vv. 19–20; see 1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Thessalonians 4:3–4).

By |2023-05-21T02:33:03-04:00May 21st, 2023|
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Keep in Touch

Today's Devotional

Pray to your Father. Matthew 6:6

Madeleine L’Engle made it a habit to call her mother once a week. As her mother moved into her later years, the beloved spiritual writer called more frequently, “just to keep in touch.” In the same way, Madeleine liked her children to call and maintain that connection. Sometimes it was a lengthy conversation filled with significant questions and answers. Other times a call simply making sure the number was still valid was sufficient. As she wrote in her book Walking on Water, “It is good for the children to keep in touch. It is good for all of us children to keep in touch with our Father.”

Most of us are familiar with the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9–13. But the verses that precede it are just as important, for they set the tone for what follows. Our prayers aren’t to be showy, “to be seen by others” (v. 5). And while there’s no limit on how long our prayers need to be, “many words” (v. 7) doesn’t automatically equate to quality prayer. The emphasis seems to be on maintaining regular contact with our Father who knows our need “before [we] ask him” (v. 8). Jesus stresses how good it is for us to keep in touch with our Father. Then instructs us: “This, then, is how you should pray” (v. 9).

Prayer is a good, vital choice for it keeps us in touch with the God and Father of us all.

How can you better stay in touch with others? How have you experienced keeping in touch with the Father?

Father, thank You for knowing my needs before I even speak them.  


In Matthew 6:1–8, Jesus emphasizes that living for God should be done humbly, without seeking to draw attention to oneself or to gain praise. Believers in Jesus should have a humble attitude as they give to those in need (vv. 1–4) and as they pray (vv. 5–8). At first glance, this might seem to contradict 5:14–16, which emphasizes that the lives of Jesus’ disciples should shine brightly before others “that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (v. 16). There’s no contradiction, however, for when believers serve God humbly out of love for Him and others, it naturally results in His light shining in the world. When service and prayer is motivated by a desire for attention and praise, however, it can have the opposite effect, repulsing others who may detect self-serving, hypocritical motivations (6:5).

Learn more about prayer.

By |2023-05-20T02:33:12-04:00May 20th, 2023|
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You Are Heard

Today's Devotional

He turned his ear to me. Psalm 116:2

In the book Physics, Charles Riborg Mann and George Ransom Twiss ask: “When a tree falls in a lonely forest, and no animal is nearby to hear it, does it make a sound?” Over the years, this question has prompted philosophical and scientific discussions about sound, perception, and existence. A definitive answer, however, has yet to emerge.

One night, while feeling lonely and sad about a problem I hadn’t shared with anyone, I recalled this question. When no one hears my cry for help, I thought, does God hear?

Facing the threat of death and overcome by distress, the writer of Psalm 116 may have felt abandoned. So he called out to God—knowing He was listening and would help him. “He heard my voice,” the psalmist wrote, “he heard my cry for mercy. . . . [He] turned his ear to me” (vv. 1–2). When no one knows our pain, God knows. When no one hears our cries, God hears.

Knowing that God will show us His love and protection (vv. 5–6), we can be at rest in difficult times (v. 7). The Hebrew word translated “rest” (manoakh) describes a place of quiet and safety. We can be at peace, strengthened by the assurance of God’s presence and help.

The question posed by Mann and Twiss led to numerous answers. But the answer to the question, Does God hear? is simply yes. 

What do you do when you’re feeling alone or abandoned? What will you ask God, who hears your every cry and cares for you?

Father, thank You for always hearing the cries of my heart. Your help and presence are my rest.


Psalm 116 is one of six praise songs (Psalms 113–118) collectively known as the “Egyptian Hallel.” The Hebrew root word halal means “to praise,” and “Egyptian” is a designation that these songs were sung during the Passover remembrance of their deliverance from Egyptian slavery. Psalms 113–114 are recited before the Passover meal and Psalms 115–118 afterward. The hymn that Jesus and the disciples sang after the Last Supper would probably be one of these psalms (Mark 14:26).

In Psalm 116, the author writes of his near-death experience (vv. 3–4) and celebrates his deliverance from the jaws of death (v. 8). In his musing about life and death, the psalmist assures us of God’s undying care and love, giving us precious comfort when facing death: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful servants.” Or as one translation renders it, “The Lord cares deeply when his loved ones die” (v. 15 nlt).

By |2023-05-19T02:33:12-04:00May 19th, 2023|
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Grandmother Research

Today's Devotional

He will take great delight in you. Zephaniah 3:17

Researchers at Emory University used MRI scans to study the brains of grandmothers. They measured empathetic responses to images that included their own grandchild, their own adult child, and one anonymous child. The study showed that grandmothers have a higher empathy toward their own grandchild than even their own adult child. This is attributed to what they call the “cute factor”—their own grandchild being more “adorable” than the adult.

Before we say, “Well, duh!” we might consider the words of James Rilling, who conducted the study: “If their grandchild is smiling, [the grandmother is] feeling the child’s joy. And if their grandchild is crying, they’re feeling the child’s pain and distress.”

One prophet paints an “MRI image” of God’s feelings as He looks upon His people: “He will take great delight in you; in his love he will . . . rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17). Some translate this to say, “You will make His heart full of joy, and He will sing loudly.” Like an empathetic grandmother, God feels our pain: “In all their distress he too was distressed” (Isaiah 63:9), and He feels our joy: “The Lord takes delight in his people” (Psalm 149:4).

When we feel discouraged, it’s good to remember that God has real feelings for us. He’s not a cold, far away God, but One who loves and delights in us. It’s time to draw close to Him, feel His smile—and listen to His singing.

How have you felt the pleasure of God? How does this make you feel?

Dear God, help me to feel Your smile upon me.


Zephaniah’s message is predominantly one of judgment. Chapter 1 aims this harsh message at the whole world (vv. 2–3), but Jerusalem and Judah are singled out for their idolatry (vv. 4–6). Zephaniah 2 targets specific nations (vv. 4–15), and, again, Judah is included. The prophet calls them a “shameful nation” and makes a heartfelt appeal for them to repent “before the Lord’s fierce anger comes upon [them]” (vv. 1–2). In Zephaniah 3:1–7, the prophet zeroes in on Jerusalem for its corrupt leadership. But verses 8–20 show how God’s eternal hope rises out of the ashes of judgment. “Wait for me,” God says (v. 8). After His judgment is complete, God will enable the people to call upon His name (v. 9). “Be glad and rejoice with all your heart,” He tells them through His prophet. “The Lord has taken away your punishment” (vv. 14–15).

By |2023-05-18T02:33:13-04:00May 18th, 2023|
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God Remembers Names

Today's Devotional

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. Isaiah 43:1

The Sunday after I’d started working as a youth leader at a church and had met several of the young people, I spoke to a teen seated next to her mom. As I greeted the shy girl with a smile, I said her name and asked how she was doing. She lifted her head and her beautiful brown eyes widened. She too smiled and said in a small voice: “You remembered my name.” By simply calling that young girl by name—a girl who may have felt insignificant in a church filled with adults—I began a relationship of trust. She felt seen and valued.

In Isaiah 43, God is using the prophet Isaiah to convey a similar message to the Israelites: they were seen and valued. Even through captivity and time in the wilderness, God saw them and knew them “by name” (v. 1). They were not strangers; they belonged to Him. Even though they may have felt abandoned, they were “precious,” and His “love” was with them (v. 4). And along with the reminder that God knew them by name, He shared all that He would do for them, especially during trying times. When they went through trials, He would be with them (v. 2). They didn’t need to be afraid or worried since God remembered their names.

God knows each of His children’s names—and that’s good news, especially as we pass through the deep, difficult waters in life.

What trials are you facing these days? How can focusing on the fact that God knows you by name help you walk through trying times with confidence?

Thank You for knowing me by name, dear God.


God warned the Israelites that He’d use foreign armies to discipline them for their covenantal unfaithfulness. In 722 bc, the Assyrians destroyed Samaria, and the Northern Kingdom of Israel was exiled (see Isaiah 7:18–25; 10:3–6; 2 Kings 17:6–24). In 586 bc, Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians and the Southern Kingdom of Judah was exiled (see Isaiah 39:6–7; 2 Kings 20:12–19). Despite God’s harsh and severe discipline, God reminded the Israelites that as His chosen people they had an unbreakable bond with Him and assured them of His unfailing love: “You are precious and honored in my sight, and . . . I love you” (Isaiah 43:4). God’s discipline isn’t inconsistent with His love: “The Lord disciplines those he loves” (Proverbs 3:12; see Job 5:17; Hebrews 12:5–6). Though His people remained unfaithful and unrepentant, God in His mercy had purposed to forgive them of their sins (Isaiah 43:22–25).

By |2023-05-17T02:33:06-04:00May 17th, 2023|
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Who Am I?

Today's Devotional

To all who did receive him . . . [Jesus] gave the right to become children of God. John 1:12

In 1859, Joshua Abraham Norton declared himself Emperor of the United States. Norton had made—and lost—his fortune in San Francisco shipping, but he wanted a new identity: America’s first emperor. When the San Francisco Evening Bulletin printed “Emperor” Norton’s announcement, most readers laughed. Norton made pronouncements aimed at correcting society’s ills, printed his own currency, and even wrote letters to Queen Victoria asking her to marry him and unite their kingdoms. He wore royal military uniforms designed by local tailors. One observer said Norton looked “every inch a king.” But of course, he wasn’t. We don’t get to make up who we are.  

Many of us spend years searching for who we are and wondering what value we possess. We flail, trying to name or define ourselves, when only God can truly tell us the truth about who we are. And, thankfully, He calls us His sons and daughters when we receive salvation in His Son, Jesus. “Yet to all who did receive him,” John writes, “he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). And this identity is purely a gift. We are His beloved “children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision . . . but born of God” (v. 13).

God gives us our name and our identity in Christ. We can stop striving and comparing ourselves to others, because He tells us who we are.

How do you know you’re chosen by God? How does being His child help you understand your true identity?

God, I know that I’m Yours. Help me feel confidence in knowing that I’m born of You—a child of the King.

Learn more about your identity in Christ through salvation.


The Gospels are witnesses to the life and work of Jesus during His incarnation on earth. However, three of the four gospels begin with discussions of John the Baptist (Mark 1:1–8; Luke 1:8–25, 57–80; John 1:6–13). Here, in John 1:6–13, he’s described as a “witness to the light” (v. 8), but it’s made clear that he himself was not that light—Jesus was. Later, in 3:27–30, John the Baptist himself corrected any misconceptions that he was the Messiah. Using the metaphor of a wedding, he affirmed that he was not the bridegroom but the “friend who attends the bridegroom” (v. 29). Today, this is what we would call the best man. In Jesus’ words, there “is no one greater than John” (Luke 7:28). He still, however, wasn’t the Messiah. Jesus was.

By |2023-05-16T02:33:13-04:00May 16th, 2023|
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Exploring the Stars

Today's Devotional

Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one. Isaiah 40:26

In 2021, a multination effort led to the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope—deployed nearly a million miles from Earth to better investigate the universe. This marvel will peer into deep space and examine the stars and other celestial wonders.

This is indeed a fascinating astronomical piece of technology, and if everything works, it will provide us with amazing photos and information. But its mission isn’t new. In fact, the prophet Isaiah described searching the stars when he said, “Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one” (Isaiah 40:26). “Night after night” they speak of our Creator who hurled this imperceptibly immense universe into existence (Psalm 19:2)—and with it the countless luminous bodies that silently grace our night sky (v. 3).

And it’s God Himself who decided how many of the shining objects there are: “He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name” (Psalm 147:4). When mankind sends complicated, fascinating probes to explore the universe, we can enjoy with spellbound wonder the discoveries they make, because each observation points back to the One who made the solar system and everything beyond it. Yes, the “heavens declare the glory of God” (19:1)—stars and all.

How do the stars and the entire universe speak of God and His creative ways? What thoughts and emotions strike you as you think about His power?

Heavenly Father, thank You for creating such an amazing universe for me to enjoy.


Psalm 19 speaks to ancient Israel of Yahweh’s power and serves as a defense of their monotheistic beliefs. The psalmist presents God as creator and controller of the would-be gods of the nations that surrounded them. The psalms weren’t simply songs of worship but were teaching tools that helped Israel (and us) solidify her beliefs in the power and presence of God. Commentator Tremper Longman states: “The psalmist calls our attention specifically to the sun, the most dominant of the heavenly bodies. Using poetic personification, the poet points out that the sun lives in the sky. That is where God has placed its tent. Verse 5 then uses two similes to emphasize the passionate energy of the sun as it races across the sky. It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, like a champion rejoicing to run his course.”

By |2023-05-15T08:08:10-04:00May 15th, 2023|
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Loving Leadership

Today's Devotional

We dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children. 1 Thessalonians 2:11

A viral video of a mama bear trying to get her four energetic little cubs across a busy street brought a knowing smile to my face. It was delightfully relatable to watch her pick up her cubs one-by-one and carry them across the road—only to have the cubs wander back to the other side. After many seemingly frustrating attempts, the mama bear finally corralled all four of her cubs, and they made it safely across the road.

The tireless work of parenting symbolized in the video matches imagery used by Paul to describe his care for the people in the church of Thessalonica. Instead of emphasizing his authority, the apostle compared his work among them to a mother and father caring for young children (1 Thessalonians 2:7, 11). It was deep love for the Thessalonians (v. 8) that motivated Paul’s ongoing efforts to encourage, comfort, and urge them “to live lives worthy of God” (v. 12). This impassioned call to godly living was borne out of his loving desire to see them honor God in all areas of their lives.

Paul’s example can serve as a guide for us in all our leadership opportunities—especially when the responsibilities make us weary. Empowered by God’s Spirit, we can gently and persistently love those under our care as we encourage and guide them toward Jesus.

How have you experienced leadership motivated by love? How might you encourage those under your care?

Heavenly Father, help me to extend to others the loving care You graciously show to me.


As both a Jew and a Roman citizen, Paul understood how to live in different cultural environments, taking the message of Jesus to as many people as possible. In 1 Thessalonians, he mentioned how careful he and his partners in ministry were to avoid becoming entangled in cultural obligations that might hurt their ministry or the fledgling church. They didn’t take advantage of the people by putting the new believers in an awkward debt to Paul (2:3–5). But neither did they ask the congregation to financially support them (v. 9), which, in those days, would have put the burden of debt on Paul instead.

In both situations, Paul made every effort to preserve the freedom of the new church to grow unhindered while also preserving his own freedom in ministry. Likewise, we do well to focus our efforts—personally and corporately—on the expansion of Jesus’ mission.

By |2023-05-14T02:33:05-04:00May 14th, 2023|
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For Love’s Sake

Today's Devotional

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Romans 12:10

Running a marathon is about pushing yourself, physically and mentally. For one high school runner, however, competing in a cross-country race is all about pushing someone else. In every practice and meet, fourteen-year-old Susan Bergeman pushes older brother, Jeffrey, in his wheelchair. When Jeffrey was twenty-two months old, he went into cardiac arrest—leaving him with severe brain damage and cerebral palsy. Today, Susan sacrifices personal running goals so Jeffrey might compete with her. What love and sacrifice!

The apostle Paul had love and sacrifice in mind when he encouraged his readers to be “devoted to one another” (Romans 12:10). He knew that the believers in Rome were struggling with jealousy, anger, and sharp disagreements (v. 18). So, he encouraged them to let divine love rule their hearts. This kind of love, rooted in Christ’s love, would fight for the highest possible good of others. It would be sincere, and it would lead to generous sharing (v. 13). Those who love this way are eager to consider others more worthy of honor than themselves (v. 16).

As believers in Jesus, we’re running a race of love while helping others finish the race too. Though it can be difficult, it brings honor to Jesus. So, for love’s sake, let’s rely on Him to empower us to love and serve others.

What does it mean for you to love others as God loves them? How does Jesus reveal that love is more than emotion?

God of love, for love’s sake and Your glory, help me to consider others before I consider myself.


In many of Paul’s letters, he follows a simple pattern. He begins with a section of doctrine or teaching, then finishes with a section of application. We see this in Ephesians, where chapters 1–3 provide doctrine (what we believe) and chapters 4–6 offer practical ideas for living out that truth (how we behave). In Romans, chapters 1–11 offer a robust defense and explanation of the gospel of God’s grace and chapters 12–16 provide application for living gospel-based lives. Romans 12:9–18 is a classic example of this practical counsel. It’s noteworthy that most of this counsel pertains to how we treat one another as humans, both inside and outside the family of faith (vv. 10–18), for we live out the gospel in relationship with others.

By |2023-05-13T02:33:13-04:00May 13th, 2023|
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How’s My Driving?

Today's Devotional

Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. James 1:19–20

“ARRRGH!” I yelled as the repair truck cut in front of me.

That’s when I saw the message: “How’s My Driving?” And a phone number. I picked up my phone and dialed. A woman asked me why I was calling, and I vented my frustration. She took down the truck’s number. Then she said, wearily, “You know, you can always call to report someone who’s driving nicely.”

Ouch. Her tired words instantly punctured my smug self-righteousness. Embarrassment flooded me. In my zeal for “justice,” I hadn’t paused to consider how my rage-filled tone could affect this woman in her difficult job. The disconnect between my faith and my fruitfulness—in that moment—was devastating.

The gap between our actions and our convictions is what the book of James focuses on. In James 1:19–20, we read, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” Later, he adds, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (v. 22).

None of us is perfect. Sometimes our “driving” in life needs help, the kind that starts with confession and asks for God’s help—trusting Him to keep filing the rough edges of our character.

Why can words spoken quickly and in anger be problematic? How can you better live out what you truly believe?

Father, sometimes my anger wins out and I say hurtful things. Please help me to grow in this area.


The book of James is deeply concerned about justice, especially in the relationships between the rich and poor (2:6; 5:1–6). In fact, the Greek word often translated “righteousness” in James 1:20 (dikaiosynē) can also be translated “justice,” a plausible translation of this verse in the context. Because strained and unjust relationships between rich and poor is such a core issue in this book, some scholars have suggested that in 1:19–20 the author feels the need to urgently emphasize that human anger won’t result in the justice the poor long for. Instead, James emphasizes being “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” In James 4:1–2, the author again warns against allowing unmet desires to turn into anger and even violence. Believers in Jesus are called to live in humble dependence on God (1:21) and to be devoted to serving others (v. 27).

By |2023-05-12T02:33:12-04:00May 12th, 2023|
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