Tuesday, January 14
Hebrews 2:1-10 We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. (v.1)
We are destined to drift. As a child I remember being on a raft in the ocean. I was so wrapped up in my fun I didn’t notice my raft was drifting away from shore. I still have an image of my father standing on the beach waving his hands and flagging me in. Finally, after a while, I noticed and I would drag my salty raft out of the water and walk down the beach to get safely back in front of him. I would jump back on my raft and soon I was drifting again—and soon my father would wave again. This was how the day went. Out and back in, out and back in. I must have tested his patience. Thank God he was watching me, for I often wasn’t paying attention.
It is inevitable, as we live in this world, we will drift. The current of today’s aimless culture will propel us out into the dangerous open waters. Like being on a raft in the sea, the drifting can be gradual and unsuspecting. Thank God our Heavenly Father is watching over us. He gave us the Scriptures, something like a lifeguard’s ring and rope to hold in our hand, to guide us and keep us out of danger. If we hold on tightly to them, we will not drift from neglect and the distractions of our busy lives. Most of us have more than one Bible. Keep a Bible out in plain view—on the kitchen table, in your work bag, or in the car and close at hand. Read it often. Learn it well. Determine to shape your life by its truth. Even if it is only ten minutes a day, it will help us stay on course.
Genesis 3:1-24; Psalms 5, 6; John 1:19-28
Wednesday, January 15
Hebrews 2:11-18 For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. (v.17)
In the early church the harder thing for people to understand was not that Jesus was divine, but that he was human. Jewish people believed that God was distant and incapable of identifying with human feelings and intimacy. Remember under the Old Covenant, except in rare instances, God dealt with His people in more indirect ways. Greek and Roman cultures believed that gods were surely detached from mankind. Then Jesus, the Son of God, entered into this world—a living, breathing human being that looked just like us. The very thought of it was revolutionary to the early church. We have a God that has been here with us; a caring God who, having been one of us, can be intimate in our daily lives.
If you are presently in the midst of a struggle, remember that Jesus gets us! Because he lived in this world, clothed with human flesh, he understands the temptations and the predicaments of life. He identifies with childhood and adulthood. He understands grief and anxieties, our personalities, and all the emotions we strive with. God himself, through the person of Jesus Christ, has walked every road that you have walked—even the hardest road that was ever walked, the road to the Cross. Yes, Jesus even understands our fear of death. Our wonderful God sent a merciful and faithful high priest who “by his death free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death” (v.15). What more could we hope for than to have all our fears taken away and live a life in joyful service forever and ever?
God understands you. I hope that today you will ponder God’s wonderful and perfect plan.
Genesis 4:1-16, Psalm 119:1-24; John 1:35-42
Thursday, January 16
John 1:43-51 Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. (v.45)
Nazareth was right on the Roman Road to Jerusalem. People knew about this beautiful, little town and it had a reputation. Remember how hostile the crowd was when Jesus first preached there? To be called a Nazarene meant that you were a part of a rude reputation.
“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” I think we can all go a little deeper with Nathanael’s comment. Perhaps his flippant comment sprang from deeper feelings. Perhaps he thought his brother Philip was being too dramatic. Perhaps Nathanael didn’t really think the Messiah would come in his time. Possibly, deep inside, he did not think the long-awaited Messiah was going to come at all!
At times, I think there a little bit of Nathanael in me. Even when God is moving in my presence, it is hard for me to conceive it to be so. Questions of doubt arise. “Can Jesus really change me or really make a powerful difference in the world with my one, single life?” Maybe you can relate. We all have a tendency to think nothing of much good or importance can come from us.
Well, you and I know the rest of the story. God has a history of doing incredible things in and with the lives of ordinary people. We must look for God to work in unexpected places and in incredible ways in our life. Through His awesome grace, He delights to make powerfully good things come from us.
Genesis 4:17-26; Psalm 18:1-20; Hebrews 3:1-11
Friday, January 17
Psalm 17 And I—in righteousness I will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness. (v.15)
Soon another birthday will come around—again. Each year I tell my family the only thing I want is to spend time with them. But still, there will be whispering in the house and they will scurry around behind me trying to figure out that just-right gift to buy. Oh, as a mom, I do appreciate the attention and all the efforts at trying to please me. I love to see the whole birthday scene being played out but, as I have gotten older, “gifts” do not bring me the same satisfaction they did before. I am satisfied with just spending time together. I love to just sit at the dining room table and watch my children chuckle and laugh at old childhood stories or paint colorful pictures of their latest adventures.
Yet, as each birthday passes, nothing satisfies me more than spending time with God. If you have been satisfied in your soul—even once—you will understand and only long for more.
This is one of my favorite verses from the Psalms. King David tells about this deepest longing when he writes about the hope of being “satisfied” in heaven. We have many gifts and pleasures in this life, but none will completely satisfy us. What a day it will be when see God’s face in righteousness! Then we will be perfectly satisfied. In that moment we will be like God—no, not in every way, but we will be absolutely holy and pure. We will be free from all sickness, all want, all temptations, and all hindrances that keep us from God. We will sit and soak in the mysteries and all the glories of heaven! Then we will understand the word “perfect.” In the meantime, if we make time to sit in God’s presence, we have a foretaste of that glorious time which is to come.
Genesis 6:1-8; Psalm 16; Hebrews 3:12-19; John 2:1-12
Saturday, January 18
Psalm 20 May the Lord answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you. May he send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion. May he remember all your sacrifices and accept your burnt offerings. May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed. (vv.1-4)
This psalm was written as a liturgy of prayer for a king before he went off to battle. As I was reading it, I was reminded of a sermon that has stayed with me for many years. In this message the priest spoke about success in walking the Christian life. He spoke about a “sanctuary” within us, a divine place where the Lord resides in our heart. His main point was this: the key to walking the Christian life is learning to quickly return to the sanctuary in times of battle, when we are in need; especially times we feel drawn away from the Lord. The key is quickness!
Many times have I come back to this thought of sanctuary. I don’t think many of us like to look inside of ourselves very deeply for fear of the mess we will find there. Honestly, sometimes it doesn’t look like much of a sanctuary. It’s cluttered with disappointments, feelings of failure, and fear that we might not find God there. But, nonetheless, God has chosen to live in us. We are to be consecrated temples. We are living sanctuaries where the Lord abides. We constantly fight the battles of life daily, but the key is to come back quickly to our sanctuaries to seek Emmanuel, God with us. The longer we walk with Christ, the more we realize that he is the one that protects us, supports us, gives us the desires of our hearts, and makes all our plans succeed.
Genesis 6:9-22; Psalm 21; Hebrews 4:1-13; John 2:13-22
Sunday, January 19
Ephesians 4:1-16 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. (v.7 NIV)
Have you ever received an unexpected gift out of the blue? No warning, no anticipation, no foreknowledge and yet, once received, your heart is full, overwhelmed, grateful? Such is the grace of God given to us every day, completely unearned and undeserved. It’s very humbling to receive something with no things attached. That kind of love is grace, freely given to each of us through the love of Christ.
Several years ago, my son and his wife were foster parents for an infant for about six months. From the beginning they felt certain he would be returned to his mother, which did happen. The grace they showed this family under such difficult and emotional circumstances came full circle this week when we were invited to his second birthday party. His mother and her family expressed appreciation for the openness and compassion shown by our family during this difficult chapter. That I happened to be visiting was just additional grace. Our hearts were full as we saw this active little boy thriving and surrounded by his loving family.
Genesis 7:1-10, 17-23; Psalms 148, 149, 150; Mark 3:7-19
Monday, January 20
Hebrews 4:14—5:6 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (vv.15-16)
Our Triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—can be a difficult concept to grasp. That’s when I find comfort in the mystery of God. It comforts me to realize that Jesus, the Son of God who is divine, was also once human. What a gift and blessing as I trust God truly understands our human needs, emotions, temptations, and challenges. He is not a remote God who is beyond our reach, but rather invites us to have a personal relationship with Him. That comforts me. Through the difficult chapters in my life I’ve relied on the Lord’s humanity to comfort and sustain me. May you also find that peace that passes understanding.
Genesis 8:6-22; Psalm 25; John 2:23—3:15
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