The Checkup

Search me, O God, . . . and see if there is any wicked way in me. —Psalm 139:23-24

It’s that time of year when I go to the doctor for my annual physical. Even though I feel well and I’m not experiencing any health problems, I know that routine checkups are important because they can uncover hidden problems that if left undiscovered can grow to be serious health issues. I know that giving permission to my doctor to find and remedy the hidden problems can lead to long-term health.

Clearly the psalmist felt that way spiritually. Pleading for God to search for hidden sin, he prayed, “Search me, O God, . . . and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps. 139:23-24). Pausing to give God the opportunity for a full and unconditional inspection, he then surrendered to the righteous ways of God that would keep him spiritually healthy.

So, even if you are feeling good about yourself, it is time for a checkup! Only God knows the true condition of our heart, and only He can forgive, heal, and lead us to a cleansed life and productive future.

Lord, You know me better than I know myself. Search the deepest parts of my heart for anything that is displeasing to You. Cleanse me of my wandering ways and lead me in Your good and righteous way.

God’s work in us isn’t over when we receive salvation—it has just begun.



A Devoted Heart

He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. —2 Chronicles 20:32 niv

A successful Christian businessman shared his story with us at church. He was candid about his struggles with faith and abundant wealth. He declared, “Wealth scares me!”

He quoted Jesus’ statement, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:25 niv). He cited Luke 16:19-31 about the rich man and Lazarus and how in this story it was the rich man who went to hell. The parable of the “rich fool” (Luke 12:16-21) disturbed him.

“But,” the businessman stated, “I’ve learned a lesson from Solomon’s verdict on the abundance of wealth. It’s all ‘meaningless’ ” (Eccl. 2:11 niv). He determined not to let wealth get in the way of his devotion to God. Rather, he wanted to serve God with his assets and help the needy.

Throughout the centuries, God has blessed some people materially. We read of Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 17:5, “The Lord established the kingdom . . . so that he had great wealth and honor.” He did not become proud or bully others with his wealth. Instead, “his heart was devoted to the ways of the Lord” (v. 6).  Also, “he followed the ways of his father Asa and did not stray from them; he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord” (20:32).

The Lord is not against wealth for He has blessed some with it—but He’s definitely against the unethical acquisition and wrong use of it. He is worthy of devotion from all His followers.

Giving thanks to God often helps us learn contentment with what we do have. What are you thankful for?

Wealth or no wealth, devoted hearts please the Lord.



Walking with the Lord

The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way. —Psalm 37:23

A small pamphlet I received from a friend was titled “An Attempt to Share the Story of 86 Years of Relationship with the Lord.” In it, Al Ackenheil noted key people and events in his journey of faith over nearly nine decades. What seemed to be ordinary choices at the time—memorizing Bible verses, meeting for prayer with others, telling his neighbors about Jesus—became turning points that changed the direction of his life. It was fascinating to read how God’s hand guided and encouraged Al.

The psalmist wrote, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way” (Ps. 37:23). The passage continues with a beautiful description of God’s faithful care for everyone who wants to walk with Him. “The law of his God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide” (v. 31).

Each of us could create a record of God’s leading and faithfulness, reflecting on God’s guidance—the people, places, and experiences that are landmarks on our pathway of faith. Every remembrance of the Lord’s goodness encourages us to keep walking with Him and to thank someone who influenced us for good.

The Lord guides and guards all who walk with Him.

Heavenly Father, Your faithfulness to us is unfailing. Thank You for leading, guiding, and providing so many spiritual encouragers and mentors. Bless those today who have helped us so much.

You are headed in the right direction when you walk with God.



Speak Up

Having arrested [Jesus], they led Him and brought Him into the high priest’s house. But Peter followed at a distance. —Luke 22:54

When I hear stories about young people who have been bullied, I notice there are always at least two levels of hurt. The first and most obvious comes from the mean-spirited nature of those actually doing the bullying. That’s terrible on its own. But there’s another, deeper hurt that may end up being even more damaging than the first: The silence of everyone else.

It hurts the one being bullied because they’re stunned that no one will help. That often makes bullies more brazen, leading them to intensify their meanness. Worse, it heightens the embarrassment, false shame, and loneliness of the victim. So it is imperative to speak up for others and speak out against the behavior (see Prov. 31:8a).

Jesus knows precisely what it feels like to be bullied and to be left to suffer completely alone. Without cause, He was arrested, beaten, and mocked (Luke 22:63-65). Matthew 26:56 says that “all the disciples forsook Him and fled.” Peter, one of His closest friends, even denied three times that he knew Him (Luke 22:61). While others may not understand fully, Jesus does.

When we see others being hurt, we can ask Him for the courage to speak up.

Make us brave, Lord, for those who need our courage. Help us to speak for others and show them that You know their hurt and loneliness.

The voice of a courageous Christian is an echo of the voice of God.



Miracle Material

To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal? —Isaiah 40:25 niv

CNN calls a derivative of graphite a “miracle material” that could revolutionize our future. Only one atom thick, graphene is being hailed as a truly two-dimensional material in a 3-D world. One hundred times stronger than steel, it is harder than diamond, conducts electricity 1,000 times better than copper, and is more flexible than rubber.

In and of themselves, such technological advances are neither moral nor evil. But we are wise to remember the limitations of anything we make for ourselves.

Isaiah spoke to a generation who found themselves carrying into captivity gods they had made with their own hands. The prophet wanted the Israelites to see the irony of needing to care for the silver and gold idols they had crafted to inspire, help, comfort, and protect them.

What was true of Israel holds true for us as well. Nothing we have made or bought for ourselves can meet the needs of our heart. Only God, who has been carrying us “from the womb” (Isa. 46:3-4), can carry us into the future.

Father, thank You for the miracle of relationship with You. Help us not to rely on our own efforts, strength, or possessions but instead sense Your loving care for us.

An idol is anything that takes God’s rightful place.



An Exchange

I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the guilt of my sin. —Psalm 32:5 niv

Jen sat on her patio pondering a scary question: Should she write a book? She had enjoyed writing a blog and speaking in public but felt God might want her to do more. “I asked God if He wanted me to do this,” she said. She talked with Him and asked for His leading.

She began to wonder if God wanted her to write about her husband’s pornography addiction and how God was working in his life and their marriage. But then she thought that it might publicly disrespect him. So she prayed, “What if we wrote it together?” and she asked her husband Craig. He agreed.

While he didn’t say what sin he committed, King David engaged in a public conversation about his struggles. He even put them into song. “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away,” he wrote (Ps. 32:3 niv). So he said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord” (v. 5). Not everyone should go public with their private battles. But when David confessed his sin, he found peace and healing that inspired him to worship God.

Craig and Jen say that the process of writing their deeply personal story has brought them closer than ever. How like God, who loves to exchange our guilt, shame, and isolation for His forgiveness, courage, and community!

Do you need to make an exchange with God of guilt for forgiveness? He is listening.

God forgives those who confess their guilt.



Be Near

The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart. —Psalm 34:18

My friend was going through some difficult challenges in her life and family. I didn’t know what to say or do, and I told her so. She looked at me and said, “Just be near.” That’s what I did, and later on we started talking about God’s love.

Many times we don’t know how to respond when others are grieving, and words may do more harm than good. Serving others requires that we understand them and find out what they need. Often we can help by meeting practical needs. But one of the best ways to encourage those who are suffering is to be near—to sit beside them and listen.

God is near to us when we call out to Him. “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles,” the psalmist says. “The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit” (Ps. 34:17-18).

By putting ourselves in the shoes of others and allowing our hearts to feel compassion, we can help those who are hurting. We can be near them as God is with us and sit close to them. At the right time, the Holy Spirit will give us the words to say, if they are needed.

Who needs my help or for me to sit alongside them this week?

The best way to encourage others may be to just be near.



Faithful Service

You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. —2 Timothy 2:3

Having served in World War I, C. S. Lewis was no stranger to the stresses of military service. In a public address during the Second World War, he eloquently described the hardships a soldier has to face: “All that we fear from all the kinds of adversity . . . is collected together in the life of the soldier on active service. Like sickness, it threatens pain and death. Like poverty, it threatens ill lodging, cold, heat, thirst, and hunger. Like slavery, it threatens toil, humiliation, injustice, and arbitrary rule. Like exile, it separates you from all you love.”

The apostle Paul used the analogy of a soldier suffering hardship to describe the trials a believer may experience in service to Christ. Paul—now at the end of his life—had faithfully endured suffering for the sake of the gospel. He encourages Timothy to do the same: “You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Tim. 2:3).

Serving Christ requires perseverance. We may encounter obstacles of poor health, troubled relationships, or difficult circumstances. But as a good soldier we press on—with God’s strength—because we serve the King of Kings and Lord of Lords who sacrificed Himself for us!

Dear Father, help me to be faithful in my service to You. Thank You for the strength You provide to help me persevere through suffering.

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God’s love does not keep us from trials, but sees us through them.



Eulogize the Living God

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. —Ephesians 1:3

In 2005, when American civil rights hero Rosa Parks died, Oprah Winfrey counted it a privilege to eulogize her. Oprah said of the woman who refused to give up her bus seat to a white man in 1955, “I often thought about what that took—knowing the climate of the times and what could have happened to you—what it took to stay seated. You acted without concern for yourself and made life better for us all.”

We often use the word eulogy to refer to the words spoken at a funeral. But it can also refer to other situations where we give high praise to someone. In the opening lines of Ephesians, the apostle Paul eulogized the living God. When he said, “Blessed be the God and Father,” he used a word for “blessed” that means “eulogy.” Paul invited the Ephesians to join him in praising God for all kinds of spiritual blessings: God had chosen and adopted them; Jesus had redeemed, forgiven, and made known to them the mystery of the gospel; and the Spirit had guaranteed and sealed them. This great salvation was purely an act of God and His grace.

Let us continue to center our thoughts on God’s blessings in Christ. When we do, like Paul, we will find our hearts overflowing with a eulogy that declares: “To the praise of His glory.”

Blessed Father, I am overwhelmed by Your grace. My only adequate response is ceaseless praise. Thank You for choosing me, adopting me, redeeming me, forgiving me, and making known to me the mystery of the gospel.

Praise is the song of a soul set free.



My Way

Now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel. —2 Kings 5:15

Two small boys were playing a complicated game with sticks and string. After a few minutes the older boy turned to his friend and said crossly, “You’re not doing it properly. This is my game, and we play it my way. You can’t play anymore!” The desire to have things our own way starts young!

Naaman was a person who was accustomed to having things his way. He was commander of the army of the king of Syria. But Naaman also had an incurable disease. One day his wife’s servant girl, who had been captured from the land of Israel, suggested that he seek healing from Elisha, the prophet of God. Naaman was desperate enough to do this, but he wanted the prophet to come to him. He expected to be treated with great ceremony and respect. So when Elisha simply sent a message that he should bathe seven times in the Jordan River, Naaman was furious! He refused (2 Kings 5:10-12). Only when he finally humbled himself and did it God’s way was he cured (vv. 13-14).

We’ve probably all had times when we’ve said “I’ll do it my way” to God. But His way is always the best way. So let’s ask God to give us humble hearts that willingly choose His way, not our own.

Father, forgive me for my pride and for so often thinking I know best. Give me a humble heart that is willing to follow Your way in everything.

Humility is to make a right estimate of one’s self. Charles Spurgeon