Access To God

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. —Hebrews 4:16

Technology is a blessing in so many ways. Need a bit of information about a health problem? All you have to do is access the Internet where you instantaneously get a list of options to guide your search. Need to contact a friend? Just send a text, email, or Facebook post. But technology can also be frustrating at times. The other day I needed to access some information in my bank account and was asked a list of security questions. Unable to recall the exact answers, I was blocked from my own account. Or think of the times when an important conversation is cut off because of a dead cellphone battery, with no way to reconnect until you find a plug to recharge it.

All of this makes me delighted with the reality that when I need to access God in prayer, there are no security questions and no batteries required. I love the assurance that John gives when he says, “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (1 John 5:14).

God is always accessible, for He never slumbers nor sleeps! (Ps. 121:4). And thanks to His love for us, He is waiting and ready to listen.

Lord, thank You for desiring communication with me and for the reassurance that You are indeed listening and ready to help in time of need. Teach us to come to You with confidence in Your attentive love for us.
God is always accessible in our time of need.
INSIGHT: In this letter John refutes false teachers who deny that Jesus is the Christ (2:22). He says, “Jesus Christ was revealed as God’s Son by his baptism in water and by shedding his blood on the cross” (5:6 nlt).

In The Same Boat

When He got into a boat, His disciples followed Him. —Matthew 8:23

When the cruise ship pulled into port, the passengers got off as quickly as possible. They had spent the last few days enduring an outbreak of a virus, and hundreds of people had been sickened. One passenger, interviewed as he disembarked, said: “Well, I don’t mean to complain so much. I mean I know everybody was in the same boat.” His seemingly unintentional pun made the reporter smile.

In Matthew 8, we read about another trip on the water (vv.23-27). Jesus got into the boat and the disciples followed Him (v.23). Then a terrible storm arose, and Jesus’ disciples feared for their lives. They awakened a sleeping Jesus, who they assumed was unaware of the crisis.

While Jesus was literally in the same boat as His followers, He was unconcerned about the weather. As the all-powerful Creator, He had no fear of a storm. “He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm” (v.26).

But we are not all-powerful, and we are oh-so-prone to fear. So what are we to do when the storms of life rage around us? Whether they quickly blow over or last for a long time, we can be confident in this: We are in the same boat with the One whom even the winds and the sea obey.

Heavenly Father, this life is full of uncertainty. But You have promised us Your unfailing presence. May we see You today—especially when we are tempted to panic or to do things in our own strength.
No danger can come so near the Christian that God is not nearer.
INSIGHT: Today’s passage contains a beautiful story of Jesus’ power when He commands the winds and the waves to obey Him, giving further evidence that He is the Creator (see Col 1:16). Jesus’ question in Matthew 8:26 may seem harsh, but the disciples had been with Jesus long enough now that they should have had a better understanding of who He was. Immediately following the account of the calming of the wind and waves is the account of Jesus’ power over demons (vv. 28-34). This would have been another reminder that the disciples should have faith in Him.

Love And Light

The land which you cross over to possess is a land . . . for which the Lord your God cares. —Deuteronomy. 11:11-12

Friends are starting to plan their summer vegetable gardens. Some get an early start by planting seeds indoors where they can control the conditions and provide the best environment for sprouting. After the danger of frost has passed, they will transplant the seedlings outdoors. Once the garden is planted, the work of weeding, feeding, watering, and guarding against rodents and insects begins. Producing food is a lot of work.

Moses reminded the Israelites of this before they entered the promised land. While living in Egypt, they had to do the hard work of irrigating crops by hand (Deut. 11:10), but in the place where God was taking them He promised to ease their work by sending spring and autumn rains: “I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains” (v.14 niv). The only condition was that they “faithfully obey the commands” He gave them—“to love the Lord your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul” (v.13 niv). The Lord was taking His people to a place where their obedience and His blessing would make them a light to those around them.

God wants the same for us and from us: He wants our love to be displayed in our obedience so that we might be His light to people around us. The love and obedience we have to offer, though, is far less than He deserves. But He is our provider, blessing us and enabling us to be a light that the world will notice.

Loving God doesn’t make life effortless, but having His strength makes it easier.
INSIGHT: The word deuteronomy means “second law.” This word describes the content of the book and its purpose. After the law was first given to Moses on Mount Sinai, the Israelites rebelled and wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. Now, 40 years later, they were about to enter the land of promise, and the laws given at Sinai were repeated in order to prepare them to be a people of God in their new home.

The Book Behind The Story

Your testimonies I have taken as a heritage forever, for they are the rejoicing of my heart. —Psalm 119:111

Millions of people around the world have seen Gone with the Wind, which premiered in the United States on December 15, 1939. It won 10 Academy Awards and remains one of Hollywood’s most commercially successful films. It was based on Margaret Mitchell’s 1936 novel, which sold one million copies within 6 months, received a Pulitzer Prize, and has been translated into more than 40 languages. An epic movie often has its source in a powerful and timeless book.

The book that’s the basis for the Christian faith is the Bible. From Genesis to Revelation, it is infused with God’s plan for His creation, including us. Psalm 119 celebrates the power and necessity of God’s Word in our lives. It lights our path (v.105), revives our souls (v.107), and guards our steps (v.110). Through the Scriptures we find wisdom, guidance, life, and joy. “Your testimonies I have taken as a heritage forever, for they are the rejoicing of my heart” (v.111).

Jesus our Lord calls us to base our lives on His Word and share the joy of knowing Him with people who are longing to find life. “I have inclined my heart to perform Your statutes forever, to the very end” (v.112).

What a book! What a Savior!

Dear Lord, Your Word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path. Your laws are my treasure; they are my heart’s delight. I am determined to keep Your decrees to the very end.
The Bible, God’s eternal truth, can be trusted today.
INSIGHT: Psalm 119 is the psalmist’s response to God’s Word. Although he was scorned for trusting it (vv. 23-24), the psalmist vowed to remain committed to knowing and obeying God’s Word (vv. 106-110). In the midst of life’s troubles and difficulties (v. 107), he affirmed that God’s law is indeed a lamp that illuminates his ways and a light that provides guidance in responding to life (vv. 105,130). The psalmist believed that God’s Word would renew him and keep him strong (v. 107). It was his heritage and his joy (v. 111).

Hope Lives

Your faith, being much more precious than gold . . . may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ. —1 Peter 1:7

When unspeakable tragedy shatters people’s lives, they search for answers. Recently, a mother who had lost a teenager said to me, “I can’t figure it out. I don’t know if I can believe anymore. I try, but God doesn’t make sense to me. What does it all mean?” There are no easy answers to such big concerns. But for those who have trusted Christ, there is hope—whether we are basking in blessings or grinding through grief.

Peter spells this out in his first letter. In glowing terms, he praises God for our “new birth into a living hope” (1 Peter 1:3 niv) through our salvation. That hope can bring joy even in the middle of tragedy. He also assures us of the permanence of this hope (v.4). He then tells us of the heart-breaking reality that we may “suffer grief in all kinds of trials” (v.6 niv). Those who have suffered loss turn hopeful hearts toward Peter’s next words: These come so that “your faith . . . may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (v.7).

Trials—seemingly random and inexplicable—can be seen differently in the light of these words. In the midst of tragedy, the power and beauty of our salvation can shine through because of our great Savior. And that may be just enough light to get a troubled person through another day.

Lord, You assure us that the grand salvation You provided is proved genuine in our pain and that it leads to glory for You. Help us to begin each new day with renewed hope in You.
The light of salvation shines clearly even in the darkest night.
INSIGHT: The hope that Peter describes in today’s reading is also a major theme of Paul’s letter to the Romans. In Romans 5:5 he describes this hope as a reality that flows from our growth in Christ. In Romans 8 he discusses our hope as something we anticipate from our salvation. Romans 12:12 reminds us that hope is grounds for great joy. Romans 15 describes hope as something we learn through trials, yet something that is characteristic of our God (v. 13). Clearly, to Paul and to Peter, hope is very important in the life of faith.

Giving All

Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. —Romans 12:1

During his only inaugural address as the US President, John F. Kennedy issued this challenge to Americans: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” It was a renewed call for citizens to surrender their lives in sacrifice and service to others. His words especially inspired the sons and daughters of men and women who had served their country in war.

His meaning was clear: What their parents purchased, often with their very lives, must now be protected by peaceful means. An army of volunteers arose to answer that call, and through the decades they have accomplished an immeasurable amount of humanitarian work around the globe.

Centuries earlier, the apostle Paul issued a similar call to Christians in the opening verses of Romans 12. Here he urges us to give our bodies as “living sacrifices” in service to the One who paid with His life for our sins. This spiritual sacrifice must be more than mere words; it must be an investment of our lives in the physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being of others.

Best of all, our serving can be done right where we are.

Father, show me this day the many ways my life can be surrendered to You, and then give me the strength to begin to act.
Don’t always ask Jesus what He can do for you; ask Jesus what you can do for Him.
INSIGHT: In Romans 12:1 Paul encourages us to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice to God by exhibiting behavior that is pleasing to Him. However, verse 2 encourages us to have our minds renewed as well. God wants us to be totally His in both actions and thoughts.

Now Go!

Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say. —Exodus 4:12 (niv)

More than 10,000 evangelists and Christian leaders sat in a giant auditorium in Amsterdam in 1986 listening to world-renowned evangelist Billy Graham. I sat among them, listening as he narrated some of his experiences. Then, to my surprise, he said, “Let me tell you: every time I stand before the congregation of God’s people to preach, I tremble and my knees wobble!”

What! I wondered. How can such a great preacher who has enthralled millions with his powerful sermons exhibit trembling and wobbling knees? Then he went on to describe not fear and stage fright, but intense humility and meekness as he felt inadequate for the daunting task to which God had called him. He relied on God for strength, not on his own eloquence.

Moses felt inadequate when God sent him to deliver the enslaved Israelites from their 400-year captivity in Egypt. Moses pleaded with the Lord to send someone else, with the excuse that he had never been a good speaker (see Ex. 4:10,13).

We may have similar fears when God calls us to do something for Him. But His encouragement to Moses can also spur us on: “Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say” (v.12 niv).

As Billy Graham said that day, “When God calls you, do not be afraid of trembling and wobbling knees, for He will be with you!”

What task does God have for you to do today? Depend on Him by asking for His help.
Wherever God sends us, He comes alongside us.
INSIGHT: When God called Moses to deliver His people from Egyptian bondage, Moses was reluctant to obey, giving various reasons why he was not qualified. He questioned his own identity and worthiness (3:11), his lack of authority (3:13), his credibility and acceptability (4:1), and his incapacities (v.10). Although God answered each of Moses’s excuses, God was angry with Moses for resisting what He had asked him to do (v. 14).

A Happy Ending

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. —Ephesians 4:32

A friend told me about the time he was watching football on TV as his young daughter played nearby. Angered by his team’s bad play, he grabbed the closest thing and threw it down. His little girl’s favorite toy was shattered, along with her heart. My friend immediately embraced his daughter and apologized. He replaced the toy and thought all was well. But he didn’t know how much his fury had frightened his 4-year-old, and she didn’t know the depth of her pain. In time, however, forgiveness came.

Years later he sent an identical toy to his daughter when she was expecting a baby. She posted a photo of the toy on Facebook with the words, “This gift has a very long story going back to my childhood. It wasn’t a happy story then, but it has a happy ending now! Redemption is a beautiful thing. Thanks, Grandpa!”

The Bible urges us to avoid angry outbursts by putting on the new self, “which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). And if we are the victim of anger, God asks us to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (v.32).

Restored relationships are not easy, but they are possible by the grace of God.

Lord, my temper can sometimes run hot. Grant me the grace to stop and think before I act or speak and the grace to apologize when I’ve hurt someone. Thank You for the gift of forgiveness.
Repentance and forgiveness are the glue that can repair a broken relationship.
INSIGHT: In today’s passage the apostle Paul brackets his words of challenge with the phrases “putting away” (v. 25) and “put away” (v. 31). Though they are translated as similar expressions in English, they are two different words in Greek and speak of an increasing intensity of action. The word in verse 25 tells us to put off lying, as if taking off a garment and replacing it with a new one (integrity and truthfulness). In verse 31, however, it is the challenge to “put away” or to get rid of certain things once and for all.

Facing The Impossible

See! I have given Jericho into your hand. —Joshua 6:2

In 2008, house values were tumbling in the United Kingdom. But 2 weeks after my husband and I put our home of 40 years on the market, a buyer offered us a good price and we agreed to a sale. Soon our builders started work on the house I had inherited, which would be our new home. But a few days before the sale of our old home was finalized, our buyer pulled out. We were devastated. Now we owned two properties—one whose value was tumbling rapidly, and the other a virtual ruin that we could neither sell nor move into. Until we found a new buyer, we had no money to pay the builder. It was an impossible situation.

When Joshua faced Jericho, a fortified city in lockdown, he may have felt as if he was facing an impossible situation (Josh. 5:13–6:27). But then a Man with a drawn sword appeared to him. Some theologians think the Man was Jesus Himself. Joshua anxiously asked if He would be backing the Israelites or their enemies in the forthcoming battle. “‘Neither one,’ he replied. ‘I am the commander of the Lord’s army’” (5:14 nlt). Joshua bowed in worship before he took another step. He still didn’t know how Jericho would be delivered into his hand, but he listened to God and worshiped Him. Then he obeyed the Lord’s instructions and the impossible happened.

Dear Lord, often when I am faced with an impossible situation I choose worry rather than trust. Help me to trust You and to remember that nothing is too hard for You.
Nothing is impossible for the Lord.

A Father Who Runs

The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost. —Luke 19:10

Every day a father craned his neck to look toward the distant road, waiting for his son’s return. And every night he went to bed disappointed. But one day, a speck appeared. A lonesome silhouette stood against the crimson sky. Could that be my son? the father wondered. Then he caught sight of the familiar saunter. Yes, that has to be my son!

And so while the son was “still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him” (Luke 15:20). It is remarkable that the family patriarch did something that was considered undignified in Middle Eastern culture—he ran to meet his son. The father was full of unbridled joy at his son’s return.

The son didn’t deserve such a reception. When he had asked his father for his share of the inheritance and left home, it was as if he had wished his father dead. But despite all that the son had done to his father, he was still his son (v.24).

This parable reminds me that I’m accepted by God because of His grace, not because of my merits. It assures me that I’ll never sink so deep that God’s grace can’t reach me. Our heavenly Father is waiting to run to us with open arms.

Father, I’m so grateful for all Your Son did for me at the cross. I’m thankful for grace. I offer You a heart that desires to be like Jesus—merciful and gracious.
We deserve punishment and get forgiveness; we deserve God’s wrath and get God’s love. —Philip Yancey
INSIGHT: The parables of Luke 15 deal with recovering what was lost. In verses 3-7 the search is for a lost sheep; in verses 8-10, a lost coin; in verses 11-24, a lost son. Each time the emphasis is on the sense of urgency of the one who is searching.