Mission: To Protect a People

Read Esther 4:6–14

“For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (v. 14).

During World War II the ten Boom family felt it necessary to hide Jews from Nazi soldiers. The family prepared a room in their home to keep these individuals hidden. This family was willing to risk their lives to save a people, the Jews. It is estimated that they saved 800 persons. In so doing, some of the ten Boom family died in prison, and others lived on to tell of God’s great love during those troublesome times.

Esther, in our Scripture for today, was a noble and courageous lady who valiantly stood in the gap, defending her people, the Jews, and triumphed in her mission to protect the nation of Israel from Haman’s devious scheme.

What produces such lion-hearted boldness in a person? My friend, it is love; God’s love! There are millions of unborn babies murdered; what are we doing about it? There are souls headed for eternity; are we willing to stand up and share the salvation message with them? It is our mission! (Sharonda Baker)

Who is on the Lord’s side? Who will serve the King?
Who will be His helpers other lives to bring?
Who will leave the world’s side? Who will face the foe?

Are we willing to stand alone and fill in the gap for truth and righteousness?

This devotional is the Tuesday, February 13, 2018 entry of Opening the Word.

The Sacrifice of the Servant

Read Isaiah 53:4–9

“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted” (v. 4).

The servant must focus on his mission. Jesus identified His mission as “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). He was passionately consumed with that mission. John the Baptist summed it up when he said, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world,” (John 1:29), but here Isaiah spells out what that involved. The Servant of the Lord was “stricken, smitten of God, afflicted,” He was “wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities,” chastised for our peace, seeking our healing with His stripes. The mission, not the sacrifice, occupied Him!

However, it is the sacrifice that grabs our attention when verse 6 of this passage says, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Yet the cost of the sacrifice did not thwart His mission of love! As Lord and Servant-Savior, He willingly sacrificed to the utmost to accomplish His mission for you and me! (Rodney Stearns)

He left His Father’s throne above,

So free, so infinite His grace!

Emptied Himself of all but love,

And bled for Adam’s helpless race;

’Tis mercy all immense and free.

For, O my God, it found out me!

— Charles Wesley

He suffered to save; new life He gave!

This devotional is the Tuesday, February 6, 2018 entry of Opening the Word.

Encouragement for a Despondent Prophet

Read 1 Kings 19:1–8

“And the angel of the LORD came again the second time, and touched him, and said, Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee” (v. 7).

Are you feeling low on this Monday? It’s common for us to feel drained after a time of strenuous labor. How did your church services go yesterday? Did you experience the intense presence of God or was it a painfully discouraging experience? Either way, you are likely to be experiencing the Elijah syndrome: Deep sighs; hunger to hide for a season; fatigue; questions of adequacy. Don’t feel ashamed; we have all suffered from the symptoms of the Elijah syndrome, sometimes often. “The journey is too great for thee.” Can you relate? Are you there now?

Notice that the immediate remedy God prescribed to Elijah was not more prayer, witnessing, or preaching. He could not give out anymore because he had already drained himself at Mt. Carmel. It was time to take in: to eat, sleep, and recharge his soul. God still had work for him to do but first things first and he couldn’t pour out without first being refilled.

If you are suffering from the Elijah syndrome today, take some time to recharge. Take a breath, take a walk, take a nap, take nourishment, engage in a hobby, feed your soul. You’ll be empty without it. (Don D Callaway)

He knows how hard the fight has been;

The clouds that come our lives between;

The wounds the world has never seen;

He knows He knows! — G. W. Lyon

You can find encouragement when you feed your soul.

This devotional is the Monday, January 29, 2018 entry of Opening the Word.

A Promise of Success

Read Judges 1:1–4

“And the LORD said, Judah shall go up: behold, I have delivered the land into his hand” (v. 2).

When phone caller ID service first became available, I received a call and recognized it as my elderly mother’s phone number. She was startled when I answered, “Hi, mom!” and she asked how I knew it was her. I told her my new phone system had caller ID and not only could I see who was calling but where they were and what they were wearing. Since my mom was so predictable, I guessed what outfit she had on and described it to her. I happened to be right, and she was aghast responding, “That’s not right that phone companies can do that!”

I confessed to my mother that I had made up the story, and she laughed with relief. However, I am reminded of our God who is also predictable. Just as my mother’s daily habits were predictable, God’s promises are foreseeable, and we can count on His guaranteed outcomes. He never changes, and we can trust the promises He has given us. God assures, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you … to give you an expected end” (Jer. 29:11). It is such a comfort to know that God not only thinks about us but He also promises to take care of us according to His perfect, divine will and plan for our lives. (Clifford Churchill)

’Tis true, oh, yes, ’tis true.
God’s wonderful promise is true;
For I’ve trusted, and tested, and tried it,
And I know God’s promise is true. — Leila N. Morris

“God never made a promise that was too good to be true” (D. L. Moody).

This devotional is the Monday, January 22, 2018 entry of Opening the Word.

Our Wise God

Read Isaiah 40:12-18

"Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being his counselor hath taught him?" (v. 13).

The idea of wisdom preoccupied the ancients, especially the Greeks, whose interest gave us the word philosophy, the “love of wisdom.” Socrates, reputed the wisest man, claimed he was wise because he realized he knew so little, advocating self-knowledge as wisdom’s starting point. Proverbs tells us Socrates was wrong: proper fear of the Lord, not self-knowledge, is the beginning of wisdom.

Wisdom is not something we create or find. James 1 teaches us that God gives wisdom to those who ask for it in faith. Wisdom comes from God because it is one of His attributes. As had the Book of Proverbs (chs. 3 and 8 especially) before him, Isaiah highlights the display of God’s wisdom in His creative work.

For the millennia from Adam’s naming of the animals in Eden onward, humans have sought to understand the mysteries and wonders of the natural world — a world God spoke into existence in six days. Outer space’s vastness boggles our minds, and a single cell’s DNA information density overwhelms us — and all of this is the product of the divine mind. Out of nothing, He brought this rich complexity. Our God is incomparable! (Aaron Profitt)

How most exact is Nature’s Frame!
How wise th’ Eternal Mind!
His Counsels never change the Scheme
That his first Thoughts design’d. - Isaac Watts

God’s creation shows His all-surpassing wisdom just as clearly as it shows His immense power.

This devotional is the Monday, January 15, 2018 entry of Opening the Word.

The Deliverance of Paul and Silas

Read Acts 16:25-34

“And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed” (v. 26).

In the 1950s, Chinese Pastor Li was arrested and sentenced to hard labor in an iron mine. During that winter in Northeast China, the temperature dropped to minus twenty degrees. The work was backbreaking. The rations were meager. Three months after arriving at the camp Pastor Li died.

When Mrs. Li and the children heard the news, they lost hope. Mrs. Li could not get a job because she had to care for the small children. Finally, the oldest child, a twelve-year-old girl, went to the prison to ask the director for a job. She told him of her father’s innocence and the present situation her family faced. The director realized the truth and had a moment of compassion.

He took her to the area were 3,000 prisoners were mining below the surface. “Do you see this red button? A siren will sound if it is pushed. Never push it unless you are told to do so. This is your job.”

One afternoon she heard a voice. “Push the button!” She was confused. The command was repeated. Again she saw no one. A third time she heard the urgent voice, “Push the button NOW!”

She realized it must be the Lord, so she pushed the button. The siren sounded deep in the mine. Men poured out of the mine. The prison director came running from his office angrily demanding why she had pushed the button without his order. Just as the last of the 3,000 men emerged from the mine, a strong earthquake shook the ground. The mine collapsed.

When it was finally quiet, every eye turned toward the little girl. Climbing on a fruit box, she said, “The Lord Jesus told me three times to push the emergency button, and finally I did. Jesus loves you and saved your life today. Now, you need to repent of your sins and give your lives to him!”

Upon hearing this, the prison director and all three thousand men fell to their knees asking God to forgive them of their sins. (L Gayle Woods)

*God has many ways to deliver His people.*

This devotional is the Saturday, January 13, 2018 entry of Opening the Word.

The Inspiration of Hope

Monday, December 18

Read 1 John 3:1-6

“And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he [Christ] is pure” (v. 3).

It is easy to become discouraged when it can seem so long since Christ ascended leaving us with the promise that He would come again. Many times Christians are taunted by the world for believing in such an old promise. The fact is that we, much like Simeon and Anna (Luke 2:25-40), aren’t believing in an old promise but in an ever-present Promise Giver. This is the reason for the discipline and effort that the Christian must make to be made pure “even as he is pure.” We must live our lives every day with the awareness that His coming is imminent and we must be ready.

I had a close family member that suffered a major heart attack and needed a heart transplant. While waiting for that to happen, he would have some very rough days. He was unable to participate in some activities, eat some foods, and visit some places. His life style had to be altered to be a candidate for that procedure. He often commented that he could tolerate these trials because he would get a new heart someday and be able to get back to a full life.

We must be willing to change our lives now because of the hope of what is yet to come. (Tim Brubeck)

“My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness” (Edward Mote).

Rebekah Seeks to Serve

Read Genesis 24:16-21

“And when she had done giving him drink, she said, I will draw water for thy camels also, until they have done drinking” (v. 19).

Has “servant practice” led you to a position that you didn’t expect, one for which you did not work, anticipate, or feel qualified?

Rebekah is pure, attractive, strong, articulate, efficient, gracious, and generous. Without being asked, she serves. She goes out of her way. For a stranger. For no “known” profit, thought, or reason. Without any selfish motivations. When she is finished with the initial request she does more, and more, and more. That’s what true servants do.

There is a big difference between serving and seeking to serve. The former is attached to the duties and assignments of life; often they are tasks expected of me. The latter is something I seek. How often do I rake the leaves for an elderly neighbor or take time to listen to a heartache? When did I last go out of my way for a stranger who needed a ride? When did I last give my meal away to someone who needed it more than I?

What Rebekah did had nothing to do with her responsibilities involving her service commitments to her family and their livestock. She stepped beyond that to authentic servanthood.

In chapel services at Mountain State Bible School, we often sang about serving Him because we love Him, allowing Him to take our ruined lives, and use them for His glory. (SEM)

To one who has been given life, serving is a joy!

This devotional is the Tuesday, November 14, 2017 entry of Opening the Word.

The Walk of Faith

Read 2 Corinthians 4:8-11

“For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh” (v. 11).

The inseparable law of the Christian life is — “No Cross, No Crown.” Today‘s Scripture highlights the paradoxes we can expect when we walk by faith. We are:

Sore pressed at every point, but not hemmed in;
At our wit’s end, but never our hope’s end;
Persecuted by men, but never abandoned by God;
Knocked down, but not knocked out.

This walk of faith, despite life’s adversities, makes us more than conquerors through Christ. We are strengthened with divine courage, knowing that if we share the life of Christ, we must also share His suffering.

The location chosen for the great Hoover Dam comprised a vast area of desert. In its construction, inevitably there were those who lost their lives. At the completion of the project, a tablet was placed in the wall of the dam which bore the names of the ninety-six workers who had perished, with this inscription below it: “These died that the desert might rejoice and blossom as a rose.“ Today, the reservoir created by the 726 feet tall structure supplies water to farms, businesses, and millions of people in Nevada, Arizona, California, and Mexico.

How could Paul go through what he did? He knew his afflictions were not in vain; they were to bring others to God. Walking by faith, whatever the risks or cost, enables us to do and endure all things for Christ’s sake. Trials do not disappear, but God gives overcoming grace.

“Faith makes things possible, not easy” (Unknown).

This devotional is the Wednesday, November 8, 2017 entry of Opening the Word.

Abraham Entertains Angels

Read Genesis 18:1-8

“And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat” (v. 8).

As a child, I often heard the advice not to make mountains out of molehills. There is definitely a danger in making things bigger than they are. But there is also an opposite danger — failing to recognize the largeness of the moment. Failing to recognize that opportunity is knocking, and may not knock again.

The writer to the Hebrews seems to have had this event from the life of Abraham in mind when he wrote in 13:2, “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Abraham seems to have recognized that his guests were not normal travelers, and this was no ordinary moment. He seized the moment.

Our God is gracious and forgiving. And that is great because we all fail to recognize special moments at times. So don’t despair if you can look back on times when you failed to rise to the occasion. But live ready for the moment! Ask the Holy Spirit to open your eyes to the people and events He is bringing into your life today! (Gordon Snider)

Are you ready for the opportunities God may bring your way today?

This devotional is the Monday, October 30, 2017 entry of Opening the Word.