The Quality of Hope

Read Romans 15:1-4
“For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope” (v. 4).
Visiting a children’s program in Indonesia, Wess Stafford was asked to say a few words. Wanting to communicate their value to God, he told the children they were special. He then picked up a little girl on the front row named Jessica. Using her as an example, he spoke tenderly of her uniqueness and that Christ loved her. Noticing tears around the room, he found out that, weeks earlier, she had been brutally raped. If anyone needed to hear that message, it was Jessica. Her healing began that day.
Some aren’t as receptive, however. Danny Velazquez was one. To many, he seemed to be on top of the world. He went about his work day wearing cashmere and sipping martinis. Living in a loft apartment, he was highly regarded by his clients. One was a Christian who frequently told him, “The day you call on the name of the Lord, He will set you free.” He politely ignored her advice. But Danny’s relationship with alcohol and drugs spiraled out of control eventually leaving him homeless.
One day, hallucinating and hearing voices, he remembered those hope-filled words. At that moment Danny cried out to God. When he later awoke in a hospital, he was a changed man. God had set him free. (Cyretha C. Horton)
You too can find new life through the hope found in God and His Word. 

The Joy of Right Relationships

Read Psalm 51:10-13

“Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit” (v. 12).
For many years I did not notice the right relationship of the pronouns in this scripture verse. I exchanged “thy” with “my.” I wanted my joy to be based on owning my salvation and my free spirit. That’s definitely a self-centered attitude regarding relationships, especially my most precious one with God. He has greatly invested in our desire for Him by sending His only Son to the cross for my sins and for the sins of the whole world (John 3:16, 17).
I relate the joy of salvation with what Paul wrote in Romans: “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (5:8). As a peer-counselor at a crisis pregnancy center, I would tell a client that she did not have to clean up her act before accepting Christ as Savior. God acted first on her behalf.
How did God demonstrate His love? He “sent his Son to be the propitiation [sacrifice, atonement, satisfaction] for our sins” (1 John 4:10). Thus, “We love him because he first loved us” (v. 19). What joy! What freedom! And it’s all provided by our great and good God. (Ann L. Coker)
God’s best wish for us is an intimate relationship with Him.

A Prayer at Midnight

Read Acts 16:25-34

“And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them” (v. 25).
“We must learn from Jesus what our attitude should be when life becomes painful — one of earnest prayer to our Father who is in heaven,” wrote Dennis Kinlaw in his devotional book, This Day with the Master That is just what Paul and Silas did when they were cast into prison.
The dramatic result, of course, was that God answered via an earthquake that opened the prison doors and shook off the chains that bound the two missionaries and other inmates. The quake also awakened the jailer, who feared for his life until Paul spoke encouraging words to him. And best of all, the jailkeeper gave his heart to God!
But these weren’t the only results of that midnight prayer. One that we almost always overlook is mentioned at the end of today’s verse: “and the prisoners heard them.” Scottish preacher George MacDonald picked up on that phrase and preached and wrote a wonderful sermon about it. Think of the prisoners lying in dark, cold, damp cells, perhaps bound with chains, losing hope of freedom with each day that went by. What did Paul’s singing mean to them? How did Silas’s praying affect them? How could it be that someone could sing in the dark night of suffering?
The missionaries’ worship not only brought deliverance — it ministered to others! (Steven E. Hight)
In our darkness do we encourage others?

Dedication of the Tabernacle

Read Exodus 40:17-38

“Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle” (v. 34).
There is a good feeling in tackling a work that takes care of a need. There is yet a bigger reward in finishing it. When something is built, there is a glory that goes to the contractor that does an excellent job. Many people usually give compliments on the good work. But when one acts in direct obedience to God, there is a glory from heaven that fills the soul almost to bursting.
“Moses finished the work” (v. 33). Then a cloud came and sort of hid the tabernacle. Sometimes a bit of gloom comes when we don’t expect it. But God has a reason for everything. This cloud may have helped cover the glory of the Lord that came and filled the tabernacle. That glory was so rich in splendor and power that Moses was not able to enter the “tent.” Moses, who had talked to God personally, and had been in His presence until his face shone, could not take this!
Why did God come in such glory? Moses and the men had just built Him a home. When young people go off to college sometimes they take some family pictures and a few other things to help them feel more at home. Well, God just wanted to bring a little of heaven with Him! (L. Wayne Covert)
A little girl, walking with her father on a starry night, when asked what she was thinking, said, “I was thinking that if the wrong side of heaven is so glorious what must the right side be?”

Divine Reassurance

Read Daniel 9:20-23

“Yea, whiles I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation” (v. 21).
We humans have an innate desire to communicate and be heard and understood by other people. I see this desire in my three-year-old’s face as he tries to get his story out over the noise and distractions of his older brothers. Being ignored or drowned out by the sea of competing sounds is a frustrating experience for him. In those times, stooping down to his level, looking into his eyes, and placing a hand on his arm is the encouragement he needs that someone is listening and cares about what matters to him.
In this passage, Daniel pours out his heart in intercessory prayer, and God sends an angel to reassure him that he is “greatly beloved” and to reveal some astonishing details about God’s work in the future for his people. In our times of prayer, we also may be anguished and burdened for the needs of those around us. In these moments, our Heavenly Father hears us, and it is a blessing when we feel His encouraging touch, reassuring us of His great love and concern for the things that matter to us. (Stephen B. Smith)

Keeping God’s Word

Read John 17:6-8

“I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word” (v. 6).
They were “keepers of the flag” when they planted it on the tiny sulfuric island called Iwo Jima because they considered what it stands for worth defending to the death. And 6,800 heroic American servicemen did just that in that brutal, pivotal battle for freedom during World War II.
The word “kept” in this verse means to cherish and protect, a state of grace that goes beyond mere belief in truth. It is defined by a commitment to embrace, obey, and defend that truth; to allow no shift or compromise of that which is absolute. It is to defend, as the final authority, the Word of the Father as depicted in Jesus. It means stepping up and planting the standard of the gospel on the ground of those who would abolish it. Jesus is pure divine truth in human form, the living verbatim message of Almighty God to us. As His disciples would do, we must live and die in allegiance to the keeping of His life-giving Word. (R. Wayne Skeen, II)
What is God today leading you to do as a true Word-Keeper?

Praise for God’s Mercy

Read Psalm 103:6-11

“The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy” (v. 8).
A. B. Simpson wrote: “The mercy of God is an ocean divine . . .” and then urges us to “launch out into the deep.” God not only has mercy, He is Mercy. While there are times that He must reprove, when His anger is like the lightning that flashes, His mercy is as the sunshine, warm, personal, generous.
The psalmist portrays three dimensions of God’s mercy — ”as the heaven is high above the earth . . . as far as the east is from the west
. . . from everlasting to everlasting.” None of it is merited, but God’s character overflows with grace and mercy.
God’s mercy evokes heartfelt praise from His people. Right now, offer a prayer of praise to God for His mercy. “Bless the Lord, O my soul.” (Leonard L. Sankey)
“Oh, let us be lost in the mercy of God, Till the depths of His fulness we know” (A. B. Simpson).

God Our Salvation

Read Psalm 37:34-40

“But the salvation of the righteous is of the Lord: he is their strength in the time of trouble” (v. 39).
We typically use salvation to refer to forgiveness of sins and, relatedly, to deliverance from eternal condemnation. So we talk about being saved, and we look forward to everlasting life. Clearly Psalm 37’s proclamation of God’s salvation of the righteous includes these wonderful benefits.
But the bulk of Psalm 37 focuses on this earthly life and salvation’s benefits for the “here and now.” Repeatedly the psalmist tells us to “fret not” about wicked people’s success, not to indulge anger at their prosperity. Why should this apparent cosmic injustice not rile us? Psalm 37 reminds us of coming judgment (vs. 2, 9, 10, 13, etc.), but it also teaches us that righteousness works!
Psalm 37 presents some of salvation’s present-tense aspects. God provides for physical needs (vs. 3, 19, 25, etc.) and frequently brings to reality our godly dreams and desires (vs. 4, 5). He causes us to live in peace and security (vs. 9-11). This does not mean no Christian will suffer hardship and deprivation but describes a general pattern of blessing and provision even in this fallen world. God’s salvation regularly includes abundant daily blessings.
We begin to taste the joys of God’s saving us now. And the best lies ahead when the Judge of all the earth welcomes the righteous into His presence forever, where there are pleasures forevermore. (Aaron D. Profitt)
God’s salvation of the righteous begins now and ends never!

The Promise of Deliverance

Read Job 5:17-27

“He shall deliver thee in six troubles: yea, in seven there shall no evil touch thee” (v. 19).
But wait, there’s more! The concept of claiming to offer an irresistible deal, then adding further incentives happens all the time in marketing campaigns. The Old Testament Hebrews often used the same ploy in their writings. When Job’s friend Eliphaz told him God would deliver him six — no, wait, seven! — times, he was really saying, “God will deliver you over and over and over again!
Can you imagine how that might have sounded to Job? “Look, Job, I know you’ve lost your oxen and donkeys and servants and sheep and more servants and camels and more servants and all your children, but God will deliver you again and again.” I don’t think I would have reacted as well as Job did.
Job’s first reaction to his tragedy was to worship the Lord, and his reaction to Eliphaz’s speech was a heartrending cry, “My grief cannot be measured!” It took what seemed to Job like an awfully long time, but when he rested on this promise, God did deliver him. (Michelle D. Avery)
Father, teach me to live standing on your promises.

The Troubler

Read 1 Kings 18:16-19

“And he answered, I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father’s house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and thou hast followed Baalim” 
(v. 18).
“Attitude is the mind’s paintbrush. It can color any situation.”
False accusations are a part of life, but that does not make them any easier to take. And often being falsely accused can bring out the worst in us.
If you were playing the role of Elijah in this little skit, what would be your tone of voice as you speak the words of our focus verse? Defensive? Vengeful? Matter-of-fact? Sorrowful? Or to say it differently, “What is your attitude when you are falsely accused?”
However he said it, Elijah was not intimidated by the presence of the king. But neither does he “lose his cool.” Instead, Elijah carefully proposes to resolve their differences in an objective encounter. Even the king could not refuse the objectivity of Elijah’s proposal.
Attitudes are the result of cultivation. The attitudes we display under adversity have been a long time in the making. And our attitude can so color a situation that even God has difficulty redeeming it. (Gordon L. Snider)
“A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger” (Prov. 15:1).