Devotional

Brave Your Storm

17 January 2022, 12:00 am

A fierce thunderstorm lashed Memphis, Tennessee, on the evening of April 3, 1968. Weary and feeling ill, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. decided not to give his planned speech for striking sanitation workers at a church hall. He was surprised by an urgent phone call saying a large crowd had braved the weather to hear him. So he went to the hall and spoke for forty minutes, delivering what some say was his greatest speech, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop.”

The next day, King was killed by an assassin’s bullet, but his speech still inspires oppressed people that they’ll “get to the Promised Land.” Likewise, early followers of Jesus were uplifted by a stirring message. The book of Hebrews, written to encourage Jewish believers facing threats for their faith in Christ, offers firm spiritual encouragement to not lose hope. As it urged, “strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees” (v. 12). As Jews, they would recognize that appeal as originally coming from the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 35:3).

But now, as Christ’s disciples, they were called to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (vv. 1–2). The writer encouraged them: “You will not grow weary and lose heart” (v. 3).

Certainly squalls and storms await us in this life. But in Jesus, we outlast life’s tempests by standing in Him.

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Darkness and Light

16 January 2022, 12:00 am

As I sat in the courtroom, I witnessed several examples of the brokenness of our world: a daughter estranged from her mother; a husband and wife who’d lost the love they once had and now shared only bitterness; a husband yearning for reconciliation with his wife and to be reunited with his children. They were in desperate need of changed hearts, healing of wounds, and for God’s love to prevail.

Sometimes when the world around us seems to hold only darkness and despair, it’s easy to give in to despair. But then the Spirit, who lives inside believers in Christ (John 14:26), reminded me that Jesus died for that brokenness and pain. When Jesus came into the world as a human, He brought light into the darkness (John 1:4; 8:12). We see this in His conversation with Nicodemus, who furtively came to Jesus in the cover of darkness, but left impacted by the Light (3:1–2; 19:38–40).

Jesus taught Nicodemus that “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (3:16).

Yet even though Jesus brought light and love into the world, many remain lost in the darkness of their sin (vv. 19–20). If we’re His followers, we have the light that dispels darkness. In gratitude, let’s pray that God make us beacons of His love (Matthew 5:14–16).

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Life by Death

15 January 2022, 12:00 am

Carl had contracted cancer and needed a double lung transplant. He asked God for new lungs, but felt odd doing so. He confessed it’s a strange thing to pray, because “someone has to die so I might live.”  

Carl’s dilemma highlights a basic truth of Scripture: God uses death to bring life. We see this in the story of the Exodus. Born into slavery, the Israelites languished under the oppressive hands of the Egyptians. Pharaoh wouldn’t release his grip until God made it personal. Every eldest son would die, unless the family killed a spotless lamb and slathered its blood across their doorposts (Exodus 12:6–7).

Today, you and I have been born into the bondage of sin. Satan would not release his grip on us until God made it personal, sacrificing His perfect Son on the blood-spattered arms of the cross.

Jesus calls us to join Him there. Paul explains, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). When we put our faith in God’s spotless Lamb, we commit to daily dying with Him—dying to our sin so we might rise with Him to new life (Romans 6:4–5). We express this faith in baptism and every time we say no to the shackles of sin and yes to the freedom of Christ. We’re never more alive than when we die with Jesus.

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Practice What You Preach

14 January 2022, 12:00 am

I started reading the Bible to my sons when my youngest, Xavier, entered kindergarten. I would look for teachable moments and share verses that would apply to our circumstances and encourage them to pray with me. Xavier memorized Scripture without even trying. If we were in a predicament in which we needed wisdom, he’d blurt out verses that shone a light on God’s truth.

One day, I got angry and spoke harshly within his earshot. My son hugged me and said, “Practice what you preach, Mama.”

Xavier’s gentle reminder echoes the wise counsel of the apostle James as he addresses Jewish believers in Jesus scattered in various countries (James 1:1). Highlighting the various ways sin can interfere with our witness for Christ, James encourages God’s people to “humbly accept the word planted in” us (v. 21). By hearing but not obeying Scripture, we’re like people who look in the mirror and forget what we look like (vv. 23–24). We can lose sight of the privilege we’ve been given as image-bearers—made right with God through the blood of Christ.

Believers in Jesus are commanded to share the gospel. The Holy Spirit changes us while empowering us to become better representatives and therefore messengers of the good news. As our loving obedience helps us reflect the light of God’s truth and love wherever He sends us, we can point others to Jesus by practicing what we preach.

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