Transformed Hearts

During the early 1970s in Ghana, a poster titled “The Heart of Man” appeared on walls and public notice boards. In one picture, all kinds of reptiles—symbols of the vile and despicable—filled the heart-shaped painting with the head of a very unhappy man on top of it. In another image, the heart-shape was clean and serene with the head of a contented man. The caption beneath the images read: “What is the condition of your heart?”

In Matthew 15:18-19, Jesus explained what pollutes a person. “The things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander” (niv). That is the condition of a heart separated from God—the situation ancient Israelites found themselves in when their sins forced them into exile (Ezek. 36:23).

God’s promise in Ezekiel 36:26 is beautiful: “I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart” (nlt; see also 11:19). God will take away our stubborn hearts that have been corrupted by all kinds of evil and give to us a clean heart that is responsive to Him. Praise God for such a wonderful gift.

Father in heaven, thank You that when we confess our sin to You, You give us a new heart and a new life. I pray that the life I live reflects the goodness of Your gift and that others may see the difference a new heart has made in me.

For a new start, ask God for a new heart.
By Lawrence Darmani – Our Daily Bread


Ordinary People

We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. —2 Corinthians 4:7

Gideon was an ordinary person. His story, recorded in Judges 6, inspires me. He was a farmer, and a timid one at that. When God called him to deliver Israel from the Midianites, Gideon’s initial response was “How can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house” (Judg. 6:15). God promised that He would be with Gideon and that he would be able to accomplish what he had been asked to do (v. 16). Gideon’s obedience brought victory to Israel, and he is listed as one of the great heroes of faith (Heb. 11:32).

Many other individuals played a significant part in this plan to save the Israelites from a strong enemy force. God provided Gideon with 300 men, valiant heroes all, to win the battle. We are not told their names, but their bravery and obedience are recorded in the Scriptures (Judg. 7:5-23).

Today, God is still calling ordinary people to do His work and assuring us that He will be with us as we do. Because we are ordinary people being used by God, it’s obvious that the power comes from God and not from us.

Lord, I am just an ordinary person, but You are an all-powerful God. I want to serve You. Please show me how and give me the strength.

God uses ordinary people to carry out His extraordinary plan.
 
By Poh Fang ChiaOur Daily Bread


Tell Your Story

Your awe-inspiring deeds will be on every tongue; I will proclaim Your greatness. —Psalm 145:6 nlt

 

Michael Dinsmore, a former prisoner and relatively new Christian, was asked to give his testimony in a prison. After he spoke, some inmates came to him and said, “This is the most exciting meeting we’ve ever been to!” Michael was amazed that God could use his simple story.

In 1 Timothy, after Paul had charged Timothy to stay the course preaching the gospel (1:1-11), he shared his personal testimony to encourage the young man (vv.12-16). He told about God’s mercy in his own life. Paul said that he had mocked the Lord, but He changed him. In His mercy, God not only counted him faithful and gave him a job to do, but He also enabled him to do His work (v.12). Paul considered himself the worst of sinners, but God saved him (v.15).

The Lord is able! That is what Paul wanted Timothy to see, and what we need to see too. Through Paul’s testimony, we see God’s mercy. If God could use someone like Paul, He can use us. If God could save the worst of sinners, then no one is beyond His reach.

Our story of God’s work in our lives can encourage others. Let those around you know that the God of the Bible is still at work today!

Father, thank You for the salvation You offer and that no one, including me, is beyond the reach of Your mercy, grace, and transforming power. Help me share my story with others so that people can see Your love.
No one is beyond the reach of God’s love.
By Poh Fang Chia – Our Daily Bread


Pain With A Purpose

[Jesus said,] “I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.”John 16:22

 

I asked several friends what their most difficult, painful experience in life had been. Their answers included war, divorce, surgery, and the loss of a loved one. My wife’s reply was, “The birth of our first child.” It was a long and difficult labor in a lonely army hospital. But looking back, she said she considers it joyful “because the pain had a big purpose.”

Just before Jesus went to the cross, He told His followers they were about to go through a time of great pain and sorrow. The Lord compared their coming experience to that of a woman during childbirth when her anguish turns to joy after her child is born (John 16:20-21). “Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you” (v.22).

Sorrow comes to us all along the road of life. But Jesus, “who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame” (Heb. 12:2), purchased forgiveness and freedom for all who open their hearts to Him. His painful sacrifice accomplished God’s eternal purpose of opening the way to friendship and fellowship with Him.

The joy of our Savior outweighed His suffering, just as the joy He gives us overshadows all our pain.

Dear Father, Your precious Son Jesus chose suffering for me. Thank You for His sacrifice on my behalf. Thank You that even my pain can be a tool in Your hands to make me more like Your Son.
 
Suffering can be like a magnet that draws the Christian close to Christ.
 
 


Unwelcome Visitors

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. —James 1:2-3

 

Recently my wife, Marlene, and I received a panicky phone call from our son and his wife. The night before, they had found two bats in their house. I know bats are an important part of the ecosystem, but they are not my favorite among God’s creatures, especially when they are flying around inside.

Yet Marlene and I were thankful we could go over to our kids’ house and help. We helped them to plug the holes that might have been used by these unwelcome visitors to enter their house.

Another unwelcome visitor that often intrudes into our lives is suffering. When trials come, we can easily panic or lose heart. But these difficult circumstances can become the instruments our loving heavenly Father uses to make us more like Christ. That’s why James wrote, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work” (James 1:2-4).

We are not expected to enjoy trials or to celebrate suffering. But when these unwelcome visitors arrive, we can look for God’s hand in them and trust that He can use them to make us more like His Son.

Thank You, Father, that You give to us each day what You know is best. We’re thankful that we can trust Your heart, which is kind beyond all measure.
 
 
Trials may visit us, but our God is always with us.
 


Unexpected Encounter

 
The Lord repay your work, and a full reward be given you by the Lord God of Israel. —Ruth 2:12

 

Drew, young and enthusiastic, was leading the singing for the first time in a large church. Lois, a long-time attender, wanted to encourage him, but she thought it would be too difficult to get to the front of the church before he left. But then she saw a way to snake through the crowd. Lois told Drew, “I appreciate your enthusiasm in worship. Keep serving Him!”

As Lois walked away, she ran into Sharon, who she hadn’t seen in months. After a short conversation, Sharon said, “Thank you for what you do for the Lord. Keep serving Him!” Because Lois had gone out of her way to give encouragement, she was now in the right place to receive unexpected encouragement.

After Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi, left Moab and returned to Israel, they received an unexpected blessing. They were both widows with no one to provide for them, so Ruth went to glean grain from a field (Ruth 2:2-3). The field happened to be owned by Boaz, a distant relative of Naomi’s. He noticed Ruth, provided for her needs, and later became her husband (2:20; 4:13). Ruth received a blessing because she was in the right place at the right time (2:11-23).

Sometimes God uses unexpected encounters to bring unexpected blessings.

Dear Lord, help me to go out of my way to encourage others—whether or not I receive anything in return. My heart’s desire is to help others along the way to know You. May I be Your hands and feet.
 
When it comes to helping others, don’t stop at nothing.
 
By: Anne Cetas – Our Daily Bread


The Visitor

A friend asked a newly retired man what he was doing now that he was no longer working full-time. “I describe myself as a visitor,” the man replied. “I go see people in our church and community who are in the hospital or care facilities, living alone, or just need someone to talk and pray with them. And I enjoy doing it!” My friend was impressed by this man’s clear sense of purpose and his care for others.

A few days before Jesus was crucified, He told His followers a story that emphasized the importance of visiting people in need. “The King will say to those on His right hand, ‘. . . I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me’” (Matt. 25:34,36). When asked, “When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?” the King will answer, “In as much as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me” (vv.39-40).

Our ministry of visiting has two beneficiaries—the person visited and Jesus Himself. To go to a person with help and encouragement is direct service to our Lord.

Is there someone who would be encouraged by your visit today?

Lord Jesus, help me to see others with Your
eyes. Show me what it means to demonstrate
Your love to those around me. Thank You for
the love You give to me that I can share.
 
 
Compassion is understanding the troubles of others, coupled with an urgent desire to help.
 


When God is Quiet

I love to take pictures of sunsets at Lake Michigan. Some are subtle shades of pastel. Others are bold strokes of bright color. Sometimes the sun sinks quietly behind the lake. Other times it goes down in what looks like a fiery explosion.

In pictures and in person, I prefer the latter. But both show the handiwork of God. When it comes to God’s work in the world, my preferences are the same. I would rather see dramatic answers to prayer than ordinary provisions of daily bread. But both are the work of God.

Elijah may have had similar preferences. He had grown accustomed to being the center of God’s grand displays of power. When he prayed, God showed up in dramatic ways—first in a miraculous defeat against the prophets of Baal and then in the end to a long and devastating drought (1 Kings 18). But then Elijah felt afraid and started to run. God sent an angel to feed him to strengthen him for his journey. After 40 days he arrived in Horeb. God showed him that He was now communicating in a still small voice, not in flashy miracles (19:11-12).

If you’re discouraged because God hasn’t shown up in a blaze of glory, perhaps He’s revealing Himself with His quiet presence.

Lord, may we see You today in the small
details of life in ways that we hadn’t noticed
before. Thank You for the gift of Your quiet
presence, wherever we may find it today.
 
 
By: Julie Ackerman  – Our Daily Bread


Out of the Darkness

I don’t know what desperate situation gripped Asaph, the writer of Psalm 77, but I’ve heard, and made, similar laments. Over the past dozen years since I lost my daughter, many others who have experienced the loss of a loved one have shared with me heartbreaking sentiments like these:

Crying out to God (v.1). Stretching empty arms heavenward (v.2). Experiencing troubling thoughts about God because of horrible circumstances (v.3). Enduring unspeakable trouble (v.4). Cowering under the feeling of being cast aside (v.7). Fearing failed promises (v.8). Fearing a lack of mercy (v.8).

But a turnaround occurs for Asaph in verse 10 through a recollection of God’s great works. Thoughts turn to God’s love. To memories of what He has done. To His marvelous deeds of old. To the comfort of God’s faithfulness and mercy. To reminders of God’s wonders and greatness. To His strength and redemption.

Despair is real in this life, and answers do not come easily. Yet in the darkness—as we remember God’s glory, majesty, power, and love—our despair can slowly subside. Like Asaph, we can rehearse God’s acts, especially the salvation He brought through Jesus, and we can return to where we once were—resting gratefully in His mighty love.

Lord, we cannot fathom the depth of Your character
or the wisdom of Your actions when trouble visits us.
Help us to inch our way back into Your arms through
a rehearsal of Your goodness and a recollection of Your glorious love.
 
Remembering the past can bring hope to the present.
 
 
By Dave Branon – Our Daily Bread


Extraordinary Showers

What do fish, tadpoles, and spiders have in common? They have all fallen from the sky like rain in various parts of the world. Fish fell on the Australian town of Lajamanu. Tadpoles pelted areas of central Japan on multiple occasions. Spiders showered down on the San Bernardo Mountains in Argentina. Although scientists suspect that the wind plays a part in these intriguing showers, no one can fully explain them.

The prophet Ezekiel described a far more extraordinary downpour—a shower of blessing (Ezek. 34:26). Ezekiel spoke of a time when God would send blessings like rain to refresh His people. The Israelites would be safe from enemy nations. They would have enough food, be liberated from slavery, and be freed from shame (vv.27-29). These gifts would revive Israel’s relationship with God. The people would know that God was with them, and that “they, the house of Israel, [were His] people” (v.30).

God blesses His modern-day followers too (James 1:17). Sometimes blessings abound like rain; sometimes they trickle in one by one. Whether many or few, the good things we receive come with a message from God: I see your needs. You are mine, and I will care for you.

“There shall be showers of blessing”—
This is the promise of love;
There shall be seasons refreshing,
Sent from the Savior above. —Whittle
 
 
Daily blessings are daily reminders of God.