Have you ever wanted to read through the Bible, or have a focused reading time? There is a website out there, www.thouartexalted.com, that sends out a monthly email with just such a reading calendar. I’ve attached it here if it is something you are interested in doing. Please check out the website for more great freebies, playlists, wallpapers, and more.
Category Archives: Faith
Seasons of Suffering, Seasons of Joy
By: Amanda Idleman
Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises. – James 5:13
Life is filled with highs and lows. Navigating the ups and downs of life can be a challenge. Thankfully the Bible gives us some insight on how to approach our hardships and our joy. God doesn’t leave us on our own in either season. In our lives, there is no struggle that He isn’t present for or celebration He doesn’t know about.
What does God say about the hard times? The enemy of our souls wants to speak the lie of aloneness in our ears when things start to feel like more than we can handle. We become paralyzed in the belief that no one is there to support us, thoughts of guilt may stop us from being open about our struggles, and the idea that no one can understand what we are going through can keep us stuck alone.
Without the support of others or a strong grasp on God’s love for you in those hard moments, hopelessness can begin to set in like an ugly fast spreading disease. The Bible tells us that “hope deferred makes the heart sick” (Proverbs 13:12). This is precisely why the Bible instructs us to turn to God in prayer when we suffer.
When we begin to connect with God through prayer and study of his Word, hope can return to our hearts! We are reminded that we are loved and never alone. God gives us the strength we need to share our stories with others that can support us, further breaking the chains of hopelessness.
When you are in a season of suffering, bring it all to Jesus… bring all the frustration, desperation, loneliness, or anger and lay them at the feet of Jesus. God is not repelled by honesty. He already knows the state of our lives and hearts. You will not offend God with your sin or doubt. He pleads with us saying please come to me first. He loves you so much that He died to take away your sin and pain.
In seasons of joy, sing praises to your God! We can get so caught up in our own pleasures that we take the good for granted and only turn to God in hardship. God invites us back to be in his presence in both our seasons of joy and seasons of suffering. When prayers are answered, when a milestone is achieved, when the sunset takes your breath away, or your kids knock it out of the park, take a moment to give God the glory.
It’s our ability to see God in the joy-filled seasons that helps prepare us for the times of suffering. If we don’t have the ability to notice God’s grace, provision, and kindness when it is right in front of our faces, how will we recognize God at work when life is heavy? We need that ledger available in our minds of all the ways God has already come through for us to lean on when doubt, worry, or when suffering enters our lives.
What season are you in now? Are you barely keeping it together or are you loving every minute of life? Either way, God is there, and He wants you to look to Him in each and every season of life brings your way. Acts 17:28 says it like this “For in him we live and move and exist. As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.” He is our source of life, but even more than that, God wants to do life with you. Remember to offer prayer and praise in both your joy and suffering.
Bible Study Ideas
BIBLE VERSE OF THE DAY: “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.” – Romans 15:4
3 Fresh Ways to Study Your Bible
by Amy Green
Whenever the Bible talks about spending time with God through reading the Word, it’s never in the context of a burden. I don’t know about you, but I could use more hope in my life. Here are three fresh ways to study your Bible:
1. Praying the Bible
This method is just what it sounds like: Take a passage of Scripture and read it, line by line, pausing in between to pray its truth for specific people and situations in your life. The psalms are great for this, since they’re written as prayers. (Even the ones where David wishes death to his enemies can be turned into prayers about the destruction of sin in your own heart or evil in the world like terrorism, human trafficking, or poverty.)
This method is less about interpreting the passage and more about using its words to bring requests before God and to praise him for who He is. Try pausing between each verse and lifting up specific people and situations that relate to the words there. If you find it hard to focus in your time praying, this might be helpful for you.
Need a place to start? Try praying through Isaiah 35, Psalm 27, or Philippians 2.
2. Walk with Jesus through the Gospels
My friend once gave me this advice: If you’re going through a spiritually dry time, read through the Gospels and write down what you learn about Jesus. That’s it. Nothing fancy. It seems so simple that it can hardly be called a “method,” but at the same time… how often do we page right by the familiar stories of miracles and parables?
How long has it been since we let Jesus surprise us? When we ask what it means to follow Jesus today, do we have a clear picture of what that looks like?
All of that and more can be found when taking this exercise through each of the four Gospels. As Christians, we’re called to be disciples and imitators of Jesus. The best way to know what your faith should look like is to get to know him better.
3. Coordinate with Your Sermon Series
Take a sermon series that your church is starting and dive deeply into a parallel study. If it’s exegetical (preaching straight through a book or part of a book), read the passage before the sermon on Sunday. If it’s topical and you don’t know for sure which passages you’ll be going to, pick a portion of the Bible that has a lot to say about that topic and read through it a little at a time.
This is a great weekend devotional practice to get into, and unlike some of the other methods, it is usually pretty short, since pastors don’t often tackle massive chunks of Scripture at one time. There won’t be any “spoilers” for the sermon, but it’s amazing how much easier it is to engage in church when you’ve spent time focusing your heart on the subject ahead of time.
Editor’s Note: Portions taken from the article, “10 Fresh Ways to Study Your Bible,” written by Amy Green. You can read that piece in full here. All rights reserved.
What Does It Mean to be Living Stones?By Rachael Adams
Today’s Bible Verse: “As you come to Him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to Him—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.” 1 Peter 2:4-8
Recently, my family and I spent a day at the lake. We pulled our boat up to the shore for our kids to explore, and before long, they started skipping rocks. As I watched them having fun and enjoying nature, my eyes started to wander the shoreline. I was drawn to the beauty and variety of rocks, layered and weathered over time. If only those rocks could talk, oh the stories they could tell.
Later, I decided to learn what the Bible says about stones and found that the Bible refers to them quite often. The majority of the mentions pertain to altars built for the Lord. An altar is a memorial built to symbolize a place where God met a person or a place to offer a sacrifice. As I studied this topic, I discovered three main kinds: an altar of sacrifice, an altar of remembrance, and an altar of faith.
An Altar of Sacrifice
In my opinion, the most notable example of an altar of sacrifice was when God asked Abraham to sacrifice his long-awaited son Isaac (Genesis 22:1-19). Abraham obeyed by making the journey, arranging the wood, and laying his bound son on top. However, at the last second God stopped Abraham and provided a ram in Isaac’s place.
This unfathomable act foreshadows God sacrificing His one and only son Jesus, the lamb of God. In the ultimate sacrifice, Jesus offered Himself on an altar in the shape of a cross. Because of His sacrifice, we no longer have to offer sacrifices as they did in the Old Testament. However, we can offer ourselves to the Lord as living sacrifices and offer the altar of our hearts. In our lives this looks like daily laying aside our own desires to follow Him, putting all our energy and resources at His disposal, and trusting Him to guide us.
An Altar of Remembrance
One of my favorite examples of an altar of remembrance is from Joshua. If you’ll recall his story, he was leading the Israelites into the Promised Land and they needed to cross the Jordan River. But they needed a miracle from the Lord to do it—the river was at flood stage, making the waters turbulent and impossible to navigate. The Lord showed up and helped them cross safely.
But before they crossed all the way over into the Promised Land, God wanted them to go back into the Jordan and gather 12 stones to represent the 12 tribes of Israel. He directed them to build a memorial to commemorate the miracle. The altar was to serve as a reminder for future generations to learn what God had done for them (Joshua 4).
Reading Joshua’s story convicts me when I think about how many times I have prayed for something and God has shown up and answered my prayer and I just moved on to the next prayer. I want to remember, but how often I forget how He has shown up and provided for me.
This prompts me to consider building metaphorical memorials in our hearts to thank Him for being present and answering our pleas. What would it look like to symbolically lay down a memorial for Him to remember His faithfulness? Could we build a figurative altar of remembrance to tell our children and our children’s children what He has done in our lives?
An Altar of Faith
I only found one altar of faith in my research and it was built by King David. Israel was experiencing a plague, so David built an altar to the Lord and prayed on behalf of the land. God answered his plea and the plague stopped (2 Samuel 24). What faith he had to build the altar first in expectation that God would meet their need. As a result of his active belief, God showed up and performed the miracle.
I’m inspired by this kind of faith. There are many areas in my life I need God to show up and act on my behalf. I’m guessing the same is true for you. Could God be asking us to lay down stones in active faith first, as David did, so He will act on our behalf?
Like those rocks along the shoreline of the lake, we are living stones—unique and weathered. Our stories of sacrifice, remembrance, and faith layer generation upon generation showcasing God’s presence and displaying the evidence of His work in our lives.
Peter writes, “As you come to Him, the living Stone, you are like living stones being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:4-5).
With Christ as our Cornerstone, I pray our collective stones tell a beautiful story for His glory along the shorelines of this world. Together the altars we build to Him are also building a holy priesthood for Him, so more stones can be added to the beauty of the shoreline. If only those rocks could talk, oh the stories they could tell—God’s great story that we have the privilege to play a part. What a glorious sight to behold.
Rachael Adams is a writer, speaker, podcaster, and founder of The Love Offering. Her heart’s desire is to encourage women to realize their God-given purpose to live out our faith together by loving God, loving others, and learning to love ourselves. Rachael and her husband live in Kentucky with their two children. Connect with her online at rachaelkadams.com or @rachaeladamsauthor on social media.
What is the Gospel?
The Gospel Defined
“And they were preaching the gospel there” (Acts 14:7 NKJV).
What is the gospel? We know we should preach the gospel and live by the gospel, but do we know what the gospel is?
A literal translation of the word “gospel” is good news. Now, sometimes before we can appreciate the Good News, we first have to know the bad news.
Here’s the bad news: We’re all sinners. The Bible says, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard” (Romans 3:23 NLT). And 1 John 1:8 tells us, “If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth” (NLT).
If you’re sharing your faith with someone, don’t assume they’ll necessarily know what sin is. In the Bible, we can translate the word “sin” in different ways. We can translate it as “trespass,” which means to cross the line. Another translation comes from the Greek word hamartia, which means “to miss the mark.”
When the Bible says that we’ve sinned or missed the mark, it means that we’ve fallen short of God’s standard for humanity. And what is that standard? It’s perfection.
Are we perfect? No, we aren’t.
That is where Jesus comes in. Because God knew we could not hit this mark, because God knew we could not be perfect people, Jesus died on the cross for our sin. That’s the good news. Romans 5:6 says, “When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners” (NLT).
Here’s the first verse every Christian should memorize: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16 NKJV).
That is the gospel in a nutshell. Share it with someone. Let’s not turn the Good News into bad news by the way we deliver it, distort it, or leave out parts of it. Let’s deliver the explosive, dynamic, gospel.
A Prayer to Feel God’s Nearness
By Tiffany Curtis
“The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them. The LORD watches over all who love him” – Psalms 145:18-20
Like many people out there, I live far away from my hometown and blood relatives. I grew up in northeast Ohio and now live in central Virginia, making the distance between myself and my parents, grandparents, cousins, friends, etc. about an 8-hour drive. I have one sibling who also resides in Virginia, but we live just over two hours apart. The distance between us all makes intentional communication extremely important. If we don’t make an effort to reach out to each other, we could potentially go days, weeks, even months without ever speaking to each other.
Thankfully, the technology we have today makes it easy to stay in touch with people, no matter how close or far they are. If I want to talk to my parents, I can easily call or FaceTime them. If I want to check in on a friend, I just send them a text.
The issue then lies in the moments where I don’t just want to call or text loved ones, but to be in their presence. To have that quality time and comforting feeling that we only get when we are physically in the same place. How great would it be if our technology went one step further, and we could not only call our loved ones, but transport them into our home, car, or coffee shop whenever we needed them.
Though we may never have the ability to do this with our friends and family here on earth, we do have a Father who is able to meet us anywhere, anytime. All we have to do is call on Him, and He hears us and is present with us. Even when it doesn’t feel like He is near, He is always watching over us, ready to be right at our side when we call on Him.
But just because He is always near, doesn’t mean we should apathetically sit and wait for Him to show up. Every relationship needs communication in order to thrive, including our relationship with God. Just like with our loved ones, we must put forth the effort to intentionally communicate with the Father. If we stay in constant communication with our friends and family, shouldn’t it be an even bigger priority for us to have this same communication with our Savior?
Make an intentional effort to speak to the Father today and every day. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate, well-thought-out message; talk to Him about your day, your struggles, your triumphs. God desires to draw near to us just as much as we desire to feel the comfort of His presence.
As Psalms 145:18 says, “The Lord is near to all who call on him.” This is His promise to us – that when we call on Him, He is near. No 8-hour drive, no connecting flights, and not just through a cell phone screen. He is right here, right now.
Call on Him today – He is already so much nearer than you think!
Thank you for hearing us when we call on your name! How reassuring it is to know that we serve a God who is all-powerful, yet still hears our faintest cries. Thank you that, even when we don’t realize it, you are near to those who love you. You want a relationship with us, which is an amazing thing!
Help us to be intentional when it comes to communicating with you. It is so easy to become apathetic or negligent with our prayer lives, but prayer is our lifeline to your presence! Let us fully realize the importance of regularly talking with you. You are our greatest source of comfort and strength.
Lord, help us to feel your nearness today. No matter where we are or what we’re doing, you have given us the ability to call on you and to feel your presence. Thank you for not being a distant God, but one who desires for us to draw closer and closer as you pursue our hearts.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Photo credit: ©SalemDesign/BethanyPyle
Tiffany Curtis is the Faith Editor of Crosswalk.com. She has a B.A. in English with a minor in Business from Liberty University. Her goal is to share Christ’s love and help others grow in their faith through her work as a writer and editor.
Thoughts for Today
Has someone you cared about mistreated you? Hurt you deeply? Even though years may have passed, you might still harbor resentment and anger. And that unforgiveness is most likely affecting other relationships—maybe even your whole outlook on life. Try as you might to forget the offense, you find yourself rewinding and reviewing again and again.
You will never be able to overcome the hurt of the past and move on freely with your life until you forgive the offender.
Consider this …
Determine to be active in your pursuit to forgive. Begin to change your thought pattern about the person. Ask God to help you see this individual with eyes of love, looking beyond fault and seeing need. When you speak about the person, speak of needs and strengths—not offenses and weaknesses. Pray for this person and, if possible, take action to do something nice for him or her.
Forgiveness is not easy, especially when the hurt is deep. It helps to remember what Jesus did for us. Even though we certainly didn’t deserve forgiveness, he died on the cross to pay the price for our sin. He offers us forgiveness as a gift. Let us be willing to offer others the gift of our forgiveness.
Father, help me to be active in my pursuit to forgive. Help me to see this person through your eyes. Help me to speak and think good and not bad about him. Help me to offer the gift of my forgiveness. In Jesus’ name …
These thoughts were drawn from … Free to Grow: Overcoming Setbacks and Disappointments by Jimmy Ray Lee, D.Min. The purpose of this group study is to help people overcome disappointments and setbacks that have arrested or are presently hindering their emotional and spiritual development. The group study will help participants understand how to be set free so that they can grow and become all that God has designed them to be. Note: This curriculum was written especially for small groups and we encourage people to use it that way. However, it can also be used effectively as a personal study for individuals or couples.
A Prayer for Father’s Day
A Prayer for Fathers on Father’s Day
By Emma Danzey
Deuteronomy. 6:6-9 says, “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”
It’s time for Father’s Day again. This is a time when we celebrate the men in our lives who have parented us, mentored us, and loved us. Whether you have had a positive or negative experience with a biological father, we can all thank God for the men who have fathered like Him and loved others as their own. Ultimately though, only God the Father Himself is the perfect dad.
We thank You for the gift of fathers. Thank you for creating the family unit. We praise You for present dads who are spiritually investing in their kids. We pray for protection from the work of the enemy in their homes. We pray that you would give these men wisdom and insight with every situation that comes their way. We ask that these men know that they are valued and seen. We pray for them to be filled with the Holy Spirit. We pray that they would be men of integrity to model You. We ask that you would give them patience, compassion, and mercy.
God, we pray for men who are parenting alone. Would you help them to know that You are near? Give them strength to love like You. We pray for men who have abandoned their homes. Please transform their hearts by the power of Your Holy Spirit to repentance. Bring them to a healthy place and help reconciliation occur. We pray over those men who are not biological fathers but have stepped into someone’s life as a father. Would you bless them and help them to feel loved and accepted in this role. Guide them with Your Spirit to make decisions that would honor and point to You. Please be with fathers who have regrets. Help them not to focus too much on the past, but to humbly ask forgiveness, live in the present, and work toward the future. Please comfort the fathers who have lost children. Help them to mourn and grieve in the safety of Your arms.
Deuteronomy 6:6-9 reminds us that fathers are to actively share Your gospel to their children each day. Your Word is so important in the home. We pray that fathers will hide Your Word in their hearts. We pray that they would share these truths with their kids. We pray that they would regularly model faith and teach the gospel in their homes.
Lord, You say in Psalm 103:13. “As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him.” Please enable fathers to have compassion for their children. Help them to remember how much mercy and kindness You have shown to them.
Psalm 127:3-5 says, “Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court.” God, You tell us that fatherhood is a heritage and a reward from You. Children are a blessing and a joy to have in life. Help fathers everywhere remember that this role comes with a lot of responsibility, but a lot of blessings too. Amen.
The Corinthian Creedby Shawn McEvoy
Be on your guard, stand firm in faith, be men of courage, be strong; do everything in love. – 1 Corinthians 16:13-14
********While this devotional is geared towards men, I felt like there were a some good thoughts for everyone, not just men.***********
Today’s verse hangs on a board on the wall of my son. But years ago, long before my son was even an inkling, I came across that verse as I was sending my own father one of many letters I composed over the years to share with him the importance of salvation, and the value of life in Christ. My sister, mother, and I came to know the Lord in 1980, but it took another 17 years, seven months, and 26 days worth of praying, heart softening, and brokenness for Dan McEvoy to surrender.
And it wasn’t this letter or the above verse that pushed him into it. No, this letter I was writing simply to tell him how blessed I was to have begun dating a woman (who eventually became my wife) for whom faith came first, and I was giving God all the glory and credit and all that good stuff, and probably telling him how God delights in blessing those who trust in Him.
With the letter I enclosed a quick-and-dirty page of graphic art involving the aforementioned verse from Corinthians in some fancy font, with a clip-art picture of a sailboat, kind of as a visual aid to my letter, indicating, I suppose, what it was like for the man of God to live in this world under the Captaincy of Christ.
Well, so. After he died in 2001, I found that letter and piece of “art” in my father’s desk, looking as if it had been read and glanced at often. Something in me knew then that if I were ever to have a son, I’d commit to raising him to manhood under these same five principles:
- Be on your guard. Be ready, be alert. Expect God to be involved, expect Satan to attack. Let the wonder of creation still catch your eye.
- Stand firm in faith. Be unmoved because you know intimately that of which you believe in. Become biblically literate.
- Be a man of courage. Fear is not from God (2 Timothy 1:7), so go your way boldly. The worst that can happen – even death – still ends in victory and glory for the Christian.
- Be strong. Physically, yes, let’s take care of ourselves, and present our bodies as holy. But remember that the Lord is the strength of the strong (Ephesians 6:10), and that “when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).
- Do everything in love. Here’s your motivation, because he that doesn’t love doesn’t know God (1 John 4:8), and the world shall know you by your love (John 13:35).
So when Jordan was born, and we had the dedication service at our church, that’s the verse we selected to have read. When he was about two-and-a-half, he started reciting it by memory and making up arm/hand motions to go with it. We call it our “Man-Creed.”
But here’s the secret: these couple verses from the closing of Paul’s first letter to Corinth aren’t first-and-foremost for Jordan… they’re for me.
When I first realized that, it caught me, ironically enough, “off my guard.” I had been more than happy to tell my own father how to “be a man,” and was perfectly willing to raise my son to be one according to the Word. How, I wonder, did I intend to do so without living out the credo, making it my own?
The Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible comments upon the 1 Corinthians passage thusly: “[Paul] shows that they ought to make their hopes of salvation to depend not on Apollos or any other teacher; that it rests with themselves.” Yes, and on how I am willing to live, or better, whether I am willing to let my life be of greater worth than my words.
I don’t know about the other guys out there, but it definitely helps me to have something to live by, to recite, to write on my heart, ponder the meaning of, and connect to other scriptures as I strive to be a man after God’s own heart. And it doesn’t hurt that this creed I now try to follow is affecting its third generation in my family.
The Easy Way To Rest When You’re Exhausted
by: Asheritah Ciuciu
I eyed the bright numbers on the clock telling me I’d be lucky to get four hours of sleep that night. Hitting “send” on my paper, I stumbled into bed, murmuring, “Once I graduate, then I’ll be able to rest.”
But over the years that followed, that midnight promise morphed to match new seasons:
“Once I meet this work deadline, then I’ll be able to rest.”
“Once our baby sleeps through the night, then I’ll be able to rest.”
“Once the children are in school, then I’ll be able to rest.”
Those refrains pushed me out of bed every morning and kept me working late into the night, until one day I found myself at our kitchen table, head in my hands and sobbing the words “I can’t do this anymore.”
I was exhausted.
And from talking with older women, I knew they were repeating the same worn refrain, merely aged to match their own challenges:
“Once we pay off the mortgage …”
“Once the kids leave for college …”
“Once we retire from our jobs …”
Women of all ages and stages are chasing rest, but that coveted rest eludes us all.
In a moment of clarity, I realized that rest won’t arrive on the other side of “someday” because, no matter how much we get done, there’s always more left to do.
Wiping my tears, I cried out: “God, I need You. I can’t do this anymore.” And in His kindness, God reminded me that we’re not the first generation to struggle with such things, nor are we alone.
In fact, 2,000 years ago, Jesus looked at a crowd of women and men just as exhausted as you and me, and He said:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30, NIV).
Jesus doesn’t tell us to wake up early and go to bed late in order to hustle our way into His Kingdom. Quite the opposite. He invites us to lay down our heavy burdens and find rest in Him.
What does that look like in real life? I developed an easy-to-remember R.E.S.T. acronym to guide me toward Jesus when I feel overwhelmed, and you can use it too:
- R: Recite God’s goodness. The next time we find ourselves hustling, let’s pause to praise God for who He is and what He’s already doing (see Psalm 103:1-2). What can we thank Him for? Let’s start there.
- E: Express your neediness. Then we get honest with God about our struggles and sins, casting our burdens on Him because He cares for us. (1 Peter 5:7)
- S: Seek His stillness. Next, we take time to “be still, and know” that He is God (Psalm 46:10a, ESV). We quiet our hearts to listen to His still, small voice. Is there anything He wants to say to us? Are there any burdens or to-dos He’s asking us to lay down?
- T: Trust His faithfulness. Finally, we declare our confidence that our good God, who began a good work in us, will be faithful to complete it. (Philippians 1:6)
We don’t have to wait for that elusive “someday” to experience God’s rest. The gentle and humble Jesus opens wide His arms, and He says, “Come.” Today, just as you are, come.