Today's Reading: Genesis 16:7-14
My first eyeglasses opened my eyes to a bold world. Without glasses, items in the distance were a blur. At age twelve, with my first pair of eyeglasses, I was shocked to see clearer words on blackboards, tiny leaves on trees, and perhaps most important, big smiles on faces.
As friends smiled back when I greeted them, I learned that to be seen was as great a gift as the blessing of seeing.
The slave Hagar realized this as she fled from her mistress Sarai’s unkindness. Hagar was a “nobody” in her culture, pregnant and alone, fleeing to a desert without help or hope. Seen by God, however, she was empowered to see Him. God became real to her—so real that she gave God a name, El Roi, which means, “You are the God who sees me.” She said, “I have now seen the One who sees me” (Genesis 16:13).
Our God sees each of us too. Feeling unseen, alone, or like a nobody? God sees you and your future. In return, may we see in Him our ever-present hope, encouragement, salvation, and joy.
Today's Reading: Psalm 117
When I was a new believer in Jesus, a spiritual mentor encouraged me to keep a thanks journal—a booklet I carried with me everywhere.
Taking note of praise items is a good habit. It reminds us of God’s presence, provision, and care.
In the shortest of the psalms, Psalm 117, the writer encourages everyone to praise the Lord because “great is his love toward us” (v. 2).
How has the Lord shown His love toward you today, this week, this month, and this year? Don’t just look for the spectacular. His love is seen in the ordinary, everyday circumstances of life. Then consider how He has shown His love toward your family, your church, and to others. Let your mind soak up the extent of His love for all of us.
The psalmist added that “the faithfulness of the lord endures forever” (v. 2 emphasis added). In other words, He will continue to love us! So we will continue to have many things to praise God for in the coming days. As His dearly loved children, may praising and thanking God characterize our lives!
Poh Fang Chia
Today's Reading: Nehemiah 6:1-9, 15
My friend Mary and I met monthly to hold one another accountable to our goals. One of hers was to reupholster her dining room chairs before the year’s end. In November she reported her progress from October: “It took ten months and two hours to recover my chairs.” After months of finding the hard-to-get material plus carving time out of her schedule, the project took merely two hours of committed work to finish.
God called Nehemiah to a far greater project: rebuild Jerusalem’s walls (Nehemiah 2:3–5, 12). As he led the people in the labor, they experienced mockery, attacks, and temptation to sin (4:3, 8; 6:10–12). Yet God equipped them to stand resolute in their efforts—completing a daunting task in just fifty-two days.
Overcoming such challenges requires more than a personal desire or goal. In Nehemiah’s case, he knew that God appointed him to the task. His sense of purpose invigorated the people to follow his leadership.
When God charges us with a task, He gives us the skills and strength necessary to do what He asked, no matter what challenges we face.
Today's Reading: Romans 11:33-36
George Herbert, a seventeenth-century British poet, encouraged readers toward being thankful in his poem “Gratefulness.” “Thou that hast given so much to me, give one thing more: a grateful heart.”
The Bible declares Jesus as the source of all blessing: “For from him and through him and for him are all things” (Romans 11:36). “All things” encompasses both the extravagant and the everyday gifts in our lives. Everything we receive comes directly from God (James 1:17), and He willingly gives us those gifts out of His love.
To expand my awareness of God’s blessings in my life, I’m learning to cultivate a heart that acknowledges the source of all the joys I experience each day, but especially the ones I often take for granted. Today those included a crisp morning to run, the anticipation of an evening with friends, a stocked pantry so I could make French toast with my daughters, and the beauty of the world outside my window.
What is the “so much” that God has given to you? Opening our eyes to those blessings will help us to develop grateful hearts.
Today's Reading: Isaiah 66:12-16
My friend gave me the privilege of holding her precious, four-day-old daughter. Soon, though, she started to fuss. I hugged her closer, my cheek pressed against her head. I began to sway and hum in a gentle, soothing rhythm. Despite these earnest attempts and my years of parenting experience, I couldn’t pacify her. But when I placed her back into her mother’s eager arms, peace washed over her almost instantaneously. Her cries subsided and her newborn frame relaxed into the safety she already trusted. My friend knew precisely how to hold and pat her daughter to alleviate her distress.
God extends comfort to His children like a mother: tender, trustworthy, and diligent. When we are weary or upset, He carries us affectionately in His arms. As our Father and Creator, He knows us intimately. He “will keep in perfect peace all who trust in [him], all whose thoughts are fixed on [him]” (Isaiah 26:3 NLT).
When the troubles of this world weigh heavy on our hearts, we can find comfort in the knowledge that He protects us as a loving parent.
Today's Reading: 1 Peter 2:11-17; 3:8-9
When asked to define his role in a community that was sometimes uncooperative with law enforcement, a sheriff simply explained, “We are human beings who work with human beings in crisis.”
His humility—his stated equality with his fellow humans—reminds me of Peter’s words to first-century Christians suffering under Roman persecution: “All of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble” (1 Peter 3:8). Perhaps Peter was saying that the best response to humans in crisis is to be human—to know we are all the same. After all, isn’t that what God did when He sent His Son—became human in order to help us? (Philippians 2:7).
Gazing at the core of our fallen hearts, it’s tempting to disdain our human status. But Jesus teaches us how to live fully human, as servants recognizing we are all the same. “Human” is how God made us, created in His image and redeemed by His unconditional love.
When we encounter folks in various struggles, let’s respond humbly—as fellow humans who work together with other humans in crisis.
Today's Reading: James 1:1-12
Regina drove home from work discouraged and tired. The day had started with tragic news in a text message, then it spiraled downward in meetings with uncooperative co-workers. After Regina prayed, she thought it best to put the stress of the day aside by making a surprise visit with flowers to an elderly friend. Her spirits lifted as Maria shared how good the Lord was to her. She said, “I have my own bed and a chair, three meals a day, and help from the nurses here. And occasionally God sends a cardinal to my window just because He knows I love them and He loves me.”
Attitude. Perspective. As the saying goes, “Life is 10 percent what happens to us and 90 percent how we react to it.” The people James wrote to were scattered because of persecution, and he challenged them with these words: “Consider it pure joy . . . whenever you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2).
The joy-filled perspective James talked about comes as we learn to see that God can use our struggles to produce maturity.
Today's Reading: Mark 12:38-44
I use writing to worship and serve God, but when an acquaintance said he found no value in what I wrote, I became discouraged. I doubted the significance of my small offerings to God.
Through prayer, study of Scripture, and encouragement from my husband, the Lord affirmed that only He—not the opinions of other people—could determine our motives as a worshiper and the worth of our offerings to Him. I asked God to continue helping me develop skills and provide opportunities to share the resources He gives me.
Jesus contradicted our standards of merit regarding our giving (Mark 12:41–44). While the rich tossed large amounts of money into the temple treasury, a poor widow put in coins “worth only a few cents” (v. 42). The Lord declared her gift to be greater than the rest (v. 43).
Every act of giving—not just financial—can be an expression of worship and loving obedience. When we present God the best of our time, talents, or treasure with hearts motivated by love, we are lavishing Him with offerings of priceless worship.
Today's Reading: Philippians 4: 1-9
We were excited about moving for my husband’s job. But the challenges left me feeling anxious. Thoughts of sorting and packing. Looking for a new house. My finding a new job. So unsettling! As I thought about my “to-do” list, words written by Paul echoed in my mind: Don’t worry, but pray (Philippians 4:6–7).
If anyone could have been anxious about unknowns and challenges, it would have been Paul. He was shipwrecked, beaten, and jailed. In Philippians, he encouraged his friends, who also were facing unknowns, telling them, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (v. 6).
Paul’s words encourage me. Life is not without uncertainties—life transitions, family issues, health scares, or financial trouble. I continue to learn that God cares. He invites us to let go of our fears of the unknown by giving them to Him. When we do, He, who knows all things, promises that His peace, “which transcends all understanding, will guard” our heart and mind in Christ Jesus (v. 7).
Today's Reading: Psalm 139: 13-18
In his book Life After Heart Surgery, David Burke recalls his brush with death. Lying in his hospital bed after a second open-heart surgery, he was unable to draw a full breath. Feeling that he was slipping toward eternity, he prayed one last time, trusting God and thanking Him for forgiveness of his sin.
When his nurse asked how he was feeling, he replied, “I’m okay now,” explaining he was ready to go to heaven and meet God. “Not on my shift, buddy!” she said. The doctors opened his chest again and removed two liters of fluid. That done, David began to recover.
It’s not unusual to ponder what it will be like to face death. But those who “die in the lord” have the certainty that they are “blessed” (Revelation 14:13) and that their death is “precious in the sight of the lord” (Psalm 116:15).
God fashioned our days even before we existed (Psalm 139:16), and we exist now only because “the breath of the Almighty gives [us] life” (Job 33:4). Though we don’t know how many breaths we have left—we rest in the knowledge that He does.
Cindy Hess Kasper