April 15 – Devotion

Date: April 15

Scripture: Psalm 98

Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
the world and those who dwell in it!8Let the rivers clap their hands;
let the hills sing for joy together9before the LORD, for he comes
to judge the earth.He will judge the world with righteousness,
and the peoples with equity.(Psalm 98:7-9, ESV)

This Psalm listed is one among several that encourage one and all to sing to the Lord. Each day and certainly during this season when we celebrate the victories that believers have in our Lord, we can sing. This psalm employs extravagantly joyful images to remind us that Christ’s victory over death offers the most extravagant joy to all those who have been forgiven through Christ and who know that they have received eternal life in Him.

Wherever one is, whatever heartache one knows, however difficult the problem, one is urged to sing a new song to the Lord. A person can choose to magnify the difficulties, look down or around, and fail to look up. Yet when one looks up to the Lord, one will find reasons for a new song. Just as children are taught to sing thanks for food, one who has received new life in Christ can learn, whatever his or her situation, to sing a new song to the Lord.

As so many have quoted, “Heaven’s choir came down to sing when Heaven’s King came down to save.” As we meditate on the Lord, all He is, all He has done, and all He is going to do, then we can sing now and for eternity.

Prayer for the Journey: Father, thank you for giving us reasons for singing and for Jesus our Lord, who is worthy of our praise. Amen.

Prepared by: Gowan Ellis

April 14 – Devotion

Date: April 14 (Good Friday)

The LORD reigns, let the earth rejoice;
let the many coastlands be glad!(Psalm 97:1, ESV)

Today’s Christian is bombarded with a mountain of bad and stressful news. Murders, robberies, terrorist acts, financial woes, poor-health issues, and strained relationships, create a pervading sense of doom and a loss of self-assurance. How did our world become such a confused and threatening place? Where do we find comfort, strength, and hope?

As bad as things seem to be, there is a positive reality far greater than the negative things discomforting us.The LORD reigns! (v. 1). The LORD, or Yahweh, is the covenant name for God. He is a personal God who loves us. His strength exceeds our greatest weaknesses. His faithfulness overthrows our fears. He is the God who wants to be on a first-name basis with us. Call him Yahweh, the LORD. We rejoice and are glad.

He reigns! His righteousness and justice are awe-inspiring and overwhelming; we cannot fully understand. He is shrouded in clouds and thick darkness (v. 2a). Therefore, we voluntarily conform our lives to His Word, righteousness. We treat all people as our equals because we are all equal in His eyes, justice (v. 2b).

He reigns! He is the undisputed, undefeated ruler of the universe. Not like Satan, that pretender to the throne, who scares us with the woes of life so that we would abandon hope and turn to his evil vices for relief and escape. The LORD reigns! He created us in His image and likeness. The omnibenevolent, omnipotent God beckons us to rejoice and be glad. Why? Because He reigns. He is in control of the very things that Satan tries to convince us are out of control.

He reigns! Therefore, the enemies of God’s people, will fail (v. 3). Those who worship false gods will be put to shame (v. 7). The avenues of escape the devil offers are really paths of death and devastation.

He reigns! Therefore, those of us who love the LORD hate evil. We know He will preserve our lives and deliver us from the wicked (v. 10). Because He reigns, He is ever moving us toward His light and joy; we are upright in heart (v. 11). We experience His love and blessings every day. We rejoice in the LORD, giving thanks to His holy name, Yahweh (v. 12).

As His people, we observe Good Friday today. We reflect somberly on our sins that nailed Him to the cross. In the midst of our despair He says, “I forgive you.” Then, He tells us to gaze again upon the One upon the cross. Remember, Jesus reigns!

Jesus reigns. Joy, gladness, rejoicing, thanksgiving…these are the tools God gives His people for spiritual growth in a hostile world. Our hope is in Him because He reigns!

Prayer for the Journey: Lord, Empower me to experience your strength when I am weak. Let my joyous response demonstrate my love and trust in you today. Enable me to walk in your righteousness and justice each day. Amen.

Prepared By: Wayne VanHorn

April 13 – Devotion

Date: April 13, 2017

Scripture: Psalm 96

Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness;
tremble before him, all the earth!(Ps. 96:9, ESV)

Psalm 96 is filled with praise and worship and reads so majestically! I often wonder if we view praise and worship as the same thing. Let’s look at praise as evidenced in the first eight verses. We are drawn in a crescendo-like manner to praise God. The tone is jubilant, majestic, and joyful! Praise is a thanksgiving for all God has done. Throughout scripture, the angels, man, and even the creatures are admonished to offer praise. These words of praise are directed to God for all he has done. Praise can be lavished on our family members, our friends, and our church leaders—and even football teams! However, worship is reserved for God alone. “‘You shall worship the Lord your God,/and him only shall you serve’” (Luke 4:8, ESV).

Our praise of God leads us to worship Him in the “splendor of holiness” (Ps. 96:9, ESV). Have you ever noted the quietness associated with worship? “Come let us worship and bow down” (Ps. 95:6, ESV). “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth” (Jn. 4:23, ESV). There is a reverence associated with worship that surpasses mere praise. The Jews of the Old Testament worshiped God with uplifted hands and faces raised to the heavens, but worship led them to bend their knees in reverence of a Holy God. “Be still and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10, ESV). There is a quiet, introspective quality about worship. It’s very personal and comes from the heart.

Praise is beautiful and necessary in our lives as we seek God and express thankfulness for what God has done; however, worship comes from our heart as we adore Him for who He is. Sometimes we go through the motion of worship and miss seeing God. He knows our hearts and desires praise and worship from “a broken and contrite heart” (Ps. 51:17, ESV). True worship allows us to see the majesty of God and our own unworthiness. At this Easter season, we praise God for sending Jesus. His sacrificial death opened the very door of heaven for us to be able to live in the presence of a holy God—to praise and worship Him for an eternity.

How fitting that Hosea 14 is paired today with Psalm 96! God calls His people from idolatrous worship to true worship. Impending doom is on the horizon for the Northern Kingdom as Assyria is poised to take them captive. As you read the first 13 chapters, there is a feeling of storm clouds gathering. Yet in Chapter 14 there is a plea from God Himself to “Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God” (Hos. 14:1, ESV)—that’s a silver lining in an otherwise gloomy fate! Notice the beautiful words of God describing what restoration looks like:

I will heal their apostasy;
I will love them freely,
for my anger has turned from them.
I will be like the dew to Israel;
he shall blossom like the lily;
he shall take root like the trees of Lebanon.
(Hos. 14:4-5, ESV)

God alone is worthy of worship. As we are in the midst of the Easter season, may we worship Him “in the splendor of his holiness!”

Prayer for the Journey: God, give us each a heart filled with praise that ultimately leads us to worship and adore you.

Prepared by: Suzanne Smith

April 12 – Devotion

Date: April 12, 2017

Bible Reading: Psalm 95 and Hosea 11:12—13:16

Today, if you hear his voice,/do not harden your hearts, (Psalm 95:7-8a, ESV)

Statistics taken from the National Institute on Deafness show that approximately 26 million American adults, ranging in age from 20 to 69 years old, experience some level of hearing damage because of loud noise (www.activebeat.com, 3/05/17). Those noises cause damage to the nerve hairs in the inner ear. Over time, this can result in one becoming hard of hearing. What loud noises are we allowing to harden the ears of our hearts so that we no longer hear our God speaking?

The psalmist points to the noise of quarreling and complaining to which the early Israelites had listened (vv. 8-9). How often do we complain when life is difficult and relief is not immediate? Do we join in quarreling and criticizing a God-appointed leader when we do not agree with that leader? Is God’s past provision forgotten? Have we become “grumbly hateful rather than humbly grateful”? All through Hosea 12 and 13, as Hosea handed down God’s indictment against the Israelites, he listed noises that were hardening their hearts. They were deceitful liars and full of violence. A former pastor of mine said, “Satan was a liar and the father of lies, and we are never more like Satan than when we lie.”

Rather than trusting God for protection and deliverance, they were making alliances with ungodly powers. Greed made a loud noise. Their merchants were dishonest and took advantage of others. Pride and self-sufficiency clamored. What might we be proud of: intellect, appearance, position, power, or wealth? Idol worship shouted louder and louder. They grew to love their idols. How careful we must be about what or whom we worship. The best gifts God gives us can become idols capturing all our energy and affection. The final hardening was open rebellion. God’s word, both written and spoken, was disobeyed. A heart so hard that it cannot hear God speak does not develop all at once.

“Oh come, let us sing to the Lord;/let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation” (Ps. 95:1, ESV).

There is a remedy for hard hearts that cannot hear God speak. It is both preventive and curative. Choose to sing! Why should we sing songs of praise? We sing to God because of who he is. We sing to him out of gratitude for forgiveness and salvation. We sing to him because he is always truthful. We sing songs to him because he is our great shepherd who leads us and provides for our every need. We must sing songs to him because he tells us to. I love the words Paul wrote to the Ephesians instructing them to address “one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord” (Eph. 5:19, ESV). How grateful I am for music memory. I can sing hundreds of songs in my head; I can sing with choirs I have heard through the years. When I am in a quiet place, I can sing, and he hears me.

Prayer for the Journey: Oh, Jesus, thank you for all the reasons for singing you give me. Forgive me when I do not praise you. Protect my heart today; keep it vibrating with your truth. I want to hear you speak.

Prepared by: Mary Simpson

April 11 – Devotion

Date: April 11, 2017

Scripture: Psalm 94

He who planted the ear, does he not hear?
He who formed the eye, does he not see?
(Ps. 94:9, ESV)

In the early verses of Psalm 94, the psalmist, who cannot be identified with certainty,
cries out to the Lord in prayer, indicating his frustration that the Lord is not punishing the wicked or evildoers for their evil deeds. For example, in verse 3, the psalmist says “O Lord . . . how long shall the wicked exult?”(v. 3, ESV)—which questions how long the wicked will triumphantly rejoice. But even though the psalmist is frustrated, he recognizes that vengeance belongs to God. Christians today can certainly learn from these verses. We should recognize that we must be patient and wait upon God to act, according to his timetable. That means that we should not retaliate, or seek retribution when we are mistreated or mocked by unrighteous people.

Beginning in verse 4, the psalmist points out how the wicked or unrighteous in his day were treating the followers of God—using arrogant words, then boasting about it; killing widows; and murdering the fatherless. In other words, most of their actions were affecting defenseless people. The psalmist then points out how the wicked mock God and how they say foolish things indicating their perception of God. For example, according to the psalmist, the wicked say “The Lord does not see;/the God of Jacob does not perceive” (v.7, ESV).

Then the psalmist turns to the wicked and points out some of their foolishness by saying, in effect, if God created the ear for humans, can he not hear? If he formed the eye for human beings, can he not see? In my opinion, the psalmist was not seeking retribution, but rather he was reaching out to the unrighteous, trying to warn them to recognize the error in their ways, and trying to get them to turn to God. As Christians today, we should try to do the same. We should pray for those who mock us, and even treat us badly. In addition, we should try to help them understand why we believe in God as our Creator and why we believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord. In other words, we should witness to them, as the occasion presents itself.

Finally, we can learn from the psalmist, when he said in the final verses of Psalm 94 (vvs. 22-23, ESV):
But the LORD has become my stronghold,
and my God the rock of my refuge.He will bring back on them their iniquity
and wipe them out for their wickedness;
the LORD our God will wipe them out.

Summary: According to the Holman Old Testament Commentary, Psalm 94 teaches us that God is holy and righteous, and that he will avenge all of the wrongs inflicted on His people. Therefore, as Christians, we should wait patiently on the Lord to fulfill the promises he has made in His Word to act in judgment against the enemies of His people. According to Scripture, vengeance belongs to God, not man.

Prayer: Our Heavenly Father, help us to turn to you in all our afflictions caused by the unrighteous and not to seek revenge or retribution. Help us to wait patiently on you to fulfill your promises to act in judgment against the enemies of your people.

Prepared by:
Tom Taylor

April 10 – Devotion

Date: April 10

Scripture: Psalm 93

The LORD reigns; he is robed in majesty;
the LORD is robed; he has put on strength as his belt.Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.
(Ps. 93:1, ESV)

Is there a place you have visited that caused you to bow your head in awe of God’s mighty power and majesty? I am sure you have had several spontaneous worship experiences, perhaps when viewing the grandeur of mountain peaks reaching to the clouds, when watching the incredible beauty of the skies during sunset, or when hearing a baby’s first cry. One of my favorite places to encounter God’s power is at the ocean. While I am standing on a balcony overlooking the vastness of the sea, God’s majesty in creation leads me to feelings of wonder and praise. When I consider the thousands of sea creatures, unusual underwater plants, and the ocean depths, personal worship inevitably occurs. Our God is indeed mighty!

Our God is the Lord of all creation; and as such, he is the ruler of the universe. Nothing happens on earth or beyond earth that is out of his control. Yes, he gives us freedom of choice, but his will is ultimately being done. He has power over gravity, asteroids, and star systems. He established our planet and declares that neither man nor nature will move it from its solar path. Though natural disasters seem to be occurring more frequently, we need not be afraid because the Lord reigns. Yes, political unrest is present at home and abroad, economic instability is being felt by many, and religious freedoms are being threatened. We need not be fearful because the Lord is in control. Terrorists provoke panic and mayhem, crime is reported daily on the news, and illicit drugs are easily available. Yet, we can be at peace because our God is all powerful! When you put your head on your pillow each night, be sure you have given your pain, fears, or problems to God, and rest knowing he can lead you through the darkness.

Our God is powerful and clothed in majesty. Holy is his name. Since we serve a holy God, we, as his church, should also live holy lives. When I was a child, I thought showing respect to God meant keeping my pearl-covered Bible pretty and clean, getting all of the boxes on my offering envelope checked, attending church regularly, and being a good person. As a more mature Christian, I have discovered living a holy life is much more difficult than I originally thought. Controlling an impulsive tongue is not easy. Living a life that is pure in thought and action can be trying. Embodying the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22) at all times seems humanly impossible. However, with God’s help, we can live righteous lives that glorify Him. Seek today to live in a holy manner so that others will see the Lord in your words, deeds, and attitude.

Prayer for the Journey: Lord, we praise you for your mighty works, your power over all of the universe, and your holiness. Guide us as we strive to live holy lives that are centered in your will.

Prepared by:
Dixie Martin

April 9 – Devotion

Date: April 9

Scripture: Psalm 92

It is good to give thanks to the LORD,
to sing praises to your name, O Most High.Psalm 92:1, ESV

The young family of three had anticipated their mountain vacation for weeks, but on the night before they were to depart, Dad fell, breaking a leg and canceling all plans. To the parents’ surprise, their little girl’s response to the disappointing news was simply, “It’s okay. I get to go to church on Sunday.”

“I get to go to church.” There is no drudgery in those simple words, only eagerness and delight. That’s also the heart of the psalmist in Psalm 92—a psalm written specifically for a day of worship.

For us, every day should be a day of worship, an opportunity to remember and adore Him “who is on high forever” (v. 8, ESV). Every day is another chance to say, “I get to worship the Lord today.” The One who has given everything for us counts us as His treasured possessions and delights in hearing from us. How sad for us to accept such rich love with only a casual and occasional response, perhaps extended more from duty than from joy.

Accept His invitation today and every day. Delight in God by acknowledging His love each morning, and as a result, you will begin your day with a brighter outlook. Delight in God at the close of the day by reflecting on His faithfulness and thanking Him for the confidence and hope it brings you. Delight in God by listing the works of His hands, from creation to salvation to His daily provision, and thank Him for such blessings.

We don’t have to worship today. We get to worship today! As you meet with the Lord in anticipation of Resurrection Sunday, take delight in the One who takes delight in you.

The LORD your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;he will exult over you with loud singing.
(Zephaniah 3:17b, ESV)

Prayer for the Journey: Lord, you are worthy of my worship. Today, may the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight.

Prepared by:
Brenda Holloway

April 8 – Devotion

Date: April 8, 2017

Scripture: Psalm 91

With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.” (Ps. 91:16, ESV)

We all long for security in one form or another. In this psalm we are told that the Lord will deliver us from the snare of the trapper. In life we leave ourselves open to many things that will do us harm as we make our way through our daily walk.

Life brings many fearful things our way in the form of surgeries and illness. In families, parents try to protect their children from illness that causes concern on the part of parents. Parents wait impatiently for word from their doctor as to a diagnosis of their child’s illness and pray that the recovery will be swift and complete.

We are promised in His word that God will protect his children and keep them under His wing. Life experiences with answered prayer give us assurance that we will be protected and kept from harm. The scripture is full of promises from God that he will keep us safe, and so many families have experienced this in their life. Godly parents are promised that the life lived by the parents will follow the children for future generations. As individuals we see this manifested in the life of the children.

As Christians we attempt to live life to its fullest with the hope that God will direct our paths daily as we live in His will and in the hope that each day will be blessed. During this special time of confession and repentance we are called to renew afresh our walk with the Lord and claim his blessings that are offered to us.

Our lives must be reviewed and reset to make our daily walk with the Lord as he directs us in the way he would have us to move in his will. Friends and family observe us and our actions through our daily walk. We are promised that he will give his angels charge over us as we live our lives in His will (v. 11). Among the many blessings God brings into the lives of his children who honor him with their lives and walk in his way is the satisfaction of long life.

Prayer for the Journey: Help me today to see your protection as I live to honor you.

Prepared by: Ernest Turcotte

April 7 – Devotion

Date: April 7

Scripture: Psalm 90

Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.(Ps. 90:14, ESV)

Human beings never seem to be satisfied. We all seek things that will meet our needs and wants. Children beg for toys or cookies at the grocery store, teenagers seek popularity or desire to excel in an extra-curricular activity, and adults desire bigger houses or better jobs. We seem to spend our entire lives trying to fill this void of need within ourselves and often end up depressed and wanting more.

How easily we forget where satisfaction can be found. God is meant to be our dwelling place. True satisfaction can only be found in Him.

Psalm 90 reminds us that our days on this earth are numbered, and that each one of us will return to dust. This Psalm implores God to “teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (v. 12). We need to prayerfully ask God to guide us, His people, in faithful living. Our prayer should be for God to teach us wisdom and depend on Him to help us to live our lives with a contentment that only comes from Him. How awesome it is that the Maker of the universe chooses to teach us wisdom and to establish our work!

Psalm 90 is a reminder that God displays His love towards His people, which in turn enables us to flourish. Only God’s steadfast love can give us the joy and satisfaction we have in and through Him.

Prayer for the Journey: Lord, help me remember that today and everyday my true satisfaction, joy, and contentment can only be found in You.

Prepared by: Sarah Hankins

April 6 – Devotion

Date: April 6

Scripture: Hosea 1—2

Therefore, behold, I will allure her,
and bring her into the wilderness,
and speak tenderly to her . . .

And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord.
(Hosea 2:14,19-20, ESV).

Refreshing. Prosperous. Beautiful.
I know without a doubt that those are the first words that come into your mind when someone says wilderness, right? Actually, Merriam-Webster defines wilderness as “a tract or region uncultivated and uninhabited by human beings; an empty or pathless area or region; a confusing multitude or mass; an indefinitely great number or quantity; a bewildering situation.” We assume that a wilderness is a place of lacking and wanting, where travelers are unable to obtain whatever it is we are seeking. We think of it as a place of starvation, a place of dissatisfaction, a place of death. Throughout Numbers we watch the Israelites as they are banished into the wilderness and wander there for 40 years because of their disobedience. We watch them grumble their way through it. The wilderness is also where we find God calling the Israelites again here in Hosea.

Hosea’s story is a love story that teaches lessons about God’s relationship with his children. It is a story as relevant to human beings in any era. In our time, Hollywood makes a lot of love stories and tries to make those love stories so much more intriguing by throwing a wrench into the stories. This twist makes us applaud ever louder when our favorite couple on the silver screen ends up together against all odds. The Lord certainly threw a wrench into Hosea’s story. He commanded Hosea, “Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord” (Hosea 1:2, ESV).

Hosea takes a woman named Gomer to be his wife: an unfaithful, adulterous woman. Why would God want this? Because this picture of a steadfast Hosea and a rebellious wife is mirroring who we are in our relationship with God. He is the forgiving, gracious, steadfast God, and we are the rebellious, adulterous, forgetful people. Author Paul David Tripp calls us “identity amnesiacs.” We forget who God is. We forget that we are “God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved” (Col. 3:12, ESV). We forget that “You [we] are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9). Because of this amnesia, we fall into a lifestyle of everything God does NOT want for us. Lies are easy to believe when you forget the truth. That’s where we find the Israelites: forgetting the goodness and provision of God, disobeying Him, rebelling, and consequently, being destroyed and scattered.

Aren’t you so glad the story doesn’t end there? “And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord” (Hosea 2:19-20). A wilderness? God’s going to speak tenderly to me in a wilderness?

Oh, beloved, yes. Only in the wilderness can He be with us alone. Only in the wilderness can we learn true dependence on the only One we really need. Only in the wilderness can we find the restoration our hearts truly desire. Why is that? Because the only thing we have in the wilderness is Him, Jesus the One and Only. Our God has no intentions of leaving us there. If you find yourself in the wilderness of life right now, please know God finds no joy in your pain or in your grief. “Behold, I am doing a new thing;/now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?/I will make a way in the wilderness/and rivers in the desert” (Isa. 43:19). He desires to do something new in you. I know this place of wilderness is brutal. Our God has a funny way, though, of making bitter things sweet. Let Him speak into this dark time for you. Let Him breathe life into you. Let Him call darkness out of you with His incredible light.

In this Lenten season, what sins do you need to repent of while He has you in this wilderness? Ask God to reveal those to you. He doesn’t reveal our sins to make us guilty, but to make us holy through His blood. He is a God of second, third, and twelfth chances! Just come and lay them at His feet. What do you think it is He wants to show you? Take a minute to thank God that He loves us enough to give us grace right where we are, but loves us too much to leave us unchanged! Because in the wilderness, the Lord will change your heart, molding it ever so slightly to look like His. What an incredible honor! May you come to find your wilderness as refreshing, prosperous, and beautiful.

Prayer: God, I may not understand or like this wilderness in which You’ve placed me, but help me to trust You. Thank You that You want to mold me to be more like Jesus a little more every day! Do something new in me!

Prepared by: Marlie Lawrence