No Room for Gotchas (March 31st)

by Steve Brown
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
Galatians 5:1

One problem Pharisees have is they’re always looking for sin. But you don’t really have to look for sin. It’s everywhere. Looking for sin, even in your church, is like being a mosquito at a nudist colony—you know where to look; the real problem is knowing where to start!
Norm Evans, my professional football player friend, told a story about a college lineman who came to the coach and said, “The opposing lineman keeps pulling my helmet down over my eyes. What should I do?” And his coach said, “Son, don’t let him.” Pharisees are looking for sin in you, and they’re going to pull a “Gotcha!” on you all the time. Don’t let them. That’s what it means to live in the freedom of grace.
Another thing we notice about the Pharisees of the Bible is that not only were they looking for sin but when they found it, they couldn’t be consistent with it. In Matthew 12 when they tried to play gotcha over the disciples eating grain on the Sabbath, Jesus essentially said, “We’re eating because we’re hungry. Don’t you remember David and the priests who broke the law all the time? What’s wrong with you guys?” Pharisees are never consistent. They only play gotcha with others when it’s in their own best interest.
And we have our equivalent in the evangelical Christian subculture. We’re so uptight about our rules. Some of us don’t dance because we think it’ll always lead to sex. Or we warn people off movies because we think if someone goes to a PG-rated movie one week, they’ll be going to an R-rated movie the next week and eventually engaging in pornography. So we put rules on everything because we think rules will stop us from sinning.
Don’t let the Pharisees multiply rules in your life. Don’t let them convince you that rules will keep you from sinning. You’ll never be able to keep everything together like they tell you to, and trying certainly won’t help you live a holy life. Own your sin and hand it to Jesus. He will set you free from both sin and the rules that don’t help you but actually condemn you.

Thought to Remember for Today

Even though it seems counterintuitive, multiplying rules so that we fence off the possibility of sin is actually the greatest deterrent to holy living there is. If our goal is a holy life, then we need to press into the truths of the gospel—that we are already loved and forgiven and that the law no longer has the power to condemn us.

Fitzpatrick, E. (2016). Grace untamed: a 60-day devotional. Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook.

Providing Comfort Like Heaven (March 30th)

by Steve Brown
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
1 John 1:7–8

Maybe you should live your life so the Pharisees will doubt your salvation. And you should ask some brothers and sisters to hold you accountable—not to be a wonderful, nice, everything-put-together Christian faker but against being an uptight religious sourpuss. You need Christian friends to hold you accountable to bask in your freedom to the glory of God.
I was once speaking at a church in our city, and I told those folks that smoking my pipe is kind of like heaven for me. If I’m preaching a sermon that just seems to be awful and I feel like I’m doing a terrible job, I tell myself that if I can just get through it to the end, I can go home and smoke my pipe. It’s like heaven.
The next time I was at that church, I was standing at the door in the back, and guys were putting cigars in my pocket! I brought home, I bet you, fifty to sixty cigars that day. It was such a great comfort. I had told them smoking a pipe was like a reminder of the comfort of heaven, and they wanted to make sure I had as much comfort as I could get in the here and now. That’s what those in the church do for each other—provide the reminders of the comfort of heaven.
You know, the world is bad. I’ve buried more babies and cleaned up after more suicides and listened to more confessions than I can even remember. This is not a place for sissies. It’s really, really hard. And we’re not home yet. But we can remind each other of the freedom we have in Christ, providing one another with a comfort akin to heaven.

Thought to Remember for Today

The wonderful news about our true home, heaven, is that it will be a place where we’ll never have to pretend. We’ll never have to be properly perfect because we will already be made perfect by His work in us. The fellowship we have together as believers is not a fellowship of perfect religiosity, but rather a fellowship around the truth that we are forgiven.

Fitzpatrick, E. (2016). Grace untamed: a 60-day devotional. Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook.

Just Be Normal (March 29th)

by Steve Brown
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
Galatians 5:1

Read Matthew 12:1–8.
Now I want to tell you something radical: if you’re going to be free, it means being normal. Jesus’s disciples were hungry. They weren’t trying to make a statement or an obscene gesture to the Pharisees. They weren’t saying, “We are free—look at us!” They were simply hungry and they ate the grain. In today’s world, people standing around would object to their eating by saying something like, “You can’t eat that. It will make you fat and give you cancer.” But Jesus would respond to those little-“l” laws the same way He responded to the big-“L” law the Pharisees were concerned about. He would tell them they had it all wrong.
Many of us have this really stupid idea that if we don’t seem like we have it all together, we will hurt our witness. Let me tell you something: this doesn’t help your witness. Nobody’s ever drawn to Christ by people who pretend to be something they’re not. Instead, they’re drawn to Christ when they see how messy you are and how honest you are, and yet how much at the same time you enjoy the love of Jesus and trust in Him rather than appearances. Yes, if you do this, you might end up living your life in such a way that uptight Christians doubt your salvation, but people who enjoy grace and people who desperately want grace will be attracted to you, and you will look normal.
The point? Be who you are. And I think that’s what was going on in Matthew 12. The disciples were hungry, so they got some food and they ate; and the Pharisees went ballistic.
Here’s what Martin Luther had to say about that kind of religion in his treatise on Christian liberty: “Use your freedom constantly and consistently … despite the tyrants and the stubborn, so they may learn that they are impious, that their law and works are of no avail for righteousness, and that they had no right to set them up.”

Thought to Remember for Today

Many of us think we can win others to Christ by being punctilious and overly strict with ourselves. But neither Jesus the Savior nor Martin Luther the Reformer would agree. What draws people to Christ aren’t your multitudinous rules and straitlaced life but rather the one-way love of Jesus, who loves to save and welcome sinners.

Fitzpatrick, E. (2016). Grace untamed: a 60-day devotional. Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook.

The Now-ism of the Gospel (March 28th)

by Paul David Tripp
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.
2 Peter 1:3

Notice the two words Peter used in 2 Peter 1:3: life and godliness. Why did he use these two words? Because he knew his audience. If he said just “everything for life,” we’d say, “Well, yeah, we get everything we need for eternal life.” Now, that’s a wonderful thing, but that’s not what he’s really talking about. So he added godliness. By God’s divine power, I’ve been given everything I need—oh, this is glorious!—to be what I’m supposed to be and to do what I’m supposed to do in the place where God has placed me right now.
What’s godliness? It’s a God-honoring life between the time I first come to Christ and the time I finally go home to be with Him. For the rescue of our relationships we must embrace the now-ism of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Second Peter 1:3 tells me that right now I have everything I need for godliness. I don’t look to others for my hope, identity, energy, or acceptance. I already have them in Christ. And I can lift that burden off the shoulders of those with whom I relate. They’re not my saviors—I free them in the name of Jesus. How beautiful is that?
The work of Christ was given to us in an instant—that’s justification—but it is taken on and acquired by us in a process—that’s sanctification. So, in a way, we are both free and in need of being freed. I still have places where I hang on to my defective righteousness and have to be right. There are still places where I make it all about my kingdom and have to be in control, where I still place unrealistic expectations on the people in my life. And so I celebrate the grace I’ve been given and I pray for further liberation.
Welcome to your relational world, a world of the already and the not yet. Thank God that His gospel meets us and works for us at every point on the eternal timeline! That’s the now-ism of the gospel.

Thought to Remember for Today

So here’s what you do: At the beginning of each day, starting today, pray these three things: (1) “God, I am a person in desperate need of help this morning.” (2) “I pray that in Your grace You will send Your helpers my way.” (3) “I pray that when the help comes, You will give me the humility to receive it with joy.”

Fitzpatrick, E. (2016). Grace untamed: a 60-day devotional. Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook.

Grace Liberates You from You (March 27th)

by Paul David Tripp
For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
2 Corinthians 5:14–15

I am my greatest relational problem—me. And your biggest problem is you. Now, don’t misunderstand me. I know you’ll be sinned against; I know people suffer abuse of all kinds; but my greatest and deepest difficulty in relationships actually exists inside of me and not outside of me. That’s why Paul offered the cure when he said Jesus came to rescue you from you.
Grace alone changes the whole relational paradigm, our whole lifestyle of inward-bentness. Grace liberates you from you, so you can actually have a thing that could be described as a relationship.
Grace frees you from three things. First, grace frees you from your bondage to self-righteousness. You see, if your hope and security in life are placed in the basket of your righteousness, it is hard to maintain a relationship. It’s hard to live with you, because you cannot be wrong. But God gives you, in His Son, a righteousness that’s not your own. And once you get that it’s not about you but about Christ, and once you know that as you stand as righteous before God you are free to own up to being a bit of a mess, you don’t have to be so defensive about everything or get your own way.
Second, embracing Christ’s righteousness as your own gives you freedom from needing to be in control. Jesus said this: “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). It’s not you trying to construct a kingdom of your own and placing your hope in it. You’ve already got more than you could ever want in God’s kingdom, so your arguing and your angling can be put to rest.
Third, Christ’s righteousness frees you from bondage to unrealistic expectations. You stop seeking horizontally what is only supplied vertically; you stop asking the people in your life to be your own personal messiahs, who will make you feel good about yourself, give you meaning and purpose, make you happy.
Grace says we’ve already been given everything we need for life and godliness. It’s all ours in Christ.

Thought to Remember for Today

The beautiful truth of the righteousness that has been imputed to us by Christ is the only truth powerful enough to free us from all our selfishness and our desire to be made much of. This glorious reality is for you today. You can live in the light of all Jesus has done to free you from yourself.

Fitzpatrick, E. (2016). Grace untamed: a 60-day devotional. Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook.

The DNA of Sin Is Selfishness (March 26th)

by Paul David Tripp
For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
2 Corinthians 5:14–15

Once again the apostle Paul actually argued that the DNA of sin is selfishness. You don’t have to look very far to see this. Have you ever seen a young child, who can’t even speak yet, stiffen up in anger? You’ve fed this child, you’ve changed his diapers, you’ve bathed him, you’ve sung him every song and read him every story, but just you try to put him to bed and leave the room. You hear a scream behind you. He has pushed himself up, body stiffening, brow furrowed. Guess what he’s saying? “Oh no you don’t! You will not leave! I am the lord!”
You might laugh at that notion, but this is only evidence of the selfishness of sin that lies in each one of us from conception. And there is untold human relational carnage that comes from this—the deepest of angers, the deepest of hurts, the deepest of divisions.
Sin is fundamentally antisocial. At creation, mankind was hardwired to live both an upward and an outward life—upward in submissive worship of God, outward in self-sacrificial love of neighbor. But sin turns us in on ourselves. Sin is a sadly dysfunctional, inward way of life.
Now, if the DNA of sin is selfishness, and if that means sin is fundamentally antisocial, it means we end up dehumanizing the people in our lives. No longer are they objects of affection. They get reduced to vehicles or obstacles. They’re vehicles helping us get what we want—“I love you; I need you; but if you stand in the way of what I want, I’m spontaneously angry and I want to do you emotional harm.”
If you don’t think that applies to you, let me ask you this question: How much of your anger in relationships over the past month had anything whatsoever to do with the kingdom of God? Own it. Own it: we’re angry because someone’s in the way of what we want.

Thought to Remember for Today

None of us is excused from having to own that we are angry and that we frustrate relationships because we don’t get what we want. The only truth that will free us from our incessant self-centeredness is the truth that Jesus died for these very sins. Today, as you consider the patterns of selfishness that mark your relationships, ask the Spirit to remind you of the great truths of the gospel that are also true about you: you are loved and forgiven.

Fitzpatrick, E. (2016). Grace untamed: a 60-day devotional. Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook.

The Difficulty of Relationships (March 25th)

by Paul David Tripp
For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
2 Corinthians 5:14–15

Why in the world are marriages so hard? Why are relationships and friendships so difficult? Why is parenting so tough? We all know every sort of relationship is hard, don’t we? I mean, you have never had a relationship in your life that hasn’t disappointed you in some way. Isn’t that incredible? Not one. What’s that about?
Look at 2 Corinthians 5:14–15. In this passage Paul gave a defense of his ministry. “And he died for all”—now pay very careful attention—“that”—the word that introduces a purpose statement—“those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”
I don’t know what you’ve thought about this passage, but this is the ultimate diagnostic of why relationships can be such a struggle, why they can be so hurtful, so dysfunctional. How can it be that this person I once adored, this person whose voice would lift my heart, this person with whom I felt such community, can make me so angry, so distressed? How is it that we can have so much tension between us that you couldn’t cut it with a knife—you’d have to use a chainsaw? Why?
Well, here’s what 2 Corinthians 5:15 says to me: Sin causes all of us to shrink our worlds down to the claustrophobic confines of our wants, our needs, our feelings. Sin is self-obsessed, self-focused. Sin inserts me in the center of my world—the one place I must never be. Sin makes me full of myself. Sin makes it all about me. Sin makes me a vat of selfish thoughts and desires and wants. I want to drive on roads paid for by other citizens who choose not to use them. I want a wife who says, “Of course, Paul, I agree with you; I’ve lived with the glory that is you.” I want children who say, “I will forthwith go and obey, oh wise father whom I’ve been given.” I want neighbors who moved into the neighborhood just because I’m there.
What can disrupt this idolatry of self? What can help us bring healing and grace to our relationships? Paul says it’s the work of Jesus. He forgives us and frees us, and by this good news, we get out of the center of our lives and revolve around Him.

Thought to Remember for Today

Every one of us knows what it’s like to be in a relationship that’s gone south. And we all know the reason is because we want what we want so desperately. The good news for all of us is that Jesus brings not only the forgiveness of sins to men and women who have selfishly ruined relationships, but He also is flooding our hearts with His love, which will enable us to live selflessly every day.

Fitzpatrick, E. (2016). Grace untamed: a 60-day devotional. Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook.

Weak Substitutes for a Savior (March 24th)

by Scotty Smith
Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.
1 Corinthians 10:14

The next idol in my life began to rear its ugly head. It was control. After the coach’s crushing words, I got desperate to fix myself. I hated to exercise, but with no one coaching me, after school I would come home to my empty house, wrap my body in cellophane, put on sweats, and run. I was trying to save myself, really, and for three months I ate heads of lettuce and drank water and ended up dropping forty pounds. When I started my tenth-grade year, my nickname had become “Skinny Scotty,” and while I was in great danger of having an eating disorder, I was more concerned about appearing in control. I’ll show him, I thought about the coach.
Even though I was still ragingly insecure, Skinny Scotty had a new way of comforting himself. I wasn’t changed at all on the inside; I had just put another false god in the temple of my heart. Yes, I still wanted comfort, but now I also worshipped control. Exercise became a religion, a way to control what people said about me. But even this wasn’t enough for my idolatrous heart. I also wanted community, acceptance. I discovered a category in the yearbook called “Best Dressed,” and I began to earn money so I could buy clothes. I got two part-time jobs, and I started stealing.
This focus gave way to a longing for impact and significance. I wanted people to notice me.
I joined my brother’s band. I was so insecure, so disconnected. I had a closet full of clothes. I would buy three of the same thing so nothing I wore would ever look worn out. Desperate people do desperate things. Then, as I was preparing to drive to the first gig the band had, I heard that the only girl with whom I’d had any kind of relationship had just been killed in a car accident.
Soon, in His grace and kindness, the Lord brought me to Himself and I became a serious Christian. I began to learn and study, but in so many ways I was still trying to satisfy my idols of comfort, control, acceptance, and significance—only now by filtering them through religion. But even religion was no substitute for the Savior, and my religious devotion was no substitute for my deliverance from idols. I needed the grace of God.

Thought to Remember for Today

As you’ve read over this candid confession of god-making, have you sensed that you can be freed from your own pain and resultant idolatries? Knowing others are just like us is very comforting, but knowing that Jesus knows us and is filled with mercy is even more liberating. Let’s face it: God only has wounded idolaters to work with. It’s all He has, but He’s got one perfect Son whose faithfulness becomes ours by grace. Remember that even in your idolatry you’re still called, “My beloved.”

Fitzpatrick, E. (2016). Grace untamed: a 60-day devotional. Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook.

A Journey of Self-Salvation (March 23rd)

by Scotty Smith
I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.
Revelation 2:17

At the age of eleven I knew I needed salvation, but it wasn’t a relationship with God that I was thinking about. I began a journey of self-salvation, looking for deliverance, safety, and security, trying to make sense of life on my own. I tried to become my own savior. I was a young boy, and I had a deep longing for comfort. Can the quest for comfort be an idol? Of course! It was something in my heart, a screaming emptiness, a sense of utter loneliness. I would go to bed at night and hear my father wail at the far end of the house, and I’d put a pillow over my head because it sounded like a banshee cry. I desperately wanted comfort, but there was none to be had.
So here’s where I went to begin worshipping the god of comfort: I came home from school one day and stared at the cookie jar. With no premeditation, I simply pulled out the front of my T-shirt, poured in a whole jarful of chocolate chip cookies, and sat down in front of The Flintstones. As I started eating those cookies, there was a sense in that moment that life might be okay. Food became something that offered me a payoff. It gave me comfort. I didn’t know where else to go, but I felt comforted for the moment.
Fast-forward to the ninth grade, and I was portly and I’d earned the nickname “Meatball.” In the first week of high school, with a few of my posse hanging with me, I was petrified when the head football coach came toward me. I hoped this would be a good thing. He was a neighbor, I cut his grass, and my dad worked with his brother. I thought, If the head coach knows my name, my friends will see and be impressed.
Coach walked up to me, and I was expecting, “Scotty, how are you doing?” Instead he looked me right in the eyes and said, “I would be so ashamed if I had a body like yours.” Then he walked right on by. It was as if the man had taken a chainsaw to my soul.
I was shamed. It was bad enough that this man would say those words to me, but I had already been shamed by the abuse I suffered as a young boy. As these shames piled up, I began to question myself, even wondering things like, “Am I a man?” I wondered what these things done and said to me might mean for my very identity and worth. And even as I’m tempted to seek significance and comfort in all sorts of things, I have realized the only real comfort from and silencer of shame is what the King of Creation says about me.

Thought to Remember for Today

As you read over the description of some of the idols that grew out of my woundedness, are you able to see the wounds and idols you struggle with? The good news of the gospel is that no one has the right to name you or to force you into some identity from the past. Jesus has given you a new name, and He has written it forever on His hands. You are not your history. You are not what others have done to you or said about you. You are Christ’s.

Fitzpatrick, E. (2016). Grace untamed: a 60-day devotional. Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook.

Beloved, Dear Children (March 22nd)

by Scotty Smith
Son of man, these men have set up idols in their hearts. … I will do this to recapture the hearts of the people of Israel.
Ezekiel 14:3, 5 NIV

God’s word through Ezekiel was, “I will do this.”
Don’t you wish that, at the very moment we were justified by grace alone through faith alone, idolatry were no longer an issue? Our great hope is that we will not always be idolaters. One day we will be as lovely and as loving as Jesus, because God does not lie and He will bring His covenant to completion. So we can relax and go under the surgery of the One committed to our freedom, the One who said, “I will do this.”
Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:14, “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” John wrote, “Dear children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21 NIV). “Dear children.” “My beloved.” This is how both Paul and John exhort us to fight idolatry: we are beloved children whom God has promised to liberate. It’s this relationship that enables us to be honest about the fact that we give our hearts and our energies to things that are not God. Only those who know themselves to be fully and eternally accepted in Jesus have the motivation and moxie to do this hard—and heart—work.
Here is the heart work God has done in my life. Several devastating events intersected with my sinful nature and produced a whole pantheon of false gods. The first of the two most formative events was that I was sexually molested when I was an eight-year-old boy. Honestly, it wasn’t until about nine years ago that I gained an awareness of how devastating and shaming that was for me. And even though I knew Jesus was my righteousness and that He took my guilt, I never knew that He took my shame, too.
The second part of my story is that my mother was killed in a car wreck when I was eleven. One hour after I learned of my mother’s death, my father arrived at the home of the people who were caring for my brother and me. The door opened and he asked, “Boys, do you know what has happened?” My brother and I answered yes. With that he walked right by us, and my mom’s name was not mentioned for the next thirty-nine years. In many ways, the death of my mom really represents a dark vortex, an intersection where my sinful nature and these profound wounds came into focus for me. Out of this deep pain came idolatries that I have dealt with for years.
It’s only as I have grown in knowing that I was the “beloved,” a “dear child,” that I have been able to have the courage to look at my woundedness and rest in Christ’s welcome of beloved sinners, even those who build idols right in the middle of their pain.

Thought to Remember for Today

It is only as we learn how loved we are that we can face our wounds. It is only when we know that God will free us that we are free to survey the idols that grow in those dark, bruised places. Yes, today I am a free man, and continually becoming freer, all because of the grace of God. I cannot do the hard work of seeking out and destroying my idols … and neither can you do that with yours. This is work Jesus does. He said, “I will do this.” You can trust Him today.

Fitzpatrick, E. (2016). Grace untamed: a 60-day devotional. Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook.

Liberated from Fear, Guilt, and Merit (March 21st)

by Elyse Fitzpatrick
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.
1 John 4:18–19

We have been liberated from the bondage of “fear of punishment.” First John 4:18 tells us there is no fear in love. The gospel logic goes like this: if you’re still afraid He’s going to punish you, you haven’t yet soaked your soul in His love.
Christian, let this sink in: He loves you—you have nothing to fear.
Your obedience to the Father no longer has to be motivated by guilt. Grace cleanses us from guilt, which will never motivate true obedience. Sure, we can be motivated by guilt to outwardly conform—because we want to be able to feel good about ourselves or approve of ourselves or have other people approve of us. But if you are obeying so you can feel free from guilt, you’re obeying for you, really, and not for God. True obedience only happens in the context of love for Christ and what He’s already done.
Grace also removes merit as a motive for obedience. So you can stop working to earn God’s favor. Now, I didn’t say, “You can stop working.” But you can definitely stop working to “measure up.” If you want to motivate me to lay down my life, please tell me what Christ has done for me, tell me that all the merit I ever needed is already mine.
Imagine Jesus when He was a little boy. Let’s say His sister takes a block of wood and bonks Him on the head. Let’s say His brothers tease Him. At every opportunity, He’s responding to them in love. And do you know what He’s doing in those moments? He’s earning your merit.
Please don’t insult the perfect work of Jesus by thinking that everything He did was merely some sort of example. His behavior was a great example; we could find no better role model than Jesus. But Jesus did not come to simply be our role model. He came to be our Savior. And to be our Savior, He became our righteousness. He became our merit. In Christ, we are set free from so much!

Thought to Remember for Today

The beautiful, liberating truth of one-way love is that it frees us from the fear of punishment, from faith-sapping guilt, and from the merry-go-round of merit. For those who have put their faith in the Son, punishment is no longer an option for God. Guilt is vanquished because our slate is wiped clean. And all the merit that ever needed to be earned has already been deposited into our account in heaven.

Fitzpatrick, E. (2016). Grace untamed: a 60-day devotional. Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook.

Christ’s Transforming Love (March 20th)

by Elyse Fitzpatrick
As indeed he says in Hosea, “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’”
Romans 9:25

When you really live in the light of the gospel, it transforms your obedience. Because of God’s love, your obedience is no longer a burden. That’s not to say we don’t fight to believe and obey—we do. But the kind of love that comes to us through the suffering of Christ—and the raising of Christ—transforms our obedience. See, as long as my obedience is focused on me and how I’m working my way down the road of sanctification, no matter how hard I try, I will not find within myself the desire, the motivation, the power to pursue true godliness with longevity.
When I put my eyes on my own performance, in a way it’s like seeing myself as God’s foster child. As a foster child, I have to walk on eggshells and make sure not to break any of the family rules. I think that too often we all view ourselves as God’s foster children, and we’re not sure why He would choose us. But then the message of the true gospel breaks through: He’s adopted us! God has made us one of His very own.
We have to begin to see ourselves as sons and daughters with whom the Lord is well pleased. But how do we do this? We do it through the work of our big brother Jesus. Listen to this passage from Romans:
As indeed he says in Hosea, “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’ And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’” (Rom. 9:25–26)
That’s who we are! Once we were not called “beloved,” but now we’re called “beloved.” Once we were not called His children, but now by faith in Jesus Christ we are. The Son of God lived perfectly in our place, died our death, and rose again for us, breaking the power of the curse of death. And in this work, He forever measures up on our behalf. When we trust in Him, His perfect obedience becomes ours. He’s done all this for you so that you can say, today, “I am His beloved child.”

Thought to Remember for Today

Those amazing words of adoption, first spoken through the prophet Hosea and later reiterated by Paul, are meant to free us from the fear that we will out-sin God’s love and welcome. Rather than living like foster children, let’s live like dearly loved sons and daughters. Let’s obey, yes, but as children, as those who cannot be disowned or turned away.

Fitzpatrick, E. (2016). Grace untamed: a 60-day devotional. Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook.

Loved Because of His Work (March 19th)

by Elyse Fitzpatrick
Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.
Romans 8:33

The Father looks at us and smiles upon us. Why? Is it because we got up early this morning and did our devotions? No. He likes that we did that, sure, but He’s smiling upon us because Jesus Christ lived perfectly in our place. We are loved at every moment of the day, regardless of our behavior. Not only that—we are justified. Do you know what this means? It’s amazing. It means we don’t have to justify ourselves to God, to ourselves, or to anyone else ever again.
The justification in Christ we receive by faith is an incredible double blessing. It means first that I am forgiven “just as if I’d never sinned.” This is great news! But justification is not simply about having a blank slate. No, there’s another great blessing. We have a clean record, yes, but justification also means “just as if I’d always obeyed.” God takes our newly blank slate and writes on it the perfect obedience of Jesus! So when God the Father looks at me, He says, “This is My beloved daughter, in whom I am well pleased.”
Grace reminds us over and over again that when God looks upon us, He smiles because He no longer sees our sin. In fact, instead He sees the perfect record of His Son. Now we don’t need to protect ourselves or seek to justify ourselves anymore. God has promised to care for us so we don’t have to worry that we’ll mess up His plan or miss His will. We’ve been given everything in Christ, so in response to that, we can pursue godliness, knowing that although we need continual pardon, we already have it. It’s a done deal.
Here’s an example from my own life: I get up in the morning and I pray, “My Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Glorify Yourself. Let Your kingdom come, and let Your will be done by me today.” And then I get to the end of the day, and I look back and see all the ways I failed. At that point, I can choose to say, “I’m going to get up tomorrow and do better,” or I can throw myself on the mercy of Christ and flee to Him and thank Him for my justification.
One-way love brings that kind of freedom to us. Only God’s grace does that. It makes us honest about our failures and frees us from our self-justifying and self-condemning inclinations.

Thought to Remember for Today

As you think about your Christian experience, how much has the truth of justification by faith impacted your daily life? Perhaps for you this beautiful truth has had a great impact, or perhaps not. The really great news is that even if justification hasn’t been the pivot point of your faith, your Father still sees you as completely sinless and completely obedient.

Fitzpatrick, E. (2016). Grace untamed: a 60-day devotional. Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook.

You Are Loved … No, Really (March 18th)

by Elyse Fitzpatrick
See what kind of love the Father has given to us.
1 John 3:1

How would you live today if you knew at the very bottom of your soul that you were loved? You know what that would do? It would free you from having to make sure you were being loved. How much chasing after being loved have you done? How much effort have you poured into your pursuit of being loved?
God’s one-way love for us is the only love that can free us from our incessant pursuit of the love of others. We must be done with all that! I’ll tell you why: because no matter how many people you get to love you, it will never be enough. Let me remind you of Haman in the book of Esther. Haman had everyone in the entire city bowing down to him when he rode by, but it wasn’t enough. He didn’t have Mordecai’s worship, and it drove him crazy. Even though we can see the stupidity of Haman’s deadly desire, you and I act the same way. It doesn’t matter how much we are loved by others; it never totally satisfies because the holes in our hearts weren’t meant to be filled by anything other than a perfect love—the love of God.
But here’s the good news: through the gospel, we get to be free from that slavery. We’ve been loved by Somebody who knows our hearts, who sees every dark and doubtful thing within them. And yet He loves us and He gives Himself for us.
God’s grace liberates us from this kind of gluttony for love. I don’t need to seek endlessly and fruitlessly to be loved anymore. The perfect love of Christ has satisfied my need and driven out my fear.

Thought to Remember for Today

You are already more loved than you could ever dare hope. This love didn’t come to you because you are wonderful; it isn’t something you earned by your good behavior. That’s really great news, because if God’s love were something we could earn by our good behavior, then His love would be something we could lose by our bad behavior. God’s love rests on us because of His gracious choice of us in Christ, and that love is indestructible.

Fitzpatrick, E. (2016). Grace untamed: a 60-day devotional. Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook.

‘Present peace and future glory’ (March 17th)

‘That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.’
Philippians 2:10–11

suggested further reading: Philippians 2:5–11

The name of Jesus is to be engraved deeply on the heart, there written by the finger of God himself in everlasting characters. It is our title known and understood to present peace and future glory. The assurance which it conveys of a bright reversion, will lighten the burdens, and alleviate the sorrows of life; and in some happier moments, it will impart to us somewhat of that fulness of joy which is at God’s right hand, enabling us to join even here in the heavenly Hosannah, ‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.’ ‘Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.’ (Revelation 5:12,14)
For meditation: Henry Manning was author of many searching and eloquent reflections on the Christian life. His understanding of what the word ‘praise’ meant forms a fitting complement to Wilberforce’s words above. ‘Praise,’ Manning wrote, ‘consists in the love of God, in wonder at the goodness of God, in recognition of the gifts of God, in seeing God in all things he gives us, ay, and even in the things he refuses to us; so as to see our whole life in the light of God: and seeing this, to bless him, adore him, and glorify him.’
John Keble was Manning’s contemporary, and his verse often paints a picture of what Wilberforce called a ‘heavenly Hosannah’:
God, the Lord, a King remaineth, Robed in his own glorious light; God hath robed him and he reigneth; He hath girded him with might. Alleluia! Alleluia! God is King in depth and height.
reference: A Practical View of Christianity (1797)

Wilberforce, W., & Belmonte, K. (2006). 365 Days with Wilberforce (p. 83). Leominster, UK: Day One Publications.

Triumphing in Praise (March 16th)

Save us, O Lord our God, and gather us from among the heathen, to give thanks unto thy holy name, and to triumph in thy praise.
Psalm 106:47

suggested further reading: Acts 2:40–47

This psalm was composed during the sad and calamitous dispersion of the people of Israel. It was necessary for the people to be completely humbled to prevent them from further murmuring against God’s dispensations. Seeing that God had extended pardon to their fathers, who were undeserving of it, he aimed to inspire their children with the hope of forgiveness, provided they carefully and cordially sought to be reconciled to him. This was especially the case because of God solemnly remembering his covenant with them. Through faith they might draw near to God, even though his anger had not yet turned away.
Moreover, God had chosen them to be his peculiar people, so they could call upon him to collect into one body their dissevered and bleeding members. For, according to the prediction of Moses, “If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the Lord thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee” (Deut. 30:4). This prediction eventually came true when the widely separated multitude was gathered together and grew in the unity of the faith. For though the people of Israel never regained their earthly kingdom and polity, yet they were grafted with the Gentiles into the body of Christ, which was a more preferable gathering.
Wherever they were, the children of God were united with each other and to the Gentile converts by the holy and spiritual bond of faith. Together they constituted one church that extended over the whole earth. They came together to fulfill the purpose of their redemption from captivity, namely, that they might celebrate the name of God and employ themselves continually in praising him.
For meditation: The psalmist asks for deliverance for the people of Israel so that they might give thanks and triumph in praising God. This is a great lesson for us to remember when we ask the Lord for blessings: our ultimate motive should be his glory, not simply our comfort. What means can we use to learn this transforming lesson more profoundly and consistently?

Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 94). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

CHANGE (March 15th)

“There is need of a great revival of spiritual life, of truly fervent devotion to our Lord Jesus, of entire consecration to His service. It is only in a church in which this spirit of revival has at least begun, that there is any hope of radical change in the relation of the majority of our Christian people to mission work.”
—Andrew Murray

When Jesus was born into the world, everything changed. Life came to conquer death. And of course, even Jesus himself experienced some dramatic changes. The son of God took on the weak body of a newborn baby, the awkwardness of puberty, and the aches and pains of adulthood. He allowed his circumstances and his very being to be changed from one of heavenly perfection to one of earthly imperfection. That’s a huge change—bigger than any physical change you or I will ever know. We can’t even fully comprehend what that change must have been like.
The change of the world started with Jesus, and it will also end with Jesus when he comes back to establish a new heaven and a new earth. But our question today is: What will we do in the time between those two mileposts of change?
All throughout Scripture we see that we are called to be like Jesus. We are called to be the difference. And until Jesus returns in glorious fashion, we are called to be the change.
What does that mean?
“Being the change” can be as simple as letting your voice be heard, or even being a little louder than you were the day before. We are all at different places in our spiritual journey, but we are all called to be the change—and that’s one thing that won’t ever change. Change, whether your cause is a major social issue or just a desire to see someone in your school or workplace treated better, is something most of us are looking for. But we often hope that someone else will make it happen. Guess what? You are that someone else.
Our culture revolves around maintaining a baseline of comfort. That means change is usually the last thing we want to think about; change is uncomfortable. Although change and newness often results in growth, psychologists know firsthand that millions of people fear change. This fear is known as “neophobia”—yes, it’s a real phobia, and yes, it shows how faithless we really are.
My point: We’re so comfortable in where we are that we ignore openings that might help us get where we’re heading. We all want change, but we’re scared to be the ones to step out and be the change. We can’t expect to look any different than the world while we continue to immerse ourselves in its garbage.
We’ve created an agenda of comfort that keeps us from breaking into the world of “changedom” (yes, I invented that word). If we want change, we need to be the ones to act, to build, to speak up, to start. God hasn’t called us to conform to the patterns of this world, but to be transformed through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
This means: Refuse to be average, and let your heart soar as high as God will allow it.
We all make mistakes. We all screw up. We all fall short. But in the core of your heart, do you understand what it means to be a follower of Jesus? And based on your everyday lifestyle, do you reflect that identity? Are you living for God? Are you living differently from the world? Have you been transformed?


“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect”
(Romans 12:2).

Wilson, J. (2016). 30 words: a devotional for the rest of us. (2nd Edition, Ed.) (pp. 26–29). Bellingham, WA: Kirkdale Press.

OBEDIENCE (March 14th)

“God is God. Because he is God, He is worthy of my trust and obedience. I will find rest nowhere but in His holy will that is unspeakably beyond my largest notions of what he is up to.”
—Elisabeth Elliot

The phrase “live like Jesus” is something we as believers often hear, but do we really understand what it means? Are we really living a life that radiates Christ? And are we truly abandoning our fleshly desires to pick up the cross that changed the destiny of all humanity?
When I was younger I once heard a pastor say, “Partial obedience is disobedience.” And while everyone around me began to get up from their chairs, clapping and saying, “Amen!” I quietly sat in my seat. The phrase smacked me across the face and pierced me to the core. It is so true. We cannot go about our lives half-heartedly walking with God in hopes that he will give us a full-heart transformation. It just doesn’t work.
If we are truly living like Jesus, then why are we still sinning? The depth behind the phrase “live like Jesus” is immeasurable. And although this is a great starting point for our relationship with him, truly understanding its meaning is more beneficial than aimlessly trying to accomplish its task. What if instead of trying to run through a superficial checklist of good deeds and acts of kindness, we spent time learning from Jesus about what perfect love and kindness looks like? What if we tried to imbue every thought, every word, every action with the love and kindness of Jesus? Instead of trying to accomplish good works like they’re extracurricular activities for a college application, we should try to live lives that God’s grace can flow through. This is possible when we obey.
The reality is, God never intended for us to remain the same; he intended for us to remain obedient. For in remaining obedient, we will not remain the same. In our obedience, we open ourselves up to being totally and radically changed by Jesus.
Jesus wants us to find our divine purpose of living like him. By practicing obedience, we create the space in our lives for Jesus to do his work. In time I think you’ll find that a life of obedience will have a lot more purpose and a lot less confusion. When we learn to be obedient, only then can we truly find freedom. In other words, by becoming obedient to God, we free ourselves up to experience the amazing things he has in store for us. Total obedience makes us ready for a truly fulfilling life.


“For merely listening to the law doesn’t make us right with God. It is obeying the law that makes us right in his sight”
(Romans 2:13).

Wilson, J. (2016). 30 words: a devotional for the rest of us. (2nd Edition, Ed.) (pp. 20–22). Bellingham, WA: Kirkdale Press.

PROVIDER (March 13th)

“We must cease striving and trust God to provide what He thinks is best and in whatever time He chooses to make it available. But this kind of trusting doesn’t come naturally. It’s a spiritual crisis of the will in which we must choose to exercise faith.”
—Charles R. Swindoll

All of us were once children, unable to feed ourselves, clean ourselves, or even take ourselves to the bathroom. And while you might not remember much of your time as a child, I guarantee that somebody at some point took care of you. Whether through the provision of food, shelter, or care, we’ve all experienced a time in our lives when we relied on someone else because we could not provide for ourselves.
In Scripture, we find that Jesus is our ultimate provider—not only because he provided redemption and mercy on the cross, but because everything given to us was never really ours in the first place. Everything good comes from Jesus, and we cannot say we truly love him until we can humbly accept this beautiful reality.
But that doesn’t make Jesus our magic genie. God isn’t always going to give us what we want, but he will always give us his best for our lives.
Just as good parents wouldn’t let their child eat ice cream for every meal, God isn’t going to deliver what we think we want just because we pray for it. The kid who wants ice cream may not like vegetables, but he or she also doesn’t realize that healthy food is going to be so much better for the body and for a good life than a diet made up of just desserts. So the loving parent gives the child what he or she needs, which might not always be what he or she wants.
Like any loving parent, our Heavenly Father is looking to provide for his children. In fact, the Hebrew term Jehovah Jireh means “God our provider.” And although we all have different needs, God has the omnipotence to take care of every single person who calls upon his glorious name. Nothing is too big or too small.
The voice of God has the power to raise the dead, yet sometimes we still worry if God will come through in our measly troubles. If Martha could meet Jesus on a hot, dirty road and believe that he could raise Lazarus from the dead (John 11:17–27), what’s stopping us while we sit in our comfortable houses from believing he can provide our most basic of needs? Look at all the things Jesus provided during his time on earth:
• food for the masses (Luke 9:10–17);
• calming of storms (Luke 8:22–25);
• healing for the sick (Luke 14:1–6); and
• healing for the lame (Matt 15:30).
You get the point. Many of today’s Christians are focused on obtaining what they want instead of being content knowing God will provide for their needs. He is our ultimate provider, and without him we are nothing more than children grabbing for things we cannot reach.


“And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus”
(Philippians 4:19).

Wilson, J. (2016). 30 words: a devotional for the rest of us. (2nd Edition, Ed.) (pp. 14–16). Bellingham, WA: Kirkdale Press.


“Lord, there is no one like you! For you are great, and your name is full of power.”
—Jeremiah 10:6

Question: What do all of these have in common?
1. Tofu
2. Veggie burgers
3. Mountain Lightning®
4. Substitute teachers
Answer: They are all substitutes for the original.
And regardless of their value, most substitutes are portrayed as “just the same,” or “as good as the original.” But in reality, are they? Not usually. (Except for maybe substitute teachers. Everyone loves them.)
Substitutes and replacements are everywhere. And although many of us don’t realize it, much of our time is spent trying to fill voids with substitutes and replacements rather than reaching for the real stuff.
Are we doing the same with God?
Although money, jobs, titles, and successes aren’t necessarily bad things, when they start becoming our source of worth, they become a worthless attempt at replacing the fulfillment God offers—the only true fulfillment.
The reality is, you can’t replace the irreplaceable. God is unending, all powerful, and life giving. And that is awesome news! Jobs, relationships, money, success, health … all of these things can be pulled out from under us in an instant. When these things are all we have and they suddenly disappear, we’re wrecked.
When we put all of our hope and need for fulfillment in God, we will never be let down. To think that we could replace his love with something of this world immediately forfeits our belief in his power and majesty. I love what the prophet Isaiah says about fulfillment: “The Lord will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring” (Isa 58:11).


“For there is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus”
(1 Timothy 2:5).

Wilson, J. (2016). 30 words: a devotional for the rest of us. (2nd Edition, Ed.) (pp. 8–10). Bellingham, WA: Kirkdale Press.

FAITH (March 11th)

“True faith means holding nothing back. It means putting every hope in God’s fidelity to His Promises.”
—Francis Chan

We all have goals, ideas, and the innovation to dream big, but where is the line between dreaming it and achieving it?
The idea of “having faith” is something we often throw around. Our culture has deemed “just have faith” is the answer to just about every problem that doesn’t have a clear solution. And although I do believe our faith lays the foundation for our walk with Jesus, faith without internal and external action is profitless. We can say, “I have faith,” but if our hearts and souls aren’t ready to back up that statement, then what good is it? Faith is a living, bold trust in God’s grace—so certain of God’s existence that it would risk death a million times.
Looking to Scripture, a man named Peter gives us a wonderful example of faith initiation. Although Peter was mocked on various occasions for his child-like actions, he was a faithful servant who loved Jesus with all of his heart. Matthew 14:25–29 paints a beautiful picture of Peter’s faith and trust in Jesus. Here, Peter is given the opportunity to internally and externally initiate his faith by stepping off the safety and comfort of his boat. Amid the crashing of waves and rolling of thunder, Peter takes a step of faith toward the ultimate goal: Jesus.
We can make fun of Peter all we want, but if we’re really honest with ourselves, I don’t see anyone else faithful enough to step off that boat. Sometimes having faith means engaging in something so bold that you will end up looking stupid if Jesus doesn’t come through.
The reality is, we all want to walk on water, but none of us wants to step off the boat. It’s time to initiate our faith. It’s time to step off the boat. Faith is the vision of the heart; it sees God in the darkest of times as well as in the brightest of days.
Of course, Peter’s not perfect. Far from it. One of the other stories that Peter’s so well-known for is his denial of Jesus. You can read this story in John 18:15–27. Three times Peter denied Jesus. “You’re not one of that man’s disciples, are you?” he was asked. “No, I am not,” Peter replied. After everything Peter had been through with Jesus—after walking on water with him!—his faith wavered, and he still couldn’t go all in. But his story doesn’t end there. It’s believed that Peter later died a martyr’s death for Jesus.
Faith isn’t a fire hose that you turn on once and keep going full blast forever and ever. I wish I could claim a faith like that, but it just doesn’t happen. Faith changes. It wavers. Some experiences in life will shake your faith; others will strengthen it. The same Peter that steps out into the storm later denies Jesus and even later is killed for his relentless faith. The important thing is to hold on to the faith God has given you and to act on it!
Ultimately, hearing the word initiates faith; speaking the word activates faith; doing the word demonstrates faith.


So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless” (James 2:17).

Wilson, J. (2016). 30 words: a devotional for the rest of us. (2nd Edition, Ed.) (pp. 2–4). Bellingham, WA: Kirkdale Press.

A Call to Win Souls (March 10th)

The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise

Why is it that saints do not die as soon as they are converted? Because God meant that they should be the means of the salvation of their brethren. You would not surely wish to go out of the world if there were a soul to be saved by you. If I could go to glory before I had converted all the souls allotted to me, I should not be happy. We do not wish to enter heaven until our work is done, for it would make us uneasy if there were one single soul left to be saved by our means.
Tarry then, Christian; there is a sinner to be saved from his sins, a rebel to be turned from the error of his ways, and perhaps that sinner is one of your relatives. Perhaps you are spared in this world because there is a wayward son of yours not yet saved, and God has designed to make you the favored instrument of bringing him to glory. It may be that you are kept here because one of your offspring, by your instrumentality, is yet to be saved. Tarry then for your son’s sake. I know how deeply you love him, and for his sake, surely, you are content to be left here a little while, counting it for the best that you may bring in your son to glory with you.

God, I desire to live my life in such a way that I lead others to You. May my love and devotion to You compel them to want to know You and accept Your glorious gift of eternal life. Amen.

Spurgeon, C. (2015). 3-minute devotions with charles spurgeon: inspiring devotions and prayers. Uhrichsville, OH: Barbour Books.

Fairest Lord Jesus (March 9th)

Richard Storrs Willis was born in Boston and was the son of a deacon. After attending Boston Latin School and Yale University, he moved to Germany to study music. There he became friends with Felix Mendelssohn. Returning home, Willis became the music critic for the New York Tribune and a noted music publisher. He’s best remembered, however, for two beautiful melodies often heard in churches around the world—the tune for the Christmas carol “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear” and the melody for the great German Catholic hymn “Fairest Lord Jesus.”
Fairest Lord Jesus, ruler of all nature,
O Thou of God and man the Son,
Thee will I cherish, Thee will I honor,
Thou, my soul’s glory, joy, and crown.
Fair are the meadows, fairer still the woodlands,
Robed in the blooming garb of spring:
Jesus is fairer, Jesus is purer
Who makes the woeful heart to sing.
Fair is the sunshine, fairer still the moonlight,
And all the twinkling starry host:
Jesus shines brighter, Jesus shines purer
Than all the angels heaven can boast.
Beautiful Savior! Lord of the nations!
Son of God and Son of Man!
Glory and honor, praise, adoration,
Now and forevermore be Thine.

His Son . . . through whom also He made the worlds . . .
Hebrews 1:2

Morgan, R. J. (2013). Devotions for lent (ebook shorts): meditations based on best-loved hymns. Grand Rapids, MI: Revell.

Now Thank We All Our God (March 8th)

The best time to thank God is now, whatever the circumstances or problems. “Now thank we all our God . . .” This old German hymn was penned by Pastor Martin Rinkhart during the Thirty Years’ War. These were days of unimaginable suffering. At times Rinkhart was the town’s only pastor, and he conducted about 4,500 funerals of those who died of war and plague. Sometimes he buried forty or fifty people a day. Rinkhart was born on April 23, 1586, in Saxony, and died just before Christmas in 1649. The German title of this hymn is “Nun danket alle Gott,” and the first stanza is one of pure thanksgiving. The second stanza is a prayer, and the third is a doxology.
Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in whom His world rejoices;
Who, from our mother’s arms, has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.
O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts and blessèd peace to cheer us;
And keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed,
And free us from all ills in this world and the next.
All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given;
The Son, and Him who reigns with them in highest heaven;
The one eternal God, whom earth and heaven adore;
For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.

In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
1 Thessalonians 5:18

Morgan, R. J. (2013). Devotions for lent (ebook shorts): meditations based on best-loved hymns. Grand Rapids, MI: Revell.

Softly and Tenderly (March 7th)

When the body of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was returned to Atlanta for burial, his friends at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference wanted his body taken from the church in a wagon pulled by two Georgia mules, signifying King’s concern for the “least of these.” They found a suitable wagon in an antique store in West End, but it was closed. Unable to find the owner, they simply “borrowed” it. On April 8, 1968, mourners at Ebenezer Baptist Church sang “Softly and Tenderly,” then King’s body was borne away on the wagon. Watching on television, the owner of the antique store didn’t recognize his wagon, but when he stopped by his shop and found it missing, he put two and two together. He didn’t mind, and today the wagon stands in the visitor center of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site in Atlanta.
Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling,
Calling for you and for me;
See, on the portals He’s waiting and watching,
Watching for you and for me.
Why should we tarry when Jesus is pleading,
Pleading for you and for me?
Why should we linger and heed not His mercies,
Mercies for you and for me?
Time is now fleeting, the moments are passing,
Passing from you and from me;
Shadows are gathering, deathbeds are coming,
Coming for you and for me.
Come home, come home,
Ye who are weary, come home;
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,
Calling, O sinner, come home!

Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.
Matthew 25:40

Morgan, R. J. (2013). Devotions for lent (ebook shorts): meditations based on best-loved hymns. Grand Rapids, MI: Revell.

Just As I Am (March 6th)

On May 9, 1822, Dr. Caesar Malan of Switzerland visited Charlotte Elliott, an embittered invalid in Brighton, England. Because of her poor health, Charlotte had become rude and irritable. Dr. Malan spoke to her about her spiritual needs. “I am miserable,” Charlotte confessed. “I want to be saved. I want to come to Jesus; but I don’t know how.” That’s when Malan gave her his famous reply, which later became the basis for the greatest invitational hymn of all time. “Why not come just as you are?” he asked. Charlotte did come just as she was, and later she wrote this hymn about it.
Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidst me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.
Just as I am, and waiting not
To rid my soul of one dark blot,
To Thee whose blood can cleanse each spot,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.
Just as I am, though tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings and fears within, without,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.
Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind;
Sight, riches, healing of the mind,
Yea, all I need in Thee to find,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

He said to them, “Come and see . . .”
John 1:39
“Come, follow Me.”
Matthew 19:21

Morgan, R. J. (2013). Devotions for lent (ebook shorts): meditations based on best-loved hymns. Grand Rapids, MI: Revell.

’Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus (March 5th)

Whatever problem you’re facing today, the Lord can bear it for you. You simply have to “take Him at His Word” and “rest upon His promises.” That’s what sustained Louisa Stead through years of missionary service and personal tragedy, including the accidental drowning of her husband (which reportedly led to her writing this hymn). Later, while working in South Africa, she met and married Robert Wodehouse. The two returned to America in 1895 for health reasons, but after attending a large conference in New York, they felt compelled to offer themselves as missionaries once again. On April 4, 1901, they arrived in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), ready to invest their remaining days in overseas missions, borne along by the truth of Louisa’s song.
’Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to take Him at His word;
Just to rest upon His promise,
Just to know “Thus saith the Lord!”
O how sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to trust His cleansing blood;
Just in simple faith to plunge me
’Neath the healing, cleansing flood!
I’m so glad I learned to trust Thee,
Precious Jesus, Savior, Friend;
And I know that Thou art with me,
Wilt be with me to the end.
Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er!
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
O for grace to trust Him more!

As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him.
2 Samuel 22:31

Morgan, R. J. (2013). Devotions for lent (ebook shorts): meditations based on best-loved hymns. Grand Rapids, MI: Revell.

Holy, Holy, Holy (March 4th)

Anglican hymnist and missionary Reginald Heber wrote the majestic anthem “Holy, Holy, Holy.” Early in his ministry, Heber labored in the village of Hodnet, England, preaching in the village church and enjoying the relaxed pace of life. He wrote several hymns, but hymn singing was still frowned upon by the established church. So Heber stored his hymns in an old family trunk. In 1823, his superiors assigned Heber to oversee the Anglican work in India. He labored there for three years before suffering a stroke and dying at age forty-three. His widow later came across his poems in the trunk. “Holy, Holy, Holy” was published in 1861, thirty-five years after Heber’s death.
Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee;
Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessèd Trinity!
Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore Thee,
Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
Cherubim and seraphim falling down before Thee,
Who was, and is, and evermore shall be.
Holy, holy, holy! though the darkness hide Thee,
Though the eye of sinful man Thy glory may not see;
Only Thou art holy; there is none beside Thee,
Perfect in power, in love and purity.
Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All Thy works shall praise Thy name in earth and sky and sea;
Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessèd Trinity!

Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!
Revelation 4:8

Morgan, R. J. (2013). Devotions for lent (ebook shorts): meditations based on best-loved hymns. Grand Rapids, MI: Revell.

Never Forsaken (March 3rd)

And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, LORD, hast not forsaken them that seek thee PSALM 9:10 KJV

Fellowship with Christ is so honorable a thing that it is worthwhile to suffer, that we may thereby enjoy it. You have sometimes heard me express a desire that I might be in the number of those who shall be alive and remain, and so shall escape death; but a dear friend of mine says he had rather die, in order that he might thus have fellowship with Christ in His sufferings, and the thought finds an echo in my own breast.
To die with Jesus makes death a perfect treasure; to be a follower in the grave with Him makes death a pleasure. Moreover you and I might be taken for cowards, although we may have fellowship with Him in His glory, if we had no scars to prove the sufferings we had passed through and the wounds we had received for His name.
Thus again you see it is for our good to be here; we should not have known fellowship with the Savior if we had not stayed here a little while. I should never have known the Savior’s love half as much if I had not been in the storms of affliction.
How sweet it is to learn the Savior’s love when nobody else loves us! When friends flee, what a blessed thing it is to see that the Savior does not forsake us but still keeps us and holds us fast and clings to us and will not let us go! Oh, beloved brother and sister, believe that your remaining here on earth is for your eternal benefit.

I praise You, Lord, for Your unconditional, everlasting love. You are always with me. I trust and rely on You. Thank You for helping me to understand that no matter what I face in life, I never have to face it alone. Amen.

Spurgeon, C. (2015). 3-minute devotions with charles spurgeon: inspiring devotions and prayers. Uhrichsville, OH: Barbour Books.

Jesus! What a Friend for Sinners (March 2nd)

When I first heard this hymn during college chapel services, I loved it not just for its words by Wilbur Chapman but for its tune by Rowland Pritchard. The melody to “Jesus, What a Friend for Sinners” is called “Hyfrydol,” the Welsh word for “cheerful.” Remarkably, Prichard composed this piece as a teenager and never became a professional musician. He spent most of his life as a loom tender’s assistant in a flannel manufacturing plant in the north of Wales. But his greatest weaving was the tapestry of notes he composed before he was twenty. We also use “Hyfrydol” as the tune for the Christmas carol “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus,” and for several other hymns as well. It’s one of Christianity’s most cheerful melodies.
Jesus! what a Friend for sinners!
Jesus! Lover of my soul;
Friends may fail me, foes assail me,
He, my Savior, makes me whole.
Jesus! what a strength in weakness!
Let me hide myself in Him.
Tempted, tried, and sometimes failing,
He, my Strength, my victory wins.
Jesus! what a Guide and Keeper!
While the tempest still is high,
Storms about me, night o’ertakes me,
He, my Pilot, hears my cry.
Hallelujah! what a Savior!
Hallelujah! what a Friend!
Saving, helping, keeping, loving,
He is with me to the end.

Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.
Matthew 14:27

Morgan, R. J. (2013). Devotions for lent (ebook shorts): meditations based on best-loved hymns. Grand Rapids, MI: Revell.

Tell Me the Story of Jesus (March 1st)

As a boy, John R. Sweney was so gifted musically that he began giving lessons. As a young man he became a popular composer. For a quarter century, he served as professor of music at the Philadelphia Military Academy, writing classical compositions still heard today. But he’s best remembered for the great hymn tunes that he began writing after turning his life over to the Lord Jesus in 1871. He wrote the music to many of Fanny Crosby’s hymns, such as “Tell Me the Story of Jesus,” and is remembered as one of the great composers of the gospel song era.
Tell me the story of Jesus,
Write on my heart every word.
Tell me the story most precious,
Sweetest that ever was heard.
Tell how the angels in chorus,
Sang as they welcomed His birth.
“Glory to God in the highest!
Peace and good tidings to earth.”
Tell of the cross where they nailed Him,
Writhing in anguish and pain.
Tell of the grave where they laid Him,
Tell how He liveth again.
Tell me the story of Jesus,
Write on my heart every word.
Tell me the story most precious,
Sweetest that ever was heard.

God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. And we are witnesses.
Acts 10:38–39

Morgan, R. J. (2013). Devotions for lent (ebook shorts): meditations based on best-loved hymns. Grand Rapids, MI: Revell.