april 2017


April 1: Moving On

Deuteronomy 1:1–46; 2 Corinthians 1:1–11; Psalm 31:1–9


“You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Turn now and move on” (Deut 1:6–7). We have a terrible tendency to stay in one place or keep doing one activity longer than we should. Our meetings run long, we constantly work overtime, or we overstay a welcome. And then there’s the most significant problem of all: we ignore God’s command to leave a place, position, or role. Change can be refreshing. But the countless decisions and the difficult and frustrating moments that accompany change can often keep us from moving forward. We become comfortable where we are, and we fear the unknown. Indeed, the majority of people (including Christians) live seemingly meaningless lives. Most American Christians spend more hours per day doing comfortable things, like watching TV, than they do praying, reading their Bibles, or serving others (usually combined). Yet what do the elderly always tell us? “I wish I had taken more risks; if only I wasn’t so afraid.” We’re all on our way to dying. But as Christians, we’re also on our way to eternal life. Why should we limit God’s work with our fear? In Deuteronomy 1, God called Moses to leave the mountain—a place where he’d grown comfortable. Moses’ new path would be far from easy. He was going to enter the land of the Amorites and Canaanites, who were feared warriors (Deut 1:7). He was about to risk the lives of everyone with him—men, women, and children—in the process of following God’s will. Both young and old would once again be in danger. But God didn’t intend for Moses to remain in the wilderness; He called Moses to lead His people into the same holy land He had promised to Abraham many years before (Deut 1:8). And despite his fear, that’s what Moses did: “Then we turned and set out toward the wilderness in the direction of the Red Sea, as Yahweh told me, and we went around Mount Seir for many days” (Deut 2:1). Moses’ confidence was based on one thing: what God had spoken. May your confidence be grounded in the same thing, and may you trust God at His word. What is God calling you to do now? What comforts is He calling you to leave behind? What have you been ignoring? JOHN D. BARRY



April 2: The Final Say

Deuteronomy 2:1–3:29; 2 Corinthians 1:12–16; Psalm 31:10–24


Having the final say in an argument is more satisfying than I’d like to admit. By default, I’d like to be right, even if I have to be pedantic. I wish I could say this was limited to petty concerns. But on more than one occasion, when discussing issues of eternal significance, I’ve used my trump card in a desire to win an argument. Paul specifically addresses this type of pride and boasting throughout 2 Corinthians. However, we come across a surprising statement in 2 Corinthians 1: “For our reason for boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience that we conducted ourselves in the world, and especially toward you, in holiness and purity of motive from God, not in merely human wisdom, but by the grace of God” (2 Cor 1:12). At first glance, Paul appears to be boasting in his own actions. Isn’t this evidence of the very same pride he denounces (1 Cor 5:6)? But the key phrases, “holiness and purity of motive from God” and “the grace of God,” provide a foundation for Paul’s boasting. They tell us that it’s not Paul’s pride that is on the line—it’s the good news. Paul is claiming that the integrity of his ministry doesn’t rest on his own wisdom. Paul wasn’t trying to be a star pastor. His words were motivated by a deep concern for the Corinthians. He didn’t want anything he did to obstruct the message about Christ. Similarly, our actions shouldn’t be an obstruction to the gospel message. We should examine our motives when we’re inclined to be “right.” Our words and actions should reflect God’s grace in our life—evidenced by humility and a sense of purpose in our interactions with others. How are your words and actions speaking about your own pride? How can you be testifying about God’s grace in your life? REBECCA VAN NOORD


April 3: Your Inner Self

Deuteronomy 4:1–49; 2 Corinthians 1:17–24; Psalm 32:1–11


“Did I leave the burner on?” “Did I lock the door?” “I feel like I’m forgetting something.” Forgetfulness is a syndrome we all experience at one time or another. Many of our forgetful moments end up being minor inconveniences. But there is one thing we should never forget: God and His instructions.As the Israelites prepared to enter the promised land, Moses offered them a string of commandments, including this: “Take care for yourself and watch your inner self closely, so that you do not forget the things that your eyes have seen, so that they do not slip from your mind all the days of your life” (Deut 4:9). In watching ourselves closely, we remember what we’re meant to do and who we’re meant to be. And this isn’t just a value added to our lives and our relationship with God. Moses went on: “And you shall make [the commandments] known to your children and to your grandchildren” (Deut 4:9). Moses knew that God had chosen the Israelites to carry out His work in the world. He also knew that forgetting God’s commandments could jeopardize that work and even their very lives. He tells them to be certain about who they are—to keep themselves in line with God. It’s precisely this point that Paul emphasizes about God’s plan in 2 Cor 1:17–24: God is about the resounding “yes.” Yes, God has affirmed us. Yes, God has chosen us. Yes, we are the receivers of His salvation. We are called—not some of us, but all of us. And in this we should rejoice, for we can claim, as the psalmist does, “I will confess concerning my transgressions to Yahweh, and you [Yahweh] took away the guilt of my sin” (Psa 32:5). The best way to make your “yes” be a yes and your “no” be a no is to align yourself with God’s great calling upon your life. Commandments only get us so far; identity in Christ and the Spirit’s work in us will take us where we need to go. What can you do to constantly remind yourself of God’s will, your identity in Him, and His work in your life? JOHN D. BARRY


April 4: Forgive, Forget, and Comfort

Deuteronomy 5:1–6:25; 2 Corinthians 2:1–11; Psalm 33


There is a subtle type of grudge that festers. When we extend forgiveness, the challenge isn’t necessarily in the moment of reconciliation. It’s extending that moment and letting it permeate the interactions that follow. In 2 Corinthians, Paul doesn’t just ask the Corinthians to forgive. He asks them for much more: “So then, you should rather forgive and comfort him lest somehow this person should be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. Therefore I urge you to confirm your love for him. Because for this reason, also I wrote, in order that I could know your proven character, whether you are obedient in everything” (2 Cor 2:7–9). Patronizing superiority suits our selfish desires, but grudging forgiveness doesn’t heal a community. Paul calls the Corinthian church to much more. He wants them to live sacrificially. That’s why, when Paul calls for the offender in Corinth to be reprimanded, he specifically turns to address those who were affected by the sin. The solution was intentional, ongoing forgiveness and an outpouring of love. He then reminded the Corinthians of Christ’s sacrifice, which they didn’t deserve (see Col 3:13). Forgiveness is undeserved—a reminder we all need. Are you holding on to a grudge against someone—perhaps even someone you’ve already forgiven? How can you let go of your grudge and extend the love that has been shown to you? REBECCA VAN NOORD


April 5: Treating the Symptom

Deuteronomy 7:1–8:20; 2 Corinthians 2:12–17; Psalm 34:1–22


I regularly predict that something will only take me an hour when it actually ends up taking two. I’m beginning to think that this is a sign of a larger issue: the tendency to underestimate the severity of a problem. In medical offices, this is called treating the symptoms and not the disease. In street ministry, it’s known as getting addicts off the street rather than helping them understand their addiction. Addicts rationalize sin. And eventually, sin becomes everything in their lives, which means they rationalize away who they are. If we’re all honest with ourselves, we would see that, like the addict, we like the “gray” area far too much. We want to push the boundaries in the name of freedom, rationality, or cultural appeal. In Deuteronomy 7:1–8:20, Moses was uninterested in pushing boundaries. He even told the Israelites to stay away from foreigners who worshiped other gods because they would corrupt the fledgling worship of Yahweh (Deut 7:3–4). Paul makes a similar point in 2 Cor 6:14: “Do not become unevenly yoked with unbelievers, for what participation is there between righteousness and lawlessness? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness?” Paul’s statement is part of a larger discussion on why the world is as black and white as God makes it out to be. In 2 Corinthians 2:15, Paul writes, “For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.” Christ-followers are meant to be a good smell to the world of God’s work and goodness, and it’s impossible for them to do this if they are not living in His “light.” Corruption infects everyone affiliated with it. We are meant to bring the light into the darkness, not become part of the darkness. Interacting with culture and those who don’t believe is not the same as becoming one with culture and those who don’t believe. When we see a symptom, we need to recognize there is a disease behind it. We’re all metaphorical addicts. The difference between Christ-followers and the rest is that we recognize the condition and seek Christ, who can heal us and save us. In what ways are you rationalizing your sin or problems? What can you do to understand it the way God would like you to, and what can you do about it? JOHN D. BARRY


April 6: A Letter of Recommendation

Deuteronomy 9:1–10:22; 2 Corinthians 3:1–8; Psalm 35:1–11


We file letters of recommendation from pastors, past supervisors, and teachers that highlight our skills, attitude, and work ethic. They present us as ideal candidates, glossing over the things we lack and the ways in which we’ve failed. But Paul’s letter of recommendation tells another story: “You are our letter, inscribed on our hearts, known and read by all people, revealing that you are a letter of Christ, delivered by us, inscribed not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on stone tablets but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Cor 3:2–3). Paul saw the work God was doing in the lives of the Corinthians. Through the work of the Spirit, they were drawn together as a community. Their response to the gospel testified that Paul was fulfilling the task that he was called to do. But Paul doesn’t stay focused on himself in this passage. He switches the focus to the Spirit: “Now we possess such confidence through Christ toward God. Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God” (2 Cor 3:4–5). Ultimately, Paul’s confidence finds itself in Christ’s work and the life-giving work of the Spirit. Our successes and failures are put into a proper context when we read Paul’s message. All the good we do attests to the Spirit’s work in our lives; it is a testimony of a life redeemed by Christ. And the bad isn’t glossed over by God—it is paid for. It’s His letter of recommendation that really matters, for He knows who we really are. How are you living a life that attests to God’s power in you, not your own qualities or traits? REBECCA VAN NOORD


April 7: An Irrational Life

Deuteronomy 11:1–12:28; 2 Corinthians 3:9–18; Psalm 35:12–28


Love is irrational. It requires doing things that compromise every survival instinct. Moses tells God’s people to have a memory of what God has done among them and to love Him as a result: “And you shall love Yahweh your God, and you shall keep his obligations and his statutes and his regulations and his commandments always. And you shall realize today that it is not with your children who have not known and who have not seen the discipline of Yahweh your God, his greatness, his strong hand, and his outstretched arm” (Deut 11:1–2). The Bible doesn’t say, “Keep Yahweh’s commandments when you feel like you love Him,” or “Keep Yahweh’s commandments when things are going your way.” It says, “You shall keep [Yahweh’s] … commandments always.” God’s greatest commandments are about loving Him and others (Mark 12:28–31; compare John 15:12). We love God and keep His commandments because He first loved us; we remember what He has done whenever things get difficult. And we teach it to the next generation. That’s what God has called us to. When we sacrifice ourselves for others, we are doing what God was willing to do for us when He came as a man to die on a cross. Similarly, when we love Yahweh by doing His will, we often make decisions that seem irrational. But in actuality, they are the most rational of all decisions. The Spirit’s work within us prompts us to love, and it also opens the Scriptures for us. As Paul says, “But until today, whenever Moses is read aloud, a veil lies upon their heart, but whenever one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.… And we all, with unveiled face, reflecting the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image … glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Cor 3:15–18). Yahweh has lifted the veil from Scripture and reveals His glory in the love He manifests among us through His Spirit. Living sacrificially, out of love, richly displays His love. Which of God’s commands are you breaking? What can you do to change that behavior and show more love? JOHN D. BARRY


April 8: Compelled to Worship

Deuteronomy 12:29–14:29; 2 Corinthians 4:1–6; Psalm 36


When we experience God’s mercy, it shows. Our instincts change and our priorities shift from gratifying our own ego to making much of God. We stop fearing what others think of us and find our identity grounded in Christ. It’s a transformation that shows God is working in our lives. Paul recognized the transformative power of the gospel, and it drove his ministry. This is evidenced in his second letter to the Corinthian church:“Just as we have been shown mercy, we do not lose heart, but we have renounced shameful hidden things, not behaving with craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but with the open proclamation of the truth commending ourselves to every person’s conscience before God” (2 Cor 4:1–2). Paul wasn’t manipulating or distorting the good news for his own gain, as some were doing in the community. He preached the good news to all people with openness and sincerity. He allowed the gospel to convict people as it should, refusing to distort it to make people comfortable. He proclaimed “Christ Jesus as Lord” and he and his disciples as “slaves for the sake of Jesus” to those in Corinth (2 Cor 4:5). Bound to Christ, they lived as free slaves for His cause. They were solely dedicated to Jesus because they wanted to be, and because of the salvation He had brought them. Psalm 36 provides an illustration of Paul’s approach, highlighting the qualities of those who don’t fear God. This person is characterized by “rebellion in the midst of his heart” (Psa 36:1). He is self-absorbed and rejects his need: “he flatters himself in his eyes, hating to detect his iniquity” (Psa 36:2). He is deceitful (Psa 36:3). The psalmist doesn’t contrast this picture with one of the righteous man. Instead, he honors Yahweh—His loyal love, faithfulness, righteousness, and judgments (Psa 36:5–6). The psalmist says, “For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light” (Psa 36:9). Paul echoes “For God … is the one who has shined in our hearts for the enlightenment of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor 4:6). God’s grace puts everything in perspective. Both passages help us assess with wisdom the message and posture of those who teach. They also challenge us to take a look at our own standing before God. Take an honest look at what motivates you. Are you transformed by the good news? Is it apparent to others around you? REBECCA VAN NOORD


April 9: The Global Reset Button

Deuteronomy 15:1–17:20; 2 Corinthians 4:7–18; Psalm 37:1–22


When I was a kid, I loved playing Super Nintendo—especially Donkey Kong. Despite my love for it, it would just make me angry at times. When I couldn’t handle the way the game was panning out, I would slam down the controller and hit the reset button. I would start fresh. It’s more than a little sad that my entertainment made me act like a caveman. Yet those moments of resetting the entire system felt like another chance at life (albeit a virtual one). With the state of the global economy, it often feels like the world needs a reset. It’s tempting to say something as radical as, “Let’s forgive all debts and start again.” Though this couldn’t happen—and it would be highly problematic since the statement depends on good will, free economy, and general care for one another—it doesn’t stop us from hoping. God actually created a system for this audacious idea: in the Year of Jubilee, or the Sabbatical Year, slaves were freed and debts were forgiven (Deut 15), people were celebrated as equals (Deut 16), and the land was given a rest to prevent famine. (Famine was often caused by overworking the land.) It was a reset button. The global economy is complex. I’m not suggesting that it’s time for a Year of Jubilee, but maybe it is time for an economic evaluation of our lives. Who is God calling you to forgive? Whose life could be better if you lifted their debts? Who needs your generosity right now? Who could you make an equal by changing something about your work or friendship? How can you celebrate with those who feel like lesser people in this world? The economy proves the point that we are all interdependent. It also makes the case that doing something for those at the bottom of the economic ladder can have a massive impact—not just on them, but on others. Those that are forgiven are likely to forgive. Whose life can you make better today? Who can you bring jubilee (celebration) to? JOHN D. BARRY


April 10: Tent Making for Eternity

Deuteronomy 18:1–20:20; 2 Corinthians 5:1–10; Psalm 37:23–40


Paul, the tent maker, knew the temporal nature of human-made structures. For someone who made and probably repaired tents, he knew all their flaws and tendencies for wear. So it’s not a stretch for him to draw the connection from tents to mortality:“For we know that if our earthly house, the tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made by hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Cor 5:1). Paul is also making a connection to the tabernacle, the tent where the Israelites first regularly experienced God. Like the tents that Paul made, these earthly homes for God would eventually break down and be destroyed. But the Spirit and the heavens, where God actually dwelled, would live on. While temporal tent worship would fall apart, eternal worship in God’s heavenly “building” will remain. Paul contrasts the art of tent-making and the beautiful worship places of Yahweh with God’s work (what He actually made), which was incorruptible. Right now, we have a “building from God” waiting for us—eternity made possible by the sacrifice of Christ. He stresses that our eternal reality transforms our “meantime.” It clarifies what “we have as our ambition, whether at home in the body or absent from the body, to be acceptable to him” (2 Cor 5:9). While waiting, we don’t have to live with longing. We don’t need to escape. We can live for Him, spreading the news that the kingdom of God is at hand. Until then, God has given us someone who comforts us: the Holy Spirit (John 17). He reminds us of our eternal confidence and empowers us to live for God. How would your perspective change if you looked at your daily tasks in light of eternal significance? REBECCA VAN NOORD


April 11: Curses, the Old Testament, and Freedom

Deuteronomy 21:1–22:30; 2 Corinthians 5:11–21; Psalm 38:1–22


“And if a man commits a sin punishable by death, and so he is put to and you hang him on a tree, his dead body shall not hang on the tree, but certainly you shall bury him on that day, for cursed by God is one that is being hung” (Deut 21:22–23). Being hung on a tree was a sign of being cursed. Romans 5:12 tells us that the punishment of sin is death; we as sinners deserve that curse. If Christ wasn’t cursed for us by being hung on a tree (the cross), then we would still have a debt to pay and a curse to live under. It can be difficult to find significance in the OT, especially in passages that are as harsh as this one. But the OT still holds meaning for us today, and that meaning often reveals our human and individual state. The same is true for those odd laws about crimes and marrying foreigners (Deut 21:1–14). It’s not that we’re supposed to practice these laws; they were intended for a land and a place. But we are meant to use them to understand God’s conceptual framework. God always opposes taking a life. Similarly, marrying someone who doesn’t share your belief in Christ (the equivalent of an Israelite marrying a foreigner) will be detrimental to God’s work: that person will lead you astray. The law may not be in force anymore, but God’s framework for interpreting the moral values in the world remains the same. There isn’t always a clear connection between the OT laws and our lives today since the contextual framework is often quite complex. But there is always an easy relationship between our actions and what Christ has done for us. We are free from the OT laws and the curse we deserve, but that freedom is meant to prompt us to live like Christ—not for ourselves (see Rom 7). We are called to live as free people should live. We are called to live for God’s kingdom. What moral values are you learning from the OT? In what ways are you currently misusing the freedom that Christ has given you? JOHN D. BARRY


April 12: Costly Grace

Deuteronomy 23:1–25:19; 2 Corinthians 6:1–13; Psalm 39


When we say something hurtful to a friend or a family member, we know we can’t just ignore the harm we have caused (we should know, anyway). In order to repair the relationship and earn back trust, we have to acknowledge the rift we’ve created. But when it comes to our relationship with God, we don’t always look at it the same way. Sometimes, consciously or unconsciously, we belittle the incredible love that He has shown us. When we don’t acknowledge our sin as an act of rebellion, we feel far from God. We’ve created this great divide because we’ve tarnished our relationship with Him. In Psalm 39, the psalmist is in great agony over his sin—to the point where he acknowledges that people are nothing and his life is vanity: “Surely a man walks about as a mere shadow” (Psa 39:6). Without God, life is meaningless. The psalmist acknowledges that his transgression has done great harm. He turns to God and says: “And now, O Lord, for what do I wait?” (Psa 39:7). At the heart of that cry is a need for redemption from a God that answers. He provided a way of salvation—one that was incredibly costly through Christ. In 2 Corinthians, Paul stresses the importance of not taking this great gift for granted: “Now because we are fellow workers, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain.… Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation!” (2 Cor 6:1–2). Paul’s call is urgent because Jesus’ coming to earth wasn’t a small gesture. It was incredible. If we aren’t amazed at it, if we scorn it (even by accident), we may miss out. We have a greater hope than the psalmist was ever able to realize; his broken cry would not be fully answered for centuries. So today, when you hear God’s call, don’t respond with silence. Respond with a thankful heart. Are you ignoring sin in your life? How can you live with a thankful heart, since Christ has bought you with such a great sacrifice? REBECCA VAN NOORD


April 13: The Curious Thing about God’s Work

Deuteronomy 26:1–27:26; 2 Corinthians 6:14–7:1; Psalm 40:1–17


Doing God’s work is a curious thing. It requires both mad rushes and patiently waiting. Christ followers are meant to think like the psalmist did: “I waited patiently for Yahweh, And he inclined to me and heard my cry for help” (Psa 40:1). Yet Jesus’ followers are also meant to do His work at breakneck speed, as described in Deut 26:1, where the Israelites are told to take possession of the promised land and settle it. We’re meant to recognize where the answers and timeframe come from: God. Giving the first of what we make to God’s work indicates this understanding: “You shall take from the firstfruit of all the fruit of the ground that you harvest from your land that Yahweh your God is giving to you … and you shall go to the priest who is in office in those days, and you shall say, ‘I declare today to Yahweh your God that I have come into the land that Yahweh swore to our ancestors to give to us.’ Then the priest takes the basket from your hand and places it before the altar of Yahweh your God” (Deut 26:2–4). In ancient Israel, the firstfruits wouldn’t be wasted. This sacrifice would provide the priest with a livelihood so that he could serve Yahweh by serving others. God has asked His followers to listen and to act, but to leave the timeframe of doing both up to Him. Giving after we complete both tasks shows that we realize that God has given us all we have, and it requires us to understand the purpose of sacrifice. Just as the Israelites were a wandering people (Deut 26:5), we were also once wandering sinners. It’s for this reason, and many others, that we must trust our God in our patience, in our speed, and with our giving. What is God asking you to be patient about, and where should you make haste? How are you currently neglecting to give? JOHN D. BARRY


April 14: Tearing Down to Build Up

Deuteronomy 28:1–68; 2 Corinthians 7:2–7; Psalm 41


It’s difficult to take rebuke, especially when it’s unsolicited. We feel exposed and embarrassed when our sin is brought to light. And if we don’t have the humility to accept rebuke, the experience can leave us at odds with the brave soul who assumes the task. For Paul, who rebuked the Corinthians, news of their love was a relief and comfort to him: “But God, who comforts the humble, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming, but also by the comfort with which he was comforted among you, because he reported to us your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced even more” (2 Cor 7:6–7). We form community when others challenge us and encourage us to live for God. While community can fulfill our social needs, it’s this common purpose that draws us together. When we take rebuke graciously and seek forgiveness from God, it forges the bond of community. When we rebel, or when we’re sensitive and prideful, it creates a rift. Because the Corinthians felt sorrow for their sin and expressed concern for Paul, it solidified their relationship. And it comforted him and brought him incredible joy during conflict and trial. Surprisingly, the rebuked person often has to be intentional about extending love and comfort to the one who brings the rebuke. Paul tells the Corinthians to “make room for us in your hearts” (2 Cor 7:2). We should do the same for those in our community. Not all people possess Paul’s zeal and boldness, so we should prepare ourselves to graciously accept correction when it comes—solicited or not. Reaching out to those around us and letting them know we appreciate their rebuke will help build up a community that is authentically following Jesus. Do others approach you about your sin? If you haven’t been rebuked recently, how can you make yourself more approachable? REBECCA VAN NOORD


April 15: I’ll Take the Arrow

Deuteronomy 29:1–29; 2 Corinthians 7:8–16; Psalm 42:1–43:5


“Better is an arrow from a friend than a kiss from an enemy.” When I first heard this saying, I was struck by what a truism it is. It wasn’t until years later, though, that I began surrounding myself with wise friends who would tell me the truth even when it was difficult to hear. Paul was a true friend to the Corinthians, and it’s for this reason that he rebuked them: “For if indeed I grieved you by my letter, I do not regret it.… For grief according to the will of God brings about a repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted, but worldly grief brings about death” (2 Cor 7:8, 10). I recently felt God asking me to rebuke someone. I was hesitant at first, but I followed through. Afterward, I was tempted to lighten the weight of my words by writing a follow-up explanation, but I was certain that it wasn’t God’s will that I do so; I felt that nearly all the words I had spoken were in His will. I had to be confident that the rebuke had power to lead the person to repentance and that the repentance could lead to salvation. I shouldn’t regret what I had done, but embrace it. Moses had a similar experience to Paul’s. He spoke harsh words into the lives of the Israelites when renewing God’s covenant with them. He said things like: “You have not eaten bread, and you have not drunk wine and strong drink, so that you may know that I am Yahweh your God” (Deut 29:6). When the Israelites were deprived of things they thought they deserved, it was so that they could learn about God; such deprivation would force them to be dependent upon Yahweh. I had another experience lately where I was on the receiving end of a truthful rebuke. My typical response is defensiveness, but I sensed from my friend’s voice that he was genuine. He was speaking words of experience, love, and godly wisdom. God worked in my heart and I listened. Even though they hurt, I had to be thankful for the wise words. As I’ve been tempted to fall into my old patterns since then, that rebuke continues to make a difference. I’m thankful for honest friends. We often use the phrase “Judge not lest you be judged” as an excuse for not speaking the truth to someone (Matt 7:1). But Paul clearly didn’t use it that way. He understood that he was the worst of sinners, and he gladly admitted it. In grace, he issued rebukes. Judging people incorrectly and out of hate or envy is a problem in our world. But so is failing to speak up when we see someone going astray. Paul didn’t judge—rather, he stated that God would judge according to His plans and oracles. Paul said it like it was, based on what God led him to say. He didn’t degrade people; he promoted godly behavior. Do you have godly friends who speak honest words to you? If not, how can you go about making friends that will? How can you be open to speaking the truth to others without judging them? JOHN D. BARRY


April 16: Bold Requests

Deuteronomy 30:1–31:29; 2 Corinthians 8:1–7; Psalm 44


Psalm 44 is bold. Who asks the Lord to “wake up”? Who asks Him why He is sleeping? The psalmist doesn’t stop with these questions. He makes claims regarding God that seem like accusations: “you have rejected and disgraced us,” “you have given us as sheep for food,” and “you have sold your people cheaply” (Psa 44:9, 11, 12). How do we deal with these types of psalms? Should we be as bold in our relationship with God? But these claims aren’t made without reason. The psalmist opens his lament with, “O God, we have heard with our ears; our ancestors have told us of work you worked in their days, in days of old” (Psa 44:1). He had heard stories of God’s past faithfulness—how he delivered His people in battles. He also knew that God had claimed His people, that His favor to them was a testimony to the surrounding nations. But the psalmist experiences something different. Why is Israel “a taunt to our neighbors, a derision and a scorn to those around us” (Psa 44:13)? The psalmist wrestles with his experience because he knows God’s will. He appeals to God’s faithfulness, love, and reputation among the nations. It’s not much different from our own experience, as we wrestle with evil, sorrow, and pain, and as we wonder about God’s work in the world. But in the midst of the confusion, we still need to place trust in God. Although the psalmist questions boldly, he acknowledges, “In God, we boast all the day, and we will give thanks to your name forever” (Psa 44:8). At the end of the psalm, he still petitions God for help, on the basis of His love: “Rise up! Be a help for us, and redeem us for the sake of your loyal love” (Psa 44:26). God has redeemed us for the sake of His loyal love, and He is present and active—even when it seems otherwise. Colossians 1 tells us to give thanks to the Father, “who has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of the Son he loves … because all things in the heavens and on the earth were created by him … and in him all things are held together … because he was well pleased for all the fullness to dwell in him, and through him to reconcile all things to himself, by making peace through the blood of his cross” (Col 1:12–20). Do you trust in God’s love and deliverance, even when circumstances seem grim? Do you boldly petition Him for help, acknowledging His good character in the process? REBECCA VAN NOORD


April 17: It’s Actually Quite Simple

Deuteronomy 31:30–32:52; 2 Corinthians 8:8–15; Psalm 45:1–17


“May my teaching trickle like the dew, my words like rain showers on tender grass … For I will proclaim the name of Yahweh; ascribe greatness to our God! The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are just; he is a faithful God, and without injustice; righteous and upright is he” (Deut 32:2–4). We all teach in some way. Some of us teach at church, others teach co-workers or employees. Some teach the children in their household, and others teach simply by doing (although we don’t always acknowledge these roles). If all of us lived by Moses’ prayer, things would be quite different. Imagine a world where we proclaimed Yahweh’s greatness in all we say and do. Moses’ words also teach us something about God. If we’re looking for perfection in what we do, we should look to the one who actually manifests it. If we’re looking to be faithful, we should rely on the one who is faithful in all He does. If it’s right actions we desire in our lives and the world, we should seek the upright one. There is no doubting that the problems in our lives and world are complicated. They can’t be undersold, and the difficult stories can’t be told too many times. But there is a place to look when we need guidance and revitalization. There is a rock to stabilize us; we have a firm foundation (compare Matt 7:24–27). The first-century Corinthian church was tasked with carrying out Paul’s work of bringing many in Corinth to Jesus and listening to the Spirit so that they could be God’s hands and feet in the city. We, like the Corinthian church, have work to finish (2 Cor 8:10–12). God has given us action steps as individuals and as communities. And if we doubt that, then it is our job to seek answers from Him. Often we are unsure because we aren’t listening to Him; we aren’t really seeking His will. May we feel like Moses about our own teaching work—the work of proclaiming Jesus in what we do and say. May we make the same requests of God. Then, may your words trickle down like rain showers on tender grass. May you find the words God wishes to speak through you, and may you find the people who you are meant to teach. Who are you tasked with teaching? What work has God given you? How can you improve that work and make it more glorifying to Him? JOHN D. BARRY


April 18: Operating Standards

Deuteronomy 33:1–34:12; 2 Corinthians 8:16–24; Psalm 46


Sometimes I operate on the premise that if I’m honoring God and following Him, I don’t have to be concerned with what other people think. But carrying this too far is just as faulty as basing my identity on the approval of others. One leads to foolish pride and independence, and the other results in idolatry. Paul, upon receiving a generous gift from believers in Jerusalem, felt called to explain his actions to the Corinthian church. He was intentional about how he would accept the gift, “lest anyone should find fault with us in this abundant gift that is being administered by us” (2 Cor 8:20). He explains why he is so concerned: “For we are taking into consideration what is honorable not only before the Lord, but also before people” (2 Cor 8:21). In his ministry, Paul considered how his actions would be interpreted by observers. Since he experienced opposition in the community, he wanted to communicate how he would receive the gift—to be above reproach. The gospel was primary, and he wanted to avoid accusations that would impede the message of salvation. Daily, we face situations where we can be governed by others’ opinions. We also can offend them. When are we too vigilant? How do we keep from becoming a robot, motivated by other people’s desires instead of love for God? When do we challenge other people’s faith, instead of tiptoeing around them? Answering these questions takes incredible wisdom. In 2 Corinthians 8, Paul draws from Proverbs 3: “May loyal love and truth not forsake you; bind them around your neck, write them upon your heart. And you shall find favor and good sense in the eyes of God and humankind” (Prov 3:3–4). Acting out of love, with a foundation of truth, can help us learn to honor God and love people. Being human, we will not always carry this out successfully. But operating on both love and truth and seeking wisdom and guidance for every situation, we can trust God to work out those places where we fail. When it comes to relationships, what is your basis for operation? REBECCA VAN NOORD


April 19: He’s Dead, But You Can Be Alive

Joshua 1:1–3:17; 2 Corinthians 9:1–5; Psalm 47:1–9


“My servant Moses is dead” (Josh 1:2). Imagine the shock of this moment for Joshua, Moses’ right-hand man. He probably already knew about Moses’ death before God told him (Deut 34:1–8), but it’s in this moment that he really feels the tragedy. If you’ve experienced death, you know this feeling—the moment when someone looks you in the eyes and says, “They’re gone.” You can’t prepare for it. It’s death; there’s nothing you can do to change it or handle it. This was also the moment when Joshua was confronted with the great leadership burden that he would now carry as a result of Moses’ passing—equivalent to the emotional burden a vice president carries as he’s being sworn into office after the president has died. Yahweh tells Joshua, “Get up and cross the Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the children of Israel. Every place that the soles of your feet will tread, I have given it to you, as I promised to Moses” (Josh 1:2–3). There isn’t a moment to spare; it’s time to move. So Joshua leads. Of all the incredible moments in his life—the battles he won and bravery he showed in the face of danger—this moment is probably the most impressive because he simply does it (Josh 2:1). And Joshua does so in the face of the great fear of foreign warriors: “From the wilderness and the Lebanon, up to the great river, the river Euphrates, all of the land of the Hittites, and up to the great sea in the west, will be your territory” (Josh 1:4). He will face these warriors while still overcoming grief. We all experience moments like these that will shape who we become. We’ll experience grief, pain, and difficult decisions. We may be called to lead people. What we do in these moments is what defines us; it determines what kind of Christ followers we will be. Joshua experienced the great comfort of God’s Spirit and guidance, and Christians have the opportunity to do the same (Deut 34:9–12; John 17). That’s something that no one can take away from us and no circumstance can overcome. How are you handling grief or pain in your life? What important moments and decisions are in front of you? How can you incorporate the Spirit into everything you do at this moment? JOHN D. BARRY


April 20: Be Generous to Consume?

Joshua 4:1–6:27; 2 Corinthians 9:6–15; Psalm 48


Our culture encourages us to absorb the latest and greatest, and then cast off our gently used devices. We are targeted to accumulate and consume. The new feature we learned about yesterday is now the one we can’t live without. At first, 2 Corinthians 9 seems to appeal to our consumer lifestyle: “The one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (2 Cor 9:6). This verse has often been used to encourage giving, because then, God will provide us with even more. But should we give more for the sake of consuming more? Should this be our motivation for generosity? Paul debunks this idea in the next verse: “Each one should give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or from compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor 9:7). Certainly God will provide for those who give; He takes care of those who follow Him. But our willingness to give should not be out of compulsion, obligation, or giving in order to receive. Selfish giving produces selfishness, not the love and mercy God desires (Micah 6:8). God is incredibly generous. He gives us gifts—even sending His Son to die for us. As a result of His gracious love, we should also freely give. It reflects the thankfulness in our hearts: “being made rich in every way for all generosity” (2 Cor 9:11). God’s generosity doesn’t hinge on our giving. We should give out of love for Him, and not from expecting a return on our investment. What are your motives for giving? REBECCA VAN NOORD


April 21: The Misnomer about God’s Will

Joshua 7:1–8:35; 2 Corinthians 10:1–8; Psalm 49:1–20


We often hear a great misnomer about following God’s will. It usually sounds something like this: “God has commanded me to do x, so I’m going to go into x blindly without fear.” A phrase like this has elements of great truth—faith should carry us. But it’s missing a piece. Sometimes God instructs us to follow Him quickly and blindly. When that’s the case, we should certainly do it. However, His commands should almost always be combined with the abilities that He has given us, including logic and rationality. We have to find the balance. If we get too rational, it can be at the detriment of God’s will; we can reason ourselves out of taking the risks God wants us to take. Joshua, the leader of the Israelites after Moses, is a great example of proper behavior within God’s will. He learned from Moses and led out of that strength and experience, but he was led by the Spirit (Deut 34:9–12). He also did the proper legwork, even though he knew that God had guaranteed success if he and the people were faithful. We see a glimpse into this strategy in Josh 7:2–5, the battle of Ai. Joshua sent spies into enemy territory before invading it. He then paced the troops by sending only a small regiment at first (Josh 7:3). Despite his proper behavior, Joshua was unsuccessful because of the people’s disobedience (Josh 7:1). After this, we see the pain that Joshua felt as a result of the people’s spiritual failures (Josh 7:6–9). Yahweh didn’t allow for this to continue, though, because He was aware of the root cause of the problem; God called Joshua to find it and change it, so he did (Josh 7:10–26). Joshua shows us what it means to follow God’s will: receive a call, be trained, act out of wisdom and preparation, accept defeat when it comes, seek Yahweh’s will again to fix it, and then confront the problem head on. The result: success (Josh 8:1–29). Following their victory, Joshua rededicated himself and those he led to Yahweh (Josh 8:30–35). If we understood how to function within God’s will, we would be much more successful for God. We would see great and miraculous things happen. And this understanding is not just reserved for the leader, but for all people. What patterns of following God’s will do you need to change? How have you misunderstood what it means to live for Him? JOHN D. BARRY


April 22: Judging Gifts

Joshua 9:1–10:15; 2 Corinthians 10:9–18; Psalm 50


Comparing our gifts to those of the person sitting in the next cubicle or pew is dangerous work. Judging ourselves by this standard denigrates or inflates the gifts we’ve been given, leading to either ungratefulness or pride. Because the assessment method is faulty, we will always miss the mark of success—even if we’re successful. Paul had been called by God to minister to the Gentiles (see Acts 9:15). When others in the Gentile community questioned his authority, Paul boldly defended his calling. He also pointed out the measure by which these leaders judged their gifts: each other. They were undermining Paul’s authority based on his lack of verbal abilities (2 Cor 10:10). Paul was undeterred by this because he knew his calling: “But we will not boast beyond limits, but according to the measure of the assignment that God has assigned to us” (2 Cor 10:13). If we judge our gifts and calling by comparison, we serve the idol of our own pride. But this doesn’t mean we should take them for granted. Instead, we are called to live for God: “The one who boasts, let him boast in the Lord” (2 Cor 10:17). Thankfulness is the first step to using our gifts for God’s glory. In Psalm 50, the psalmist acknowledges that everything is from God—a reason to sacrifice our own pride. God says, “The world and its fullness are mine” (Psa 50:12). But He does delight in the sacrifice of a thankful heart: “Offer to God a thank offering, and pay your vows to the Most High” (Psa 50:14–15). We’ll always come up short if we judge by comparison; there will be someone who is smarter or more gifted than we are. But by thanking God for our gifts (and for others’ gifts), and asking Him for guidance in developing them, we can use them appropriately—not for our own gain, but to further His kingdom. Are you judging your gifts by comparison? How can you judge your life in the light of God’s purposes? REBECCA VAN NOORD


April 23: The Art of Confession

Joshua 10:16–11:23; 2 Corinthians 11:1–6; Psalm 51:1–19


Confession is a lost art. Most Christian communities today have little outlet for doing so, and the systems for confessing that we do have are often tainted by a lack of honesty and trust. This isn’t helped by the fact that none of us like to admit wrong. Yet God calls us to confession. In revealing sin in our lives, we have an opportunity to change (Jas 5:16). When a sin is revealed, the strength of temptation wanes. This is not to suggest that we should openly confess our sins to all people, for unsafe and abusive people certainly exist. Rather, in close friendship with other Christians, we should be honest about our failures. Most importantly, we must confess these things to God. We need to overcome the fatal assumption that because we are saved by Christ’s dying and rising for our sins, we no longer need to confess them. In admitting our sins to God, we move toward overcoming them and into an honest relationship with Him. God already knows who we are and what we’ve done, so there is no reason to fear being honest with Him. And perhaps in learning to be honest with Him we can also learn to be honest with others. For many of us, the difficulty of praying about our sins is what prevents us from telling God what we need and what we’ve done. God has an answer to this, though: the psalms. For example, in Psa 51, the psalmist says, “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and from my sin cleanse me. For I, myself, know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me” (Psa 51:2–3). He goes on to say, “Create a clean heart for me, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and with a willing spirit sustain me” (Psa 51:10–12). When we confess our sins to God and to others, He is faithful to help us overcome temptations. We have been given the great gift of Christ Jesus, who purifies us from all our wrongs against Him and others. And so we must seek His presence and live in it; in doing so, we can overcome the power of sin. In light of God’s power, sin is nothing; it deserves no stronghold. Are you currently confessing your sins to God and others? How can you create a safe system to confess your sins in a way that honors God? JOHN D. BARRY


April 24: Tongues, Flames, and Other Things That Devour

Joshua 12:1–13:32; 2 Corinthians 11:7–15; Psalm 52:1–53:6


I’d like to skip over the description of the “mighty man” in Psa 52. Of all of his destructive influences, the mighty man is most judged for his use of words. The psalmist’s words burn because I’ve set more than a few forests ablaze with careless words (Jas 3:5). So how should someone like me respond to the psalmist’s judgment? “Why do you boast about evil, O mighty man? The loyal love of God endures continually. Your tongue plans destruction, like a sharp razor, working deceit. You love evil more than good, a lie more than speaking what is right. You love all devouring words, O deceitful tongue” (Psa 52:1–4). Prideful self-reliance is at the root of the evil man’s devouring, razor-sharp tongue. He boasts to make himself appear mighty. He takes “refuge in his destructiveness” (Psa 52:7). In contrast, the psalmist finds refuge in God, in the sanctuary of His loyal love: “But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God. I trust in the loyal love of God forever and ever” (Psa 52:8). On my own, I’m more like the mighty man than the stable and prosperous olive tree. I can try to manage my words, fabricating my sense of security on the basis of good behavior. But efforts born out of self-reliance—the root problem of my flippant speech—always fail me. Unless I recognize the foolishness of my pride, I cannot see my desperate need for God. Without hope in Jesus, who provided refuge through His sacrifice, I’ll never resemble the psalmist’s prosperous olive tree. Oftentimes, the places where we fail so miserably, where we need the most grace, are also the places we see God’s work all the more. His Spirit changes us into people who bear the fruit of thankfulness. It makes us ever more eager to say with the psalmist: “I will give thanks to you forever, because of what you have done” (Psa 52:9). Where do you see pride and self-reliance taking root in your life? REBECCA VAN NOORD


April 25: Bound for the Promised Land

Joshua 14:1–15:63; 2 Corinthians 11:16–23; Psalm 54:1–7


Faith is not just about being faithful; it’s also about trusting in God’s faithfulness. For years God dealt with the confused and waning nature of His people while they were in the wilderness. They wondered, “Will God actually do what Moses has told us?” They had seen God repeatedly act on their behalf, but they continued to grow frightened and faithless. In return, the first generation that left Egypt never saw the promises of God. Instead, a later generation witnessed His faithfulness. In Joshua 14:1–15:63, we see God fulfilling His words. Caleb and Joshua get a chance to witness this faithfulness, but the Hebrews who doubted that God would act on their behalf did not (Josh 14:6–15; also see Num 13:25–14:45). This is an incredible moment: these two men had watched the failures of their elders and led their peers and people younger than them so that they could witness the faithfulness of God together. You can almost hear them singing, “It is well with my soul.” Faith is a two-way street. We are to be faithful, but we must also have faith in God’s faithfulness. God will do what He has told us He will do. He will act upon His word like He did with Joshua and Caleb. We will be able to look back upon the events in our lives and say, as the psalmist does, “I will freely sacrifice to you; I will give thanks to your name, O Yahweh, because it is good. Because he has delivered me from all trouble” (Psa 54:6–7). Since we know that day will come, why should we not freely sacrifice to Him now? He will overcome our opposition. Why should we not boldly proclaim, as the old hymn says, “I am bound for the promised land,” and use it as leverage to say, “God will be faithful, so there is no reason why we shouldn’t be”? God has bound us to His faithfulness; Christ’s death and resurrection shows that He blesses us beyond measure. So let’s be bound to God with the knowledge that we are bound for the heavens that He has promised. In what ways has God been faithful to you? How can these moments be a reminder to you now to be faithful? JOHN D. BARRY


April 26: Bitter and Betrayed

Joshua 16:1–17:18; 2 Corinthians 11:24–33; Psalm 55


The betrayal of a loved one can shake our world. It can make us feel vulnerable and used, and if we’re not careful, it can cause us to be bitter and suspicious toward others. The psalmist in Psalm 55 experiences such a betrayal from a friend who feared God: “We would take sweet counsel together in the house of God” (Psa 55:14). The psalmist agonizes over how he was deceived: “The buttery words of his mouth were smooth, but there was battle in his heart. His words were smoother than oil, but they were drawn swords” (Psa 55:21). How does someone move beyond a violation of trust? Instead of growing bitter, the psalmist puts his trust in Yahweh: “Cast your burden on Yahweh, and he will sustain you. He will never allow the righteous to be moved” (Psa 55:22). Similarly, in 2 Corinthians, Paul tells the church in Corinth about his sufferings. Among Paul’s lashings, stonings, shipwrecks (three of them), and robbings, he also lists “dangers because of false brothers” (2 Cor 11:26). He suffered anxiety because of the churches (2 Cor 11:28). Paul adds to this list by discussing a force of oppression over him. He states that he prayed for his “thorn” to be taken from him (2 Cor 12:8). However, the Lord told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, because the power is perfected in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9). This reshapes Paul’s perspective on suffering: “I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in calamities, in persecutions and difficulties for the sake of Christ, for whenever I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor 12:10). By submitting to Christ, Paul relied less on himself and more heavily on God. As a result, God’s grace and power was manifested within him. Betrayal causes bitterness that can poison our hearts. But, like Paul, we should use trials as an opportunity to submit more fully to God, and to show others His work in us. How are you holding onto bitterness? What would God have you do instead? REBECCA VAN NOORD


April 27: Walking in Circles

Joshua 18:1–19:9; 2 Corinthians 12:1–10; Psalm 56:1–13


I often wish things were more obvious. I ask God to help me understanding His timing so that I can easily act. I ask for everything to happen at the right moments. I ask Him to give me such clear directions that I can’t fail in following them. I used to think this was a good thing, but I realize now that all my questions could indicate a lack of faith. It seems that my questions lead to more questions. Like a man losing his memory in old age, I end up walking in circles around the block rather than finding my way home. Maybe it’s not the lack of knowing that disturbs me, but that when I really know what God wants, I will have to act. In general, this seems to be the problem with faith in western Christianity. We say we don’t know what God wants. However, if we’re honest with ourselves, perhaps we don’t really want to know what God wants. In our hearts, we’re certain that knowing will mean uncomfortable change. Joshua calls the Israelites on this type of faith problem: “How long will you be slack about going to take possession of the land that Yahweh, the God of your ancestors, has given you?” (Josh 18:3). The same question applies to us. How long will we wait? We really know what we’re supposed to do? If we don’t, might the reason be that we don’t want to know? Often we hesitate because we’re afraid of our weaknesses—that we don’t think we have what it takes. Paul addresses this when discussing his own weaknesses: “And [God] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, because the power is perfected in weakness.’ Therefore rather I will boast most gladly in my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may reside in me’ ” (2 Cor 12:9). Rather than live in fear, we should boast in our weaknesses. Christ is working in us, to use us, in spite of them. No one is perfect; only Christ has the honor of perfection. And while we are weak, He will give us strength in Him. His strength can overcome whoever we are, wherever we have been, and whatever we will do. Rather than walking in circles looking for home, let’s realize that we are already home. Our home is Christ. In what ways are you currently walking in circles? What should you be doing instead? JOHN D. BARRY


April 28: The Subtle Sinner

Joshua 19:10–20:9; 2 Corinthians 12:11–21; Psalm 57:1–58:11


Some sins slip through the cracks—the ones that emerge in hushed tones between like-minded Christians. Sometimes these sins seem respectable because they occur out of supposed concerns for the Church or others. But they can leave deep gashes in the life of a community because they often go unchecked. And it’s these sins that Paul addresses shortly before closing his letter to the Corinthians: “For I am afraid lest somehow when I arrive, I will not find you as I want, and I may be found by you as you do not want. I am afraid lest somehow there will be strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, slander, gossip, pride, disorder” (2 Cor 12:20). While the Corinthians were guilty of flagrant sins like impurity, sexual immorality, and licentiousness, they were also sinning in ways that subtly undermined Paul’s authority. Slander and gossip created deep divisions in the Corinthian church, just as they do in our churches today. We often don’t realize we’re committing these sins until rumors reach the individual we’re gossiping about. Paul had been absent from the Corinthian community for some time. During his absence, dissenters slandered him. The Corinthians should have defended Paul while he was away, but instead, he was forced to defend his own ministry (2 Cor 13:2–3). He anticipated that his return to the community would reveal the true state of the situation. Ultimately, these subtle sins were an attack on the good news—not just Paul. Because his integrity was brought into question, the authenticity of his message was also criticized. In addition, Paul was forced to address their sin before he could reach out to other communities with the good news (2 Cor 10:15). The decisions we make on a daily basis can lead to division or unity in our community. And choosing to be a faithful peacemaker in the midst of divisive sins might have a bigger impact than we can imagine. What are your subtle sins that are wrongfully condoned? REBECCA VAN NOORD


April 29: Examine Thy Self

Joshua 21:1–22:9; 2 Corinthians 13:1–10; Psalm 59:1–17


Before advising others on how they should act, self-examination is always necessary. When the Corinthians questioned the authenticity of Paul and his colleagues’ ministry (which is ironic, since he had planted their church), Paul says to them: “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith. Examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize regarding yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you, unless you are unqualified?” (2 Cor 13:5). None of us are ready for the ministry that Jesus has for us because we’re not worthy of the great gift of salvation He has offered. We are meant to find our identity and calling in Christ and to lead out of the gifts He has given us (see 1 Cor 12). For this reason, Paul makes this claim: “And I hope that you will recognize that we are not unqualified! Now we pray to God that you not do wrong in any way, not that we are seen as approved, but that you do what is good, even though we are seen as though unqualified. For we are not able to do anything against the truth, but rather only for the truth” (2 Cor 13:6–8). Paul is bound to what Christ has called him to do, which is why he often calls himself a slave for Christ (e.g., Rom 1:1). Because of His great sacrifice, Paul sees the only natural action is living fully—with his entire being—for Jesus. It is in Christ that Paul finds his strength, even in the difficulties he faces with the Corinthians: “For we rejoice whenever we are weak, but you are strong, and we pray for this: your maturity” (2 Cor 13:9). The psalmist also has a plea for times when he faces opposition from others: “Deliver me from my enemies, O my God. Protect me from those who rise up against me.… For look, they lie in wait for my life. The mighty attack against me, not because of my transgression or my sin, O Yahweh. Without guilt on my part they run and ready themselves. Awake to meet me and see” (Psa 59:1, 3–4). The Bible is full of understanding and insight for moments of struggle. And we have a great Savior who can sympathize with our struggles (Heb 4:14–16). It’s not a matter of if we as Christ followers will experience unrighteous opposition; it’s a matter of when. May we have the type of faithfulness that Paul and the psalmist did. May we plea to the good God who loves us. May we speak only His truth. What opposition are you currently experiencing? How would God have you to answer it? How should you be praying to Him? JOHN D. BARRY


April 30: They’re Futile; This Isn’t

Joshua 22:10–24:33; 2 Corinthians 13:11–14; Psalm 60:1–12


If you knew it was time to die, to say goodbye for good, what would you say? How would your final hoorah sound? In an episode of Northern Exposure, Dr. Joel Fleischman is convinced that he is dying. Joel, who is usually conservative, begins risking everything: he drives a motorcycle way too fast without a helmet, gets a ticket that he rips up, and eventually crashes the bike—all while feeling no remorse. He then returns to his office to learn that he is actually fine; his doctor’s initial inclination was incorrect. Almost immediately, he becomes angry that he didn’t know his fate earlier. In his recklessness, he could have prematurely ended his life. The risks you take when you think your life is over are quite different from those you’re willing to take when you think you’re fine. The things you say, the person you are, would be very different if you knew tomorrow were your last day. Joshua, who led Israelites into the promised land, knew his end was coming. As an old man, he commanded the Israelites: “But hold fast to Yahweh your God … Yahweh has driven out before you great and strong nations; and as for you, nobody has withstood you to this day. One of your men put to flight a thousand, for Yahweh your God is fighting for you, just as he promised you” (Josh 23:8–10). Paul made a similar remark: “For we rejoice whenever we are weak, but you are strong, and we pray for this: your maturity” (2 Cor 13:9). Paul realized that maturity in Christ will always put us in the right place in the end. He concluded his letter to the Corinthians by expanding upon this message: “Finally, brothers [and sisters], rejoice, be restored, be encouraged, be in agreement, be at peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you” (2 Cor 13:11). What would you say if you were Joel, Joshua, or Paul? What would you do? As Christians, the response should be the same no matter how long we have to live; Christ could come tomorrow. Does that thought give you joy or great fear? Whenever we experience pain, grief, or encounter enemies, the oppositions of life seem to distract us from our great purpose in Christ. They mask the brevity of our time on earth. Perhaps this is why the psalmist puts it best: “Give us help against the adversary, for the help of humankind is futile. Through God we will do valiantly, and it is he who will tread down our enemies” (Psa 60:11–12). What hope are you currently placing in the futility of humankind? What actions can you take to refocus your hope on Christ? JOHN D. BARRY



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