May 2017


May 1: Who Will Fight for Us?

Judges 1:1–2:10; Philippians 1:1–11; Psalm 61:1–62:12


“Who will go up first for us against the Canaanites to fight against them?” (Judg 1:1). I’ve felt this way before—wondering who will be my advocate in my time of need. It’s ironic that we are surrounded by people, and we have constant access to communication, and yet we can still feel alone. In a world of ambient noise, we’re often left feeling that no one is there to come to our aid. Most of us do have people to help us; it’s just that we’re not willing to ask for help. At all times, we have someone who will be our guide in times of distress. Paul tells us that it is Christ “who began a good work in you [and He] will finish it until the day [He returns]” (Phil 1:6). In essence, the story of Paul and the Philippian believers’ struggles is really the same story told in the book of Judges. God’s people are at war against powers seen and unseen (Phil 3:1–4; compare Col 1:16). They feel lonely and wounded, but when they search their hearts, they see that God really is rising up to defend them. In Judges, He sends His people great advocates who go out before them in battle. In Philippians, we see Paul telling his story to a church in need of a leader so they can look to his example (e.g., Phil 1:12–25; 3:1–21). We also see Paul, time and time again, point to the greatest example: Christ (e.g., Phil 1:9–11). In the humility of his situation, Paul sees God at work (Phil 2). When God’s people found themselves in dire circumstances, being opposed by outside forces, they saw God come to their aid (e.g., Judg 4). Christ is our advocate before God the Father, and He is our guide in this life, which can often be confusing and disheartening. God’s faithfulness in guiding and loving His people remains the same today as yesterday, but now we see an even greater manifestation of that love in Jesus. What humbling situation are you going through? How can you hand it over to God and trust in His providence? JOHN D. BARRY


May 2: Don’t Focus on Overcoming

Judges 2:11–3:31; Philippians 1:12–18; Psalm 63–64


When I go through difficult circumstances, I want the end. I’m so focused on escape and overcoming that I barely think about what God might be teaching me through that experience. And I’m certainly not thinking about how He might be using me to witness to others. Paul was on a completely different wavelength. In his letter to the church at Philippi, he sets his Roman imprisonment in context: “Now I want you to know, brothers, that my circumstances have happened instead for the progress of the gospel, so that my imprisonment in Christ has become known in the whole praetorium and to all the rest” (Phil 1:12–13). Paul wasn’t just enduring or anticipating the end of his imprisonment. He was using his experience to be a witness for Christ. His captors must have wondered: what makes a person willing to suffer like this? What makes his message worth imprisonment? Paul’s circumstances didn’t merely create waves with those he was testifying to. Other believers were emboldened by Paul’s endurance and preached the gospel without fear (Phil 1:14). It’s not natural to be filled with joy in the midst of difficult times. It’s not normal to have a sense of purpose when everything appears to be going wrong. We don’t expect much from ourselves or others during these times, but God wants to refine us and use us. He’s giving us a chance to display the “peace of God that surpasses all understanding”—as a testimony to Christ’s redemptive work (Phil 4:7). Are you responding? How can you use your difficult circumstances to point others toward Christ? REBECCA VAN NOORD


May 3: If Life Were a Musical

Judges 4:1–6:10; Philippians 1:19–30; Psalm 65:1–13


Maybe life should be more like a musical or an oratorio—like Les Misérables or Handel’s Messiah. How we feel is often expressed better in song or poetry than anything else. Literary criticism tells us that poets write verse because prose simply can’t capture the emotions they’re feeling. So much of the Bible is poetry, suggesting that maybe, in a way, poems and songs are the language of God. Deborah and Barak understood this. After Yahweh claimed victory over Israel’s foes through them, they “sang on that day” (Judg 5:1). The Bible records their song. It was epic—the earth trembling (Judg 5:4, 5), the people rejoicing (Judg 5:7), and everyone singing as they recounted “the righteous deeds of Yahweh” and made their way to the city gates (Judg 5:11). This is music, after all; it’s expressive. Paul breaks out in a type of song in Philippians as well (Phil 2:5–11). His song is a result of his raw excitement from reflecting on the work of the good news of Jesus in himself and others (Phil 1:12–26) and his hope that believers will be filled with “one purpose” (Phil 2:2). To truly worship God, you just have to sing. You have to feel and sound like a poet. God’s too exciting for anything else to suffice. I know someone who thinks of life as a musical. Life is joy for that person because there’s a soundtrack for everything. If God is at work in everything, then we should want to worship Him constantly. We should sing His praises. We should write about our journeys, speak about them, share them, and experience God’s work among us collectively. Christianity isn’t meant to be stale or dull—the early church was anything but. It was exciting, like God Himself, because His Spirit was working among believers. And his Spirit is working today. So clap, sing a little louder, and share your story. Find the soundtrack to it all. How can you praise God more fully? JOHN D. BARRY


May 4: More Than I Can Handle

Judges 6:11–7:25; Philippians 2:1–11; Psalm 66:1–20


“God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.” This Christian maxim is a well-meaning attempt at putting our difficult times into perspective. It holds the view that God knows our weaknesses and knows when we can’t measure up to a challenge. But if we’re going through trials, this same saying can be debilitating when we feel that we can’t possibly handle a situation. The psalms often describe circumstances that leave the nation of Israel hopelessly struggling and helplessly in need of God:“For you have tested us, O God; you have tried us as silver is tried. You brought us into the net; you placed a heavy burden on our backs. You let men ride over our heads. We went through fire and through water, but you have brought us out to the place of abundance” (Psa 66:10–12). Israel doesn’t often “handle” situations very well. Throughout its history, the nation chosen by God repeatedly rebelled against Him. Only when God gave them over to their enemies and they suffered through trials would they cry out for deliverance. Only when they stopped relying on themselves or foreign gods to sustain them would He come to their rescue. It may be that God does give us more than we can handle. But this is actually—perhaps strangely—a source of comfort. If we could handle every circumstance, we’d never reach the end of our self-reliance. And it’s only when we get to the end of ourselves that we realize how much we desperately need Him. Our trials give us hope. The people of Israel were “tried as silver is tried” (Psa 66:10). Just like them, we’ll be purified by fire. We will go “through fire and through water,” a process by which He makes us more wholly devoted to Him. And His work will bring us through “to the place of abundance” (Psa 66:12). His faithfulness to us, even when we’re unfaithful, is reason to praise Him. And this is precisely the psalmist’s response: “Blessed be God, who has not turned aside my prayer, or his loyal love from me” (Psa 66:20). We see God’s perfect love for us in Jesus, who was obedient when we couldn’t be and suffered so we wouldn’t have to (Phil 2:5–8). Do you think you can handle the troubles in your life? How can you see God’s faithfulness to you, even when you’re going through difficult circumstances? REBECCA VAN NOORD


May 5: Believing in the Impossible

Judges 8:1–9:21; Philippians 2:12–18; Psalm 67:1–7


Too often, we’re cynical about circumstances. When people come to us for advice, we want to list all the reasons why they shouldn’t take a certain course of action. We want to dissuade them. But what if we had a little faith instead? In Judges, we find someone who is surprisingly idealistic. When the men of Ephraim oppose Gideon, he says, “What have I done now in comparison to you? Are not the gleanings of Ephraim better than the grape harvest of Abiezer? God has given into your hand the commanders of Midian, Oreb, and Zeeb. What have I been able to do in comparison with you?” (Judg 8:2–3). Gideon cleverly couches his request in the middle of compliments; he places positives on either side of it. He wins back their favor: “And their anger against him subsided when he said that” (Judg 8:3). Gideon’s motives were flawed, theologically or interpersonally, but his actions do teach us something fascinating. People often want to be told that they can accomplish the impossible. Those who believe in the impossible can often accomplish things that others can’t. Of course, Gideon was audacious; he and the men from Ephraim could have been crushed by these warring nations of mightier strength and military intelligence. Surprisingly, in this circumstance, he succeeded (Judg 8:15–17). We shouldn’t necessarily look to Gideon as a shining example (he makes lots of mistakes). But this incident is a reminder that we need to carefully consider our interactions with those we influence. What if we chose to be encouraging? What if we didn’t default to cynic mode? When someone comes to you for advice, consider the work that God might be working in that person. If He deems that they are worthy, they will accomplish their work—even if everything looks bleak at first. Who can you encourage? How can you affirm people’s calling? JOHN D. BARRY


May 6: Community Driven

Judges 9:22–10:18; Philippians 2:19–30; Psalm 68:1–14


By default, we flag our own needs as high priority. And we often measure our church community by how well it’s serving our needs. Caught up in our own spiritual growth, we tend to forget that we’re meant to attend to the physical and spiritual needs of others. Paul upholds Timothy and Epaphroditus to the Philippians as examples of what this type of service should look like. Paul was intent on sending Timothy to the Philippian church because of his discernment and his servant-like heart. In fact Timothy was the only one suited for the task. Others wouldn’t “sincerely be concerned about [the Philippians’] circumstances. For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ” (Phil 2:20–21). Likewise, Paul describes Epaphroditus as a man who suffered to the point of death in order to assist him in his ministry (Phil 2:30). Both of these men epitomized the natural result of Paul’s commands earlier in his letter: “Do nothing according to selfish ambition or according to empty conceit, but in humility considering one another better than yourselves, each of you not looking out for your own interests, but also each of you for the interests of others” (Phil 2:3–4). “Considering another individual better” didn’t mean the Philippians had to foster an exaggerated opinion of others—as if they deserved honor. Rather, Paul was instructing them to consider others’ needs ahead of their own. The church in Philippi had this example in Paul, Timothy, and Epaphroditus. But the original example is found in the person of Christ, who “humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:8). Christ’s sacrificial love was first shown undeservedly to us, and His example of humility, obedience, and service is a reminder that we should be looking for ways to serve those around us. How can you reach out to someone who needs guidance, love or encouragement? REBECCA VAN NOORD



May 7: Making Good out of Bad

Judges 11:1–12:15; Philippians 3:1–11; Psalm 68:15–35


God is renowned for working through unlikely means with the most unlikely people. During the period of the judges, there were few candidates less likely for God’s work than Jephthah himself: “Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty warrior; he was the son of a prostitute, and Gilead was his father” (Judg 11:1). The man is the son of a prostitute and an adulterer who had other sons with his wife (compare Judg 11:2). It can seem odd that details like this are included in the Bible. This one is there because God is about to do something unexpected. When Jephthah is told that he won’t inherit anything from his father, he flees and assembles a motley crew of other outlaws (Judg 11:3). If you’ve seen The Magnificent Seven, you might be tracking with this Wild West story: “After a time the Ammonites [a threatening nation of strong warriors], made war with Israel [a small nation with a reserve army at best]. When the Ammonites made war with Israel, the elders of Gilead went to bring Jephthah from the land of Tob. And they said to Jephthah, ‘Come and be our commander’ ” (Judg 11:4–6). Just like in The Magnificent Seven, the fates are about to turn: the misfit rebels will rise to the defense of the people who don’t understand them. Jephthah goes to war against the Ammonites and wins, but he makes an impulsive and tragic mistake in the process (Judg 11:29–40). God had prepared him for this great work, but he fumbles—resorting to the types of vows made to foreign gods. He rebels against Yahweh and ends up killing his daughter as a result of his mistakes. Although Jephthah was unexpectedly called to a great purpose, he didn’t respond to that call with a proper understanding of God. Jephthah could have repented from his rash vow, for God would not have wanted him to do such a thing as kill his daughter, but instead, he chose to view Yahweh like every other foreign god that demanded child sacrifice. In return, the life of Jephthah’s daughter was lost, and the spiritual life of Jephthah and the people he led was compromised. What can we learn from Jephthah and his tragic mistake? Follow God’s calling, even when it’s unexpected. But in doing so, we must understand and embrace who He is and how He is working among us. What does God want to do through you? How can you obey with a proper understanding and knowledge of Him? JOHN D. BARRY


May 8: Beyond Regret

Judges 13:1–14:20; Philippians 3:12–4:1; Psalm 69:1–17


I’ve excelled at regret. When I’ve dwelt on the wrongs I committed against other people and my offensive rebellion against God, I lost my focus. It’s difficult to be confident in our righteousness through Christ when we go through these periods. In Philippians 3:12–14, Paul offers both hope and advice for these times based on his own experience: “But I do one thing, forgetting the things behind and straining toward the things ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” . Paul looks forward to being with God in fullness and experiencing the fruits of his labor for the gospel, so he presses “toward the goal.” He emphasizes that we need to forget the “things behind.” Paul would have known the need for this. As a zealous Pharisee, he had persecuted the early church, counting himself the foremost of sinners (1 Tim 1:15). Does forgetting imply that we act as if our failures never occurred? Not necessarily. We should seek forgiveness from others whenever possible. But it’s dangerous to dwell on the failures—to live in regret. In fact, we belittle Christ’s sacrifice if we purposefully or knowingly live in fear and guilt. He has paid for our sins and given us new life, and that means handing over our imperfections for Him to bear. Paul swiftly moves from forgetting to “straining toward the things ahead, [he says,] I press on” (Phil 3:14). We are called to a new life in Christ, and this should be our focus. We will experience this, and we will know the complete fulfillment of this reality when He comes again. In the meantime, we can move forward without being crippled by our sins. How are you caught up in your past mistakes? How can you seek help from God during these times while trusting in His forgiveness? REBECCA VAN NOORD


May 9: Success Deceives

Judges 15:1–17:13; Philippians 4:2–9; Psalm 69:18–70:5


When leaders come to power, there are always people who become insistent on stopping them. It’s incredible how easy it is for people to justify envy or hatred for authority figures. Most of us have made the offhand remark, “I hate that guy.” And in those words, even when they’re meant in jest, we reveal the motives of the human heart. But this doesn’t represent who we’re meant to be—people who live for others. Samson, an Israelite judge, endured that fate. A young warrior, he had enemies who wanted him dead and would do nearly anything to bring him down—spiritually or physically. The Philistines who opposed him went so far as to burn his wife and her father alive (Judg 15:6). Samson brought these trials on himself by disobeying God and marrying a foreign wife who would ultimately lead him to worship foreign gods. Even so, the acts of violence against him were not just his own doing. The Philistines, like many people today, didn’t like to see an enemy succeed. They were envious and frustrated, and they weren’t used to being second to anyone. There are lessons here for all of us no matter where we’re at in life. If we succeed, we should be thrilled when others do the same. We should try to help them succeed in the work God has called them to, designated specifically for them. If you have yet to come into that realm of success, you should be excited when others do, for the same reasons. Whatever your position in life, set aside the obstacles of envy or hatred. Set your sight on the work God has called you to and encourage those around you who are working toward theirs. How can you help others succeed in God’s work? How can you set your sight on your own work without becoming envious? JOHN D. BARRY


May 10: Old, Wise, and Desperately in Need of God

Judges 18:1–19:30; Philippians 4:10–20; Psalm 71:1–24


Sometimes we expect that we’ll naturally grow in faith as we grow older. We tend to see elderly people as those who have been molded and shaped by life—rock-solid in their faith and untapped sources of wisdom. That, or we speed around them in the grocery aisle, blissfully disengaged with the reality that our bodies, too, will slow down and endure pain. While the psalmist seems to express a shadow of both these perspectives in Psa 71, neither of them is complete. Adopting the point of view of an elderly person, he reflects on his life. His prayer to God shows us that maturing in faith isn’t automatic. The elderly man is respected by others, but he doesn’t trust in the honor that some ascribe to him. He knows that Yahweh is the source of his strength, and he praises Him continually: “I have become a wonder to many, but you are my strong refuge. My mouth is filled with your praise, with your glory all the day” (Psa 71:7). Perhaps forsaken or looked down on by others, he makes a request for God’s presence: “Do not cast me away in the time of old age” and “even when I am old and gray, O God, do not abandon me” (Psa 71:9, 19). He continues to request God’s nearness: “O God, do not be far from me. My God, hurry to help me” (Psa 71:12). Perhaps most poignant is the intensity of the psalmist’s trust in God. Even in his old age, though he has “leaned from birth” upon God, he can’t place his trust in his past years of faithfulness (Psa 71:6). His “praise is of [God] continually” (Psa 71:6). He also feels a responsibility to pass on the testimony of God’s works: “I will come in to tell the mighty deeds of Lord Yahweh. I will make known your righteousness, yours only” (Psa 71:16). Maturity in faith isn’t awarded like a badge after we have put in our time. It’s not an achievement. The elderly man’s prayer acts as a testimony of God’s faithfulness—past and present. Maturity of faith is something you continue to “be” and “do” and “seek.” How do you treat the elderly people in your life? What can you learn about God from them? REBECCA VAN NOORD


May 11: Being Good at What Matters

Judges 20:1–21:25; Philippians 4:21–23; Psalm 72:1–20


Though prayer is important, it’s an area of our faith lives that we often neglect. But people of great faith in the Bible relied on prayer—and not just for difficult situations. From general direction to specific details, they turned everything over to prayer. God spoke to them directly, they listened, and then they act. Maybe you don’t believe God speaks directly to you. If that’s the case, consider why you think this way. Why wouldn’t He want to speak to you? He chose you by sending His own son to die for you. Jesus, that son, said that God would come and speak to you (John 17). You’re important to God, and He wants to talk to you—to know you. In Judges, we find a situation where people relied on God not just for direction, but for details. The Israelites rose up against the tribe of Benjamin because they refused to address the wickedness among them (Judg 20:12–14). But before entering battle, they inquired of God. They actually asked for the details of the plan: “ ‘Who will go up first for the battle against the descendants of Benjamin?’ And Yahweh said, ‘Judah will go first.’ ” We often forget how important it is to ask God about the details—to seek His guidance in all things. Neglecting prayer is a huge mistake. We need God’s grace, the grace of Christ, to be with us always: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit” (Phil 4:23). Having the grace dwell upon us, and in us, in all things, requires a constant pursuit of Him. Rather than laboring over the details of your life alone, ask God. What details in your life need to be worked out? Have you presented them to God and sought His voice? JOHN D. BARRY


May 12: The Bible in the Developed World

Ruth 1:1–2:23; 1 Timothy 1:1–11; Psalm 73:1–10


In our developed world, we don’t consider famines very often. If there were a famine in our lands, we could navigate through it because of our importing infrastructure. This isn’t the case for the developing world: famines mean walking miles to find food and water, and often dying or suffering terrible violence just to stay alive. (Currently there are two major famines in Africa bringing these desperate situations to life.) When I used to read about famines in the Bible, I thought of hunger, but I didn’t necessarily think of pain and persecution. Now that I’m more aware of what’s happening in the world, stories of famine in the Bible are very vivid for me. Consider Naomi, whose husband died during a famine, and the pain she must have felt over that loss and the loss of her two sons (Ruth 1:1–7). She was left with her daughters-in-law. As widows, they were completely desolate. Women were considered a lower class at the time; they could not own property and could not provide for themselves in an agriculturally based society. When I see photos of hurting women in the Horn of Africa, I’m reminded of Ruth and Naomi. I think this is what the Bible is meant to do. We’re called to read it historically and culturally. But we’re also called to read the Bible with a sense of urgency about what’s happening in our world today. We know there is no end to extreme global poverty and unnecessary pain. We can’t rightfully imagine that those of us who have resources and who can help will have stepped up to eradicate these issues. But we can make the biblical story our story. We can feel their pain and think as they think. And we can act. Imagine God showing providence in your life like He did Ruth’s and Naomi’s, and then help those who need you. What can you do today to make a difference in the life of a person living in extreme poverty? JOHN D. BARRY


May 13: Shipwrecked

Ruth 3:1–4:22; 1 Timothy 1:12–20; Psalm 73:11–28


“I am setting before you this instruction, Timothy my child, in accordance with the prophecies spoken long ago about you, in order that by them you may fight the good fight, having faith and a good conscience, which some, because they have rejected these, have suffered shipwreck concerning their faith” (1 Tim 1:18–19). Paul had experienced being shipwrecked multiple times in his life, and in this passage, he metaphorically ascribes his experience to that of people who turn from faith in Christ. The imagery of being shipwrecked captures the spiritual state of aimlessness that results from a misguided conscience—one that isn’t grounded in faith. Among those who experienced this shipwreck were Hymenaeus and Alexander, former believers who became blasphemers. They had known the truth of Jesus but were now publicly opposing it (1 Tim 1:20). Paul admits he had once been a blasphemer himself, but he was “shown mercy because [he] acted ignorantly in unbelief” (1 Tim 1:13). In contrast, Hymenaeus and Alexander blasphemed deliberately by turning from the faith and opposing Paul, even though they knew about God’s grace through Christ. In Psalm 73, the psalmist uses similar imagery when describing those who wickedly turn from God: “abundant waters are slurped up by them.” The psalmist’s line captures the attitude of these wicked people. They ask mocking questions: “How does God know?” and “Does the Most High have knowledge?” (Psa 73:11). Although they acknowledge God’s presence on some level, they fail to respond. They act in deliberate disobedience. Following God isn’t optional in either big or small decisions. Paul warns Timothy that this “fight” includes making daily choices that align with faith and a good conscience. Certainly we will fail in following Him—that’s precisely why we need His grace so badly. But deliberately acting against what we know, when we’re aware of His grace, will only result in being shipwrecked. Are you making deliberate decisions against following God? How has this harmed your relationship with Him? How can you align with His expectations for your life? REBECCA VAN NOORD


May 14: A Sense of History

1 Chronicles 1:1–54; 1 Timothy 2:1–15; Psalm 74:1–23


When I was in sixth grade, my teacher assigned our class a family genealogy and history project. At first it was frustrating. It seemed like unnecessary work. But eventually I became obsessive over it as I discovered our family stories. Many of us share this same experience; we’ve uncovered ancestors who have done great things. Through this process, we can begin to understand not just these people of history, but also ourselves. Although we may be especially interested in our own family history, who doesn’t skip (or at least think about skipping) the genealogies of the Bible? Even if we’re serious about reading biblical books front to back, we prefer to skip over the long lists of names. But that would be a mistake in the case of 1 Chr 1:1–54. This genealogy is about human history leading up to a monumental person: King David. The lineage also makes the book of Ruth incredibly relevant: Boaz, Ruth’s husband, shows up in the line (1 Chr 2:11–12), which indicates that God had a plan to enfold non-Israelites into His people long before Christ’s work brought about that result (e.g., Acts 2). Just as our family history teaches us about the way we are, reading the Bible allows us to learn why David was the way he was. Through genealogies, we can learn about the heart and character of God and His intricate plan to save the world. How does the sense of history conveyed in the Bible connect to your sense of history? How does it connect to the work Christ is doing in and through you today? JOHN D. BARRY


May 15: Small Starts

1 Chronicles 2:1–55; 1 Timothy 3:1–7; Psalm 75:1–76:12


In Paul’s qualifications for overseers, he mentions a necessary trait for anyone who wants to lead in a community: “He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?” (1 Tim 3:4–5). Though Paul speaks to overseers, his words tell us something about our own witness. Living like Christ, showing grace, and acting with wisdom toward the people who are closest to us are often more difficult than serving on a larger scale. It’s more challenging to serve those who know our failings than it is to serve anyone else. By learning to be faithful in these relationships—by serving unselfishly and with dignity—we prove ourselves capable of serving others. Paul understands that humility and love must be practiced at home before they can be adequately practiced in community. By extension, allowing ourselves to live an imbalanced or ungodly life will ultimately lessen our effectiveness elsewhere. It’s easy to take the people closest to us for granted—to see them as facets of our own lives, helping us accomplish our own goals. Guiding these relationships takes maturity. And the fruits of those relationships will prove our ability to influence the lives of others. Paul acknowledges that the desire to be a leader is a noble one. He isn’t trying to dissuade those who want to take on more responsibility; instead, he is trying to ensure that they’re adequately prepared and not prone to a major public meltdown. He is preparing them to succeed at an honorable task. Think about two or three people who are closest to you. How can you better serve them? REBECCA VAN NOORD


May 16: Dysfunctional Problem-Solving

1 Chronicles 3:1–4:23; 1 Timothy 3:8–16; Psalm 77:1–20


When I locate a problem, I often fixate on it. I think that if I analyze it enough, I can solve it. This is a problem when I come to difficult issues that require someone else’s expertise. Stubbornly, I want to figure out the problem myself. I want to be self-sufficient. When God is the only one who can solve my problem, I’ve just created an impossible scenario. When the psalmist hit troubling times and questioned the things that were accepted truths in his life, he didn’t seek his answer from anyone but God. When he felt far from God and questioned all he had taken for granted, the questions he asks are close to those in our own hearts: “Why God? Have you removed your favor?” (Psa 77:7). “Has your steadfast love ceased forever?” (Psa 77:8). “Do your promises end?” (Psa 77:8). It would have been tempting to dwell on his personal experiences to answer these questions. But instead, the psalmist turns to study God’s redemptive work. This seems counter-intuitive to us, but we find this practice throughout the psalms. Why doesn’t the psalmist simply address the problem at hand? He knew that to understand God’s work in the present, he had to look to the past. He had to consider God’s work in humanity—His wonders of old, mighty deeds, holy ways, and power among the peoples. Ultimately, though, the psalmist looks to God’s work of redemption in the exodus from Egypt. He needed a backward glance—a look at God’s faithfulness to His people in the past. We have an even greater redemptive story than the exodus. When things seem to go wrong, when we question God’s plan for our life, we can look back to Christ’s work on the cross. We’re not leaving our story for another one when we do this; instead, we’re acknowledging Christ’s ongoing work in our lives through the Holy Spirit. His work sets our entire life in perspective. When life seems complicated, don’t try to be self-sufficient. When your emotions dictate otherwise, take a backward glance at the cross and reckon in your mind and heart what is already true of God’s love for you. There has never been such a testament of His love. Then take a faithful step forward, trusting in Him. How are you trying to be self-sufficient? How are you taking a backward glance at the cross and stepping forward in faith? REBECCA VAN NOORD


May 17: Connecting Historical Dots

1 Chronicles 4:24–5:26; 1 Timothy 4:1–5; Psalm 78:1–12


Biblical lists can be annoying, but they’re also a testament to God’s faithfulness. It’s a true gift when someone in a faith community records the history of the group and their work—particularly when God has answered prayers. By looking through a recorded history, like a prayer journal, faith communities can see how God used them both collectively and as individuals. They can see where He interceded and begin to see how He intends to use them in the future. God’s past faithfulness points to His future faithfulness. His specific dealings in the past point to likely dealings in the future: they show us what He has gifted us to do and thus the type of thing He is likely to call us to down the road. First Chronicles 4:24–5:26 records God’s acts among His people and points to His future faithfulness. Similarly, Psalm 78:1–12 calls God’s people to hear their story told, but it’s really God’s story. The first account focuses on the individuals, whereas the second (Psa 78) recalls God’s work among a group of people. All of God’s work—among individuals and groups of people—is unique, but it is also interconnected. It is all a manifestation of His presence. Paul makes a similar remark to Timothy: “everything created by God is good and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thankfulness” (1 Tim 4:4). Although God may manifest Himself in different and unique ways among individuals and groups, everything He does is for good—from the beginning until now (compare Gen 1; John 1). God desires for us to experience Him, as individuals and as members of faith communities, doing His good work. In being both, we come to understand what it means to truly follow Jesus. How can you embark more fully into God’s great work, both in your own life and in a faith community? JOHN D. BARRY


May 18: A Higher Calling

1 Chronicles 6:1–81; 1 Timothy 4:6–16; Psalm 78:13–29


It’s easy to get self-absorbed when we’re criticized—or when we think others are criticizing us. Because of our real or imagined defects, we start to believe other people don’t take us seriously. It’s easy to get off course in an attempt to defend ourselves. As a young leader, Timothy may have dealt with criticism in the Ephesian community because of his age. Paul gives him advice: “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim 4:12). Paul doesn’t offer defensive solutions. Rather, he calls Timothy to be a living example of his teaching. He reinforces Timothy’s calling by encouraging him to stay focused on his call, speech, and conduct. By being the contrast to the rumors about him, Timothy thwarts criticism. But Paul isn’t simply giving leadership advice. By reaffirming Timothy’s purpose and calling, he is helping Timothy focus on God’s work instead of his own abilities (or a defense of them). Paul doesn’t want Timothy to be guided by fear of others; he wants him to think about God. We don’t have to be in a leadership position to experience this type of criticism or to respond in the way that Paul suggests. When feeling defensive or concerned about other people’s opinions, we shouldn’t be concerned about defending ourselves. We’re not intended to reaffirm our own stellar traits or abilities. That flies in the face of the gospel. Instead, we should act in a way that points people to God’s work, shifting both our focus and their focus to the one whose opinion truly matters. Are your attempts at earning the respect or favor of others making you self-absorbed? How can you shift your focus to God and the work He wants you to do? REBECCA VAN NOORD


May 19: Outline for Honor

1 Chronicles 7:1–40; 1 Timothy 5:1–9; Psalm 78:30–52


In most Western cultures today, we’ve lost our connection with the elderly. With one grandparent living halfway across the country and the others having died before I was born, I wasn’t around older people until I met my wife and her family. Unlike me, my wife had the privilege of knowing her great-grandparents. She has a strong sense of tradition and respect for the elderly, as well as a deep desire to help them in all aspects of life, and she has been able to teach me to do the same. Paul is dealing with a similar experience in his first letter to Timothy. Paul says to Timothy, “Do not rebuke an older man, but appeal to him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, with all purity. Honor widows who are truly widows” (1 Tim 5:1–3). By “honor,” Paul means showing a deep sense of concern and an earnest, regular desire to help them financially and with their daily needs. What Paul says is revolutionary for his time. It wasn’t that the elderly were disrespected culturally, but they weren’t sought out as teachers and people to help. Paul commanded not just equality in this scenario, but assistance and compassion. Widows, who were of the lowest rank of society, were to be loved as equals. And older men, at the higher rank, were to be respected for their understanding. We don’t make these connections as readily in Western society. Instead, we see someone’s need as something to pray for, not to act on. And we see older men’s perspectives as simply “old guard” rather than a legitimate opinion we should take into consideration. Paul doesn’t say older people are always right, just as our fathers are not always right, but he does encourage Timothy to show them the respect they deserve “as a father.” Paul’s outline for honor was as powerful then as it is now. How can you make the elderly and widowed a part of your life and church community? JOHN D. BARRY


May 20: From Concept to Caution to Cause

1 Chronicles 8:1–40; 1 Timothy 5:10–17; Psalm 78:53–72


Some things in the Bible are downright surprising, including several passages in Paul’s letters. Sometimes his words are so personal or they’re addressed to such a specific person our group, that it’s hard to understand why that particular passage is there. But God uses people to do His work, and whatever they show or teach us sets a precedent—like how to deal with difficult people, or how to best help the poor. Some sections of Paul’s letters are rarely read aloud in church; we simply can’t figure out how to apply them. What application can you draw from a long list of people, or from the very specific details of how to evaluate a widow in need in your community (1 Tim 5)? What if there are no widows in your community? Do you just move on? First Timothy 5:10–17 sets a good precedent for us as Christians, and it can serve as a standard for applying other passages. We don’t know precisely why Paul told Timothy not to help widows “less than sixty years of age,” but we do know that he was setting criteria for evaluating and helping the poor (1 Tim 5:9). Other than children and previously freed slaves, widows were the most impoverished members of society in biblical times. Paul provides further criteria that would prevent a handout-based culture, and would also require a widow to have truly been transformed by Jesus’ teachings (1 Tim 5:10). Helping the poor isn’t enough—they need spiritual help, too. Paul also cautions against those who abuse the system (1 Tim 5:11–13), acknowledging that it can actually cause more harm than good when the church helps them. As the Church, we want to help. But there have been times when we have done more harm than good—both locally and globally, particularly in the developing world—by failing to understanding the power struggles at play in any given situation. This should not stop us from helping; instead, it should encourage us to be both fiscally wise and culturally educated before providing funds. Understanding what people are really going through and how to truly help them is nearly as important as giving. Who is your community trying to help? How can you better educate yourself on their real needs and how to meet them? JOHN D. BARRY


May 21: The Power of Words

1 Chronicles 9:1–10:14; 1 Timothy 5:18–6:2; Psalm 79:1–13


Gossip kills churches. And gossip is always painful, especially when disguised as concern. A request to “pray for so-and-so because of this thing they did” is not asking for prayer; it’s gossiping. If you know some personal detail about someone’s mishap, don’t share it with everyone—take it to God. Entire leadership structures have been wrongfully destroyed because of rumors starting this way. Paul warns against rumors when he says, “Do not accept an accusation against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses” (1 Tim 5:19). How often have we heard something and been so influenced by it that we accuse someone on the basis of that rumor? Hearing something may make it feel factual, but it’s circumstantial at best. Although Paul is cautious, he has no tolerance for leaders who sin repeatedly, especially those sinning directly against the community. He tells Timothy to “reprove those who sin in the presence of all, in order that the rest also may experience fear” (1 Tim 5:20). The fear Paul means is a good kind; it keeps people from sinning. It’s not just a fear of getting caught, but an understanding that there are ramifications for the abuse of power or lack of godly conduct. Paul is not creating a legalistic system here; instead, he is focusing on making people feel what God feels when they sin. They shouldn’t be consumed with guilt, but they should feel enough shame in their actions to realize that they need grace—that they need to step out of a leadership position if they misuse their power. Paul doesn’t demand that these people be cast out of the community. He requires that such leaders be reconciled to the faith community and be made an example so that others don’t do the same. Paul’s entire framework is based on his assumption that leaders will be godly; he provided details for determining that standard earlier (e.g., 1 Tim 3:1–12). Leaders who fall short must be held accountable. And above all, leaders must be chosen wisely. If they live and conduct themselves in line with God’s work, they will have no need to fear accusations against them. How can you help establish and support a correct leadership structure in your faith community? How can you help stop any false accusations or gossip? JOHN D. BARRY


May 22: Motive Is Everything

1 Chronicles 11:1–47; 1 Timothy 6:3–10; Psalm 80:1–19


It’s not often that we take an honest look at our motivations. But it’s important to reevaluate them regularly. When our sight is not fixed on God, we might become entranced with goals that conflict with godliness. Even though we might initially be performing the right actions, our lives will start to reveal the motives of our hearts. Paul addresses this issue within the Ephesian community, where some people were spreading conflict in order to further their own gain. And this wasn’t just a problem with the perpetrators. This “constant wrangling by people of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who consider godliness to be a means of gain” was like poison, spreading envy and strife throughout the community (1 Tim 6:5). To counteract this, Paul states that “godliness with contentment is a great means of gain” (1 Tim 6:5–6), but the gain he talks about is not success as we traditionally define it. Rather than financial riches, Paul presents the idea of complete contentment—of being satisfied with what we have and feeling secure in the life (both eternal and physical) with which God has blessed us (1 Tim 6:8). This is not just a simple side issue. Paul states that “the love of money is a root of all evil” (1 Tim 6:10). When money becomes our guiding motivation, we’re very much tempted to be self-sufficient. Our motives become muddled, and we try to find our contentment in transient things. In contrast, when we’re completely satisfied in God, we won’t be tempted to conflicting motives. Are your motives conflicted? How do you need to readjust your motives so that you desire godliness? REBECCA VAN NOORD


May 23: Fear: The Fight against It

1 Chronicles 12:1–13:14; 1 Timothy 6:11–21; Psalm 81:1–82:8


Fear is poisonous. When it drives our decisions, it will slowly destroy us—causing us to make moves that are against God’s will and detrimental to ourselves and others. The antidote to fear is complete reliance on Yahweh, our God, and His work through the Spirit. David is the epitome of someone who sets aside fear in favor of God’s work. He surrounds himself with “feared” men, his “mighty men.” The descriptions of their skills show the caliber of these warriors and thus the incredible character and skill it must have taken to lead them (1 Chr 12:1–15). It takes courage to be a leader and valor to be a leader of leaders. David was a man of valor—a man empowered by the Spirit’s work. It would have been easy for David to worry or be concerned as a leader—especially when the Spirit comes upon a smaller group of men who oppose him. People rise up around him, and they are being chosen by God in a way he had been. But David isn’t concerned or resentful; instead, he affirms God’s work (1 Chr 12:16–18). The Spirit empowers David again when he seeks out the ark of the covenant, which had previously been with God’s people as they went into battle and when they worshiped (1 Chr 13:1–4). In this moment, when David summons the people to undertake this task, he shows that he is not just a leader of great men, but a godly leader of great men. He understands that his own strength and skill will not carry him and his warriors. Instead, they must be guided by Yahweh. They must recover the ark that symbolized Him and His work among them, His very presence. Rather than let fear drive him, David drives out fear in the name of His God. We should be people of the same character, showing courage and valor. What is God doing through you? How can you allow God to banish the fears you have? JOHN D. BARRY


May 24: On a Mission

1 Chronicles 14:1–15:29; 2 Timothy 1:1–2; Psalm 83


“We’re on a mission from God.” Whenever the Blues Brothers delivered this line, they were met with a less-than-enthusiastic reception. While they had a different “mission” in mind, their famous line summarizes Paul’s ministry, and their reception is strangely related to a pressing problem in our Christian communities today: we’re hesitant to receive those who tell us they’re on God’s mission. When we hear this “line,” we immediately begin to ask questions inside our heads: Are they offering a critique? Making a threat? Telling us they’re pursuing a ministry role in accordance with the gifts God has given them, or that they want to be directed toward such a role? Nearly all the godly people in the Bible were appointed directly by God or His messengers to a mission, and they were given very particular (and often unique) gifts to fulfill those missions. So when someone says they’re on a mission from God, we should respond with, “Tell me about it!” Consider passages like 2 Tim 1:1, where Paul addresses Timothy and the community he leads, many of whom never met Paul: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God according to the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus.” Apostle means “sent one.” Paul was on a mission from God, and it’s because of Christ, the anointed one’s promises, that he embraces this calling. God called and gifted him to do His work and share His message. Who are we to say that God doesn’t commission people today? Of course, we should always be cautious and discerning; those in leadership must have proven their godly character and their ability to be used by God. They must also be confirmed by other godly leaders. Once this has been confirmed, we should encourage those called to a special mission. We, as believers, are called to work alongside them—to encourage them and help them serve what God, specifically, has appointed them to do. We stumble when we think the Church is ours to lead; it is Christ’s. He is our leader and guide, and it’s by His Spirit that we will have the discernment necessary to do what He has appointed us to do. How can you help those who are on a mission from God? JOHN D. BARRY


May 25: Longing and Being

1 Chronicles 16:1–17:27; 2 Timothy 1:3–18; Psalm 84:1–12


The general sense of what worship “is” is widely known, but the specifics of what it means are a little vague. Aside from obedience (i.e., avoiding sin and following what God asks of us), there are specific ways to show God admiration. In 1 Chronicles, during David’s many great acts, we get a glimpse into ancient worship practices that are still applicable today. We know that the biblical “editors” favored these practices because they would later ascribe countless psalms to David. His way of worship was deemed “the way to worship.” After David and his comrades journey to Obed-Edom to bring back the ark of the covenant—the symbol of Yahweh’s provision and advocacy for His people—David appoints “some of the Levites as ministers before the ark of Yahweh” (1 Chr 16:4). The Levites, the tribe designated as religious teachers, are first to “invoke” Yahweh (call upon Him). They are then to do what should be natural in all encounters with Him: thank and then praise Him. These are all acts of worship and the way to worship: acknowledge Him by calling on Him, be thankful for His provision, and then praise Him for who He is. David illustrates another part of worship in His song that follows this event: “Save us, O God of our salvation; gather us and rescue us from the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise. Blessed be Yahweh the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting!” (1 Chr 16:35–36). David petitions God, and he calls others to acknowledge His work by making their own petitions. It’s not that God needs to hear how great He is—that is not why we worship. It’s that we need to be reminded. In humbling ourselves before Him, we are demonstrating our rightful place in His kingdom as His servants, appointed for His great works (Eph 1:11). Worship is really about longing for God. Our attitude toward God should be as Psa 84:2 proclaims: “My soul longs and even fails for the courtyards of Yahweh. My heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.” How can you instill these worship practices into your daily life? JOHN D. BARRY

    

May 26: A Longsuffering God

1 Chronicles 18:1–20:8; 2 Timothy 2:1–13; Psalm 85


God is longsuffering, but sometimes we take this for granted. How often have we given into temptation, expecting to be obedient at a later date? Psalm 85 gives a testimony of God’s faithfulness in the past: “O Yahweh, you favored your land. You restored the fortunes of Jacob. You took away the guilt of your people; you covered all their sin. You withdrew all your wrath; you turned from your burning anger” (Psa 85:1–3). As he experiences that judgment, the psalmist remembers God’s past restoration, and he hopes for it once more: “I will hear what God, Yahweh, will speak, because he will speak peace to his people, even his faithful ones”; he also sets a condition: “but let them not return to folly” (Psa 85:8). Do we wait until bad times before we realize God’s amazing grace for us? God’s faithfulness is also expressed in surprising moments in the New Testament, like Paul’s exhortation to Timothy. Paul tells him to be strong in grace and offers comfort while presenting a challenge: “For if we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are unfaithful, he remains faithful—he cannot deny himself” (2 Tim 2:11–13). These passages portray a God who is incredibly patient. But they also present a sense of urgency and demand a response. If we acknowledge our sin and seek Him, He is faithful to forgive us. But we shouldn’t use His faithfulness as an excuse to delay our response. He wants our complete loyalty. How are you responding to God’s calling in your life? REBECCA VAN NOORD


May 27: Math: Maybe Not a Mystic Language After All

1 Chronicles 21:1–22:19; 2 Timothy 2:14–26; Psalm 86:1–87:7


In a world of metrics, it’s easy to become obsessed with statistics and start to quantify every aspect of our lives. Stats can even become a type of scorekeeping between churches or pastors: “We have more members than you do.” We may never say those words out loud, but we think them; more than one person has made the mistake of measuring a ministry based on attendance. But God has His own method for measuring success. Prompted by an adversary (“Satan” is often better translated as “adversary” or “accuser” in the Old Testament), David decides to seek metrics—to count the people of Israel. This account illustrates the harm of seeking gratification or understanding in numbers. In 1 Chronicles 21, major problems emerge from this: including placing an adversary’s will above God’s and predicting God’s will rather than seeking it regularly. Rather than counting our successes, we should be counting on God for success. We should also be tallying how often He is faithful rather than how many we are in number. We’re more likely to see God’s faithfulness when we’re looking for it rather than looking for probabilities. David succeeded as a warrior and king not because he deserved it, but because God chose for him to do so. In 1 Chronicles 21, David forgets God’s role, even though his (often wrong and bloodthirsty) general reminds him otherwise. In fact, God’s use of Joab as His messenger demonstrates that God’s providential will can come from the least likely places. Keeping a tally isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and we shouldn’t avoid metrics and stats. But we need to keep information in perspective. It’s not about baptizing 200 people on a Sunday—although that’s a blessed thing. It’s about lives being transformed and people being blessed so that they can experience transformation. How can you count on what God is doing instead of counting what you deem success? JOHN D. BARRY


May 28: Through Despair

1 Chronicles 23:1–23:32; 2 Timothy 3:1–9; Psalm 88


Sometimes we go through dark periods in our lives where the misery feels never-ending. Trial hits, pain hits, and just when we think life might get “back to normal,” we are hit by yet another difficulty. At times like these, we may feel forgotten by God. In Psalm 88, we find one of the most utter prolonged cries of despair: “O Yahweh, God of my salvation, I cry out by day and through the night before you,” the psalmist begins (Psa 88:1). This psalm never climaxes or hints of hope, and it ends even more desperately than it begins. The psalmist, feeling abandoned by God, has his loved ones taken from him. He is left to navigate the darkness alone (Psa 88:18). How do we deal with our own misery when confronted by a tragic psalm like this? How should we respond to God? We can start with what the psalmist, despite his prolonged suffering, acknowledges about God. Although his troubles are still present, he also recognizes God as his deliverer (Psa 88:6–9). He appeals to God’s reputation as a God of wonders, deserving of praise: “Do you work wonders from the dead? Or do the departed spirits rise up to praise you?” (Psa 88:10). He appeals to God’s loyal love, faithfulness, and righteousness: “Is your loyal love told in the grave, or your faithfulness in the underworld? Are your wonders known in the darkness or your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?” (Psa 88:11). The psalmist never comes to a place where he expresses even a glimmer of hope. But through cries, questions, and torment, he holds on to what he knows to be true about God. In his very cry, the psalmist acknowledges that God will be present in his situation. While the questions in this psalm remain unanswered, we see that the psalmist lives in the awareness that God cares and will eventually act. In the meantime, he places himself in God’s faithfulness. We see a parallel situation in Paul’s letter to Timothy; Paul addresses the difficult days that will come. He says they will be difficult for one reason: disobedience. In those days, “people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, arrogant, slanderers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, hardhearted, irreconcilable, slanderous, without self-control, savage, with no interest for what is good” (2 Tim 3:2–3). The list goes on further, describes all types of disobedience against God—something that is absent from the psalmist’s cries. What’s most fascinating about the parallel is that it hints at the root of what the psalmist is experiencing: disobedience may not be acknowledged in his cry (he is innocent), but the world is a disobedient place. It is full of sin and oppression. Ultimately, it’s the sins of humanity that brought pain to the world. In this life, we’ll go through dark times and struggles that may never end. We may even feel forgotten. But despite what we think or feel, we can’t abandon what we know to be true of God. Even when our state or our emotions are contrary to the desire to worship Him, we are called to trust in Him and in His love. If He was willing to abandon His only son on a cross to redeem you, then He is certainly trustworthy. If you trust in Him, He will not forsake you. How are you trusting God through dark times? How are you reaching out to someone who is struggling? REBECCA VAN NOORD


May 29: Blessed Sticky Notes

1 Chronicles 24:1–25:31; 2 Timothy 3:10–17; Psalm 89:1–22


A great friend of mine keeps sticky notes with prayer requests on a bathroom mirror. They serve as a reminder of the needs of others. This friend never seems to have an “off day” or feel sad about their particular situation. Maybe these notes play a part in that attitude, but that’s not why I find the practice remarkable. What astounds me is the effort to pray for others constantly. This person reminds me of God’s faithfulness in my life whenever things get tough, for me or others, and I’m grateful my name is on one of those notes. Otherwise, I think I would have lost my way several times already. First Chronicles presents story after story of God’s faithfulness. The book records how God kept His people alive in the face of powerful adversaries, and it tells how God led David in his great appointment as king. Paul’s journey has several parallels with David’s. Just as the chronicler watches David’s narrative, as well as that of Israel in general (e.g., 1 Chr 24), Timothy watches Paul and the Christian church (2 Tim 3:10–17). Paul recounts to Timothy, “But you have faithfully followed my teaching, way of life, purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, and sufferings that happened to me in Antioch, in Iconium, and in Lystra, what sort of persecutions I endured, and the Lord delivered me from all of them” (2 Tim 3:10–11). Timothy is more than a colleague; he is a true friend. What a joy it is to have someone in your life who watches “your story.” Think how our lives might be different if we had more friends who faithfully prayed for us and we faithfully prayed for them. Following God is not just a matter of listening to His guidance; it’s also being aware of how His faithfulness is playing out in the lives of those around us. Who can you be praying for? How can you commit to being a blessing to them? How can you regularly remind yourself to do so? JOHN D. BARRY


May 30: In Season and Out of Season

1 Chronicles 26:1–27:34; 2 Timothy 4:1–8; Psalm 89:23–52


I like to operate when I feel like I’m in control. When I haven’t gathered enough information or I feel uncertain of my circumstances, it’s tempting to avoid making a decision or taking action. Paul knew that this type of outlook was detrimental to Timothy’s ministry. He tells Timothy that regardless of his circumstances, he was required to act: “Preach the word, be ready in season and out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all patience and instruction” (2 Tim 4:2). Paul uses the certainty of Christ’s return to motivate Timothy to stick to his task (2 Tim 4:1). Although Timothy experienced times when it was not always convenient for him to act on his calling, he had been admonished by Paul about the importance of the work they were doing together: their calling. He also knew the urgency of that calling. Christ’s return and the appearance of His kingdom was their motivation (2 Tim 4:1). We can’t follow God only when the timing is right for us. We also can’t rely on our own strength. When doing God’s work, we can never plan well enough or anticipate all the potential kinks; our plans will never be foolproof. It’s not the mark of a Christian to be certain of how everything will play out in every circumstance. The mark of a Christian is reliance on Christ as Savior, God, and guide. Through the clear and calm and through the fog, we’re required to trust, act, and follow on the basis of our certainty in Jesus. Like Timothy and Paul, we must be certain of our standing in Christ and the coming of His kingdom. And that changes everything. Whatever the task and in every circumstance, we’re required to simply follow Jesus. We are charged to act for the gospel now, regardless of whether it’s convenient. How are you trusting in your own strength instead of Jesus’? How can you be ready in the right way, in every season? REBECCA VAN NOORD


May 31: Fighting Loneliness

1 Chronicles 28:1–29:2; 2 Timothy 4:9–22; Psalm 90:1–17


Loneliness is one of the most disheartening feelings a person can know. Being alone in a time of pain is even worse. Several recent surveys suggest that lonely people—especially teenagers—subtly reach out through their social networks, desperately looking for someone who cares. In a world where anyone can get attention online, we’ve moved away from authentic community. We continue to crave personal interactions—perhaps more so because we have electronic witness to the interactions of others. We as Christians should see this as an opportunity to reach out to disenfranchised, lonely people and show the love of Christ to others. Paul’s second letter to Timothy illustrates how feelings of loneliness are amplified by pain. He makes one of the most candid statements in the Bible:“At my first defense, no one came to my aid, but they all deserted me; may it not be counted against them. But the Lord helped me and strengthened me, so that through me the proclamation might be fulfilled and all the Gentiles might hear, and he rescued me from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed, and will save me for his heavenly kingdom, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen” (2 Tim 4:16–18). Paul is angry and hurt, but he’s well aware that God has been and will continue to be his strength. He acknowledges that he needs and craves community, but he clearly states that God is foremost in his life. He then reminds Timothy of God’s work in his life and others’—ending with “Amen,” meaning “So be it.” Paul’s reliance on God’s past faithfulness bears a striking resemblance to a statement from Psa 90: “O Lord, you have been our help in all generations. Before the mountains were born and you brought forth the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, you are God” (Psa 90:1–2). This psalm emphasizes that God always has and always will be a “help” to His people. While we can take comfort in that, we should make every effort—as people aspiring to live like Christ—to help others. For Paul found God not only in His provision of spiritual strength, but in the kindness of others. How can you show God’s kindness and faithfulness to people who are lonely? JOHN D. BARRY


                                                  map 

10720 Coloma Road               

Rancho Cordova, CA 95670

P  916.635.4672

F  916.635.4677

                                                Office

After Hours:

Office@fbcrancho.org