Recent Written Devotions 2021
Beauty for Ashes by Karen Maio
Spring is right around the corner. I don’t know about where you live, but here in the Midwest United States, we don’t hold our breath when the groundhog fails to see his shadow. Either way, there are six more weeks of winter… for us, at least! In fact, after this year’s record blizzard, I’m not sure if anybody even saw the groundhog!
Everything is just kind of brown, gray, and dingy...including my mood every now and then. I have no real reason to feel this way; indeed, I know that I am blessed with my family, friends, plenty of food, clothing and shelter. I am content, so what gives? I suppose we, as women, can blame it on hormones, but they get blamed for enough already. So, do I host a pity party? No, the Lord tells me I’m supposed to rejoice and not just when I feel like it, but all the time: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4).
So, what do you do when you don’t feel like rejoicing? You get into the Word. God promises to help us in all things, and this is no exception.
Jesus speaks to us in Isaiah 61:1-3: “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion, to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”
At first glance, this passage might be mistaken for God’s promise of rescue from physical and political captivity that the Old Testament nation endured. However, the “brokenhearted captives” are all of us sinners; the dark prison is hell. Jesus came, not only to proclaim the good news, but to win it and deliver it to us. He has done that by taking our sins, and dying the death we deserve on the cross.
In Old Testament times, the Year of Jubilee was celebrated every 50 years. When the Jubilee Year came, all debts were forgiven, all slaves were freed, and all inheritance land was returned to its original owner. The past was forgiven and forgotten, the slate was wiped clean, and everyone was given a new beginning.
The “year of the Lord’s favor” is now, today. By grace you believe in Jesus as your Savior; by willful stubbornness and by rejecting God, you earn His vengeance. God comforts our mourning over our sins (our repentance, symbolized by ashes on the forehead) with the beautiful assurance of forgiveness. No more “ashes and sackcloth” for us, but, rather we are clothed in Christ’s righteousness. We no longer need to be afraid of death or hell; heaven is ours! He has given us beauty for ashes. How can our hearts not be joyful and full of praise?
Desperate for Peace by Janet Gehlhar
I sooo want to release all the anxiety I’m feeling as I try to cope with so many things out of my control. Instead I feel paralyzed in this state of “what ifs” that causes my heart to race. I desperately want peace.
“Do not worry about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7 EHV)
God tells me to bring all my fears to Him to handle. Of course I know He already knows them, and yet the process of pouring out my heart in prayer is a release. I continue on and tell God what I want, what I think I desperately need, and beg Him for relief. He patiently listens to it all. At that point I take a deep breath and in that calm moment I remind myself that God knows what is best for me. I picture Him wrapping His arms around me, gently rubbing my back and assuring me He has it all handled. I am loved and safe with Him. Lingering in His presence, viewing my life from His perspective, gives me peace.
I know the process will need to be repeated, and I’m grateful that God’s patience and listening “ears” are available 24/7. His compassion and love never end.
God has renewed my peace . . . again.
Photo by Michelle Engel
“I Think I Made a Mistake” by Carolyn Webb
“I think I made a mistake. I didn’t think it was real.”
These are the haunting last words of a young man who died from COVID-19 infection. He didn’t believe the news stories from all around the world. He didn’t believe the infection could be that serious. Instead of protecting himself, he went about his life as if the virus didn’t exist.
How many people have this same attitude about sin and the salvation story?
Do we heed God’s warnings about the seriousness of sin, or do we think I’m not that bad?
The Bible gives us an example in Luke 16:19-31 of a rich man who didn’t think there was any harm in living a selfish life: “When poor Lazarus laid at his gate begging for scraps of food, the rich man ignored him. When the rich man died, he went to hell and begged to have Lazarus come back from the dead to warn his brothers so they didn’t end up in hell with him. Abraham replied, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”
We have the full salvation story. “Whoever believes in (Jesus) is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” (John 3:18)
The only protection we have from an eternity in hell is salvation through Jesus’ perfect life, innocent death, and victorious resurrection.
Make no mistake—this is real!