Readings

God speaks to us through Scripture. When we are lost, we know that we can look to His Word for guidance. We invite you to join us in daily reading as we go through the Bible together and learn as a family.

Just as Satan was cast like lightning out of heaven, he is being cast out of his earthly kingdom by the power of Jesus. As Isaiah says, “The oppressor will come to an end, and destruction will cease; the aggressor will vanish from the land” (Isaiah 16:4 NIV). Isaiah further prophesied that in love a throne would be established, that in faithfulness a man from the house of David would sit on that throne, judging with justice and righteousness (v. 5).

Thank God for the power of love over hatred! “For God so loved the world that He gave his only Son. . . .”(John 3:16). The love of God was manifested to this world the moment Jesus stepped into it. Everywhere He went, the oppressor’s kingdom came to an end. Jesus cast out devils from all those bound by them, “for God was with him” (Acts 10:38). Paul states that Jesus “died for our sins, just as God our Father planned, in order to rescue us from this evil world in which we live” (Galatians 1:4).

In your darkest oppression, there is One whom God has sent to rescue you. He is the King on the throne of David. Let Him wrap His arms of love around you and protect, deliver, and rescue you from the oppressor.

Paul was determined never to yield to anything opposed to the truth of the Gospel. He wrote to the Ephesians, “Do not give the devil a foothold” (Ephesians 4:27 NIV).

The duty of the Christian parent, pastor, or leader is to “be careful! Watch out for attacks from the Devil, your great enemy. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for some victim to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Similarly, the Lord warned Isaiah about the need for alertness, saying,

“Put a watchman on the city wall to shout out what he sees. Tell him to sound the alert when he sees chariots drawn by horses and warriors mounted on donkeys and camels” (Isaiah 21:6-7).

Satan seeks to weasel his way into our churches and families through our slack oversight, our tolerance of his encroachment, and our yielding to his advances. Even when the great apostle Peter was being swayed by the hypocrisy of the Judaizers, Paul stood boldly against him, saying, “I had to oppose him publicly, speaking strongly against what he was doing, for it was very wrong” (Galatians 2:11).

The enemy hates your liberty in Christ and does his best to put you back under the “yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1 KJV). Don’t give in to anything that is not in the truth of the Gospel. Stand your ground against the devil, and “he will flee from you” (James 4:7).

God is sovereign. He can do whatever He pleases, removing or promoting anyone He desires. He sent Isaiah to warn Shebna, “The Lord is about to seize you and hurl you away. He is going to send you into captivity, you strong man! He will crumble you up into a ball and toss you away into a distant, barren land. . . .”(Isaiah 22:17-18).

Like Haman in Esther’s day, Shebna was a proud, ungodly ruler who felt his power was unlimited. He had no awareness that God would depose him from his office and oust him from his position

“This is the message from the one who is holy and true. He is the one who has the key of David. He opens doors, and no one can shut them; he shuts doors, and no one can open them” (Revelation 3:7).

Submit your life, plans, promotions, and future to the One who holds the keys to life. It is not your strength that can make you great—it is His sovereign power!

You know you are in trouble when you feel so far away from God’s presence that your address might as well be “the ends of the earth”! David felt the quicksand of doubt, fear, and unbelief underneath his feet. As he grew weaker by the minute, his desperate cry was to be brought to a spiritual position where his feet could feel the Rock of God beneath him.

The moment your heart is safely settled on that Rock, God will keep you in “perfect peace” because your “thoughts are fixed on [Him]” (Isaiah 26:3). Trust is the feeling of security you have when your feet are solidly planted on a Rock that towers high above all your enemies. 

That Rock is also a place of safety where you can find secure refuge and shelter (Psalm 61:3-4). As Isaiah phrased it, “But to the poor, O Lord, you are a refuge from the storm. To the needy in distress, you are a shelter from the rain and heat. . ..” (Isaiah 25:4).

Climb up on the Rock right now, and rest in His perfect peace.

How easy it is to become entrapped by the natural way of thinking and to craft ways of doing things that completely leave out the Holy Spirit! Egypt looked very enticing to those who were desperate for help, but God told them that trusting in Egypt’s pharaoh for protection would only bring them humiliation and disgrace (Isaiah 30:3). The Holy Spirit has a better plan for you than to take you by way of Egypt!

Following the Spirit carries a price: “And we who are born of the Holy Spirit are persecuted by those who want us to keep the law, just as Isaac, the child of promise, was persecuted by Ishmael, the son of the slave-wife” (Galatians 4:29). It will be the same for you if you refuse the world’s way of thinking. If you don’t solve your problems the “normal way”—the way the world or religion tells you to—you will be persecuted.

God’s ways are not your ways. Before you plow into a crisis armed only with worldly advice, it would profit you to wait on the Holy Spirit for His direction. “I wait quietly before God, for my salvation comes from him” (Psalm 62:1).

Egypt may look tempting, but put your hope in God alone!

Quietness is a state of repose and rest, of no longer struggling and fretting. God wants to give His people quietness, and quietness begins with righteousness. Isaiah 32:17 says, “And this righteousness will bring peace. Quietness and confidence will fill the land forever.”

When we are sure that our sins are forgiven and we are in right standing with God, a deep quietness fills our hearts.

From that quietness arises confidence. We base our confidence on our righteousness, knowing that we are welcome to ask Him for anything we need. We must be confident that “He will respond instantly to the sound of [our] cries” (Isaiah 30:19). John said, “We can be confident that he will listen to us whenever we ask him for anything in line with his will. And if we know he is listening when we make our requests, we can be sure that he will give us what we ask for” (1 John 5:14-15).

Righteousness, quietness, and then confidence will bring us through affliction, for Jesus is like a “cool shadow of a large rock in a hot and weary land” (Isaiah 32:2). Let’s stay in the shadow of His presence!

Hezekiah commanded the people on the wall not to answer the taunting insults of the field commander of Sennacherib, king of Assyria. Our flesh, or sinful nature, is always talking to us, trying to convince us to give up and give in to our impulses. For the rest of our lives, we will have to listen to the voice of temptation that is the “opposite from what the Holy Spirit wants” (Galatians 5:17).

The discipline of godliness enables us to refuse to answer that voice, to simply ignore it through the power of the Holy Spirit. The people on the wall were totally submitted to the will of Hezekiah and refused even to acknowledge the field commander. Instead, they continued to think on Hezekiah’s encouraging promise that the Lord would deliver them (Isaiah 36:18).

Which voice in Galatians 5:19-23 will you listen to: the voice of the flesh (immorality, hatred, jealousy, rage, envy, drunkenness) or the voice of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness)? You must learn to completely ignore and turn your back on the flesh, for “the Lord is our judge, our lawgiver, and our king. He will care for us and save us” (Isaiah 33:22).

Hezekiah proved the awesome power of prayer through two incidents in his life. First, he faced the terrible army of Sennacherib, who threatened to totally annihilate Jerusalem. In such a desperate moment, Hezekiah merely brought Sennacherib’s threat and “spread it out before the Lord” (Isaiah 37:14). God heard Hezekiah’s intercession and sent the death angel to destroy 185,000 men in one night!

Second, Hezekiah faced impending death because of sickness. Again his response was to pray: “When Hezekiah heard this, he turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord” (Isaiah 38:2). God was so moved by his prayer that He told Hezekiah He would extend his life by fifteen years (v. 5), and to prove His promise would come true, He caused the sun’s shadow to move backward (v. 8).

Oh, how God yearns to answer your prayers, and how able He is to do it! His Word promises, “You faithfully answer our prayers with awesome deeds, O God our savior. You are the hope of everyone on earth, even those who sail on distant seas” (Psalm 65:5).

Be bold enough to ask Him for what you need, even when it looks hopeless. He will literally move heaven and earth to answer your prayer!

Any power that we possess originates from our awesome God who can hold oceans in the palm of His hand, measure the heavens with his fingers, and weigh the mountains and the hills (Isaiah 40:12). He is a God so powerful that from His perspective the combined nations of the world are a mere “drop in the bucket” (v. 15). He knows the personal name of each and every one of the billions of stars (v. 26), and “no one can measure the depths of his understanding” (v. 28).

All the incomparable greatness of God is embodied in Jesus, and we are blessed with “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we belong to Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). When we realize His great power, our perspective on our problems changes, and we move into heavenly places where God sits. The problems are not so big when viewed from that vantage point.

God is too wise to make a mistake, too powerful to fail, and too loving to hurt you. Call on Him today, for “He gives power to those who are tired and worn out; he offers strength to the weak” (Isaiah 40:29).

“Dead . . . alive . . . raised . . . seated” is the progression of a believer’s position in Christ, according to Ephesians 2. What a glorious revelation to know that we have traveled the entire spectrum from death to being seated with Christ in heavenly places!

You were dead in your sins, and yet God still loved you even though you were His “enemy.” By His grace He made you alive, breathing the same life into your spirit that He breathed into Christ’s dead body in the resurrection. Finally, He lifted you up and seated you in a position so special and honored that it can only be described as the “heavenly places.” According to the passage in Ephesians 2, everything that God did for Christ physically, He has done for you and all believers spiritually!

Your Christian life will be transformed as you understand your identification with Jesus Christ in His death, resurrection, and ascension. When God looks at you, He sees you not as you were (dead in sin), but exactly as He sees His Son (alive and seated in the heaven-lies). God loves you exactly as He loves Christ!

You are in Christ in the same way a tiny baby kangaroo is hidden inside the pouch of its mother. So rise up in your new nature and privileges, for “God saved you by his special favor when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God” (Ephesians 2:8).

Who can forget the fantastic moment when God opened the Red Sea and destroyed Israel’s enemies behind them? What a remarkable day, a miracle unparalleled in human history!

As magnificent as that miracle was, an even greater miracle is the salvation our God freely gives to all. When God gives us new hearts in salvation, we are truly and miraculously reborn. “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!” (Isaiah 43:18-19 NIV).

Our salvation marks the closing of our past. It is forever gone, buried under the waters of God’s grace. After crossing the Red Sea, the Israelites looked back across the waters and could see nothing of their former captors. The bondage and servitude of the past was wiped out in a moment’s time. It was as though God put up a sign that said, “No fishing allowed!”

Paul said “Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come fearlessly into God’s presence, assured of his glad welcome” (Ephesians 3:12). He not only made a way out from our problems and sin, but He also made a way in to newness of life in Him. Whether you need to come out of something or go in to something today, He is the Waymaker. Wherever He goes, His foes “run for their lives” and “perish in the presence of God” (Psalm 68:1-2).

How can we fathom a God who has known us even before our birth? How can we grasp the love of a God who says, “I will be your God throughout your lifetime—until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you” (Isaiah 46:4)

Cyrus was a great king of the Medes and Persians who was chosen by God to play a pivotal role in the life of the Jewish people. Hundreds of years before his birth, however, Isaiah called him by name and proclaimed a very special prophecy concerning him (Isaiah 45:13). Some traditions say that Daniel read this passage of prophecy to Cyrus, and it so moved him that he released the Jewish people to return home from the Babylonian captivity. 

Before we even had enough sense to follow God, the Lord was carrying us and planning lives of destiny for us. He has ordained gifts and callings for us long before we were even born. Paul said that Jesus

“gave these gifts to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers” (Ephesians 4:11). These callings were part of God’s plan for us and His Church from the beginning of time. 

Doesn’t it challenge and encourage you to know that God has a plan for your life—a plan that is already known to Him? Your constant prayer should be, “Lord, I beg You to help me lead a life that is worthy of Your calling” (Ephesians 4:1).

The exciting reality of Christianity is that a believer becomes a new person. In Ephesians 4, Paul contrasts the “old man” and the “new man.” The old man is a liar, while the new man tells the truth (Ephesians 4:25). The old man is always angry, but the new man controls anger and makes amends for it before the day is over (v. 26).

There are further contrasts between the old man and the new. The old man is stingy and steals, but the new man has a desire to work hard and give to others (v. 28). The old man uses abusive language, but the new man speaks words that encourage others (v. 29). The old man holds grudges and bitterness for years, but the new man is kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving (v. 32). 

For you to say that you have become a Christian yet continue to lie, vent your wrath, steal, curse, and harbor unforgiveness is a contradiction in terms. As a Christian, you must put off your old self and put on the new self, which was created to be like God. In this way, you will live a life “worthy of your calling” (v. 1) by the grace God has given you through salvation.

Remember: You are a new person!

In certain passages of the Psalms and in the book of Isaiah, two of the greatest prophets of the Old Testament, David and Isaiah, provide a preview of Christ’s crucifixion hundreds of years before it happened. How could even nonbelievers deny the incredible accuracy of their prophecies? 

David foresaw the moment when the soldiers would give Jesus gall and vinegar to drink upon the cross after He would say, “I am thirsty” (John 19:28). David also clearly saw and described the crucifixion scene in Psalm 22:16, 18 as he foretold that Jesus’ hands and feet would be pierced and that the soldiers would cast lots for his clothing.

Isaiah, too, foresaw the suffering of Christ upon the cross. He graphically described the disfiguring and marring of Jesus’ countenance (Isaiah 52:14). He also saw that Jesus would be “wounded and crushed for our sins . . . beaten that we might have peace . . . whipped, and we were healed!” (Isaiah 53:5). He saw Jesus “counted among those who were sinners” (two thieves hung on either side of Him) and “put in a rich man’s grave” (vv. 12, 9). Finally, he saw that Jesus “interceded for sinners” (v. 12), fulfilled in Luke 23:34 when He prayed, “Father, forgive these people, because they don’t know what they are doing.”

Any questions?

The kingdom of darkness is a wicked organization of evil that unceasingly plots against the righteous. This kingdom’s carefully crafted snares and weapons are individually tailored to destroy each child of God.

In Ephesians 6, Paul tells us that “we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against wicked spirits in the heavenly realms” (v. 12).

God, however, has provided us with a divine covering to protect us from every attack from the enemy. Commonly called “the armor of God,” this protection listed in Ephesians 6:14-17 includes the following elements: “the sturdy belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness” (v. 14), “for shoes . . . the peace that comes from the Good News” (v. 15), “faith as your shield,” (v. 16), “salvation as your helmet,” and “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (v. 17).

Standing in this mighty armor and wielding the powerful weapon of the Word of God, we have the strength to “pray at all times and on every occasion in the power of the Holy Spirit” (v. 18), positioning ourselves firmly upon the promises of God until the devil flees. No matter what weapon the enemy has forged against you, it will not prosper!

Fasting involves our separating ourselves from food for a season in order to draw close to God on behalf of others. This practice can be easily perverted into a religious activity to be seen of men (as Jesus reminded the Pharisees) or something that is performed while tolerating strife, debate, and self-interest (Isaiah 58:3-4). 

Isaiah said that the fast God has chosen is one that focuses on the needs of others. When we become so burdened about a yoke of oppression upon the life of another that we refuse to partake of our normal food until that person is delivered, God is pleased (Isaiah 58:6). For example, Daniel fasted, not for himself, but for the nation to be returned from Babylon (Daniel 9:3). 

If we spend ourselves on behalf of the hungry, then God will bless us with light, health, and water (Isaiah 58:8-11). Our light will be a guide through dark places, our health will give physical prosperity and strength, and our water will provide emotional and spiritual joy in times of drought. As someone once said, “Fasting is another way of feasting!”

Justice protects a person’s equal rights. Whether rich or poor, born or unborn, educated or illiterate, all people are made in the image of God and deserve equal protection and peace. 

David prayed for his son Solomon to be endowed with justice (Psalm 72:1). In practical terms, this prayer was asking the Lord to help Solomon “defend the poor, to rescue the children of the needy, and to crush their oppressors” (v. 4). Additionally, David prayed for Solomon to have “pity for the weak and the needy” (v. 13) and to “save them from oppression and from violence” (vv. 13-14).

The secret to obtaining justice is instilling in people a respect for the sanctity of blood, “for the life of any creature is in its blood” (Leviticus 17:11). When we see how precious blood is to God, we will be concerned about its senseless shedding.

The ignorant, foolish man really cares nothing for the blood of another as long as his blood is not being shed! On the other hand, the heart of a man of wisdom is broken by the shedding of innocent blood that offends God and His sense of justice.

Stand up for innocent blood! In that way you are showing you love justice, just as you love the God of justice.

God is indeed the God of mercy. Paul’s companion, Epaphroditus, almost died for the cause of Christ. He was evidently bringing Paul aid when his overtaxed body became sick to the point of death. At the last possible moment, God mercifully stepped in and spared his life.

The prophet Isaiah spoke eloquently of this merciful God. In speaking of His care for His people Israel, he said, “In all their suffering he also suffered, and he personally rescued them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them. He lifted them up and carried them through all the years”

(Isaiah 63:9). God’s Holy Spirit brought the Israelites out of Egypt, and in their destitution, He fed them, provided for them, and even carried them when they could not walk.

We do our best to walk with God, but sometimes He simply must carry us. At those times when our human flesh is so frail that we feel we cannot go on, God’s mercy takes over. It is our source of strength and comfort in every situation.

Walk if you can, and run if you can. Most of the time your legs and your faith will be strong. But if your strength is gone, jump into His mighty arms of mercy and say, “Father, carry me!”

Is there a real, eternal, burning hell? In Philippians 3:18-21, Paul describes only two options for our final destination: destruction and heaven. How foolish it is for us to make our natural appetites—the temporary pleasures of food, drink, and creature comforts—the altar of our worship! We, as future citizens of the New Jerusalem, are only passing through this world. Paul, well aware of this truth, said this knowledge caused him to “strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven” (Philippians 3:14). What other goal is worthy of pursuing?

The tragic opposite of the heavenward call is the downward pull of hell. Isaiah said (and Jesus later quoted in Mark 9:48) that for those in hell “the worms that devour them will never die, and the fire that burns them will never go out” (Isaiah 66:24).

Hell is an eternal lake of fire. It is a fixed, immovable torment where death is not an option. Once a person is in hell, it is impossible for him to ever escape. The rich man, suffering the anguish of hell’s flames, begged Lazarus simply to dip his finger in water to cool his parched tongue (Luke 16:24), but it was not possible (v. 26).

Hell is indeed an awful place, but heaven is wonderful beyond measure. I have set my sights on heaven. How about you?

The peace of God comes from the God of peace. In the fourth chapter of Philippians, Paul tells us how to walk in continual, perfect peace.

First, he pleads with us to reconcile our relationships to others. He addressed a division in the Philippian church, saying, “And now I want to plead with those two women, Euodia and Syntyche. Please, because you belong to the Lord, settle your disagreement” (v. 2). Strained, divisive relationships will always block the peace of God.

Next, Paul says, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done” (v. 6). If you make every concern a matter of prayer, God’s peace will flood your heart and mind, even when your understanding is crying,

Worry!

Finally, Paul challenges us to change our ways of daily meditation. Instead of thinking untrue, immoral, base, corrupt, and ugly thoughts from the enemy, he tells us to “fix [our] thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (v. 8). We must fill our minds with thoughts that are consistent with the heaven where we will one day live. Such thoughts will calm our hearts and bring the presence of the God of peace back into our lives. Then the peace of God will be ours until we see the God of peace face-to-face.

Looking at Colossians 1:13-20, we recognize that Jesus Christ deserves supremacy. In this passage, Paul describes the awesome spiritual dimensions of Christ as God sees Him. Verse 15 speaks of Him as the “visible image of the invisible God.” Then in verse 16, He is described as “the one through whom God created everything in heaven and earth.” He is the actual Creator of anything that has ever been cre-ated—spiritual or physical.

Jesus is the invisible force that binds together even atoms and molecules. Through Him, all things “hold together” (v. 17 NIV). He is the Head of the Body, the Church (v. 18), and He was the first to rise from the dead as a firstfruit of all believers in the resurrection. Verse 19 reveals that all the fullness of God dwells in Him; that is, God’s character, energy, wisdom, and holiness are all contained within Him. Finally, His blood shed on the cross is the means by which fallen humanity is restored to God in peace (v. 20). 

Jesus is everything to God, and He should have supremacy in our lives as well. Why should we be fascinated by anyone else? Who else or what else besides Jesus matters? God “has rescued us from the one who rules in the kingdom of darkness, and he has brought us into the Kingdom of his dear Son” (Colossians 1:13).

The mystery of all ages is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Just as we see Christ in all His glory, we also see how Christ in us is our hope of glory.

Paul’s challenge was to impart Christ into the lives of the believers. He wanted every person to be perfect, or mature, in Christ (Colossians 1:28). Maturity in Christ comes, first of all, from receiving correction when necessary. We need someone around us who will warn us of danger zones, blind spots, and areas that block the glory of Christ in our lives.

Second, spiritual maturity comes from being taught. How desperately we Christians need instruction in engaging in spiritual warfare, raising our families, managing our finances, receiving guidance, developing the fruit of the Spirit, and learning about a host of other subjects relevant to godliness. Someone once said, “We need more information and not just more inspiration.”

Third, perfection, or maturity, comes when believers are “knit together by strong ties of love” (Colossians 2:2). Love is the highest attribute of perfection, and Christ in us desires to reach out to others in love.

If we follow these three guidelines—receiving correction, being taught, and walking in love—we will “have complete understanding of God’s secret plan, which is Christ himself” (v. 2).

The “old, godly way” is the path where we will find rest for our souls. This place is described in the New International Version of the Bible as the “ancient paths” and is called the “good way.” Israel’s journey through the wilderness as chronicled in Psalm 78 describes the path on which the people of God were instructed to walk.

First, the path was one of deliverance: “He divided the sea before them and led them through” (Psalm 78:13). The Lord knows how to deliver His people from all their enemies, even if the path leads in an unorthodox way!

Second, the path was one of guidance: “In the daytime he led them by a cloud, and at night by a pillar of fire” (v. 14). Because the Lord’s path is always better than our own, we should ask Him to show us where the “cloud” is moving in our lives.

Finally, the path was one of provision: “He split open the rocks in the wilderness to give them plenty of water, as from a gushing spring” (v. 15). If we keep walking in the paths of the Lord, there will be constant provision. We must remember the words of Psalm 23:1: “The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need.”

With the promise of God’s deliverance, guidance, and provision, why would we ever say of the path of the Lord, “No, that’s not the road we want!” (Jeremiah 6:16)? Choose to walk in the godly way, and find rest for your soul.

Wisdom, strength, and riches are the three goals that the world passionately pursues. Anyone who achieves status in one of these three areas is celebrated as someone great by those in the world. Such pursuit, however, leads to three main areas of sin: intellectual pride, lustful passion, and greed.

Jeremiah warned that a wise man shouldn’t boast of his wisdom any more than a strong man should boast of his strength or a rich man of his wealth. Why? Because those wise, strong, and rich men produced none of those characteristics in their lives. It was God alone who gave them whatever wisdom, strength, or riches they possess.

Paul reminded the Colossians, “For you died when Christ died, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). We must put to death the proud mind of man that flatters and exalts himself in his own eyes. We must crucify the sinful desires of the flesh, such as “sexual sin, impurity, lust, and shameful desires” (v. 5). Furthermore, we cannot “be greedy for the good things of this life, for that is idolatry” (v. 5).

If we boast of anything in this world, it should only be the awesome fact that we understand and know the Lord personally. In everything else, let us put on humility, purity, and generosity. The world may not appreciate us when we do, but in God’s eyes we will be pursuing true wisdom, strength, and riches!

Prayer is our occupation. It is not meant to be a halfhearted, wishful endeavor, but rather it should be wholehearted, intense, fervent, and devoted. What a privilege it is for us to engage in the one thing that will change everything!

Epaphras was a mighty prayer warrior who wrestled in prayer for the Colossians (Colossians 4:12 NIV). The word wrestle means “to agonize,” or “to wrestle as in a wrestling match.” In Epaphras’s day, wrestling was the most intense athletic match in the Olympics, and for Paul to describe Epaphras’s prayer as “wrestling” shows the intensity with which this brother labored in prayer.

Epaphras’s fervent prayer was that the Colossians might be “strong and perfect, fully confident of the whole will of God” (v. 12). Satan is continually opposing the will of God in our lives, and only through wrestling, agonizing prayer can the will of God be accomplished. Epaphras was willing to agonize over the Colossian church.

God told the prophet Jeremiah, “Pray no more for these people, Jeremiah. Do not weep or pray for them, for I will not listen to them when they cry out to me in distress” (Jeremiah 11:14). We may wrestle in prayer on behalf of others, but they bear the responsibility of responding to God’s overtures. What a tragedy it is when people resist God so much that He will no longer hear prayer on their behalf!

Let us wrestle, watch, and agonize in prayer daily. Our families and friends are depending upon us.

Can you race on foot against horsemen? Jeremiah asks a pointed question about our level of commitment. The obvious implication is that if we grow tired and give up when dealing with relatively inconsequential problems, we will never be able to handle major problems. If we have problems dealing with grocery money, how will we be able to manage Kingdom finances? If we cannot keep our own house in order, how will we rule nations?

Sometimes we twenty-first-century Christians feel as though we have it rough. The early Church, however, had it much rougher. They were indeed running with the horsemen! Paul commended the Thessalonians’ faith and perseverance, saying, “You received the message with joy from the Holy Spirit in spite of the severe suffering it brought you” (1 Thessalonians 1:6).

The presence of greater challenges in our lives doesn’t mean that God has left us, but it does mean He trusts our ability to run with the horses. With the help of God, you can outrun any challenge in your life, as Elijah did when he outran Ahab’s horses all the way to Jezreel (1 Kings 18:46).

Get ready for a new level of commitment. The foot race is over— the horses are coming!

Silver must be purified seven times before it is perfectly pure. Dross and impurities lie hidden within the silver, and only heat can drive them out.

God knows that our imperfections, too, can only be removed by heat. Paul prayed that none of the Thessalonians would be unsettled by such trials. He told them, “But, of course, you know that such troubles are going to happen to us Christians” (1 Thessalonians 3:3).

Satan, our eternal enemy, seeks to stop us (1 Thessalonians 2:18) and tempt us (3:5) in an effort to steal our faith. But our faith is like the silver being refined. It is that precious thing that keeps us close to God during a trial and keeps us moving forward when Satan is trying to drive us backward. 

Timothy’s return and good report led Paul to say, “We have been greatly comforted, dear brothers and sisters, in all of our own crushing troubles and suffering, because you have remained strong in your faith” (1 Thessalonians 3:7). Every trial you encounter and walk through successfully only purifies your faith and refines it to a higher quality.

Stay in the fire, Christian. God knows that one day you will be “strong, blameless and holy when you stand before God our Father on that day when our Lord Jesus comes with all those who belong to him” (v. 13).

Cursed is the one who trusts in man, but blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord. These are lifetime statements that give a broad overview of the difference between two directions in life. 

The first statement depicts people who continually look to others to solve their problems. Getting help from others is not wrong, but the Lord says, “Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans and turn their hearts away from the Lord. They are like stunted shrubs in the desert, with no hope for the future. They will live in the barren wilderness, on the salty flats where no one lives” (Jeremiah 17:5). To such people, trusting in God and His Word is foolishness. They feel their best option in any circumstance is to follow the way of the world. 

The second statement describes those who trust in the Lord. In every circumstance, they know they are planted beside a continual stream of refreshment under which their roots lie. Though drought, famine, and heat may sear everything around them, their roots draw strength from the unchangeable nature of God. People expect them to wither, dry up, and crack, but those who trust in the Lord remain ever green and fruitful through all circumstances. 

Trust God. He will “subdue [your] enemies” and “feed you with the best of foods” (Psalm 81:14, 16)!

How easy it is for us to hear a word from the Lord and decide that it does not apply to our lives or that it is not for today!

Pashhur, the priest in charge of the temple of the Lord, despised Jeremiah’s prophecies against the detestable practice of sacrificing children to Baal in the valley of Topheth (Jeremiah 20:1-2). This horrible ritual took place with the heathen priests of Baal beating drums to drown out the screams of little babies being burned alive. Jeremiah said that performing such atrocities never entered God’s mind (19:5).

Humankind can stoop to some terrible deeds when there is no voice of reason. Jeremiah saw this dreadful scene of infant sacrifice and prophesied the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem. When Pashhur threatened him, Jeremiah said, “I can’t stop! If I say I’ll never mention the Lord or speak in his name, his word burns in my heart like a fire. It’s like a fire in my bones! I am weary of holding it in!” (20:9).

We should not despise prophecy, but invite it. We should pray for God to give us voices in our nation to proclaim the truth before it is too late. The lives we save may be our own.

The prophet Jeremiah could foresee Jesus’ first coming. Though he lived hundreds of years before Christ’s birth, Jeremiah saw by the Spirit of God that One was coming from the line of David who would blaze a trail that would ultimately touch every person in history. He would restore total justice and wisdom to a sin-gripped land. Jeremiah saw a time when Judah would be saved, and Israel would live in safety. Most importantly, he saw the name of the One who would accomplish this: The Lord Is Our Righteousness. What name could better describe Jesus?

Paul saw ahead in time to the second coming of Jesus. He saw the Lord coming back from heaven “with his mighty angels, in flaming fire” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-8). Like Jeremiah, he saw ahead to the time when Jesus will set everything right on earth again—a time when He will eternally punish the wicked and they will be “forever separated from the Lord and from his glorious power” (v. 9).

When Jesus returns, He will assume all the glory on earth and be worshiped by both the Church and the Jewish converts. “In that day Judah will be saved, and Israel will live in safety” (Jeremiah 23:6).

Get ready and stay ready, for The Lord Our Righteousness is on His way. He’s coming for you!