Men’s Devotional Bible

Duration: 365 days

HOPEFUL FANS

Zephaniah 3:14–20

Recommended Reading: Jeremiah 29:4–13; Ezekiel 37:24–28; 1 Peter 3:15

Every team in professional sports has a group of devoted followers you might call hopeful fans. Without them, the team couldn’t survive. These aren’t rabid fans who constantly vacillate between intense hatred and delight during each game, or fickle fans who cheer enthusiastically during winning streaks but lose interest when the team loses games. These fans remain true no matter what. They’re happy when their team wins, certainly, but still wear their colors proudly when they lose. For them, there’s always next year.

Israel possessed an unparalleled record of losing seasons. Nations and dynasties flourished and vanished while God’s people experienced more losers than winners. The nation’s continued existence was in itself a miracle. A casual observer might wonder why God didn’t get tired of losing. He could have sold off the team long before. Yet God never gave up his franchise. The people of Israel were his chosen people. He knew they’d eventually win. With God, next year is always a certainty.

This message came to Israel through Zephaniah when storm clouds of devastation and defeat darkened the nation’s horizon. While he had earlier joined the chorus of prophets who were predicting Israel’s suffering, Zephaniah also added words of hope. The reign of King Josiah included a season of righteousness in Judah, delaying God’s judgment. The nation showed all the signs of a “rebuilding team.” The people changed their old habits and eliminated evil practices.

Unfortunately, Josiah’s reforms didn’t last long. Losing ways ran deep within the nation. Yet hope became the refuge of a small group determined to remain faithful. God’s hopeful fans stood fast. They realized that “next year” might not happen for a long time, but it would eventually come. God had promised.

The same God who kept his word to Israel keeps his promises to you. You can count on it. So live as a hopeful fan. God’s promise describes both his relationship with Israel and the one he longs to have with you: “The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17).

TO TAKE AWAY

  • What do you think God wants to accomplish in and through your life?
  • Why didn’t God give up on Israel? Why doesn’t God give up on us?
  • In what ways are you inspired by God’s promise to always be with you?

Stewardship Bible

Duration: 365 days

LIFE TO THE FULL

John 10:10

Of all the gifts God has given us, life, both physical and spiritual, is the most fundamental and the most precious. In Jesus, God reaffirms the gift of life he bestowed on humanity in the beginning of time and provides the antidote to the culture of sin and death that was introduced by the fall. In the introduction to the encyclical Gospel of Life (Evangelium vitae), Pope John Paul II (1920–2005) proclaims the preciousness of the gift of life.

When he presents the heart of his redemptive mission, Jesus says: “[I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full]” (Jn 10:10). In truth, he is referring to that “new” and “eternal” life which consists in communion with the Father, to which every person is freely called in the Son by the power of the Sanctifying Spirit. It is precisely in this “life” that all the aspects and stages of human life achieve their full significance.

The encyclical also addresses “the incomparable worth of the human person.”

Man is called to a fullness of life which far exceeds the dimensions of his earthly existence, because it consists in sharing the very life of God. The loftiness of this supernatural vocation reveals the greatness and the inestimable value of human life even in its temporal phase. Life in time, in fact, is the fundamental condition, the initial stage and an integral part of the entire unified process of human existence. It is a process which, unexpectedly and undeservedly, is enlightened by the promise and renewed by the gift of divine life, which will reach its full realization in eternity (cf. 1Jn 3:1–2). At the same time, it is precisely this supernatural calling which highlights the relative character of each individual’s earthly life. After all, life on earth is not an “ultimate” but a “penultimate” reality; even so, it remains a sacred reality entrusted to us, to be preserved with a sense of responsibility and brought to perfection in love and in the gift of ourselves to God and to our brothers and sisters.

As stewards of God’s gifts, the pope admonishes every believer to celebrate, value and guard the gift of human life.

Even in the midst of difficulties and uncertainties, every person sincerely open to truth and goodness can, by the light of reason and the hidden action of grace, come to recognize in the natural law written in the heart (cf. Ro 2:14–15) the sacred value of human life from its very beginning until its end, and can affirm the right of every human being to have this primary good respected to the highest degree. Upon the recognition of this right, every human community and the political community itself are founded.

THINK ABOUT IT

  • What is your definition of life?
  • What makes life so valuable?
  • How might you celebrate, value and guard the gift of life?

PRAY ABOUT IT

Lord, thank you for the life that you give “to the full.” Help me to live in celebration of the life you have given to all people, and to be a good steward of this sacred reality—your life in myself and in all the people you have made.

The NIV Couples Devotional

Duration: 365 days

WHEN GOD HIDES

Psalm 13:1–6

How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?
Psalm 13:1

There are benefits to pastoral ministry. Recently a woman wrote about how thrilled her family was to receive their green cards for permanent residency in this country. We had prayed consistently for this family and supported them through their many struggles and setbacks. Now she shared her joy with her church family.

Of course, pastoral ministry also has tough times. Once I stood with a newly married wife as her husband yelled at her, calling her every name possible. He ripped her house keys out of her hands. Later, he replaced the locks on their house and boarded up the windows to prevent her from getting back in.

The ups and downs of pastoral ministry are echoed in Psalm 13. Among the delights of praise, we hear a litany of despair. Where is God when one of us gets a bad report from the doctor? Where is God when a marriage breaks under the stress of unemployment? Where is God when a spouse dies?

One of the hardest challenges I’ve faced is finding God in loss. I remember sitting with a mother in a hospital, praying for the recovery of her daughter. The daughter had been married only a year. While delivering the woman’s baby, the doctor nicked something with his knife. Now the young woman was fighting for her life.

Her mother was inconsolable. When we prayed, she felt no peace. Within hours, her daughter was gone. After that, the mother stopped going to church. The young husband was angry and didn’t know how to care for his baby alone. Where was God?

That question is often asked in suffering or loss. And often the only answer appears to be silence. The promises of Scripture fade in the agony of sorrow. The Holy Spirit seems to withdraw from hearts that grow chilly. Where is God when airplanes crash? Where is God when a spouse is unfaithful? Where is God when a baby dies? Where is God?

Psalm 13 echoes those concerns. In verse 1, the psalmist David asks God, “How long will you hide your face from me?” But this isn’t the end of the psalm. Rather, the psalmist goes on to assure us that our God, who is enthroned on high, stoops low to see and hear and know us—even when we can’t see his face and his words are like a foreign language to us.

“I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation,” said David (Psalm 13:5). Likewise we continue to love and trust God, not for what we get out of it right now, but because it is the only way to make sense of this life. We trust in God, not because we always feel the wonder of his divine presence, but because there is truly no one else to turn to but God. And in time we will live to say, “He has been good to me” (Psalm 13:6).
Wayne Brouwer

LET’S TALK

  • What suffering have we known? How did it affect us? What was our relationship with God like at the time?
  • How do we know that God cares for us today? What would we say as a testimony if asked to share our stories?
  • What do we need from each other during stressful times? How can we best echo back to one another the confident testimonies of Psalm 13?

All the Women of the Bible

Duration: 365 days

LOT’S WIFE

Genesis 19:15-26; Luke 17:29-33

When Abraham heard that his nephew, Lot, had been taken captive by the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah, he pursued the enemies and freed Lot, and “the women, and the people.” Who the women were, Scripture does not say. They may have been Lot’s wife and daughters, or Sodomite female servants. The first direct reference we have of Lot’s unnamed wife is when the angels came to hasten the family out of doomed Sodom (Genesis 19:15). Who she was, of what race and family, of what life and character, by what name she was known, the Bible is silent. All the information we have about her is packed into one short verse, “His wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.” Yet we must give attention to her for it is written in burning words by the finger of God—

“Remember Lot’s wife.”

Some dozen words in the Old Testament, and three words in the New Testament, then, are all we have of this female character.

When, because of strife, Abraham and his nephew, Lot, came to part, Abraham gave Lot the pick of the land before them. Lot selfishly chose the best stretch of the country, “well watered everywhere … even as the garden of the Lord” (13:10). But such a greedy choice had dire consequences. Lot pitched his tent toward Sodom, and before long was in Sodom where its inhabitants “were wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly” (13:13). Lot became a citizen of Sodom, sat at its gate as the city’s mayor, and was treated with honor and reverence as a relative of the mighty Abraham who had delivered Sodom from the Elamite invasion. While Peter speaks of Lot as being just and of having a righteous soul vexed with the filthy lives of the Sodomites (2 Peter 2:7-9), he yet somehow closed his eyes to the wickedness of the people, married a woman of Sodom and consented for his two daughters born in Sodom to marry Sodomites.

Sodom was such a cesspool of iniquity that God said He would destroy it. But because of Lot’s presence in the city Abraham interceded for its preservation. If only there had been ten righteous people in it God said the city would be spared. The only apparent righteous person in it—whose righteousness had been made ineffective through compromise—was Lot. So the two angels came to deliver Lot and his family from the terrible judgment about to fall on Sodom. They were entertained overnight, and Lot’s wife doubtless shared in the hospitality shown. Early the next morning the angels sought to hasten Lot and his family out of the city, but they lingered. They were loathe to leave the luxury, pleasure, and sin of Sodom, so the angelic deliverers had to remove them forcibly from the city and compel them to escape for their life.

The account of the tragedy is briefly related. As fire and brimstone out of heaven fell upon Sodom, Lot’s wife looked back from behind her husband. In oriental countries it was the rule for the wife to walk some distance behind her husband, but as Lot’s wife lingered and looked back she was overtaken by sulphurous vapors, and, encrusted with salt, perished where she stood. Entombed as a pillar, she became “as a monument of an unbelieving soul” in a desolate region, “of whose wickedness even to this day the waste land that smoketh is a testimony” (Wisdom 10:7). The wife of Lot looked back upon her own city with regrets at having to part with its sinful pleasures. She had been compelled to leave Sodom as a city, but all that Sodom represented was very much in her heart.

All the while Lot’s wife was in Sodom, its “filthy communications” soaked into her soul, so much so that when the angel of mercy sought to save her from the angel of judgment, she could not be saved. In the look back to Sodom was regret for all she was leaving for an unknown life before her, and as she sighed the salt air whitened her body into marble, and “nature made for her at once a grave and a monument.” “She became a pillar of salt,” and in that word we have a symbol of character as well as a monument of destiny. A pillar of salt is the picture of many a society woman today. All the sweet blood of a true woman’s heart has become brackish by the life she leads. Instead of a woman, you have only a pillar of salt. In Sodom, Lot’s wife lived in pleasure but was dead as she lived. As the wife of a righteous man, she had a name to live, but the gay life of Sodom asphyxiated her soul. Thus when the warning voice of God sounded in her ear, she may have heard it but did not heed it. Sodom with its society and sin had been her whole life.

When dealing with the truth of His Second Advent, our Lord used the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah and Lot’s deliverance from their destruction as an illustration of His emancipation of His own from the catastrophe to overtake a godless world, and warns believers to remember Lot’s wife and not linger, look, and be lost. As those who wait His coming we are not to look back nor draw back, but look up for our redemption draweth nigh. How arrestive is Christ’s exhortation! “Remember Lot’s wife.” Mary’s one act of piety in breaking her alabaster box of precious spikenard brought her a perpetual memorial, and in like manner the one tragic act of Lot’s wife brought her a different kind of remembrance. For all who preach the Gospel what an appeal for immediate decision there is in the urgent summons of the angels to Lot and his family, “Escape for thy life, look not behind thee … lest thou be consumed.” That stirring evangelistic hymn has led many a sinner to escape to the arms of the Saviour—

The Gospel bells give warning,

As they sound from day to day,

Of the fate which doth await them

Who forever will delay—

Escape thou for thy life;

Tarry not in all the plain.

Nor behind thee look, oh, never,

Lest thou be consumed in pain.

Devotional content drawn from All the Women of the Bible by Herbert Lockyer. Used with permission.