PORTRAIT OF A SAVIOR
Hands once raised in supplication
Pierced with nails of cruelty
Knees that knelt before the Father
Rendered helpless on a tree
Brow once knit in concentration
Wanting naught but Father’s will
Bleeding from a thorny crown
Bowed to love’s directive still
Feet that walked on dusty pathways
Leading Him to destiny
Now wounded, torn and crippled
Stained with blood at Calvary
This, a picture of my Savior
Forsaken and alone was He
Beaten, suffering, crushed and dying,
Jesus hung upon that tree
Burden of all mankind’s sin
Held Him there in agony
Magnificent, His tender heart
Stilled by love for you and me
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
Isaiah 53:5, NIV
WRITTEN BY: CONNIE FAUST
Extended reading: Psalm 19
Devotional verse: Psalm 19:13
“Also keep back Thy servant from presumptuous sins; Let them not rule over me; Then I shall be blameless, and I shall be acquitted of great transgression” (NASB).
I have recently read an account about the Battle of the Wilderness in the Civil War when general John Sedgwick was inspecting his troops. The story goes that he was inspecting his troops, and at one point, he came to a parapet, over which he gazed out in the direction of the enemy. His officers told him that it was unwise to do so and that, perhaps, he ought to duck while passing the parapet. “Nonsense,” snapped the General. “They couldn’t hit an elephant at this dist. . ..” A moment later, it is said, Sedgwick fell to the ground fatally wounded.
We are a lot like the General in this regard. How often do we take for granted something as being true without any evidence to the contrary? How often do we make decisions or venture forward without the proper authority or permission? That is what it means to act presumptuously. That is what Job’s friends did as they counseled him after he lost everything (Job 4-37). And this they did at times with evident arrogance, which often is attached to this sin. God called them out over it and told them that “you have not spoken of me what is right. . .” (Job 42:7).
The sin of presumption can manifest itself in many forms; that is why David petitions God to keep him from them. Unwittingly or willfully, we sin unless divine forgiveness and help aid us in walking above reproach. So David prays that his words, thoughts, motivations, and conduct would be acceptable in the sight of God, who is His source of strength. We also need the Holy Spirit to aid us in our battle against the flesh so we, too, can walk with integrity before our God.
Prayer: O Lord, we, like David, need your divine intervention in our lives so that we would not fall prey to presumptuous sins. Help us pray, think, speak, and act in a manner worthy of you, our loving Heavenly Father. Amen.
Devotional verse: “But as for me, I will hope continually, and will praise thee yet more and more” (v.14 NASB).
The topic of aging and all that comes with it is a topic that many people seek to avoid. According to a Pew Research Center survey, there is a “sizable gap between the expectations that young and middle-aged adults have about old age and the actual experiences reported by older Americans themselves.” Illness, memory loss, loneliness, and depression are things many aging adults deal with and acknowledge that they are just par for the course! But what about the “unexpected” things life throws at you? What about the trials and tribulations yet to face? Shouldn’t they be diminished or even done away with when we are “old and gray” (v.18)?
In Psalm 71, we find a man engaging the Lord in prayer. He has enemies that speak against him at every opportunity and who are seeking to do him harm. His desire is for the Lord to be his security, his safety, and protection. All else may fail, but not the Lord! As he looked to the future, concerns about getting older and possibly being forsaken by the Lord when physically and mentally weaker discouraged him (vv. 9,18). He reflected on the past and remembered that the Lord had been there for him and delivered him through all his trials. He grows confident that He will again (vv. 5, 20)!
With his confidence strengthened and his refuge found in the Lord, he resolves to move forward with unwavering hope and praise on his lips! He desires to proclaim the goodness of God to the next generation for as long as he is able (vv. 15,16,18). Perhaps as we reflect on how good the Lord has been to us in our own lives, we too can move forward into old age with confidence and resolve to be a witness for Him while trusting Him with whatever trials come our way. And along the way praising Him yet more and more!
Prayer: Father, as we walk through each day you provide us, grant us a mind to remember your past faithfulness, a heart whose refuge is in you alone, a voice to sing you praises, and lips to witness of thy salvation to others. Amen
HIS GRACE IS SUFFICIENT
His grace is sufficient for me.
I know not what this day will bring
Or what my troubles may be;
But I know who holds tomorrow
And His grace is sufficient for me.
Burdens will come and test my heart,
more rain than sun I’ll see;
Still I’ll hope in God above
Cause His grace is sufficient for me.
Although I have many weaknesses
The power of Christ rests upon me;
His power is made perfect in weakness
So His grace is sufficient for me.
Why should I fear in times of trouble
There is nothing your eyes don’t see;
Though many be rising against me
Your grace is sufficient for me.
By His grace I have been redeemed,
Cleansed by His blood and set free;
Though Jesus died He lives again
Such grace is sufficient for me.
So, I’ll draw near His throne of grace
finding mercy in my time of need;
Gaining strength for my tomorrow, and
Finding His grace is sufficient for me.
Larry G. Stump Jr.
Who knows you?
Long reading: Revelation 20:11-15
Devotional verse: Revelation 20:15
“And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.”
Before the internet and cell phones, written lists were used to keep track of who was and was not invited to a special gathering. I recently read a story about a person who was refused entry into a friend’s wedding reception because her name was not written in the guest list. She tried hard to gain access but couldn’t. The names written in that book revealed who did and did not belong at the upscale event.
In the book of Revelation we read about a similar situation. At the Great White Throne Judgement, John saw many people who were not allowed access into Heaven because their names were not written in the Book of Life. These people, however, were not only refused entry but also cast away from God forever. That is heartbreaking to those of us who know Jesus Christ and have our names written down in that heavenly book (Luke 10:20).
“God is not willing that any should perish, but have everlasting life” (2 Peter 3:9), and the only way a person receives everlasting life is by coming to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Today, we still need encouragement to be a gospel witness. Christians have a message of hope, and that message is powerful because it is all about God’s redeeming grace through the cross of Jesus Christ. (GOSPEL) Who in your area of influence needs to hear about God’s forgiveness? When a person comes to know Jesus Christ as their savior, they won’t have to worry about whether or not their name is in the book. God promises that it is!
Daily prayer: Heavenly Father, we are so thankful that you have revealed Yourself to us and redeemed us by your grace. Help us to be just as generous with Your gospel to others as you have been to us. Amen.
WAITING FOR THE SON
Extended reading: 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
Devotional verse: 1 Thessalonians 1:10
“And to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come” (NASB)
The believers in Thessalonica were relatively new to the faith but the joy and zeal they shared with each other was astounding. Paul had heard of their “work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. . .” (Vs. 3), and he was full of joy and thankfulness at the persistent and perseverant manner in which they lived for their new found savior. These young converts become imitators of Paul, the Lord, and other churches because of the suffering they endured as followers of Jesus. They became examples to other believers around them for being steadfast in the faith and for being a faithful gospel witness to the watching world around them.
What gave them so much joy? What inspired them to persevere through suffering? What gave their hearts the courage to tell others about the “living and true God? Jesus promised that He is coming back for his beloved (John 14:1-3)! The joy and expectation that is expressed in verse 10 is expected and should be anticipated in those who have, as they have, “turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God.” Idols do not necessarily need to be fashioned out of gold, wood, or any other material thing for us to be in bondage to them. We are very creative in setting up idols in our own hearts (Ezekiel 14:3).
Reflecting on these scriptures should “re-awaken” our longing for the Lord’s return. They remind us that we are to live our lives in faithful anticipation of this event. What a joy it is to read: “he delivers us from the wrath to come.”
Larry G. Stump Jr.
Prayer: Our Father, we rejoice in God our savior. We admit that we have not lived each day in light of the truth that Jesus is coming back for us and will make all things right. Help us, O Father, to live our lives from this day forward in joyful anticipation of being with our savior. Amen.
Go and spread the gospel
Over the hills and thru the vale;
It’s truth for hurting souls
Not a children’s fairytale.
O, be gentle in your speaking
But bold along the way;
For we’re not guaranteed tomorrow
And many souls are lost each day.
Speak it’s truth unto your loved ones,
Don’t burn bridges as you go;
Humbly live out the gospel for them
So it’s affects within you show.
Prepare to be rejected
That’s just par for the course;
They rejected Christ as well
O, dear Christian stay the course.
Enlist a mighty army
Going forward into war;
With the gospel as their banner
And God going on before.
Let us pray for those who listened
That His truth He does impart;
So all by grace forgiven
Will receive a blood washed heart.
Larry G. Stump Jr.
Extended reading: Galatians 5:1-8.
Devotional verse: 5: 7
“You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?”
Martin was a friend of mine who struggled in the faith. Early on in his life he was a false convert, but thanks to the long-suffering of God he was finally redeemed and by God’s grace was growing in the knowledge of God’s will revealed in His holy word.
But as time went on it appeared that Martin was struggling once again. This time it was because of some false teaching he was listening to. This teaching was drawing him away from “grace alone” for salvation, toward a “works plus” grace salvation model. Martin began well, but eventually became seriously hindered in his Christian walk for several years to come, because he listened to someone’s distorted teaching about God’s word rather than trusting in God’s revealed word.
Paul’s words echo forth with resounding clarity! Those who were now struggling in their faith started well. They were growing in their faith and living in light of the gospel, but then some false teacher with some pseudo gospel came along. They perhaps, hesitantly at first listened with skepticism, but then somewhere along the way they were deceived into believing a lie. Now there assurance of salvation was lost as they became “subject again to a yoke of slavery” (vs.1).
Paul told the Ephesians that “we are saved by grace through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works so none one should boast” (2:8-9). As we have so much available to us today within media, whatever and however that is manifested, let us with caution listen to others who propose to speak for our Lord and exercise discernment (1 John 4:1), and let us with confidence apply the word of God in full assurance and faith (Hebrews 10:22).
Prayer: Heavenly Father, help us in our ignorance to learn your word. We ask for your Spirit to teach us all things that pertain to life and godliness. Grant us an uncanny mindset that is able to discern truth from error and to reject the false and cling to that which is good. Amen.
Extended reading: 1 Thessalonians 1:1-5.
Devotional verse: 1 Thessalonians 1:5
“For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction, just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you” (NASB).
Many Christian people I know are afraid to share the gospel with others because they get extremely nervous thinking about what they would say. Other Christians I know believe that they don’t have to say anything; they believe doing good works and serving people is sharing the gospel. In our verse we find both qualities are active and useful in evangelism when used simultaneously.
Paul and Silas spoke words to the Thessalonians because they believed that, “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17), but words of men, any men, are inadequate and powerless to save, without the power of the Holy Spirit working through them and opening up the minds and hearts of the hearers to understand and believe those words.
These men also proved to be good “components” of that spiritual power. They lived holy, upright lives before these people. They suffered much affliction and persecution to bring the spoken gospel to them. They lived disciplined lives, worked night and day so they would not be a burden to them (2 Thessalonians 3:7-9). Their lives were powerful examples to these people, but that alone never did and never will save anyone.
We may feel weak and fearful and not be the brightest bulb in the light socket, that’s ok. Paul felt the same way too (1 Corinthians 2:1-5), and yet he still told others about Jesus Christ. He didn’t trust in his life example or his own “persuasive words,” to convince others, rather he trusted in the Holy Spirits power to take his words and make them “living and active” inside them!
Next time we get fearful when we have an opportunity to share the gospel, we need to remember that God simply wants to use us, but it’s His Spirit working through us that truly makes the difference.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, when we are weak you are strong. Please encourage our hearts with this truth so that we will be more confident in telling others about your Son Jesus. Amen
Today’s reading: Colossians 2:1-7
Verse for devotion:
“As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him,” Colossians 2:6 (NASB)
Shortly after my wife and I had purchased our new home, our oldest daughter became very sick. We didn’t know it at the time, but she would be diagnosed with a type of blood cancer. Our lives changed so dramatically after the doctors talked with us an laid out there plan of action to fight the cancer. For several weeks our daughter was in the hospital on some serious medicines, unable to eat food and barely able to drink water. My wife stayed at the hospital during the day, and I would stay there at night. During this time I still had the rest of my family to care for; two other children that needed nurturing, guidance, and an education (we homeschooled). I still had my job which I needed to be at each day, needless to say, my faith was being challenged in some pretty striking ways.
These words of Paul in verse six were very helpful to me then and are an anchor for me now. How did I receive Christ? By faith. How am I supposed to walk or live as I deal with the ebb and flow of life’s blessings and challenges? By faith! Nothing has changed. Through it all, good and bad, I am lovingly exhorted to persevere, remembering that the roots of my faith are connected to Him. And, if I let my life be built on Him, my faith will grow stronger and I will be better able to express my thankful heart to Him.
Our daughter was fifteen when she was diagnosed with cancer. She is now twenty eight, cancer free, and married with two beautiful children of her own. I continue to walk by faith in Christ. He has always proven Himself worthy and that gives me confidence to face whatever challenges are yet ahead.
(Larry Stump Jr.)
Today’s prayer: Precious Lord, because you are faithful, help us not to be faithless amid the trials of life. Help us to grow stronger in the truth’s we’ve been taught, so we may continue forward with a confident trust in you. Amen
Thy Word is like a hammer
Breaking rocks in pieces;
Removing all deception
So within it we’ll see Jesus.
Thy Word is like pure water
Washing filthy souls from sin;
And by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ
Sin stained souls are cleansed within!
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet
And a light that lights my way;
It is bread from Heaven that strengthens
and renews my soul each day.
Thy Word is like a mirror
Reflecting back to me,
The kind of man I am
And the man you’d have me be.
Thy word is truth that never changes,
Eternal and will never pass away;
It’s nourishment for hungry souls
For those who regard your way.
Thy Word I have hid within my heart
That I might not sin against thee;
And when temptation comes my way
More strengthened I will be.
Thy Word is like a sword
Empowered by Thy Spirit;
Enable me to use it well
To defend and counter with it.
Thy Word is full of wisdom
Revealing a holy perspective;
Trained by it our lives should be
Lives that are reflective.
Thy Word is forever settled in heaven
It’s testimonies are wonderful and true;
Sustain me according to Thy word
Till I finally dwell with You.
Written by: Larry Stump Jr.
THE GOSPEL OF GOD
Extended reading: 1 Thessalonians 2:1-13
Quoted verse: 1 Thessalonians 2:13
“And for this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received from us the word of God’s message, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe” (NASB).
The Open Air Campaigners have an evangelistic ministry that has at its core the burden of preaching the gospel to lost people anywhere and mobilizing the body of Christ to do the same. I had the pleasure of learning from these men, many years ago, the skills that were needed to do well in open air evangelism. Using a sketch-board, painting a gospel message, rope tricks and other illustrations; as well as spiritual discipline, faithful study of God’s word, earnest prayer, teamwork, and compassion for the lost. But there is one thing that I learned from them that has affected my gospel witness more than anything else, and that is this: God working through His word performs His will in those who hear and believe!
You and I cannot save anyone. Our flattering speeches, or supposed superiority with words; our perceived wisdom or persuasive rhetoric, never did and never will save anyone. God uses people to proclaim His word, this is true, but He uses weak people led by His Spirit, so that when He opens up minds and hearts to His truth’s, it will always be a demonstration of the working of His Holy Spirit and power (1 Corinthians 2:1-5)!
This truth should be encouraging and reassuring to God’s people. Just as the word of the Lord sounded forth from these believers in every place they went (1 Thessalonians 1:8), so too it should from us. You and I can faithfully share the gospel of God with others (vs 9), confident that He will do what He will in those peoples lives that have heard the truth from us. This means that you and I can share the gospel and then go home and sleep in peace. If people are to come to faith in Christ, such faith cannot rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God!
Larry Stump Jr.
Daily prayer: Help us O God, to trust in your Spirit and power in the salvation of the lost. Grant to us thy peace which surpasses all understanding as we pray and seek to win souls for Christ. Amen.
THE SOURCE OF ALL BLESSING
Devotional verse: 1 Thessalonians 1:1
“Grace to you and peace from God our father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (NKJV).
A few years ago when I was cleaning out some drawers in my dresser I came across some old letters that I had received, along with a few I started to write but never finished. I was totally absorbed with them; opening up and reading each one again as if it was the first time I had received them. Reading each letter elicited some memory of past events, some memories of the person who wrote it, and the hopes that were held at the time for some yet future event. Than I picked up the letters I started to write but never finished. As I read through them I began to recognize a common theme within them that was so different than the letters of Paul that I have read over and over again in my bible.
My letters often began and ended with myself as the focus, the main theme, whereas in Paul’s letters he always begins and ends with some form of this very greeting we see here. Unlike myself, and probably most of us, It was characteristic of Paul to encompass his writings with a theme of and prayer for grace and peace to the recipient. Grace and peace were constant themes in Paul’s writings and by it he was able to point his readers to the source of all the blessings of redemption they enjoy. How much better would our letters be, whether by pen or keyboard, if we employed the same theme into our writing and thereby pointed our readers to the source of all the blessings of salvation?
Larry Stump Jr.
Prayer for today: “In your beauty, blessed Lord, we see a fullness of grace, truth, and righteousness. It corresponds exactly to the wants (needs) of poor sinners – your blood to cleanse, your grace to comfort, and your fullness, to supply” (Robert Hawker). Help us, O Lord, to be more diligent with our opportunities to share Christ Jesus with others, Amen.
Sitting by the firelight
Enjoying its warmth and glow;
I noticed within its flames
Truths to help me grow.
At first the fire was raging,
Its tongues reached toward the sky;
Reminding me of His punishment,
For those, who Him deny.
Flames traveled to the left
And flickered towards the right;
God led Israel with clouds by day,
And by a pillar of fire by night.
The tongue it is a fire,
Set on fire by hell;
Another truth, if truth be told,
These rolling flames will tell.
The flames, as they relented,
Brought forth a gentle hush;
Reminding me that God appeared,
To Moses, midst a bush.
Amid the glow of orange
Almost ready to retire;
I thought I heard these words sound out,
“Is not my Word like fire?”
His Word is like a fire,
And fire does refine;
I know that work is needed
In a sinful heart like mine.
Written by: Larry G. Stump Jr