One Word Devotionals

Your minutes matter—especially when life gets busy. That’s why I’m starting a new series called One Word Devotionals. You can read each devotional in about three minutes. Honest—I timed it.

I hope you’ll join me for the first in this series—a journey through the book of James.  Starting tomorrow, I’ll post a short devotional each morning on this practical epistle written by the half-brother of Jesus. These reflections are designed to help you meditate on a very small portion of Scripture.

Why One Word? Meditation on a single facet of Scripture helps you focus on a specific truth. It’s a good way to fill your mind with God’s Word.  Plus, it helps you frontload your prayers with a burst of power for the rest of your day.

If you were with me for the 21 Day Experiment in John, you know I’m a “word nerd.” I like to explore the Scriptures in the original Greek. It’s a good way to unpack every morsel of truth in God’s Word.

It’s often challenging to keep our faith—and our cool—when the stresses of life hit. Maybe you need a “little faith-fix” as you approach the holiday season.  I know I do. The book of James is filled with lots of practical wisdom. That’s why some call it “The Proverbs of the New Testament.” Just the book to help us focus on what really matters!

Sometimes, all the craziness in the world today threatens to wreck our calm. Plus, the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season can cause us to lose focus. Let’s reflect on what James has to teach us as we anticipate the birthday of Jesus.

The five short chapters in the book of James pack a wallop!  Over the years, the powerful truth in this little book has ignited several life-changing moments for me.  So I can’t wait to dive in again!

God’s Word never returns void. Never leaves us empty. So…are you ready?  Tomorrow, we’ll begin our Journey through James.  Expect to be changed.

I encourage you to stay alert. Be sure to watch for signs of God at work all around you.  And remember, Jesus loves to surprise us with Christmas miracles!


21 Day Experiment-Day 21

Way to go! You made it to the finish line! You’ve been faithful to seek the Lord during our 21 Day Experiment. I hope you’ll take time to reflect on the ways the Lord has spoken to you.

I repeat this little experiment about once a year—usually when my faith needs a pick-me-up. This morning I’m listing some of God’s fingerprints I’ve noticed along the way.

I even have a special box for spiritual momentos I’ve collected over the years—they tend to show up when I’m doing the 21 Day Experiment.

An ordinary penny taped to a card is one of my favorites. The penny reminds me of a surprising answer to prayer years ago. I hope this story encourages you to keep watch for God in your ordinary moments:

Pennies from Heaven

I don’t remember the first penny that caught my eye. I had been noticing pennies in the strangest places—just as I was praying. Funny, I thought. It’s almost as though God wants to let me know that He hears my prayers.

I sure hoped so. I was going through a spiritually dry season. I was a young mom at the time with two small children. My husband David and I had worked hard building our church ministry for over ten years. Sometimes, the sheer load of caring for so many people became exhausting.

Could these pennies really be little messages of encouragement from God? Perhaps it was wishful thinking. After all, the world groans with the weight of earthquakes, famine, and war. God has better things to do than send me pennies.

Still I hoped. And there it was—another penny. This one in the heel of my shoe! The last one, under a glass on the kitchen shelf. The one before that, in the middle of my bed!

I happened to share my penny story with my friend Kenna. Pretty soon, Kenna began finding pennies of her own!

Pennies from heaven—that’s what I called them. Every time I found a penny, I dropped it into a pretty jar on my kitchen shelf.

I happened to be doing the 21 Day Experiment at the time. John’s Gospel never failed to encourage my faith. One morning I was reading in John 20 about the man we know as “Doubting Thomas.”

The chapter tells about Jesus’ death on the cross and how His followers felt hopeless. But suddenly, Jesus appeared to His disciples—alive! They all saw Him. That is, except Thomas. I could imagine his face fell as the disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

Discouraged, Thomas vowed, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, I will not believe!” I felt for Thomas. For I, too, was in need of encouragement.

Jesus appeared again eight days later. This time, He singled out Thomas. But instead of scolding him, Jesus said, “Put your finger here. See my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas cried out, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:22-24).

Could it be that God cared enough to encourage doubters like Thomas—and like me? Maybe all those pennies really were God’s way of speaking to me.

Lord, I prayed silently, I do believe You’re sending me those pennies. But I need something more. As an afterthought, I added, Lord, You showed your nail-scarred hands to Thomas. I want to see Your nail marks, too!

 I never told anyone about my prayer. How could God possibly show me a nail hole? A few days later, I received a card in the mail from Kenna.

“Dear Marilynn,” she wrote, “I found this penny in my dryer and I thought of you. Perhaps the Lord sent this penny as an encouragement to us both.”

Taped to her card was an ordinary penny. But as I looked closer, I caught my breath. Right through the center—was a nail hole! I sat transfixed. And suddenly I knew. God had sent me a nail mark, just as I’d prayed.

As I touched that penny, I felt like Thomas touching the nail hole in Jesus’ hand. What could I say but “My Lord and My God!”

Suddenly, it was clear. God is awesome. He is powerful enough to rule the entire universe! But He’s also personal. And tender enough to send a nail-pierced penny to another “Doubting Thomas” in need of encouragement—just like me.

Now What?

Over the years, I’ve learned that God’s signs are often quiet—like a whisper. And ordinary—like that penny. So if I’m not watching, I just might miss them! That’s why it’s important to develop a daily habit of watching for signs of God at work.

Why not commit to making time in God’s Word and prayer your top priority? I call it my “daily launch.” A friend of mine, one of the busiest women I know, recently shared how her life was transformed when she began having a morning quiet time. Now it’s her favorite hour of her day. She’s collecting plenty of “God stories” of her own.

Something extraordinary begins to happen when we give God our first fruit. The 21 Day Experiment is a good way to jumpstart this habit. Carry this momentum with you to the next portion of Scripture. I’ve used this same simple method to read through several books in the Bible. If you like to study, you might choose to invest in the Key Word Study Bible. Bible Gateway is a great online resource to read the Bible in multiple versions.

For further reflection, answer these questions:

  1. Before I began the 21 Day Experiment in Prayer, I was struggling with _________.
  2. After reading through John’s Gospel, I’ve noticed____________________________.
  3. One tangible sign I’ve received from the Lord is _____________________.
  4. A verse from the 21 Day Experiment that has special meaning:_______________.
  5. As a result of my experiment, I commit to take this step of faith:___________________.

Just for fun, why not find a box and start a collection of your own spiritual momentos? It’s a great way to become more alert. More watchful. More thankful!

Morning by morning I lay my requests before you and eagerly watch for the answers (Psalm 5:3).


21 Day Experiment-Day 20

Someone once said “seeing is believing.” It is much easier to believe when we can see the evidence. Yet sometimes faith is the belief in the unseen—otherwise, it wouldn’t be called faith. Much like the t-shirt I saw recently with this bold slogan across the front: BELIEVING IS SEEING!

The disciples fought to cling to their faith as they watched Jesus die on that wretched cross.  Everything they could see pointed to utter defeat! But what they could see with their eyes was not the whole story as they would soon discover.

The word SEE is sprinkled throughout today’s reading of John 20:

Mary Magdalene was the first to visit Jesus’ burial site. All she could see was an empty grave! Peter and John raced to the tomb to see for themselves. They looked inside to see the grave cloths folded, but no sign of Jesus anywhere!  The Bible says they “saw and believed” (John 20:8).

Later, Jesus appeared to Mary. She sees and believes. Then, He walks though a locked door and appears to the trembling disciples. They were overjoyed to see Jesus—and they believed!

Somehow Thomas missed out. So he refused to believe unless he saw for himself the nail marks in Jesus’ hands.  Jesus makes a special visit to “doubting Thomas.” He lets him see and touch the nail holes—then challenges Thomas to stop doubting and believe (John 20:27).

The Lord understands we sometimes wrestle to believe. Especially when it looks like evil has won the battle. That’s why John’s Gospel leaves us with these words of encouragement:

Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of His disciples. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing, you may have life in His name” (John 20:30,31).

Signs are like God’s fingerprints.  He wants us to believe that Jesus is the Christ. That’s why Jesus left signs—to help us believe!

Have you seen God’s fingerprints during our 21 Day Experiment? Maybe there’s a friend or family member that would be encouraged by your story. In tomorrow’s post, I’ll share the story of one of my own fingperprints from God.

As we come to the end of our 21 Day Experiment, I encourage you to carve out some extra time tomorrow to reflect on—and even write down—what you’ve seen. What’s you’ve heard from God. And what you believe about Jesus the Christ.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for Your fingerprints. Keep me watchful. Alert. Above all, help me to believe, even before I see what You are doing in and around me. That’s called trust—so today, I simply trust You.

 


21 Day Experiment-Day 19

I noticed my well-worn Bible sitting on my bedside table; the collection of prayer journals stacked below. Reminders of the times I’d seen God move in my life. Answered prayers, healings, even a few miracles. A testimony to my close walk with the Lord.

Then, it hit me. If my Christian life was only about my relationship with the Lord, my world of personal concerns, and my blessings, then so what?

Now don’t get me wrong. I am incredibly thankful for my relationship with the Lord. I treasure those prayer journals—their record of answered prayers; footsteps of my journey with Christ; knowledge I’d gained through years of Bible study.

But as important as these blessings are, they were given to me so that I would be a blessing to others.  As God said to Abraham, we are blessed so that we will be a blessing to others (Genesis 12:2,3).

I sensed the Holy Spirit quietly whispering, “Your life is either a so what or a so that.”

That scenario—just as I described it—happened over twenty years ago. My epiphany that day marked a dramatic shift.  I began to look for ways to step out of my well-managed life and into a broken world. That shift has since taken me to those who are hurting in my own neighborhood. To fragile communities all over the world.

So many are thirsty for the good news of Jesus Christ. As we approach the final chapters of John’s gospel, we catch a glimpse of John’s purpose in sharing his eye witness account.

He writes, “The man who saw it has given testimony…He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe” (John 19:35).   John’s words are for us.  He told his story of Jesus so that you and I, and all that have come before us or after us, may believe!

No doubt John was blessed by his close relationship with Jesus. He was also blessed to be an eye-witness to Jesus’ signs and wonders. All of these blessings were so that he would be a blessing. So that others will believe. How can we do less?

Prayer: Lord, once again, I ask this same questionIs my life a “so what?” or a “so that?” I listen for Your whispers today, alert to Your nudges. Who is on Your heart? Show me how, even in a small way, I can be a blessing to someone who needs Your touch.


21 Day Experiment-Day 18

Jesus talks a lot about His heavenly kingdom. This kingdom dwells within us, He tells us. I’ve heard the caution that we shouldn’t be “so heavenly minded that we’re no earthly good.” Yet Jesus tells us to set our mind on things above. To be absorbed with His kingdom.

Our challenge is to dwell in Jesus’ kingdom, while also living as temporary citizens of earth. God must have thought we could inhabit both kingdoms, or He would have simply taken us to heaven the minute we accepted Jesus.

Welcome to day 18 of our 21-Day Experiment. We’re near the finish line—so hold on tight!

Biblically, the word kingdom describes the royal dominion and eternal sovereignty of God.  Jesus knew this, and when interrogated by Pilate, He said simply, My kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36).

Think about it: We live on earth and in heaven. Sometimes the two clash. So how do we respond?  I’m sure the disciples wrestled with this “dual citizenship.”

Let’s look at what Jesus taught them:

It all begins with prayer.  His disciples had watched Him wage kingdom battles. He healed the sick, raised the dead, cast out demons.  The forces of darkness had to bow before this Savior. Yet the only thing the disciples ever specifically asked Jesus to teach them was how to pray (Luke 11:1).

Jesus gave them a short tutorial—what we call the “Lord’s Prayer.” He teaches them to pray from a kingdom vantage point: “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” 

We’re to pray for God’s kingdom to be brought to earth. In heaven, God’s will is done perfectly. So when we pray for His kingdom, we are praying for His will.

In the original Greek, this verse is in the imperative tense—more of a command than a request.  It’s as if we are to pray, Kingdom come!  Will be done on earth!”  I sometimes think Jesus wants us to stamp our feet, shake our fist, and shout a bit as we speak God’s Word into a fallen world that is still crawling with enemies.

Spiritual victories don’t come without a fight. Without God’s Word as our authority.  But the Bible calls it a “good fight” (1 Timothy 1:18).  Jesus wants us to have a heavenly perspective to our prayers, but a watchful eye toward earth for our results.

Prayer: Lord, I declare that Your kingdom will come and Your will is to be done. In heaven, on earth and in my own life.  Help me to be “kingdom-minded” as I go about my day. And give me open eyes to see Your results here on earth!