People claim to see Jesus in these photos of cloud formations from around the world. What do you see?
Yet He commanded the clouds above and opened the doors of heaven – Psalms 78:23
What do you see when you look at the clouds? Life can be hectic at times, whether its work related, personal or anything in between. The simple act of looking to the skies offers the much-needed break we seek on a daily basis. Here we can gain a new perspective or even receive the answers to our woes. It’s at that point that we realize we truly do have an amazing God watching over us from above. Here are a few incredible photos that capture something truly beautiful in the sky.
Take time to look through these spectacular cloud images and reflect on the word of God. Pray along with each devotional and ask God to work in your life!
Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.
1 Peter 1:13
Prepare Your Mind
When you’re learning a new sport, physical exercise, or skill, many teachers will tell you to visualize yourself going through the motions of your new endeavor. They encourage students to imagine themselves successfully performing the motions in hopes that their bodies will naturally follow. These instructors know that mental preparation is a significant part of anything requiring action.
If we are to obey God and live according to his commands, we must also practice mentally. We have to be committed to living a life of purity, honor, and integrity. Many times we succumb to temptation because we get caught in the heat of the moment, blinded by the emotional pull. But if we’ve thought ahead about how to avoid and resist temptations, we’ve already started the process of growing stronger.
Today, prepare your mind for potential areas of struggle. Imagine yourself obeying God and resisting temptation, remaining strong in your faith.
Pray: “Lord, thank you for the ways you prepare and equip me to face temptations and to overcome obstacles.”
I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.
Enjoy His Embrace
Babies often like to be held until they fall asleep because of the sense of security they feel in their parent’s arms. They know they’re safe and can feel the presence of someone keeping watch over them, protecting them from harm.
We have the same assurance as our Father watches and guards us. We have nothing to fear because he is with us all night long. When we feel restless and anxious, we can experience his peace by praying and reminding ourselves of his Spirit within us. When our mind spins with worries, fears, and “what if”s, we can calm ourselves by remembering that he’s in control. There’s nothing that he can’t handle, no matter how scary or threatening it may seem to us.
Today, take comfort in your Father’s arms, enjoying the embrace of the One who created you and loves you the most.
Pray: “When I’m weary and discouraged, Father, I know I can find peace and rest in your loving arms. Thank you for holding me, Lord, safe and sound.”
Through Jesus . . . let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name.
A Sacrifice of Praise
The last crops have been harvested and the fields now lie fallow. The bare branches of many trees wave at us in the wind, and the remaining leaves cannot linger much longer. Morning frosts etch their icy signature across the landscape out our window. The holidays are quickly approaching, and plans are already in motion for family dinners, office parties, church programs, and community events.
Now, before the festive season of busy celebration descends, it’s good to focus on praising and thanking God for this past year. He’s given you so much and brought you so far. Think about how this year began and all the obstacles that you didn’t anticipate. You’ve hit a few bumps in the road, but the Lord has remained faithful to lead, guide, and direct your paths.
Give him praise for the many blessings of family, friends, work, home, and church in your life. Before you start rushing and get caught up in the bustle, think through what you’ve been given. Ask God to give you a calm center from which you can approach the coming weeks, giving him thanks and praise for all that’s ahead.
Pray: “I have so many thing for which I’m thankful, Lord. I give you thanks and praise for the abundance of blessings in my life.”
. . . the righteous are as bold as a lion.
As Christians, we sometimes feel we should be meek and mild, nice and quiet, reserved and even passive in how we interact with others around us. However, nothing could be further from the truth! Jesus tells us to be salt and light, flavor and illumination to the bland darkness of the world. We’re told to be bold in the way we love others, letting our light shine rather than hiding it away.
Even if you don’t think of yourself as a bold person, you can rely on God to empower you and give you the courage needed to take action. With nothing to fear, you can proceed with the same fierce determination and confident strength as the king of the beasts. Christ was called the Lion of Judah, and like him, we can move with calm authority through our day.
Today, be a lion in the way you pursue loving others, fierce and determined, regal and majestic.
Pray: “Dear God, it’s not easy for me to be bold about my faith sometimes. Give me the courage, power, and confidence to be like the Lion of Judah.”
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:21
In most theater productions, understudies prepare to take the lead roles when the regular cast members portraying them cannot perform. In sports, some team members serve as replacements or substitutes for key players, allowing them to rest or to recover from an injury. In many professions, when someone must take time away or call in sick, they find a substitute. Substitutes are usually not quite as talented, strong, or experienced as the person they’re replacing. They can do the job at hand but not as effectively.
However, there’s one person who substituted himself in our place in a way that’s far superior to anything we could do in the role. Weighed down by our sin, we could not maintain a relationship with our Father and his utter holiness. We had to pay for our sins, but didn’t have the power to pay for them once and for all. Like only paying interest on a financial debt, we were trapped by our constant need for a sacrifice to atone our sins.
So Jesus took our place. He bore the penalty that we deserved so that we could be forgiven once and for all. His substitution opened the door to eternal life.
Pray: “Jesus, I’m so grateful that you took my place and bore the penalty for my sin. You did what I couldn’t do, Lord, so that I could be forgiven and have eternal life.”
. . . you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does.
The Greatest Reward
How often do you do something and expect to get something in return? Maybe it’s a matter of attention or financial gain. It could be the affection and appreciation of other people. It might be a transaction in which we gain something in exchange for something we have that others need. Much of our lives operates on this principle of cause and effect, action and reaction, sewing and reaping, service and reward.
While our Father often blesses us with good gifts, we have already received the assurance of the greatest reward imaginable: spending eternity with him in heaven. If we’ve accepted Jesus into our hearts, we don’t have to earn God’s favor because we’ve already been forgiven and welcomed as his cherished son or daughter.
We will get our heavenly reward after we pass from this life. But today, we can live with the confidence that our Father has already bestowed his grace upon us, adopting us as joint heirs with his Son, Jesus.
Pray: “Lord, I don’t deserve the inheritance that you have given me. I praise you for your loving-kindness, your grace and mercy.”
And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.
While there’s nothing we can do to earn God’s favor, it’s clear in Scripture that our actions reflect our faith. What we say we believe and what we actually do must be in alignment if our faith has legs—literally. Without the behavior to back up our beliefs, we’re only giving lip service. How we live, on the other hand, reveals something about our priorities and what we value most.
If we say we want to be loving, gracious, and generous, but don’t practice these traits when given opportunities each day, we’re liars. If we claim we love Jesus and follow him as our Master, but we spend all our time and money on ourselves, our commitment has little substance.
In order to reflect our Father’s love, we must accept what he’s done for us. To the extent that we embrace grace, we can then express it to those around us. When we give a cup of cold water to a thirsty child, we’re demonstrating the tenderness of the Lord and the compassion of Christ.
Pray: “Dear Lord, I want my actions to match my words today and every day, and for them both to reflect my faith in you.”
But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:57
The Ultimate Prize
What are the most prestigious awards you can think of? Perhaps the Nobel Peace Prize or a Pulitzer. Maybe a Super Bowl title or the Master’s. It could be a Purple Heart or Congressional Medal of Honor. Regardless of what your “highest prize” might be, it still cannot compare with the achievement that Jesus secured for us. The victory he won was something that only he and he alone could win.
It wasn’t a matter of skill or ability, not even goodness or power. Jesus victoriously rose from the dead because of God’s love for his people. His victory trumps all the awards and accolades our world has to offer.
When we invite Christ into our lives, we get to share in his victory. Our sins are forgiven and we win the ultimate prize—eternal life.
Pray: “Jesus, thank you for all you endured so that I might know you and spend eternity with you in heaven. You are the ultimate victor and I praise you!”
Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.
Come and Worship
It’s not easy to humble ourselves, especially to get on our knees and acknowledge our powerlessness and respect before someone in authority over us. We may have negative associations of slaves bowing before their masters or commoners bowing before kings and queens. But God is the King of all creation and the only One worthy of our praise, worship, and adoration.
The Bible tells us that every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Everyone will ultimately recognize the holy divinity of God. As we learn to acknowledge his authority and humble ourselves before him, we can experience the fulfillment of our deepest longing.
God is not only our King but our loving Father. Yes, we bow down and worship him, but he also chose to humble himself in human form and die for us. It’s not about acknowledging our powerlessness before him that compels us to kneel. It’s our love, gratitude, and devotion.
Pray: “My God and my King, I bow here before you and acknowledge my love and gratitude to you forever.”
Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
2 Peter 1:2
In our consumer culture, we’re often encouraged to buy in bulk. Big box stores offer low prices on products that can be sold in multiple units. As a result, many people stock up on staples and end up with a year’s worth of paper towels, canned tomatoes, or apple juice. We even have TV shows about people who excel at using coupons to save money and acquire even more products. And taken to an extreme (as if it’s not already), we see cases with people who hoard things that they will never use, acquiring more and more out of compulsion.
True abundance, of course, is not about having more stuff. It doesn’t rely on stockpiling canned goods, paper products, or enough emergency candles to light up a stadium. True abundance is not about the quantity of material possessions you have but the quality of your heart and soul.
When we dwell on our knowledge of God and his Son, we experience an abundance of peace and grace. We don’t have to have more in order to experience the satisfaction and joy that only our Lord can provide.
Pray: “Lord, I have all that I need for today. Thank you for meeting all my needs and providing me with so many blessings.”
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
2 Corinthians 9:8
Most home improvement projects take twice as long because the homeowner has to make at least four trips to the hardware store. The first time is to buy the wrong things. The second time is to buy the wrong size. On the third trip, the homeowner buys one of everything in every size. And the fourth trip allows them to return all the stuff they didn’t need.
What would it be like to have exactly what you need for all things at all times to do your work? We can’t even imagine! Yet God promises that when we are doing his good work, the work that he has given us to do, we will have everything we need.
It’s called grace. It’s not something that we can earn or buy or conjure. It’s free from a loving God who wants to give us gifts to do his will. He will surprise us as we do his good works. We might not recognize ourselves, but we will recognize him.
Pray: “Father, help me to look to you for all that I need to do your will. Thank you for your gift of grace.”
The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear?
Rest in His Arms
As children move into new developmental stages, they go in and out of irrational fears characterized by disquiet and difficulty expressing their feelings. They are afraid to go to sleep and to leave their parents. They don’t want to go to unfamiliar places. This can be trying for parents as they try to deal with unreasonable thoughts and heightened feelings. We tell our children, “Just trust me. I won’t let you get hurt or lost.” We want them to put the full weight of their fear in our hands and rest in the fact that we will handle whatever comes up.
Adults have issues around these fears too. We are afraid to lose our way. We are afraid for our safety. Often these fears are multiplied because we have the responsibility for others. Just like children, we have difficulty letting go because we don’t believe that God is bigger than these fears.
But we need not fear. God is our light—we are never lost because he always knows where we are. God is our salvation—we are in his safekeeping. He saves us. Our hearts can proclaim this as we rest in his arms.
Pray: “Father, I feel so powerless against the circumstances of life. Remind me that you’re in control, and that you will always guide and protect me.”
I will listen to what God the Lord will say; he promises peace to his people, his saints . . .
His Promise of Peace
“Know God, Know Peace. No God, No Peace.” So reads the church sign that you pass everyday on your way to work. It’s easy to ignore such signs because sometimes they can seem trite. However, they also carry a simply profound truth: if you want peace in your life, get to know God.
You may be thinking, But I thought I would feel more peaceful when I have more money, or get married, or have children, or get well. Those are the things you may be telling yourself, the conditions you may be placing on your future peace of mind.
But spending time getting to know your Father is the way to have more peace. Ask questions and tell him what’s on your mind. Write letters to him and read his mail in return. Find out what’s important to him. Spend time with him. Introduce him to your friends and family. Look at Jesus. Do things he likes to do. Go places he likes to go. In other words, invite God to be a part of your life and he will honor your request. You will learn that he is good and loving and trustworthy and kind. Peace will abound.
Pray: “Lord, I want to experience the true peace that comes from knowing you. I look forward to spending more time with you today, Father.”
By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.
1 Corinthians 6:14
Occasionally, especially as we get older, we begin to wonder what our legacy will be. What will we have accomplished with our life that will endure after we’ve left this earth? Are we truly living out of our God-given purpose, or are we settling for less?
We tend to let our circumstances dictate how we feel, which in turn influences how we act. When we attach this kind of power to events beyond our control, we set ourselves up for dissatisfaction, disappointment, and discouragement. With this bleak mindset, soon it seems as though nothing matters, that regardless of what we do, it doesn’t really change anything.
This is not living in the abundant life of the resurrected Christ. Circumstances remain beyond our control, and our souls will ache with the painful weight of disappointment sometimes. But when our hope is in Christ, we can see beyond our momentary discomfort. We can trust God with our past, present, and future, including our legacy.
Pray: “Jesus, thank you for rising from the dead and bringing abundant life. I want to trust you fully, knowing that what I do is meaningful for your kingdom.”
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
The Gift of Laughter
When we think about praising God, we often consider praying and singing as our primary ways, which they probably are. However, we praise our Father when we stop to admire the beauty of his creation or revel in the goodness of his gifts. One of the most overlooked ways we can worship is having wholesome fun and sharing a laugh with one another.
Like our tears, laughter binds us together in contagious ways. We appreciate and admire people who don’t take themselves too seriously, who can laugh at themselves or see the humor in everyday life. God shares in our laughter as well. Just as a baby’s giggle or child’s laughter warms the heart of her parents, we know that God delights in our ability to experience the soul liberation that occurs when we laugh.
Today, look for the lighter side of the situations you encounter. Thank God for your ability to laugh. Praise him for this wonderful gift.
Pray: “Lord, laughter is indeed good medicine. Even when I’m struggling, I’m glad that I can still see the humor in life and laugh with friends.”
I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.
Nourish Your Body
Day after day we make choices about what we will eat and drink, what we watch on television, and which books we will read. We consciously decide where we will go on vacation or where we’ll go to church. We often think these things don’t really matter that much, not in the long run. But all of these decisions can affect our spirit and our body—how we feel, what we think, who we are.
Hopefully, our choices make us feel closer to God, but sometimes they draw us away. If we aren’t careful and deliberate about all the variables influencing our minds, hearts, and bodies, we open ourselves up for temptation and snares from our enemy.
Today, nourish and protect your body as a gift from God, caring for it as a good steward.
Pray: “Father, despite my imperfections, thank you for the body I have. Help me to take the best care possible in every choice I make.”
The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever.
The Fruit of Righteousness
Around this time of year, many people find themselves paying tax money to the government. While they may receive a refund if they’ve already paid in enough tax, others will be required to send a percentage of their wages to support their local and national governing bodies. Based on what you’ve produced, you determine the amount you have to pay.
While death and taxes have been famously described as the only certainties in life, as Christians we know that God’s promises are the only sure things. Many of the truths found in his Word reveal a cause-effect, action-reaction kind of observation. With righteousness, we’re told that the outcome or fruit produced includes peace, confidence, and calmness.
These qualities may not be as immediately tangible as tax forms, dollars, and cents, but they are much more valuable than any amount we can imagine.
Pray: “Father, I want to follow your ways and produce the fruits you have promised in my life. Help me to follow your ways and not my own.”
It was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed . . . , but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.
1 Peter 1:18–19
No Expiration Date
Almost every item in our culture seems to have an expiration date. Most foods usually have a “fresh until” or “best if used by” date on their packages. Phones, TVs, computers, apps, and other e-gadgets become obsolete to the latest version, usually within months of each new release. Fashion trends come and go.
One permanent fixture in our lives, however, remains—our Savior’s sacrifice on the cross, the source of our salvation. It has no expiration date! Death has been defeated and the timeless, eternal, foundational fact of God’s grace lives forevermore.
We can rest assured that the basis for our faith is bedrock and will not change. Trends may come and go. Popular culture will alter its tastes with the latest products and performers. But Jesus remains the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
Pray: “Lord, I’m so thankful for the unchangeable, unalterable foundation for my faith in Christ. I praise you for your permanence!”
Put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption.
Open Your Heart
We all have days when we feel so lonely and unlovable that we can’t bear looking inside ourselves. We don’t like what we see inside and wonder how God could forgive us again, help us again, and continue to love us. Whether it’s due to an acute crisis or chronic struggles, these times take a toll.
These are the days when we must accept the present of God’s love despite the way we feel. There are steps that we can take, but God will come to us in ways we do not understand and whisper to us, “I love you. You are mine. I enjoy you. Nothing will take you away from me. You do not have to earn my love.”
Receive His words. Look for his gifts. Open your heart to him. Express your feelings to him and let him comfort you with his unfailing love.
Pray: “Abba Father, like a scared child, sometimes I just need you to hold me. I feel your presence and know you love me. Thank you, Daddy.”
All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
Be a Light
Often we want others to notice our acts of service and good deeds. This desire might reflect our prideful egos or the way we’re overly concerned with what others think. No one is perfect, and we shouldn’t try to present an image of perfection to those around us. In fact, if we want them to see God’s grace in us, we will have to let them see our shortcomings.
Such transparency and strength illustrate a godly life more than any attention-getting “good deed” might reveal. Certainly, we want to be the light of Christ in the world’s darkness, but this doesn’t mean we have to set the place on fire! Sometimes the glow of one flame is enough to illuminate the darkest night.
Sharing our struggles with others also keeps us humble and dependent on the Lord. We don’t try to take credit for his work, but instead use those moments when others notice as a natural way to share our faith. When others encounter us as down to earth even as we look to heaven, they will want to know our Father above.
Pray: “Jesus, help me to be vulnerable with the right person at the right time today. Allow our conversation to reveal your strength in my weakness.”
BEHOLD, HE IS COMING WITH THE CLOUDS, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen.
[Jesus said,] “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Sometimes it’s easy to identify the group, club, company, or team to which an individual belongs. Whether it’s a corporate dress code, a business logo, a particular uniform, or team colors, some details can reveal a lot about our affiliations. Most groups have their own jargon, insider perspective, jokes, and gestures. From the fraternity and sorority to the country club, the boosters’ club to the baseball team, we like to show off our memberships.
If we’re willing to do this for social groups, businesses, and sports, how much more we should be willing to be identified as followers of Jesus. While we may wear a cross or have something visibly identifying us as a Christian, most people won’t notice those unless we back them up with our behavior.
The way we love one another tells the world around us who Jesus is and what he’s all about, not just our clothes, stickers, books, and jewelry.
Pray: “Lord, let others see you by the way that I love the people around me.”
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.
Take the Next Step
Make note of the people you encounter today. You probably interact with some only in your respective roles: boss and employee, sales associate and customer, teacher and student. But beyond the many roles you fill, you should be able to have at least a few people who know all of you, not just your job description or contribution to the team.
Is there someone that’s earned your trust? Someone with whom you can take the next step to be real?
Just as God is made up of Father, Son, and Spirit, we’re designed in his image to need community. When Adam was alone in the Garden of Eden, God said it wasn’t good for him to be alone, so God created Eve. Even Jesus, the Son of God, chose twelve men to be his disciples, his network of relationships with whom he could share the ups and downs of life.
Today, look for opportunities to become closer to other brothers and sisters in Christ.
Pray: “God, I don’t always enjoy the fact that I need other people, but I know that you made me for community. Help me to love others as you love me.”