28 NOV: THE RED HACKLE

They will still bear fruit in old age. Psalm 92:14

READ PSALM 92:12–15

Several years ago I stumbled across a bit of fishing lore in a second-century ad work by the Greek writer Aelian. “Between Boroca and Thessalonica runs a river called the Astracus, and in it there are fish with spotted skins [trout].” He then describes a “snare for the fish, by which they get the better of them. They fastened crimson red wool round a hook and attached two feathers. Then they would throw their snare, and the fish, attracted by the color, comes up, thinking to get a mouthful” (On the Nature of Animals).

Fishermen still use this lure today. It is called the Red Hackle. First used over 2,200 years ago, it remains a snare for trout by which we “get the better of them.”

When I read that ancient work I thought: Not all old things are passé—especially people. If through contented and cheerful old age we show others the fullness and deepness of God, we’ll be useful to the end of our days. Old age does not have to focus on declining health, pining over what once was. It can also be full of tranquility and mirth and courage and kindness, the fruit of those who have grown old with God.

Those who are planted in the house of the Lord . . . shall still bear fruit in old age; they shall be fresh and flourishing (Psalm 92:13–14).

Reflect & Pray

Lord, thank You for Your faithfulness throughout our lives. Help us finish our lives well in service to You and to remember that old age does not mean uselessness.

As the years add up, God’s faithfulness keeps multiplying.

27 NOV: POWER OF TONGUE

Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. 1 Peter 3:10

READ 1 PETER 3:8–12

Have you ever sent an email and suddenly realized it went to the wrong person or it contained harmful, harsh words? If only you could press a key and stop it. Well, now you can. Several companies offer a feature that gives you a brief time after sending an email to stop it from leaving your computer. After that, the email is like a spoken word that cannot be unsaid. Rather than being seen as a cure-all, an “unsend” feature should remind us that it’s extremely important to guard what we say.

In the apostle Peter’s first letter, he told the followers of Jesus, “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing. . . . For, ‘whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it’ ” (1 Peter 3:9–11).

The psalmist David wrote, “Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3). That’s a great prayer for the beginning of each day and in every situation when we want to strike back with words.

Lord, guard our words today so we may not harm others by what we say.

Reflect & Pray

Father, teach us first to guard our hearts so that we may guard our tongues. And help us, when we do say things we regret, to humbly apologize and seek forgiveness.

The tongue has the power of life and death.  Proverbs 18:21

26 NOV: THE BEST DEAL

As goods increase, so do those who consume them. And what benefit are they to the owners? Ecclesiastes 5:11

READ ECCLESIASTES 5:10–19

How much is enough? We might ask this simple question on a day that many developed countries increasingly devote to shopping. I speak of Black Friday, the day after the US Thanksgiving holiday, in which many stores open early and offer cut-price deals; a day that has spread from the States to other nations. Some shoppers have limited resources and are trying to purchase something at a price they can afford. But sadly, for others greed is the motivation, and violence erupts as they fight for bargains.

The wisdom of the Old Testament writer known as “the Teacher” (Ecclesiastes 1:1) provides an antidote to the frenzy of consumerism we may face in the shops—and in our hearts. He points out that those who love money never will have enough and will be ruled by their possessions. And yet, they will die with nothing: “As everyone comes, so they depart” (5:15). The apostle Paul echoes the Teacher in his letter to Timothy, when he says that the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and that we should strive for godliness with contentment” (1 Timothy 6:6–10).

Whether we live in a place of plenty or not, we all can seek unhealthy ways of filling the God-shaped hole in our hearts. But when we look to the Lord for our sense of peace and well-being, He will fill us with His goodness and love.

Reflect & Pray

“You have formed us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in You.” Augustine, The Confessions

True contentment does not depend on anything in this world.

25 NOV: PERCEPTION OR REALITY?

Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing? —Mark 4:38

READ MARK 4:35-41

We often hear it said, “Perception is reality.” That idea for Americans may have dawned on September 26, 1960—the date of the first televised debate between two presidential candidates. In front of the cameras, John Kennedy appeared composed; Richard Nixon appeared nervous. The perception was that Kennedy would be a stronger leader. The debate not only turned that election, but it also changed the way politics is done in the US. Politics by perception became the rule of the day.

Sometimes perception is reality. But not always—especially our perceptions about God. When Jesus and His disciples were crossing the Sea of Galilee in a small fishing vessel, a sudden storm threatened to sink the boat. With Jesus asleep and the disciples on the verge of panic, they began to stir Him, asking, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” (Mark 4:38).

Their question sounds similar to questions I’ve asked. At times I perceive God’s apparent inactivity as a lack of care. But His care for me goes well beyond what I can see or measure. Our God is deeply concerned for what concerns us. He urges us to place all our care upon Him, “for He cares for [us]”(1 Peter 5:7). That is true reality.

Reflect & Pray

O yes, He cares; I know He cares!
His heart is touched with my grief;
When the days are weary, the long nights dreary,
I know my Savior cares. —GraeffEven

when we don’t sense God’s presence, His loving care is all around us.

24 NOV: IMITATING CHRIST'S HUMILITY

He humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Philippians 2:8

READ PHILIPPIANS 2:1–11

Many of us are obsessed with fame—either with being famous ourselves or with following every detail of famous people’s lives. International book or film tours. Late-night show appearances. Millions of followers on Twitter.

In a recent study in the US, researchers ranked the names of famous individuals using a specially developed algorithm that scoured the Internet. Jesus topped the list as the most famous person in history.

Yet Jesus was never concerned about obtaining celebrity status. When He was here on earth, He never sought fame (Matthew 9:30; John 6:15)—although fame found Him all the same as news about Him quickly traveled throughout the region of Galilee (Mark 1:28; Luke 4:37).

Wherever Jesus went, crowds soon gathered. The miracles He performed drew people to Him. But when they tried to make Him a king by force, He slipped away by Himself (John 6:15). United in purpose with His Father, He repeatedly deferred to the Father’s will and timing (4:34; 8:29; 12:23). “He humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8).

Fame was never Jesus’s goal. His purpose was simple. As the Son of God, He humbly, obediently, and voluntarily offered Himself as the sacrifice for our sins.

Reflect & Pray

You are to be celebrated, Lord, above all others. You have been highly exalted and given a name that is above every name. One day every knee will bow and every tongue confess that You are Lord.

Jesus came not to be famous, but to humbly offer Himself as the sacrifice for our sins.

23 NOV: DOES GOD CARE?

Hear, O Lord, and have mercy on me; Lord, be my helper! —Psalm 30:10

READ PSALM 30

Minnie and George Lacy were faced with some questions: “Is Jesus enough? Is our relationship with Christ sufficient to sustain us? Will He be enough to help us want to go on living? Does He care?”

While serving as missionaries in 1904, the Lacys’ youngest daughter fell ill. Then in rapid succession, all five of their children died from scarlet fever, none living to see the new year. In letters to the mission board George Lacy wrote about their deep loneliness and grief: “Sometimes it seems more than we can bear.” But then he added, “The Lord is with us and is wonderfully helping us.” In this, their darkest time, they found that Jesus was near and He was enough.

Many of us will face moments when we will wonder if we can go on. If our health fails, if our job disappears, if we lose those closest to us, will we find our relationship with the Lord real enough to keep us pressing forward?

The psalmist reminds us of God’s presence and faithfulness (Psalm 30). When he was deeply depressed, he cried out, “Hear, O Lord, and have mercy on me; Lord, be my helper!” (verse 10). God gave Him healing and comfort (verses 2-3).

As believers in Jesus, we will never lack what we need to persevere. The Lord will always be near.

Reflect & Pray

Though tempted and sadly discouraged,
My soul to this refuge will flee
And rest in the blessed assurance,
“My grace is sufficient for thee.” —Anon.

Faith in an all-sufficient Christ enables us to press on.

22 NOV: ENCOURAGING WORDS

The tongue has the power of life and death. Proverbs 18:21

READ EPHESIANS 4:25–32

Emily listened as a group of friends talked about their Thanksgiving traditions with family. “We go around the room and each one tells what he or she is thankful to God for,” Gary said.

Another friend mentioned his family’s Thanksgiving meal and prayertime. He recalled time with his dad before he had died: “Even though Dad had dementia, his prayer of thanks to the Lord was clear.” Randy shared, “My family has a special time of singing together on the holiday. My grandma goes on and on and on!” Emily’s sadness and jealousy grew as she thought of her own family, and she complained: “Our traditions are to eat turkey, watch television, and never mention anything about God or giving thanks.”

Right away Emily felt uneasy with her attitude. You are part of that family. What would you like to do differently to change the day? she asked herself. She decided she wanted to privately tell each person she was thankful to the Lord that they were her sister, niece, brother, or great-niece. When the day arrived, she expressed her thankfulness for them one by one, and they all felt loved. It wasn’t easy because it wasn’t normal conversation in her family, but she experienced joy as she shared her love for each of them.

“Let everything you say be good and helpful,” wrote the apostle Paul, “so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them” (Ephesians 4:29). Our words of thanks can remind others of their value to us and to God.

Reflect & Pray

Dear Lord, show me how I can be an encouragement to others with my words.

The human spirit fills with hope at the sound of an encouraging word.