4 MAR: WHAT BRINGS HAPPINESS?

All was vanity and grasping for the wind. There was no profit under the sun. — Ecclesiastes 2:11

READ ECCLESIASTES 2:1-11

After studying the effect of the post-World War II economic boom in Japan, Richard Easterlin concluded that monetary growth does not always bring more satisfaction. More recently, economists Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers conducted surveys in more than 100 nations and concluded that life satisfaction is highest in the richest countries.

So who’s right? Let’s check with the writer of Ecclesiastes. He should know! He was a truly rich man (2:8). He had the means to try everything in this world—and he did! He gave himself to pleasure (verse 1-3), grand projects (verses 4-8), entertainment (verse 8), and hard work (verses 10-11). But he concluded that it was all “vanity and grasping for the wind. There was no profit under the sun” (verse 11).

Lasting satisfaction doesn’t come from possessing tangible things like savings accounts and material goods. Recent events have shown that these things can suddenly lose value. To find true happiness, we have to find it in Someone who is not from “under the sun.” And that is our Savior, Jesus.

Hymnwriter Floyd Hawkins wrote: “I’ve discovered the way of gladness, I’ve discovered the way of joy, I’ve discovered relief from sadness. . . . When I found Jesus, my Lord.” Only He can give joy that is full (John 15:11)

REFLECT & PRAY 

Take the world, but give me Jesus, All its joys are but a name; But His love abideth ever, Through eternal years the same.

To know happiness, get to know Jesus.

3 MAR: WHO AND HOW

You are the Christ. — Mark 8:29

READ MARK 8:27-33

Whenever I read the Gospels, I identify with the disciples. Like me, they seemed slow to catch on. Jesus kept saying things like “Don’t you understand it yet?” and “Are you still so dull?” (see Mark 7:18). Finally, however, Peter “got it,” at least one part of it. When Jesus asked, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Christ” (8:29).

Peter was right about the “who”—Jesus—but he was still wrong about the “how.” When Jesus predicted His death, Peter rebuked Him for it. Jesus, in turn, rebuked Peter: “Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (verse 33).

Peter was still thinking in human ways of establishing kingdoms. One ruler would overthrow another and set up a new government. He was expecting Jesus to do the same. But Christ’s kingdom was going to come in a new way—through service and the sacrifice of His life.

The method God uses today hasn’t changed. Whereas Satan’s voice tempts us to gain power, the voice of Jesus tells us that the meek will inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5). To gain citizens for God’s kingdom, we must follow the example of Jesus, who set aside selfish ambitions, served others, and called people to repent of their sin. 

REFLECT & PRAY 

We say we love humanity, But can we really claim A readiness to sacrifice For them in Jesus’ name?

A Christian is an ambassador who speaks for the King of kings.

2 MAR: LEANING IN THE LIGHT

[He] called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9

READ 1 PETER 2:4-10

One day Jenny received a bouquet of pink tulips. Their heads bobbed on thick stems as she settled them into a vase, which she placed at the center of her kitchen table. The next day, Jenny noticed that the flowers were facing a different direction. The blossoms that once faced upward were now leaning to the side, opening and reaching toward sunlight that streamed in through a nearby window.

In one sense, we all were made to be like those flowers. God has called us to turn to the light of His love. Peter writes of the wonder of being called “out of darkness into [God’s] wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9). Before we come to know God, we live in the shadows of sin and death, which keep us separated from Him (Ephesians 2:1-7). However, because of God’s mercy and love, He made a way for us to escape spiritual darkness through the death and resurrection of His Son (Colossians 1:13-14).

Jesus is the Light of the world, and everyone who trusts Him for the forgiveness of sin will receive eternal life. Only as we turn to Him will we increasingly reflect His goodness and truth (Ephesians 5:8-9).

May we never forget to lean into the Light. 

REFLECT & PRAY 

Joyful, joyful we adore You, God of glory, Lord of love; hearts unfold like flowers before You, opening to the sun above.

Salvation from sin means moving from spiritual darkness to God’s light.

1 MAR: BLOOD IS LIFE

Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. Hebrews 9:22

READ HEBREWS 9:19-28

Mary Ann believed in God and His Son Jesus, but she struggled with why Jesus had to shed His blood to bring salvation. Who would think of cleansing something with blood? Yet the Bible says, “The law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood” (Hebrews 9:22). That, in Mary Ann’s opinion, was disgusting!

Then one day she had to go to a hospital. A genetic condition had altered her immune system, and doctors became alarmed when the illness started attacking her blood. As she was in the emergency room she thought, If I lose my blood, I will die. But Jesus shed His blood so I can live!

Suddenly everything made sense. In the midst of her pain, Mary Ann felt joy and peace. She understood that blood is life, and a holy life was needed to make peace with God for us. Today she is alive and well, thanking God for her health and for Jesus’ sacrifice on her behalf.

Hebrews 9 explains the meaning of the Old Testament blood ritual (verses 16-22) and the once and for all offering of Jesus that brought animal sacrifice to an end (verses 23-26). Bearing our sin, He willingly died and shed His blood to become our sacrifice. We now have confidence to enter God’s presence. How could we ever thank Jesus enough for making His sacrifice our sacrifice, His life our life, and His Father our Father? 

REFLECT & PRAY 

Lord, I thank You for Jesus and for the shedding of His blood for me. I want to live my life in gratitude to You.

The blood of Christ washes away our sins.

28 FEB: MATTER OF MATURITY

From him the whole body . . . grows and builds itself up in love. Ephesians 4:16

READ EPHESIANS 4:1-16

Watching young children play T-Ball is usually entertaining and funny too. In this version of baseball, young players often run to the wrong base or don’t know what to do with the ball if they happen to catch it. If we were watching a professional baseball game, these mistakes would not be so funny.

It’s all a matter of maturity.

It’s okay for young athletes to struggle—not knowing what to do or not getting everything exactly right. They are trying and learning. So we coach them and patiently guide them toward maturity. Then we celebrate their success as later they play with skill as a team.

Something similar happens in the life of those who follow Jesus. Paul pointed out that the church needs people who will “be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2). And we need a variety of “coaches” (pastors, teachers, spiritual mentors) to help us all move toward “unity in the faith” as we strive to “become mature” (verse 13).

The goal as we listen to preaching and teaching and enjoy life together in the church is to grow up to maturity in Christ (verse 15). Each of us is on this journey, and we can encourage each other on the road to maturity in Jesus. 

REFLECT & PRAY 

Lord, help me to strive for maturity. Thank You for equipping the church with men and women who can help me grow in my faith. Show me who I can encourage today.

There’s joy in the journey as we walk alongside each other.

27 FEB: FOCUS ON THE POSITIVES

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?” Job 38:4

READ JOB 40:1-14

Whenever Julie cleaned her house for a special event, she became discouraged because she thought that guests won’t notice that she cleaned, but rather notice only what she didn't clean.

This brings to mind a larger philosophical and spiritual question: Why do humans more quickly see what’s wrong than what’s right? We are more likely to remember rudeness than kindness. Crimes seem to receive more attention than acts of generosity. And disasters grab our attention more quickly than the profound beauty all around us.

But then she realized she reasoned same way when it comes to God. She tend to focus on what God hasn’t done rather than on what He has, on what she don’t have rather than on what she has, on the situations that He has not yet resolved rather than on the many He has.

When we read the book of Job, we are reminded that the Lord doesn’t like this any more than we do. After years of experiencing prosperity, Job suffered a series of disasters. Suddenly those became the focus of his life and conversations. Finally, God intervened and asked Job some hard questions, reminding him of His sovereignty and of everything Job didn’t know and hadn’t seen (Job 38–40).

Whenever we start focusing on the negative, let us hope and remember to stop, consider the life of Job, and take notice of all the wonders God has done and continues to do. 

REFLECT & PRAY 

What has the Lord done for you this week? 

When you think of all that’s good, give thanks to God.

26 FEB: GROWING OLD

 I will sustain you and I will rescue you. Isaiah 46:4

READ ISAIAH 46:4-13

“How are you today, Mama?” I asked casually. My 84-year-old friend, pointing to aches and pains in her joints, whispered, “Old age is tough!” Then she added earnestly, “But God has been good to me.”

“Growing old has been the greatest surprise of my life,” says Billy Graham in his book Nearing Home. “I am an old man now, and believe me, it’s not easy.” However, Graham notes, “While the Bible doesn’t gloss over the problems we face as we grow older, neither does it paint old age as a time to be despised or a burden to be endured with gritted teeth.” He then mentions some of the questions he has been forced to deal with as he has aged, such as, “How can we not only learn to cope with the fears and struggles and growing limitations we face but also actually grow stronger inwardly in the midst of these difficulties?”

In Isaiah 46 we have God’s assurance: “Even to your old age and gray hairs . . . I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you” (verse 4).

We don’t know how many years we will live on this earth or what we might face as we age. But one thing is certain: God will care for us throughout our life. 

REFLECT & PRAY 

Lord, please teach us to number our days so that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (See Psalm 90:12)

Don't be afraid to grow old; God goes with you!