Aurukun is a small town in northern Australia—its Aboriginal population drawn from seven clans. While the gospel came to Aurukun a century ago, eye-for-eye retribution sometimes remained. In 2015, clan tensions grew, and when a murder happened, payback required someone from the offender’s family to die in return.
But something remarkable happened in early 2016. The people of Aurukun started seeking God in prayer. Repentance followed, then mass baptisms, as revival began sweeping the town. People were so joyful they danced in the streets, and instead of enacting payback, the family of the murdered man forgave the offending clan. Soon 1,000 people were in church each Sunday—in a town of just 1,300!
We see revivals like this in Scripture, as in Hezekiah’s day when crowds joyfully returned to God (2 Chronicles 30), and on the day of Pentecost when thousands repented (Acts 2:38–47). While revival is God’s work, done in His time, history shows prayer precedes it. “If my people . . . will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways,” God told Solomon, “I will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).
As the people of Aurukun found, revival brings joy and reconciliation to a town. How our own cities need such transformation! Father, bring revival to us too.
“‘The Lord, the Lord God, [is] compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth’” (Exodus 34:6).
God’s grace is His undeserved favor shown to sinners.
God’s grace has always been a focus of praise for believers. Today’s verse is quoted several times in the Psalms and elsewhere in Scripture (for example, Neh. 9:17, 31; Ps. 86:15; 103:8; 145:8). Paul is grateful for God’s abundant grace in 1 Timothy 1:14, and John writes, “For of His fulness we have all received, and grace upon grace” (John 1:16). Today some of our favorite hymns are “Amazing Grace,” “Marvelous Grace of Our Loving Lord,” and “Wonderful Grace of Jesus.”
What exactly is grace? It is simply God’s free, undeserved, and unearned favor. It is a gift given by God not because we are worthy of it, but only because God, out of His great love, wants to give it.
Grace is evident to Christians in two main ways. The first is electing, or saving, grace. God “has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity” (2 Tim. 1:9). “By grace [we] have been saved through faith” (Eph. 2:8). This is God’s grace to sinners, for “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Rom. 5:20).
Another grace in our lives is enabling, or sustaining, grace. We didn’t just receive grace to be saved; we now live in grace. It is the grace of God that enables us to live the Christian life. When Paul asked that some debilitating “thorn in the flesh” (2 Cor. 12:7) be removed, the Lord told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (v. 9). Paul elsewhere says, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13).
Remember, we have earned neither saving nor sustaining grace. Nothing we can do can make us worthy of one more bit of grace. God says, “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious” (Ex. 33:19). This truth should make us all more grateful because He saved us and sustains us despite our sin. It should also make us humble because we have no worthiness to boast about (Eph. 2:9).
Suggestions for Prayer
Thank God for His grace in saving and sustaining you.
I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.
— Psalm 9:1 (NIV)
Often throughout the Book of Psalms, we find David giving thanks to God. Perhaps this is one of the main reasons that God calls David a man after His own heart (see 1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22). David was humble, and he revered and respected God. He was repentant, he trusted God, he loved Him, and he was devoted to Him. He was faithful and obedient, and he gave God the glory and recognition He deserved. Yet David was not perfect; we know from Scripture that in a time of weakness he committed adultery and murder. He did repent of his sins (see 2 Samuel 11:3–5, 14–17; 12:9, 13), and God still calls him a man after His own heart.
This should be encouraging to all of us. I think the fact that David was thankful was one of his best character traits, for when a person has a grateful heart, it tells us a lot about them. One can easily complain, because we usually have plenty of unpleasant circumstances and people in our lives to irritate us, but at the same time we have much more to be thankful for than we have to complain about.
I recommend beginning each day with thanksgiving and developing the habit of thanking God throughout the day for the many things He does for you. Thanksgiving is part of praise, and in Psalm 9:3, after David declares praise to God in verses 1–2, he says that his enemies turned back; they stumbled and perished before God. He gave thanks with all his heart and his enemies were defeated.
Prayer of the Day: Father, I repent for all the times I have complained when I should have been giving You thanks for all Your goodness. Help me develop the habit of being thankful at all times, in all things.
The chaos at the end of Judges, when “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25) and there was an absence of effective leadership, indicated the spiritual darkness at that time among God’s people. And what caused this darkness? Faithful proclamation of the word of God was becoming increasingly rare. Yet such silence is not reserved to that one era. Throughout the generations, the people of God have experienced periods of this silence and darkness.
But God is a God of clarity and of grace—and so He has never left people without His word. So it was that, despite the faithlessness of the people during the time of the judges, God was preparing to bring His words to them through “the boy Samuel.”
God always ensures that, one way or another, His people can hear His word; and today in the West we can never claim that His word is “rare.” It is our privilege to have easy access to God’s word in the Scriptures. Only in the last few centuries has a minister been able to say to the congregation, “Please take your Bible and turn to…” because prior to the printing press, few people had a Bible to turn to, nor could they have read it themselves if they had had one. In the 18th century, when John Newton was addressing his congregation, he noted, “I account it my honour and happiness that I preach to a free people, who have the Bible in their hands.” And there are still many places in the world where Bibles are removed and destroyed and must be smuggled in. To receive even a portion of the Scriptures means a tremendous amount to many of our brothers and sisters in such countries.
Yet while many of us have the honor and privilege of owning a Bible, we nevertheless live in effective silence, allowing the word of God to become increasingly rare in our lives. Is the Bible truly present in your daily life and in your place of worship—that is, not only physically present but also audibly proclaimed and intently listened to? What matters is not simply owning a Bible, or even merely reading and knowing it, but living by it and loving the one to whom it points: the Lord Jesus.
Alec Motyer writes, “Have we got a Bible still in our hands? Let us prize it, read it and commit precious truths to heart and mind. It is not an inalienable possession; it may not be ours forever.” Let these words challenge you to seek out God’s word and treasure it so that you may walk in the light of hearing from God, about His Son, by the work of His Spirit.
“O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is…. My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips.” (Psalm 63:1, 5)
If you look up Psalm 63 in your Bible, you will probably see this title: “A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah.” Have you ever wondered what “the wilderness” was like in Bible times?
One summer, Erika’s family went on vacation to the Holy Land. They spent some time in the wilderness area where David was when he wrote this psalm. Erika’s dad had a water bottle with him, and she was really glad. It was hot, dry, and dusty, and she began to understand what David the psalm-writer must have meant when he described being thirsty and longing for God “in a dry and thirsty land.” She could not see any rivers. There were not many trees or plants. What a barren, lonely desert it was!
Then, the group Erika was with visited the Dead Sea. Water! At last! But it was not the kind of water you could drink. The Dead Sea is saltier than any other ocean in the world. Erika could hardly wait to get back on the bus and grab another water bottle from Dad’s cooler. But when she opened it and reached inside, she saw that they were out of water.
Have you ever been thirsty? Really thirsty? So thirsty that water is all you want, all you can think about? That’s how Erika felt. And that is the kind of feeling David was using to describe his desire for God. He longed for God. He longed to know Him, to see His power and His glory. He knew that God was the only thing that could satisfy the empty, dry feeling deep inside–the thirst in his soul.
When their bus finally stopped at a little shop that day, Erika and her family were willing to pay any price for water. Erika hurried inside the shop and saw that there were two choices in the refrigerator—water and orange pop. Erika made a dumb decision. She looked at the bright orange pop cans and suddenly thought she’d like something sweeter and fizzier than plain old water. That can of orange pop was gone in about twenty minutes. But it didn’t refresh her. When the can was empty, she was still thirsty. Why? Because what she really needed was water.
How often do we reach out for other things to satisfy our souls when God is what we really need? Everything else is like orange pop in a dry and dusty wilderness where no water is. It might look good, but it doesn’t refresh and satisfy us deep down in our souls. Only God can do that.
Only God satisfies the thirst in our souls.
My Response: » Am I looking for satisfaction in something other than God?
Trusted Ministry leader Jack Hibbs, the senior Pastor of Calvary Chapel Chino Hills, called attention this week to a denomination-linked stumbling block plaguing countless church pews.
During his Wednesday night service, the California Pastor warned about the biblical illiteracy that arises from relying upon denominations rather than personal study of God’s Word.
Pastor Hibbs pointed to the apostle Paul’s rebuke in 1 Corinthians 3 against dividing into different sects, following men rather than Christ:
1 Corinthians3:3-5KJV– “For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?”
“Some people will say, Well, I’m of Calvin, or I’m of… fill in the blank. That’s sad. I’m sure that if John Calvin was here today, he would slap you and say that you should say you’re of Christ,” Hibbs explained. “The Bible is one, but the views of men have divided things up… When you get carnal, you begin to follow the teachings and traditions of men instead of the Bible.”
“Too many of you who have been trained—if you know it or not in your previous denominational experience—to approach the Bible in what I call a pre-emptive or a pre-loaded manner, reading into Scripture the doctrinal influences of the denomination that you’ve come out of,” he stressed. “I want to tell you, every one of us should always let the Bible do the teaching.”
Many in the church are quick to confer with their “denominational manual” to interpret the Bible for them, Hibbs asserted, adding that this mistaken thinking is “why people have no unction, no passion, and no power about God’s truth—they don’t own it for themselves.”
“Growing up, there was a commercial on TV. Granted, it was, I think, black and white TV in those days. But there was a pair of fingers walking, and it said, ‘let your fingers do the walking through the Yellow Pages.’ That’s how you found stuff. A good thing to keep in mind is this: Let your fingers do the walking through the Bible,” the Pastor underscored. “What is the correct view? Can we know? Oh, yes, we can know if we let our fingers do the walking through the Bible.”
“Every Christian is to know how to use their Bible,” Hibbs implored. “Not Google, not denominations, not pastors, popes, or priests. You being directly connected to your Bible is the will of God.”
“It’s so important that when a pastor, pope, or priest is teaching from the Bible, Acts 17:11 says that you are to be judging those who teach the Word of God, against/by the Word of God. Did you know that?” he stated. “How are we going to know if we’re being led astray? You won’t know unless you know your Bible. Thus, a lot of people are being led astray today. Because they’re not reading the Word.”
A 2022 survey conducted by George Barna found that a mere 37% of Pastors hold to a Biblical Worldview. However, as noted by Lee Weeks for Decision Magazine, “pastors of nondenominational and independent Protestant churches scored the highest for upholding Biblical beliefs” among the 1,000 pastors surveyed.
“Calvary Chapel is not a denomination,” Pastor Hibbs highlighted. “Some people want to say it is, but it’s actually not. [In] a denomination, you pay fees and dues to the hierarchy, [and] there’s a governing body that tells you what to do, what not to do.”
“You didn’t walk into a pre-loaded service whereby we must maintain a denominational foundation. We don’t have to come from a Catholic approach of this verse. We don’t have to come from a Baptist approach. We don’t have to come from an Anglican approach. We don’t have to come from a Lutheran approach, a Presbyterian approach, none of that,” he maintained. “Let the Bible interpret the Bible.”
Hibbs then pointed to Second Timothy 3:16-17, which states, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”
“No denomination needed. No need to add water. It’s all there, right here in the Bible,” Pastor Hibbs declared.
For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.
When you look back at what God has done historically, you can build expectation about what He can do for you. When you see how He consistently blessed Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, you know that if He blessed a father, son and grandson, He will bless you, your children and your grandchildren, too. When you look back at how He delivered the children of Israel from the bondage of Pharaoh and brought them miraculously from their past into the full potential of their future, you recognize that He can destroy every shackle of sin and set you free from every bondage and addiction that binds you. And you can, with comfort, declare that whom the Son sets free is free indeed.
When you read about the manna and the water from a rock in the wilderness, about Jericho’s walls that came down with a shout, and how a giant was defeated with David’s stone, you can trust God enough to declare in faith believing,“Greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world.” When you read how Jesus Christ touched multitudes of the sick and healed them all and how He fed the masses with a sack lunch, you know that our God is full of power and able to provide more than you could ask, think or imagine.
Father, bless us and keep us. Make Your face to shine upon us. Be gracious unto us. That which You’ve done in the past, in faith believing, we claim You’ll do it again. We receive a new dawn and a new direction knowing, heavenly Father, that You have made a way where there seems to be no way. We know Your loving kindness will shine upon us, and the newness of life will be the glorious shining Face of God that goes before us. We receive Your blessing. We receive Your presence, and we thank You for Your touch. Amen.