Daily Devotionals

One morning when I was pulling out of our driveway on my way to work, I noticed that someone had thrown a beer can on our lawn. I picked it up,…

If you were ever a freshman in college, you may remember how cool you felt if an upperclassman showed some interest in you. T. J. Evans lived across the hall from…

Any John Grisham fans out there? If I were to select a favorite character from his novels, Rachel Lane would top the list. Rachel Lane, unbeknown to her, was the illegitimate…

It was my second pastorate and, like many pastors, I had a few nagging insecurities about other churches in town that were outstripping us in terms of head count. To compound…

Let’s be honest, most of us would have to admit that we have a natural aversion to suffering. It may not bother us so much when “bad” people suffer, but we…

While in seminary I worked as a bellman in a luxury hotel in Dallas. On most days it was a ho-hum job, except for the time when the Vice President of…

Most of us don’t really like rules. I don’t know why, but deep down inside we have an aversion to people telling us what to do and what not to do….

There are a lot of fun events associated with being a pastor. And while great food at church dinners and getting invited to cool events with people in your church are…

It’s always an unsettling moment when you pull up to one of your favorite haunts only to see a sign posted in the window that reads “Under New Management.” A change…

American citizens flying to and from neighboring nations like Canada and Mexico used to get by with carrying a birth certificate or, in some cases, just a driver’s license as a…

I love the smell of a new car. You open the door and, wow, there’s just something about it! If you were like me, you’d buy it just for the aroma….

A story I heard in the news a few years ago caught my attention. It was about an 85-year-old man who used to eat breakfast in a Kroger supermarket every morning….

With 4 years of seminary under my belt, I walked into my first ministry with a long agenda. As a new pastor, I thought I was there to change that place….

Early in our marriage, I thought I knew the ultimate shortcut to my wife’s heart. I arrived home one night with a bouquet of a dozen red roses behind my back….

Chicago Cubs fans are the most optimistic people in baseball. Until last year’s big break,  it had been over a century since their last World Series victory, yet we still packed…

I am about to let you in on a deep, life-changing, earth-shattering theological truth. Are you ready for this? God keeps His promises! I mean, He really keeps His promises. Even…

I boarded the plane in Chicago with too much baggage. Not the kind of baggage you stow in the overhead compartment or squash under the seat in front of you. Not…

When it comes to jigsaw puzzles, we all know that to enjoy a satisfying outcome you need all the pieces. In many ways, life is like that. We spend our days…

The bumper sticker “Jesus is my co-pilot” may be a well-intentioned sentiment, but it has always troubled me. Whenever I’m in the driver’s seat of my life, the destination is nowhere…

If someone were to ask, “Who are you?” my guess is that you would tell a little about yourself and what you do—“I’m an electrician” or “I’m a nurse.” But that’s…

Martie and I recently traveled to some major cities in several countries. We were struck with how lost our world is and grieved over the millions who have never heard the…

A recent journey through the book of Genesis got me thinking about Abraham. Ever stop to realize how significant Abraham is to literally billions of people around the world? Jews claim…

Warning! It’s April Fools’ Day! I’ve had a lot of April Fool’s jokes pulled on me, and I must admit that I’ve pulled off a few pretty good ones myself. But one…

One of the most difficult experiences in my years as a pastor was telling a member of our church that her husband, her son, and her father-in-law had all drowned in…

My granddaughter, Mary Catherine, affectionately known to me as Cate the Great, is all-girl. Just put her in a princess outfit with glittering slippers, wand, and a crown, and she is…

I had just landed in Phoenix for some meetings when the clerk at the rental car desk told me they were all out of cars except for one expensive luxury car…

Is there anyone out there as excited as I am that it’s baseball season again? Some questions were once brewing about “the Friendly Confines”—the home field of my beloved Chicago Cubs….

A friend once told me, “In my lifetime I’ve seen a lot of things change, and I’ve been against them all!” Perhaps he overstated the point, but many of us would…

You may have heard the story about the pranksters who broke into a hardware store. Strangely enough, they didn’t steal a thing. Yet what they did created chaos of epic proportions—they…

I am a passionate fan of Oreo cookies. The mere thought of a tall, ice-cold glass of milk and a huge stack of Oreos is enough to induce some major hunger pangs….

One of my all-time favorite school teacher stories is about a kindergarten teacher who at the end of an exasperating day had to put boots on all 31 of her students…

Several years ago, the Pentagon built warships designed to fight terrorism. This class of battleship could carry a crew of 360 sailors and 700 combat-ready Marines to be delivered ashore by…

R. G. LeTourneau, the owner of a large earth-moving equipment company, often told this story: “We used to have a scraper known as the Model G. Somebody asked one of our…

Junior high school can be one long intensive seminar on drama in relationships. I am convinced that any psychological malfunction in my life today is directly traceable to those two years…

Has God ever asked you to do something that seemed unreasonable? Something that took you into the territory of the unknown? What if He asked you to refuse a long-awaited promotion…

Somewhere in the distance I heard a siren. Buildings loomed on either side of us and my pulse quickened each time we passed an unlit alley. I was a boy at…

Kids are great! Things that we take for granted are occasions for awe and wonder for them. And their perspectives are often convictingly right on. Take, for instance, the little girl…

In case you haven’t noticed, we live in a no-holds-barred, do-your-own-thing world. We have been force-fed on the thought that we exist to experience pleasure, that the pursuit of happiness and…

I’m sure that you’ve seen those before and after pictures in ads for diet pills. The before picture always features some tremendously out-of-shape obese guy. The after picture then shows him…

I’ll make a confession if you promise not to tell. Having been selected to represent my college in a traveling music team one summer, I had a few days to relax…

The sound of the alarm blaring from inside the church struck panic in my heart. I had arrived at church early one Sunday morning, planning to spend a little time in…

We’ve all heard the expression, “I don’t get mad; I just get even.” Reading about the judgments described in Revelation, one might assume that God will get “even” with sinners for…

When I was young, my mother tried to prepare me for life by urging me to make up two things: my bed and my mind. When I got up each day…

Not long after I married my wife, Martie, I realized that she had a deep love for animals in general and dogs in particular. She grew up with Trudy, a black…

Driving with two young children in the backseat often requires a special kind of grace. Especially when, like on this trip, I was the parent. We were driving to Grand Rapids…

It’s confession time. The mere sight of a squad car—particularly when my speed is a little beyond the posted limit—kicks off a flurry of excuses in my mind. My speedometer must…

I worked for a carpenter one summer between college semesters. Being the inexperienced apprentice, occasionally I would cut a board too short. Seeing that I had wasted a good board, my…

The city of Laodicea had a water problem. One nearby town had fabulous hot springs and another had cold, clear water. Laodicea, however, was stuck with tepid, mineral-laden water that tasted…

Grocery shopping with my wife, Martie, is like taking a seminar in nutrition. I’ll often pick up a box of something that looks good, and she’ll say: “Look at the label….

My aging Chevy Tahoe has a nifty little feature—the OnStar button. Some time back, General Motors started installing this blue button on many of their vehicles. If you need help, all you…

Hearing voices has to be the most haunting of all the mental disorders. After all, which voice do you listen to? Talk about massive confusion! But before you think that you…

An advertising blitz for a credit card company once featured two humorous television commercials. One featured Vikings who were defeated by credit card’s low interest rates. The other series of ads poked fun at…

When I travel, wake-up calls are really important! More than once I have registered my wake-up time with the hotel desk confident that they would call right on time. Well, you…

Baseball legend Yogi Berra is known for his oft-repeated quips like, “It ain’t over till it’s over” and “It’s like déjà vu all over again!” I wonder if the disciples felt…

I find it interesting that Jesus taught more about money than anything else. And He wasn’t trying to ratchet up the treasury. As far as we know, He never even asked…

It’s not uncommon for blockbuster movies today to be followed by a sequel and even a “three-quel.” The film industry has discovered that we like to revisit certain stories. We want…

I’ll never forget my first white-water rafting experience. The guide made me wear a dorky helmet and a life jacket that was anything but flattering. Thankfully, my sagging self-image was rescued…

Dads love it when their kids ask, “Can I help?” Even though the job may be too complex, they welcome the chance to let their kids take part in the project….

Chicago is a world-class city. It’s known for its great pizza, architecture, symphony, sports teams, and lakefront setting. I love Chicago! If you were to visit Chicago, you’d see the beautiful…

Any Star Wars fans out there? Remember the opening scenes of the first movie that begin with a laser battle between a little spaceship (the good guys) and this huge, ominous…

As a kid, I loved watching the film Little Lord Fauntleroy. The story focuses on Cedric, a boy growing up in a poor home with his mother in Brooklyn. He discovers…

It’s easy to think of God as a divine fly-swatter, just waiting for you to land so that—whap—He can nail you for your sins. But that’s not what we see in…

When I was a little boy growing up in Hackensack, New Jersey, I would often fall asleep listening to my little radio. One of my favorite shows was “Big Joe’s Happiness…

The first church I pastored was in Springfield, Ohio. Our home was situated near Wright-Patterson Air Force Base—directly in the flight path of landing B-52 bombers that were coming home after…

When archaeologists excavated King Herod’s palace—an opulent structure boasting a pool large enough to float boats! It stood on a hill outside Bethlehem that allowed the king to monitor the happenings…

For some lucky students it’s a day off of school, but it’s possible the fact that today is Presidents’ Day may have slipped your notice. Nestled between Valentine’s Day and St….

For most of us, prostitution represents a rather repulsive aspect of the underbelly of society. Given our disdain for such a godless practice, my guess is that few of us have…

I love it when churches have names like “King of Glory Lutheran Church” or “Alpha and Omega Missionary Baptist Church.” If the church in Ephesus were still around, maybe we’d call…

Hey, for you guys out there who have forgotten, it’s Valentine’s Day! Hopefully you still have time to pick up something special for the love of your life. (And you don’t…

The graffiti mafia struck again. I read about it in the morning paper after Chicago gangs had defaced a variety of historic landmarks the night before. If you are a city…

One of my favorite classical works of music is The Creation. But what I like even more than the stirring sounds and moving lyrics is the attitude of composer. It was…

I had promised my wife that I would bring her a cup of coffee after my morning run. So, at 6:03 a.m., breathing hard and sweaty, I walked into Starbucks to…

At the age of 96, my Dad went home to be with the Lord. I have to tell you those last few days with him were precious days in many ways,…

We all remember the neighborhood tattletale—not the most popular kid on the block! He or she took great delight in exposing deeds we were trying to hide. Unfortunately, our tongues play…

The ancient Romans were known for their roads, which crisscrossed their empire with wide, heavily traveled highways. It’s what Jesus’ audience would have pictured when He claimed, “I am the way”…

Hey, today’s my birthday! Don’t ask . . . I’m trying not to think about how many candles I’ll have on the cake. But it hasn’t always been like that. There was…

Ever been in love? If so, you know what it means to be preoccupied. I met my wife Martie in the fall of our freshman year at college. It didn’t take…

I have a friend who says, “Through the years I have seen a lot of things change, and I have been against them all!” Change can be very unsettling. It interrupts…

I’ll admit it—I’m a raving fan of change. I’m delighted that I can “Google” information, watch HD-TV, take pictures digitally, and send and receive e-mails. Though I hate to date myself,…

Every once in a while when I travel to speak at a conference, the organization puts me up in a five-star hotel. You know the type—lobbies with lavish flower arrangements, a…

Okay, I have to confess . . . I like gardening. There, I said it. Sorry guys, but I do! So, liking gardens, I have often thought about how wonderful the Garden…

Every year, high-school seniors apply to their favorite universities and then watch the mailbox for the letter announcing their acceptance. It was different for teens in New Testament times. Jewish boys…

In one of my all-time favorite Peanuts cartoons, Charlie Brown is standing on the deck of a cruise ship with a rather disheartened look on his face clutching his unfolded deck…

I’ll never forget a double date that Martie and I had with another couple in college. I was driving, which meant that my then fiancée, Martie, was in the front with…

While reading through the creation narratives in Genesis for the umpteenth time, I was struck by God’s commentary on Adam being alone in the garden. What caught my attention was the…

Let’s talk about heaven. If you’re like me, it’s hard to get your head around it and harder still to let it grip your heart. While most of us believe that heaven…

What’s with celebrities? The last few years have been littered with famous people behaving badly . . I’m sure it would only take a minute for you and I to come…

At some point in life we’ve all felt the frustration and fear of being up against situations that we can’t deal with and, worse yet, there seems to be no one…

A friend once told me: “Joe, I’ve come to realize that my life is not made by the dreams that I dream but by the choices that I make.” Count on…

Legend has it that Michelangelo painted with a brush in one hand and a candle in the other to prevent his shadow from covering his masterpiece in progress. That’s the kind…

I didn’t mean to break it! In fact, just the night before, as our hosts for the evening were showing my wife Martie and me around their beautiful home, they drew…

I don’t think I’ll ever forget the story my son told me about taking his family to see the stage production of The Lion King. A good time was being had…

Today our dose of daily strength comes from Matthew 5:11, when Jesus gave a “good news . . . bad news” announcement to His disciples. First the bad news: They could…

For all of us who think that God is the hammer guy of the Old Testament, think again! I’m just a little put out on the prevailing thought that God was…

Recently I read the creation narratives in Genesis 1:1-31; 2:1-25. I’ve read them lots of times, but something special emerged this time. That’s one of the things that is so wonderful…

My garage serves as “storage” for things that don’t have a place in our home, and, frankly, there are times when I am ashamed to open the door. I don’t want…

Tolkien’s classic The Lord of the Rings trilogy came to life in recent years on film. In the second epic story, the hero, Frodo, reached a point of despair and wearily…

Do you ever wonder what kind of legacy you’ll leave behind? I remember an older gentleman from one of the churches I pastored. He was the epitome of grace toward others;…

Each year Time magazine publishes an issue focusing on that year’s “Best Inventions.” Notable technological marvels once included a 130 mph electric roadster, a mattress that uses magnets to levitate 16…

A few years ago my wife Martie and I had an opportunity to travel to Hong Kong for a ministry trip. One of the highlights of the trip was spending time…

I have a lot of favorite stories, but this one has to rank near the top. My friend Paul Eshleman is the founder of the Jesus Film Project, which arguably has…

No doubt you’ve noticed that people around you are not into absolute truth these days. When it comes to matters of morality, the prevailing philosophy is a multiple-choice view, with competing…

If you were invited to a meeting at the White House with the President of the United States, regardless of your opinion of him or her, you would probably go. Upon…

The word awesome is tossed around a lot these days. Talk about cars, movies, songs, or food—and somebody will say, “That’s awesome!” But if we call earth-side stuff awesome and then…

It would have been simpler just to buy a new hair dryer. But determined to save a buck, I decided to fix it myself. In order to loosen the screw that…

To borrow a poker phrase, some people seem to hold all the cards. They are dealt a winning hand while the rest of us do the best with what few resources…

What do you picture when you hear the word faith? One of my mental pictures of faith in action is the memory of my two-year-old grandson, Silas, shivering by the side…

In my first church ministry, I pastored a small, newly planted congregation, which meant that I shouldered many of the week-to-week office responsibilities. So, when the Sunday school curriculum needed to…

You’ve probably heard the expression “flying by the seat of your pants.” It smacks of living in a random, spontaneous, unconnected way. And, if I am being honest, there are times…

As I walked into church one Sunday morning, a little boy looked at me and said to his mother, “Mom, is that Jesus?” Needless to say, I was curious to hear…

As an avid baseball fan, my favorite team is the Chicago Cubs. The interesting thing about being a Cubs fan is that the team has a way of letting us down….

The classic World War II movie The Longest Day portrays one of the clever military strategies of the German army. After the Allies had taken the beaches of Normandy on D-Day,…

The reality TV show Fear Factor featured people who are willing to face their worst fears for notoriety and financial gain. I need to tell you that I rarely watched more…