Did you know that researchers have found that married people have a better life? Yes, it’s true! Many may find holes in the data to support their own experience. However, if you are married, there is a strong likelihood that you will live a longer life, have a better financial picture, and enjoy better mental health and safety than those who are not married.

From my perspective, this data supports God’s perfect plan all along. Today’s gift from Ephesians is the gift of family.

Here’s how the Bible describes the key relationship between wives and husbands, beginning in Ephesians 5:21:

“Out of respect for Christ, be courteously reverent to one another.

Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ. The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing. So, just as the church submits to Christ as he exercises such leadership, wives should likewise submit to their husbands.

Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church — a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. They’re really doing themselves a favor — since they’re already “one” in marriage.” (Ephesians 5:21-28, MSG).

Paul’s definition of marriage is how God would like it to be for us. That’s the way it can be. It’s not just a pipe dream or an awesome goal. It can be that way with the Holy Spirit in us and encouraging us daily.

A good marriage takes a lot of hard work — a good family life, even more work. Understandably, you may feel like you’ve put out all the hard work you can muster at your job and that there isn’t enough time or energy left to make your marriage work as God intended.

Someone once said marriage is not a 50-50 proposition in that each spouse does 50% of the work. No, marriage is a 100-100 proposition — both the husband and the wife are to pour 100% of their energies into making it work.

One could ramble on about what makes a good marriage and what makes a bad marriage, citing wedding vows, divorce statistics, and therapist recommendations. It’s not that simple. Life is complex. It is complicated as a single adult. It’s more challenging as a couple, and it gets really interesting when that couple adds some children into that life. What a gift your family can be! What a joy our children are! Especially when we take the time to see them as God does.

Billy Graham’s parenting advice:

“Children will invariably talk, eat, walk, think, respond, and act like their parents. Give them a target to shoot at. Give them a goal to work toward. Give them a pattern that they can see clearly, and you give them something that gold and silver cannot buy.”

Marriage and family are great gifts! Make a little time this season to read Ephesians 5:22 through 6:4 and ponder how you can be a better parent, or a better son or daughter, in your family. Ask God to give you His grace and eyes to see your family members as He does. He sees potential. He sees love. He sees belonging. He sees hope. Speak a blessing over your children and your spouse. Celebrate your family! That is a wonderful gift!


Father God, thank you for the gift of my family. Help me see the members of my family the way you do. Use me to bring your peace, grace, and love to my family this season. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


This advent devotional can be found on the YouVersion Bible App here.



When you feel a need for encouragement, what do you do? Do you call someone special? Do you exercise, paint, or play games with your son or daughter? How about singing or dancing or just watching a play or a movie? Or maybe it’s just connecting with a good friend over coffee or tossing a ball to your dog. We all need encouragement from time to time, don’t we?

Today’s gift is what I see to be the gift of encouragement. It’s probably just the way I’m wired, but I see encouragement all through the paragraph that begins with Verse 18 of Chapter 5:

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 5:18-20, NIV).

A while back, I took a spiritual connection assessment. It asked a series of questions about how one connects with God. Some people connect with God best by being outside in nature, some in quiet solitude. For me, my strongest connection with God is in worship. I love to worship and sing my heart out, and I love those musicians who lead worship and so skillfully take us to a place of complete adoration of God. Truly, when one is fully immersed in worship, I can understand how Paul connects it with being drunk. And I see this as a gift of encouragement in that he says “to speak to one another with psalms …”

The Psalms are a fabulous source of Spirit-filled encouragement. Many are David’s journal entries. I can so relate to David. Often he begins a Psalm with a cry:

“Save me, O God, for the waters have threatened my life! I have sunk in deep mire, and there is no foothold … I am weary with my crying … I wait for my God …” (Psalm 69:1, 3 NASB).

And then, as he journals and writes and ponders the greatness of God’s blessings through several verses, more than likely in song, the Holy Spirit takes him to a place of adoration at the conclusion.

“Let heaven and earth praise Him!” (Psalm 69:34, NASB).

May I encourage you to encourage one another through the words of the Psalms or other places of Scripture? Write them out as prayers, give them to one another, and encourage one another. That is the true Gift of Encouragement! God gave us His word, filled with songs of blessings. Yes, you can read them yourself. However, isn’t it great when God gives you a word of Scripture that He wants you to share with someone else? Or He directs someone to a specific passage, and they write it down and give it to you? This is how we build up the body of Christ.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, answered the call of her destiny with a song and a word of encouragement. Following her encounter with the angel Gabriel, and as she met with her cousin Elizabeth — who was also supernaturally pregnant, carrying her son, John the Baptizer — Mary quotes the Old Testament song of Hannah from 1 Samuel 2.

“I’m bursting with God-news! I’m walking on air. I’m laughing at my rivals. I’m dancing my salvation. Nothing and no one is holy like God …” (1 Samuel 2: 1-2 and Luke 1:46, MSG).

The words of both Mary and Hannah! That is sheer joy and encouragement all in one!

May you receive this Gift of Spirit-filled encouragement and be available to give this gift to others during this Advent season.


Father God, thank you for those who encourage me when I need to be encouraged. Thank you for blessing me with every spiritual blessing. May I be both a giver and a receiver this Advent season. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


This advent devotional can be found on the YouVersion Bible App here.

Psalm 119-3 (Gimel)

Here is today’s prayer from Psalm 119-3 (Gimel), verses 17-24:

God. Abba. Father.

We worship you today and ask that you might treat us with compassion and affection, oh King. In our hearts, we desire to obey your word above all else. Let us put our own wants down and exalt your name, and your ways.

Give us eyes to see the world the way you do. When you see people suffering, you see their hearts. When you see people making poor choices, you still see their hearts. Give us eyes to discover you moving in this Land and through your children. May we make the study of your word and your actions our priority.

We admit that we often feel out of place in a world that values things over people. We are strangers in a place where evil is applauded, where right is wrong, and wrong is right. Help us to see through the clutter of our lives to the clear paths that you have for us.

We thank you for your justice and for your grace. Our lives have no meaning without you. You have called us “chosen” and “set apart.” Help us to live holy lives for you are holy. Your word is life. Your word is our delight and joy!

Your word is Jesus, who became flesh and lived among us. He lives and rules forever! He has given us the Holy Spirit to be our guide. We praise you. We thank you. We love you.

And it is in Jesus’ name that we pray.


We’re reading through, and with intentionality, praying through the Psalms during this school year. There are 150 Psalms, divided into 180 different readings. See this post for more info.

(c) 2021. Rich Ronald.

Psalm 92

We’re reading through, and with intentionality, praying through the Psalms during this school year. There are 150 Psalms, divided into 180 different readings. See this post for more info.

Here is today’s prayer, preceded by the text from the Contemporary English Version, copyright 1995, by the America Bible Society.

It is wonderful to be grateful and to sing your praises, Lord Most High! It is wonderful each morning to tell about your love and at night to announce how faithful you are.  I enjoy praising your name to the music of harps because everything you do makes me happy, and I sing joyful songs.

You do great things, Lord. Your thoughts are too deep for an ignorant fool to know or understand. Though the wicked sprout and spread like grass, they will be pulled up by their roots. But you will rule over all of us forever, and your hateful enemies will be scattered and then destroyed.

You have given me the strength of a wild ox, and you have chosen me to be your very own. My eyes have seen, and my ears have heard the doom and destruction of my terrible enemies.

Good people will prosper like palm trees, and they will grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon. They will take root in your house, Lord God, and they will do well. They will be like trees that stay healthy and fruitful, even when they are old. And they will say about you, “The Lord always does right! God is our mighty rock.”

We will proclaim that you, mighty God, are our rock, our firm foundation. You always do right.

Here is today’s prayer from Psalm 92:

God. Abba. Father.

You are magnificent and it is a joy to praise you this morning and this evening! Day after day we proclaim that you are love and you are faithful. So, we sing to you today! Indeed, everything you do makes us happy. We delight in the work of your hands. Thank you for using people around the globe to deliver your grace and your love.

Those who do not know you do not know of your great kindness. That is tragic, actually. For those who turn their backs on you will ultimately be destroyed, ruined, like dust in the wind.

Yet, we thank you that we can count on you to strengthen us, even when we feel weak or defeated. We can be courageous through our faith and by your strong hand. You, Lord, are exalted forever. Yes, we will flourish, we will prosper like tall and mighty trees that offer shade to the weary and fruit to the hungry. Yes, we will be healthy in our old age. As we stay connected to you, by your hand and through your grace, we will produce fruit that will last for all eternity. Let us be reminded that apart from you, we can do nothing.

We will proclaim that you, mighty God, are our rock, our firm foundation. You always do right.

We praise your name. Even the name of Jesus.


(c) 2021. Rich Ronald.

Psalm 32.

We’re reading through, and with intentionality, praying through the Psalms during this school year. There are 150 Psalms, divided into 180 different readings. See this post for more info.

The audio file below is the entire episode for today. The text below is today’s prayer. I’m reading the Contemporary English Version of the Text, copyright 1995, by the American Bible Society.

God. Abba. Father.

We thank you for forgiveness today, Lord. Your word says we all get to rejoice because our transgressions, our sins, are wiped away. You hold nothing against us when we stopped hiding from you.

Before we opened our hearts to you, our bodies were exhausted and weak. Night and day our guilt consumed us and sapped the strength from our very bones.

But once we acknowledged our failures, the pressure was gone. We thank you for the relief and joy we have found in your grace… our guilt dissolved; our sin disappeared.

We worship you Lord! You are our strong and mighty foundation. When the devastation of sin threatens to sink us, we won’t be swept away. You are our hiding place. You keep danger at bay. You surround us with songs of joy and praise and deliverance! Thank you for agreeing to teach us and to lead us. We are humbled, oh God, that you want us to be your students. Thank you for keeping your loving eye always on us.

We celebrate and sing together. You are good to your people. We trust you and thank you for shielding us with kindness and surrounding us with your unfailing love.

And, of course Lord, we thank you because forgiveness doesn’t happen today without the grace of Jesus… in whose name we pray. Amen.

(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.

Romans 5. Jesus Came to Give Us Grace and Life.

Earlier this year, we took a journey together through the Old Testament book of  Isaiah. Paul, as a learned rabbi and the author of the letter to the church at Rome, quoted regularly from the Prophet. So, let’s take the next few weeks together to look at the New Testament book of Romans.

Romans 5.

We make a second stop along the Romans Road today. The first signpost in Romans 3 identified the realization that we are all sinners.  Chapter 5 illuminates the hope we sinners have in Jesus as our Messiah. He is the resolution for the human condition. He makes it right for us to have a relationship with God.

Paul begins this portion by encouraging patience in our lives. We can all be impatient, right? Especially when we are facing troubles… struggles like unemployment, or a medical crisis, or a marriage that is balancing precariously close to collapse. Have you ever prayed a prayer like this: “Please give me patience, God. Right now!” I have.

Look at what patience brings:

We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit! (Romans 5:3-5, MSG).

Patience is a virtue and when it is fully developed in us, through trust in God, we can have an attitude of expectancy and hope instead of worry or dread.

What joy, what blessing, what freedom we can carry when we are fully experiencing a life of grace.

Here’s the solution to our impatience and every other sin: Jesus.

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly…  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6,8, CEV).

God requires a sacrifice, a price to be paid, for our disobedience. Jesus paid that price through His death, and resulting resurrection. Here’s how Paul explains it clearly:

“But there is more! Now that God has accepted us because Christ sacrificed his life’s blood, we will also be kept safe from God’s anger.
 Even when we were God’s enemies, he made peace with us, because his Son died for us. Yet something even greater than friendship is ours. Now that we are at peace with God, we will be saved by his Son’s life.” (Romans 5:9-10, CEV).

We have life and relationship and even peace with God because Jesus died for us.

And what about the Law, the Ten Commandments and other ordinances God placed before Moses and the children of Israel in the Old Testament? Jesus offers something much better: forgiveness and grace.

All that passing laws against sin did was produce more lawbreakers. But sin didn’t, and doesn’t, have a chance in competition with the aggressive forgiveness we call grace. When it’s sin versus grace, grace wins hands down. All sin can do is threaten us with death, and that’s the end of it. Grace, because God is putting everything together again through the Messiah, invites us into life—a life that goes on and on and on, world without end. (Romans 5:20-21, MSG).

Grace invites us into a beautiful life, like a flowering cherry tree in the springtime. What joy, what blessing, what freedom we can carry when we are fully experiencing a life of grace. I learned so much about grace as a staff pastor under Max Lucado for over ten years. Here’s how he puts it:

“Grace is God as heart surgeon, cracking open your chest, removing your heart—poisoned as it is with pride and pain—and replacing it with his own. Rather than tell you to change, he creates the change. Do you clean up so he can accept you? No, he accepts you and begins cleaning you up. His dream isn’t just to get you into heaven but to get heaven into you.”
― Max Lucado, Grace: More Than We Deserve, Greater Than We Imagine

God wants to put more of Him inside of you. He does that by giving us His heart through His Son.

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you.” (Ezekiel 36:26, NIV).

Will you let God give you His grace? He loves you and wants you to have all that He has for you. He’s ready to pour into your life so that you can patiently endure the hardships of the journey and enjoy the blessings of beauty and joy and love He so desires for you.


(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.


Isaiah 48. Celebrate! Be Happy! Shout as You Go!

Because of the importance of Israel and its people, and my personal love for The Land, I’m inviting you to join me through the key Old Testament book of Isaiah.  Each day I’m posting some simple thoughts about this complex prophet.

Isaiah 48.

This is the culmination of 400 years of Babylonian captivity. Today is a day to rejoice!

“Today I am doing something new, something you cannot say you have heard before.” (v7, CEV).

The Lord says He tested the people of Israel in the hard times of captivity, tested them to refine them as silver is refined in the fire. You’ve heard this example, I’m sure: As silver is purified there is a black dross that separates from the genuine silver. How does the silversmith know when the silver is perfectly refined? When the dross is completely burned off and he can see his reflection in the pure silver.

So, today, the refining process is complete. Israel finally, once again, is reflecting the image of God, not of other idols or gods.

So, this leads to their freedom!

“I am the holy LORD God. The One who rescues you. For your own good, I teach you and I lead you among the right path… Now leave Babylon! Celebrate as you go! Be happy and shout for everyone to hear: “The LORD has rescued, has redeemed His servant Israel!” (v17,20, CEV).

He has redeemed us, too. The people of Israel were rescued by God at the hand of King Cyrus. We are redeemed by Jesus!

Celebrate! Be happy! Shout as you go!

And as for the people of Babylon? “There is no peace, says the LORD,  for the wicked.” (v22, NIV).

I believe the flip side is also true. There IS peace in abundance for those who live in goodness and grace. In Jesus, there is freedom from the captivity of sin and an overflow of peace. His perfect Shalom. His perfect joy!


If you’re new to this journey through Isaiah, you can start here.

(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.

Isaiah 35. Redemption, Gladness and Joy!

Because of the importance of Israel and its people, and my personal love for The Land, I’m inviting you to join me through the key Old Testament book of Isaiah.  Each day I’m posting some simple thoughts about this complex prophet.

Isaiah 35.

What a joyful vision of redemption! All that was destroyed will be new again. Just two chapters prior (33:9) specific places that were wilted in shame, desolate  and experienced loss — Lebanon, Sharon and Carmel — are now called glorious, splendid and majestic. The Message calls these cities a gift, awesome, and stunning. (v1-2, MSG).

The same will be said of us… can be said of us even now, thanks to who were are in Jesus! Yes, now! You are a gift. You are stunning. You are glorious.

“Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way;  say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.” (v3-4, NIV).

Said another way:

“Energize the limp hands, strengthen the rubbery knees. Tell fearful souls, “Courage! Take heart! God is here, right here, on his way to put things right And redress all wrongs. He’s on his way! He’ll save you!” (v:3‭-‬4, MSG).

“Only the redeemed will walk there and those the Lord has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.” (v10, NIV).

This whole chapter is a beautiful picture of what is to come. Rivers of Living Water. Glorious flowers will burst forth and rejoice. The blind will see. The deaf will hear. The lame will walk.

Everything will be redeemed in His glory!

That’s our story, too. We have been redeemed by the LORD. Will we walk along this Holy Road? Will we sing joyfully as we head up to Mt. Zion? We will allow gladness to overflow our hearts!

Yes! We will.

If you’re new to this journey through Isaiah, you can start here.

(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.


Isaiah 19

Because of the importance of Israel and its people, and my personal love for The Land, I’m inviting you to join me through the key Old Testament book of Isaiah.  Each day I’m posting some simple thoughts about this complex prophet.

Isaiah 19.

Woe is Egypt! This is so interesting! Another neighboring country who faces God’s wrath.  The Message says: “God has scrambled their brains.” (v15).

But then… “When they cry out in prayer because of oppressors, He’ll send them help, a Savior, who will keep them safe and care for them.” (v 20).

I believe that’s a promise for us as well. When our brains are mush, when there is great fog, when we’re lost, we can cry out to our Abba Father, and He will send us help. He will send us grace and wisdom and joy and peace, through the Holy Spirit. And we will receive His blessing.

“Egypt will come back to God, and God will listen to their prayers and heal them.” (v22, MSG).

God will listen to your prayers and heal you too! And He will bless you!

“On that Day, Israel will take its place alongside Egypt and Assyria, sharing the blessing from the center. God-of-the-Angel-Armies, who blessed Israel, will generously bless them all: “Blessed be Egypt, my people! . . . Blessed be Assyria, work of my hands! . . . Blessed be Israel, my heritage!”” (v24‭-‬25, MSG).

Blessed be you, dear child of God! Even when you feel like you are in a fog, you can trust God to make your way clear again.

(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.

Raise a Hallelujah? Yes!

There is freedom in praise!

There’s a new song many churches are singing today during their worship services. It’s called “Raise a Hallelujah” by Bethel Music.

For some of us it’s easy to praise God and sing “Hallelujah,” right? You’re going on vacation. It’s summer. The bills are paid. The kids are behaving. Life is good.

But there are others (most of us?) who are just not feeling it. There is pain. There is disappointment. Life is one big slog each and every day. How do we sing in the middle of the storm? How do we even manage a smile when we are feeling defeated?

The answer is this: We can praise God by the power of the Holy Spirit who is in every Believer.

There’s something amazing that happens when we praise God… especially when we offer a praise to God when it’s hard to do so. And we don’t have to have a beautiful singing voice. It might be as simple as viewing an amazing sunset and exclaiming, “Wow, God!”

I believe praise releases God’s love and grace and power and provision in our lives. You may have heard the story of two disciples of Jesus. They were in prison, locked in chains, because they had been sharing the Good News. But they didn’t let shackles hold them back.

Along about midnight, Paul and Silas were at prayer and singing a robust hymn to God. The other prisoners couldn’t believe their ears. Then, without warning, a huge earthquake! The jailhouse tottered, every door flew open, all the prisoners were loose. Acts 16: 25-26 (MSG)

There’s something about praise that sets us free. No matter what is holding you captive, bring it to the Lord in praise.

Let me encourage you to sing, to pray, to exclaim or even lament in the middle of your storm. Tell God how much you love Him. Tell God how much you trust Him.

And believe Him to bring you His freedom and His joy!

Raise a Hallelujah? Yes!

© Rich Ronald. 2019.