by: CH Spurgeon
"Take us the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vines."
Song of Solomon 2:15
A little thorn may cause much suffering. A little cloud may hide the sun. Little foxes spoil the vines; and little sins do mischief to the tender heart. These little sins burrow in the soul, and make it so full of that which is hateful to Christ, that he will hold no comfortable fellowship and communion with us. A great sin cannot destroy a Christian, but a little sin can make him miserable. Jesus will not walk with his people unless they drive out every known sin. He says, "If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love, even as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love." Some Christians very seldom enjoy their Saviour's presence. How is this? Surely it must be an affliction for a tender child to be separated from his father. Art thou a child of God, and yet satisfied to go on without seeing thy Father's face? What! thou the spouse of Christ, and yet content without his company! Surely, thou hast fallen into a sad state, for the chaste spouse of Christ mourns like a dove without her mate, when he has left her. Ask, then, the question, what has driven Christ from thee? He hides his face behind the wall of thy sins. That wall may be built up of little pebbles, as easily as of great stones. The sea is made of drops; the rocks are made of grains: and the sea which divides thee from Christ may be filled with the drops of thy little sins; and the rock which has well nigh wrecked thy barque, may have been made by the daily working of the coral insects of thy little sins. If thou wouldst live with Christ, and walk with Christ, and see Christ, and have fellowship with Christ, take heed of "the little foxes that spoil the vines, for our vines have tender grapes." Jesus invites you to go with him and take them. He will surely, like Samson, take the foxes at once and easily. Go with him to the hunting.
One of the most tender images of Jesus is one he supplied when referring to himself as the Good Shepherd. This name reminds us both of our own vulnerability and Jesus' watchful, protecting care. It evokes a sense of belonging, intimacy, and trust, revealing the Good Shepherd as the One who lays down his life for his sheep. When you pray to the Good Shepherd, you are admitting your need for his care and your confidence in his ability to watch over and protect you.
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. John 10:11-Ann Spangler
Thursday, May 29, 2014 2 Corinthians 8:1-7
Today we live under a new covenant established by God through the shed blood of His Son (Heb. 9:15). Based on what Christ did, Romans 12:1 tells us to present ourselves as “a living and holy sacrifice, [which is] acceptable” to the Lord. If you are a child of God, all of your abilities, time, and money belong to Him.
The principle of sacrificial living can be seen in the early church. Those new believers eagerly sold their possessions and property to meet needs around them (Acts 2:45). God blessed them for their generosity—they experienced glad hearts, favor with others, and growing numbers.
Macedonian churches also understood the priority of giving. Even though the believers there were extremely poor, they begged for the opportunity to help financially. Second Corinthians 8:7 says they excelled at the “grace of giving” (NIV).
Under Old Testament law, God required a tithe (a tenth of one’s crops and animals) to support the temple (Lev. 27:30-32). When the nation drifted away from this practice, the Lord sent Malachi to warn them of the consequences for disobeying. By holding onto their tithe, they were robbing God of what was rightfully His (Mal. 3:8). We certainly don’t want to be guilty of withholding the Lord’s money from Him.
Having appointed us as His stewards and entrusted us with resources, God expects us to give generously. When the impoverished widow put two coins into the temple treasury, Jesus praised her sacrificial giving (Mark 12:41-44). If we trust God with our finances as the widow did, we will excel at the grace of giving.
Copyright 2013 In Touch Ministries, Inc. All rights reserved. www.intouch.org. In Touch grants permission to print for personal use only.
Getting Rid of Fear
"Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death -- that is, the devil -- and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death."
Since the days of Eden, people have been haunted by fear of each side of the grave. As the old song goes, "I'm tired of living but scared of dying." On this side of the tombstone, fears are aggravated by pain and suffering. Sometimes when people peer beyond the grave, their anxieties are aggravated by the unknown. The Prince of Peace is the only one who can rid you of fear, whether it's fear of the here and now, or of the future.
Peace is the opposite of fear. A prescription for peace is found in Hebrews 2:14-15. God became a human being -- that's Jesus. Jesus, through His death, broke the power of the Devil and his lies. This same Jesus desires to deliver you of your fears, whether you're frightened of life as a living nightmare or fearing death as a scary unknown. To place your trust in Jesus gives you peace now and peace about the hereafter.
To place your hand in the Prince of Peace's hand does not necessarily guarantee you protection from suffering. But it does give you protection from fear, including a steadfast hand to hold onto and the certainty that a loving and all-powerful God who knows everything is standing by your side. Putting your confidence in Christ will free you from living all your life as a slave to constant dread.
-Joni Earekcson Tada
Here is a precious truth for thee, believer. Thou mayest be poor, or in suffering, or unknown, but for thine encouragement take a review of thy "calling" and the consequences that flow from it, and especially that blessed result here spoken of. As surely as thou art God's child today, so surely shall all thy trials soon be at an end, and thou shalt be rich to all the intents of bliss. Wait awhile, and that weary head shall wear the crown of glory, and that hand of labour shall grasp the palm-branch of victory. Lament not thy troubles, but rather rejoice that ere long thou wilt be where "there shall be neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain." The chariots of fire are at thy door, and a moment will suffice to bear thee to the glorified. The everlasting song is almost on thy lip. The portals of heaven stand open for thee. Think not that thou canst fail of entering into rest. If he hath called thee, nothing can divide thee from his love. Distress cannot sever the bond; the fire of persecution cannot burn the link; the hammer of hell cannot break the chain. Thou art secure; that voice which called thee at first, shall call thee yet again from earth to heaven, from death's dark gloom to immortality's unuttered splendours. Rest assured, the heart of him who has justified thee beats with infinite love towards thee. Thou shalt soon be with the glorified, where thy portion is; thou art only waiting here to be made meet for the inheritance, and that done, the wings of angels shall waft thee far away, to the mount of peace, and joy, and blessedness, where,
"Far from a world of grief and sin,
With God eternally shut in,"
thou shalt rest for ever and ever.
You can live an empowered Christian life
For the good that I wish, I do not do; but I practice the very evil that I do not wish.
I donât know about you, but when I became a Christian I said, âThis is the easiest thing in the world. What a deal!â I walked down the aisle of our country church, said âI believe in Jesus,â was baptized, and hence, my Christian life began. I somehow had the idea that I could live just as I had been living, and when (not if!) I did something wrong, I could ask God to forgive me, and all would be well. If I died prematurely, as a member of Godâs family, I would most certainly go right to heaven. I had this Christianity thing licked! But then a Bible study teacher named Mr. Alexander exploded my ease. He taught the Bible to us straight and clear. He ran a shoe store, but he was an anointed teacher who made me realize that receiving Christ was easy, but living the Christian life was not. In fact, many times it was downright hard. Finally, as I began to study the word on my own, I came to the conclusion that the Christian life was not hard...it was impossible! I could completely identify with Paul when he said he did what he did not wish to do, and did not do what he wished to do! If Paul struggled, what hope was there for me? Then I discovered I could not live the Christian life under my own power any more than I could get right with God on my own merit. I began to understand the work of the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. As He fills my life, He enables me to live and walk in victory. So I came full circle. The Christian life is easy. The Christian life is hard. The Christian life is impossible. The empowered Christian life is exciting...and that power comes from the Holy Spirit Himself.
For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.
1 Corinthians 14:33
United States President Barack Obama quoted from 1 Corinthians 13 in his first inauguration address. At the funeral of Britain's Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1997, Prime Minister Tony Blair read 1 Corinthians 13. This so-called "love chapter" of the Bible is an iconic piece of literature.
The apostle Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 13 to the church at Corinth because they were the opposite of a loving church! They were divisive, boastful, immoral, suing each other, arguing over food, degrading the Lord's Table, and competing over spiritual gifts. The church at Corinth fit the description given by James of people who follow after worldly wisdom: "Confusion and every evil thing are there" (James 3:16). So Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 13 to say that love is the most important part of the Christian lifeâand that God is the author of peace.
If there is confusion in any of your relationships, examine the kind of wisdom being appliedâwhether it is heavenly or worldly. Heavenly wisdom is pure, peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good works, impartial, and without hypocrisy (James 3:17).
The one who has wisdom in his head and heart does not need to shout at others.
The Right Way to Run
"We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up."
My husband, Ken, serves as a track-and-field coordinator for Special Olympics. There is always band music, colorful banners, and flags everywhere. Scattered across the infield are teams of mentally handicapped young people.
A few years ago at the games, Ken blew his whistle to signal the contestants for the 50-yard dash. A Down syndrome girl with thick glasses and a short, stocky boy in baggy shorts were the first to line up. There was a moment of stillness, then a "bang" from the starting gun. Off they sprinted -- six contestants bobbing and weaving down the track.
Suddenly the boy in baggy shorts began running toward his friends in the infield. Ken blew his whistle to direct him back to the track, but it was no use. At that point, the Down syndrome girl, who was just a few yards from the finish line, turned around, ran toward him, and gave him a big hug. Together they got back on the track and completed the race arm-in-arm, long after the rest of the contestants had crossed the finish line.
We must run the race not to please ourselves, but to please the Lord. That often means taking time to stop and put our arms around a weaker friend who needs to get back on track.
-Joni and Friends Daily Devotional
Who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?
- Esther 4:14
Success in any line demands a definite aim. He who would achieve true success in life must keep steadily in view the aim worthy of his endeavor. Such an aim is set before the youth of today. The heaven-appointed purpose of giving the gospel to the world in this generation is the noblest that can appeal to any human being. It opens a field of effort to everyone whose heart Christ has touched.
God's purpose for the children growing up beside our hearths is wider, deeper, higher, than our restricted vision has comprehended. From the humblest lot those whom He has seen faithful have in time past been called to witness for Him in the world's highest places. And many a lad of today, growing up as did Daniel in his Judean home, studying God's word and His works, and learning the lessons of faithful service, will yet stand in legislative assemblies, in halls of justice, or in royal courts, as a witness for the King of kings. Multitudes will be called to a wider ministry.
The whole world is opening to the gospel. Ethiopia is stretching out her hands unto God. From Japan and China and India, from the still-darkened lands of our own continent, from every quarter of this world of ours, comes the cry of sin-stricken hearts for a knowledge of the God of love. Millions upon millions have never so much as heard of God or of His love revealed in Christ. It is their right to receive this knowledge. They have an equal claim with us in the Saviour's mercy. And it rests with us who have received the knowledge, with our children to whom we may impart it, to answer their cry. To every household and every school, to every parent, teacher, and child upon whom has shone the light of the gospel, comes at this crisis the question put to Esther the queen at that momentous crisis in Israel's history, "Who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" Esther 4:14.
Saturday, May 24, 2014 Genesis 2:15-17
When Christians discuss how and when evil entered the world, they most often point to the serpent’s temptation of Eve. But in fact, we must go back a bit further to the moment when God planted the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. By offering Adam and Eve a choice between obedience and rebellion, the Lord allowed for evil to enter His perfect creation.
Now, you are probably asking the very question that plagues many believers as well as unbelievers: Why does a loving God allow evil? Some unsatisfactory answers have been given over the years—for example, that the Lord doesn't care or that He’s helpless to prevent evil. Such responses contradict what God says about Himself in Scripture (Rom. 5:8; Ps. 47:8). The truth is, our loving Father wields absolute authority over this world.
God had a reason for letting evil enter the world. The Tree of Knowledge was a testing ground. Adam and Eve had to choose between rebellion and love, evil and righteousness, disobedience and obedience. Because the Lord desired love from the human beings He created, He had to offer a choice. Genuine love is given freely. The alternatives were either to skip the whole creation process or to program mankind like robots to give Him glory and praise.
The Lord gives two assurances regarding evil. First, His purpose is not for us to sin (James 1:13). He desires that we live with righteous intent so that evil finds no room in our hearts. Second, when we are touched by evil, He will make the situation work for our good (Rom. 8:28).
Theirs Is the Kingdom
The Dominican Republic, like many Caribbean island nations, is known for resorts that cater to tourists. But outside the town of Puerto Plata’s manicured beaches and villas is another world—one you wouldn't see from the highway.
Behind the sugar cane fields are the trash heaps of the local landfill, and behind that are shantytowns filled with families—mostly refugees from Haiti—who methodically sort through the garbage, looking for anything recyclable or salvageable. And just past the dump, hidden away at the top of a small hill, is an old concrete compound where drug addicts are in rehab.
It’s right here, in the midst of poverty and struggle, that the light of God’s kingdom is growing stronger each day. Pain and darkness abound in the dump, but love and dignity also flourish in this impoverished community. Many have become believers, and pastors have risen up from their midst, sharing the gospel and discipling younger Christians.
And from the rehab center on the hill, a steady stream of fervent prayer flows—not just for these warriors’ own freedom, but also for their nation and the rest of the world. Led by an ex-addict turned pastor and other men he’s mentored, these brothers are inviting God’s kingdom to come on earth, “as it is in heaven.”
Copyright 2013 In Touch Ministries, Inc. All rights reserved. www.intouch.org. In Touch grants permission to print for personal use only.
Apples of Gold
Matthew 7:8â11 tells us to seek. Itâs instructive also to consider Jeremiah 29:13: âAnd ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.â The key is repentance, something lacking in the professing church. We are told that the divorce rate of the American church is now the same as that of the world. What does this tell us about the state of repentance in the church? It is true that many are fasting and praying. However, Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:1â3 addresses the futility of âemptyâ sacrifice. There is a âseeking after God,â but much of it is not wholehearted and, considering the low level of scriptural knowledge, much is not according to God. May God revive all of us in His way and in His time.
"For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened."
Thursday, May 22, 2014 Romans 15:1-2
The Bible instructs Christians to bear one another's burdens. Doing this effectively requires three things.
• Awareness. If you're not sensitive to the struggles of those around you, how can you help them? Every Sunday you sit in church, surrounded by people who hurt intensely. The Lord knows the depth of their suffering and desires to release them from bondage, but He often works through His children. Thankfully, we have His Spirit to sensitize us to needs in our midst.
• Acceptance. We are not to bear burdens on the basis of how we feel about the other person. Jesus doesn't discriminate about whom to love or help. If we want to be like Christ, we must be willing to share in the pain of others, no matter who they are. Does this describe you? Or do you limit your support to family and friends?
• Availability. Christians sometimes relegate the work of caring for others to their pastor, figuring, That's his job, after all. Yet he, too, has burdens. Your pastor wants to help everybody in all possible ways, but if he's the only one available to offer support for the congregation, both he and the church will crumble. A faith community thrives when people bear each other's burdens. Ask yourself if there's a way you can help carry the load.
Scripture tells us the whole law is fulfilled in one commandment: "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Gal. 5:14). Next to loving the Lord with all your heart, this is the second greatest command (Matt. 22:39). Therefore, when we share another person's heartache and burdens, we fulfill a great law of God.
Copyright 2013 In Touch Ministries, Inc. All rights reserved. www.intouch.org. In Touch grants permission to print for personal use only.
Wednesday, May 21, 2014 Galatians 1:6-9
The Word of God is truth that’s living and able to penetrate human souls (Heb. 4:12). Consider how powerful Scripture is: It can change hearts, save lives from eternal condemnation, and give hope to the hopeless.
Is it any wonder, then, that the Bible is a battlefield of Satan? The devil will do his best to destroy its message and twist its truth. In fact, this has been our enemy’s continuous goal since he chose to turn from God.
Our heavenly Father has graciously let us know in advance the outcome of this ongoing battle: Truth will prevail. But while the Lord has the ultimate victory, Satan can gain ground among individuals. His tactics are dangerous and deceptive to the unsuspecting. For this reason, we should carefully guard against his attacks, which are hard to recognize unless we are prepared.
False teaching is one of Satan’s preferred tactics for leading us astray. At first glance, such instruction often seems to align with Scripture, but do not be misled by the deception. Two things are essential for standing firm against these slippery falsehoods: to be well grounded in the truth of God’s Word and to listen to His Spirit. Only then can we recognize the error and avoid the pitfalls of the enemy’s lies.
Satan longs to mislead believers so they’ll be ineffective for the kingdom. He also wants to keep all unsaved souls far from salvation in Jesus Christ. Friends, prepare for battle. Grow in the knowledge of truth, and lean on God’s Spirit to guide you moment by moment.
Tuesday, May 20, 2014 Proverbs 15:31-33
No one likes criticism, but encountering some is inevitable, so we need to learn how to respond in a godly way. Although you might be tempted to become defensive or angry, remain calm and listen. The words may hurt, but great benefits come to those who carefully consider what is said.
If we refuse to accept reproof, we’ll limit our potential for godly character development and spiritual growth. Some of life’s best lessons come through difficult experiences. If the Lord allowed the situation, you can be sure He wants to use it in transforming you into His Son’s image. Whether the criticism is valid or not, whether it’s delivered with kindness or harshness, your goal should always be to respond in a way that glorifies the Lord. Remember that you are responsible only for how you handle yourself, not for how the other person is acting.
When a criticism comes your way, be quiet and listen until the other person has finished. Make direct eye contact to show attentiveness and respect. When your critic finishes, thank him for bringing his concerns to your attention, and tell him that you will consider what he’s said. Ask the Lord if the accusation is valid. Let Him search your heart and either affirm your innocence or convict you.
Every rebuke is an opportunity from God. It’s a chance to let your Christian character shine by showing love to your critic. If he is angrily attacking you, your respect and kindness become a powerful testimony. Criticism is also an occasion to humble yourself and accept the Lord’s correction.
Monday, May 19, 2014 Proverbs 27:20-21
How do you respond when someone compliments you? Some people absolutely love receiving praise because it lifts their spirit and makes them feel valuable. Others are uncomfortable with it. They look down at their feet or offer reasons why they really don’t deserve such praise.
For Christians, there is an additional dilemma. We’re called to be humble, so what are we to do when others say good things about us? Because pride is always waiting to raise its ugly head, we need to be careful not to let praise puff us up. Some believers think that accepting a compliment is a sign of pride, so they make a big show of giving all the glory to God. That’s fine, if it is really what’s in their hearts, but too often this becomes a rote “Christian” response that’s geared to impressing others.
My advice is simply to say, “Thank you very much.” Then whisper a prayer in your heart to the Lord, thanking Him for the blessing, recognizing that anything worthy of praise ultimately comes from Him. If you felt encouraged, let the person know how the comment blessed you. If you receive praise for an achievement that was really a group effort, be sure to redirect the compliment to all those who were involved. A blessing is always more enjoyable when it’s shared.
Our character is tested by the praise that comes to us. Every compliment that reaches our ears should quickly rebound to the Father. If we hold onto it, the poison of pride will begin to infect our hearts. But if we pass the praise to God, humility takes up residence in our souls.
Saturday, May 17, 2014 Ephesians 6:14-17
The apostle Paul wrote about spiritual warfare so we might know our enemy and how to fight him. He compared the armor and weapons God has given us to the outfitting of a soldier: a helmet to protect our minds, a breastplate to cover our hearts, special shoes to help us stand firm, a belt of God’s truth to encircle us, the mighty sword of the Spirit, and the protective shield of faith.
Roman soldiers carried large rectangular shields, which covered the entire body. When facing an attack of flaming arrows, the warriors would stand shoulder to shoulder, with neighboring shields touching. Then, as the enemy’s arrows flew toward them, they would kneel in unison with their shields held above them, still in contact with the ones on either side. Nothing could pierce that defense.
This is a picture of how we are to fight when Satan sends flaming darts our way. They enter our life in the form of temptations, doubts, or anxieties—the devil’s combatants shoot these silently and swiftly towards us in the hopes of finding a vulnerable spot. When we maintain our shield of faith in an upright position, the attack fails. However, if we should lower it or fail to stand together as the body of Christ, the missiles penetrate.
Our heavenly Father has provided all we need for life on a battlefield. He has secured the victory through Jesus Christ, canceled sin’s power over us, and given us armor to wear. Our part is to walk by faith, believing God moment by moment. Remember that your faith is your shield. Keep it in good order.
The Curse on the Woman
To the woman He said, "I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth, in pain you shall bring forth children; yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you" (Genesis 3:16).
The Lord created the man and woman to procreate, but childbirth was not intended to be painful. Because of the Fall, pain was "greatly" multiplied, resulting from the disharmony that had entered the world through sin. Before sin, all creatures lived in harmony. There was cooperation between the creation on earth and their appointed rulers. Now there was conflict, which always leads to pain.
As a part of the curse, the man was appointed to rule over the woman. This is an increasingly unpopular truth, mostly because of the tragic oppression and abuse of authority by men over women. Even so, the Lord has a "women's liberation movement" that will greatly transcend the one that the enemy has perpetrated to try to preempt and sidetrack it. The promulgation of true spiritual authority will be the liberation of everyone.
True spiritual authority does not bind and oppress, but it liberates. "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty" (see II Corinthians 3:17). True spiritual authority is a protective covering that brings freedom to those who are under it, to be what they were created to be. This authority is not for the purpose of subjugation, but rather to serve and free those who are under its covering. When true spiritual
authority is restored to the church as it was originally intended, it will free both men and women to be all that God created them to be. Authority will be exercised in love, not anger, and those who are under truly loving authority will be the most free people on the earth.
It is apparent that the man did have a leadership role before the Fall because the command to not eat from the Tree of Knowledge was given to the man. But there is a difference in "leading" and "ruling." Even though they were to rule over the creation, it seems that it was not originally intended for men to rule over other men or women. Because of the Fall, the harmony had been broken. Rulership had to be established to keep the creation from falling into complete chaos until there could be a restoration from the Fall.
Rulership is now needed to keep order. Even so, true authority that is working for the redemption and restoration of man is demonstrated by love. It is not domineering, though it may at times be decisive and steadfast. It is liberating when authority is exercised for the sake of those under it. This type of authority is rare, even in the church. Even so, we must pursue true authority until it is recovered. That is why we are told in Ephesians 5:22-28:
Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.
For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body.
But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her;
that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,
that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blameless.
So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife love himself.
The marriage relationship was intended to be a reflection of the love and union between Christ and His church. Until the relationship between men and women has been restored to this, redemption will not be fully worked into our lives.
The woman was taken out of man's side because that was the place she was to have, beside him. They were created differently in many ways and to have different roles, but this did not make one more important than the other. Men were created to carry the burden of certain types of authority, while women have more authority than men in other areas. Even so, authority in the kingdom of God is for serving, not being served. Our goal must be to become the families that truly reflect the relationship between Christ and His church. Then men will look at Christian men and know that this was what they were created to be. Women will look at Christian women and know that this is what they were created to be. Through this, all will begin to perceive just what the Lord intended in His own relationship to the church.
Thursday, May 15, 2014 Hebrews 12:1-2
While everyone wants to feel like a success, many—if not most&mdasheople do not see themselves that way. You may find this surprising, but a lot of Christians don't consider themselves successful either.
One culprit is fear. We may think we lack ability or have insufficient experience to achieve a task God has given us. As a result, fear can become a dominant emotion. Instead of seeing ourselves as moving forward, we begin to visualize our failure. Might that be the case with you when you picture your future?
Another block to success is doubt. It makes us question our thinking, our God-given abilities, and even His direction. If we do not know what the Lord says in His Word, we may find it hard to understand what He is asking of us personally. Doubt can cause us to question whether or not the direction is from Him.
Furthermore, past failures and guilt over prior mistakes can create doubt, just as critical comments from others can impede us. Has doubt slipped into your thinking?
Success can also be hindered by the excuses we offer for not doing what God has asked. Adam blamed Eve; Eve blamed the serpent. Moses said he was not good at public speaking. What excuses have you been offering lately?
There are ways to remove success blockers. Counter your fear with the truth of Scripture; remember you have received a spirit of power from the Lord (2 Tim. 1:7); and invest time in deepening your relationship with God so you will believe His instructions and obey.
Who is he of whom such gracious words are spoken? He is THE GOOD SHEPHERD. Why doth he carry the lambs in his bosom? Because He hath a tender heart, and any weakness at once melts his heart. The sighs, the ignorance, the feebleness of the little ones of his flock draw forth his compassion. It is his office, as a faithful High Priest, to consider the weak. Besides, he purchased them with blood, they are his property: he must and will care for that which cost him so dear. Then he is responsible for each lamb, bound by covenant engagements not to lose one. Moreover, they are all a part of his glory and reward.
But how may we understand the expression, "He will carry them"? Sometimes he carries them by not permitting them to endure much trial. Providence deals tenderly with them. Often they are "carried" by being filled with an unusual degree of love, so that they bear up and stand fast. Though their knowledge may not be deep, they have great sweetness in what they do know. Frequently he "carries" them by giving them a very simple faith, which takes the promise just as it stands, and believingly runs with every trouble straight to Jesus. The simplicity of their faith gives them an unusual degree of confidence, which carries them above the world.
"He carries the lambs in his bosom." Here is boundless affection. Would he put them in his bosom if he did not love them much? Here is tender nearness: so near are they, that they could not possibly be nearer. Here is hallowed familiarity: there are precious love-passages between Christ and his weak ones. Here is perfect safety: in his bosom who can hurt them? They must hurt the Shepherd first. Here is perfect rest and sweetest comfort. Surely we are not sufficiently sensible of the infinite tenderness of Jesus!
Tuesday, May 13, 2014 Hebrews 13:5-6
There are all sorts of ads on television and radio. Frequently when it gets down to the fine print, the announcer speaks so fast that you can't keep up with him. Why does he speak quickly? Because he's reading the part the company would rather you didn't hear. The message they want you to absorb is, Buy it now.
Satan makes a similar presentation: Don't worry about the future; you can have immediate fulfillment now! The strength of his temptations is that worldly things are available immediately. You can have them—for a price—and they will provide temporary gratification.
The enemy doesn't bring up tomorrow. Because he wants us to forfeit our future, he invites us to demand instant fulfillment of our desires. But there's nothing you or I "must have" now that's worth stepping out of God's will or losing the privileges and opportunities He has prepared for us. The Lord has a plan for our lives, and there is absolutely nothing that can compare with His will, His purpose, and His goals.
Our relationship with God is the most important aspect of our existence. No experience at any time in our lives compares in the slightest with knowing Him. Yet every day, because we think we "must have it now" we're tempted to choose what Satan has to offer.
We sacrifice our future when we make irrevocable decisions during times of emotional weakness. Jesus Christ can help us face any temptation or trial Satan can throw our way. The Lord is there for us, and He will never leave us or forsake us.
Trusting the Promises of God
By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.
Has God ever called you to a difficult task? Maybe you were led to witness to a friend or family member who was resistant to the Gospel. Or perhaps God wanted you to lead a Bible study or small group. How did you feel? Were you frightened, nervous, hesitantâor all of the above? God knows that our human emotions can sometimes hold us back, and that is why our Great Provider gives us all the encouragement we need to do His work.
God will not give us an assignment and then just walk away to let us do the work alone. He provides the resources we need to get the job done. He walks with us every step of the way, guiding us and encouraging us. He will never abandon us when we allow Him to work through us. In the words of the psalmist, âYou hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counselâ (Psalm 73:23â24).
In Joshua 1, we see God encouraging Joshua just before he is about to cross the raging Jordan River into the Promised Land. As the new leader of the Israelites, Joshua was in need of some encouragement.
God gave an encouraging promise to Joshua: âBe strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give themâ (Joshua 1:6). Joshua knew he would ultimately have victory because God promised the end result.
When God makes a promise, we can be fully confident that He will never fail us. We can find comfort and strength in the promises of God: âI rejoice in your promise like one who finds great spoilâ (Psalm 119:162). When we trust in the promises of God, we will have confidence to overcome any worry about the obstacles, rejections, or critics we will face.
Prayer: God, thank You for Your promise to never abandon me. Help me to trust in Your promises like Joshua did, so that I may overcome my worries and fears. Amen.
âYour kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations. The LORD is faithful to all his promises and loving toward all he has madeâ (Psalm 145:13).
Monday, May 12, 2014 1 John 3:20
Have you ever heard someone say, “I know God has forgiven me, but I’ll never be able to forgive myself”? While such self-condemnation can spring from several sources, it is, in any case, an enemy the Lord has already defeated. Romans 8:1 tells us, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” This encouraging statement covers all condemnation, including self-recrimination. How, then, should we deal with those condemning voices?
First of all, we need to distinguish between remorse and guilt. We are right to feel sorrow and remorse for past deeds, but to carry guilt for them is not necessary. The Bible assures us that if we confess our sins, God is faithful to forgive us (1 John 1:9). Any lingering feelings of guilt after this are enemies trying to rob us of our freedom in Christ.
Sometimes these feelings of guilt stem from the mistaken notion that we still must pay for our sins, so we unconsciously embrace perpetual remorse as a way to make restitution for past wrongs. Such a practice suggests the faulty idea that Jesus’ precious blood wasn’t sufficient to cover all of the sins from our past, present, and future. Once we finally realize that He has stamped &ldquoaid in full” on our account, then we must never dare to side with those who would have us believe otherwise.
Since our heavenly Father has given us His Word, we can reject all accusing voices and rest on His promise: “For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things” (1 John 3:20NKJV).
Call on Me on Behalf of the Next Generation
By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.
Today we face forces that are attacking our future generations. These forces are unashamedly seeking to destroy our society, our morality, our faith, and our convictions. However, if we are firmly anchored in the Rock of Ages, if we trust in the living God, if we are vigilant in prayer and fellowship with God, our families can stand strong against the enemyâs schemes.
We have a great responsibility to the next generation. They may not yet realize the dangers they are facing or how to pray for protection and guidance, but we know, and we can pray big prayers to God on their behalf. We can pray for God to build our homes and our cities on His foundation. We can model for our families how to pray selflessly and ceaselessly to God, how to trust in Him, and how to cling to His promises. And as we pray, we can trust that the Lord will work in their lives to nurture their love for Him, strengthen their resolve, give them wisdom, and make them powerhouses for Him. Only God can build a home and guard a city, and that is why we need to call upon the Lord on behalf of the next generation.
CallonMeThe psalmist describes the next generation as arrows: âLike arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in oneâs youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gateâ (Psalm 127:4-5). Letâs pray that our children will become arrows into the heart of the enemy. When they face spiritual warfare, when they witness the moral decay around them, when they see the enemyâs foothold in our society, may they be like arrows in the hand of the Almighty God to penetrate the enemy territories and to shatter the spiritual deceptions.
How much time do you spend in prayer for the next generation? Even if you do not have children, God wants to hear your prayers for the future of His people. He wants you to model how to live a life of faith and devotion to Him. We need to show the next generation that God is not a stranger, but He is our Father and our friend and our comforter and our foundation.
If you are struggling in your faith and commitment to daily prayer, pray for the Holy Spiritâs help. Your walk with Christ can affect the generations to come. Commit to modeling for them a daily fellowship with God. Commit today to praying diligently for your home, your city, and your nation. Commit to living the life of faith that you are professing to your children.
âWe will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has doneâ (Psalm 78:4).
Friday, May 9, 2014 Jeremiah 9:23-24
Yesterday we read about the fruit produced in a Spirit-filled life and noted that all the other qualities are expressions of the first one—love (Gal. 5:22-23). Author Ray Stedman explains, “After all, joy is love enjoying itself; peace is love resting; patience is love waiting; kindness is love reacting; goodness is love choosing; faithfulness is love keeping its word; gentleness is love empathizing; and self-control is love resisting temptation.”
Let’s focus on kindness, which he says is how love reacts. It is revealed in . . .
• Generous thoughts that look for the good first.
• Sensitive words that are spoken to the unruly for discipline and the well-behaved for praise.
• Considerate responses that are made in the face of anger or injustice.
• Intentional actions that benefit others without personal gain.
Think of your responses over the past week. Might there be any irritation, impatience, or words you wish you could take back?
Kindness is not something that we put on for certain occasions, like a piece of jewelry; rather, it is an attribute of God’s that He desires to reproduce in us. Take time to bow your head and acknowledge how kind your heavenly Father has been to you. Confess any acts of unkindness, and receive the forgiveness He promises (1 John 1:9). Then ask Him to continue working through the Holy Spirit to develop the fruit of kindness in you. Tell Him you know that is one of the qualities He delights in and you desire it to be evident in you.
Thursday, May 8, 2014 Galatians 5:22-23
When a lawyer asked which commandment was greatest, Jesus’ answer was, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” He also quoted a second one: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:37, 39). What an overwhelming assignment!
In our own strength, none of us can live up to this obligation, but God has provided a way for Christians to do the impossible. The indwelling Holy Spirit works to produce His fruit in us, and first on the list is love (Gal. 5:22). In fact, the other eight qualities are really just descriptions of its expression.
Whenever we demonstrate kindness, patience, or gentleness, we see the Lord’s love at work through us, especially when the other person has been unkind and doesn’t deserve such pleasant treatment. This fruit is not produced by trying harder to muster good will toward someone who is irritating or hard to get along with. Instead, think of the process more like sap running through a branch on a grapevine. The branch doesn’t make grapes; the sap does. In the same way, the Spirit flows through us, producing God’s love in us so that we, in turn, can pass it on to others.
Agape—or divine love—is the reason we are able to care for someone who mistreats us; it’s God’s doing, not ours. Even the adoration we offer the Lord is not something that we can produce in our own heart apart from His assistance. Though the command to love is enormous and weighty, God’s grace is enough to make it possible.
Such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus. —1 Corinthians 6:11
Years ago in a worship service, pastor Ray Stedman stepped to the pulpit and read the text for the day: “Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. Some of you were once like that” (1 Cor. 6:9-11 nlt).
Then he looked up, a bemused smile on his face, and said, “I’m curious: How many of you have one or more of these sins in your background? If so, will you stand?”
There was a young man there who had never been in a church before. He had recently been saved at a Billy Graham crusade and came with fear and trembling to church that Sunday, not knowing what he would find. He later told me that when he heard the pastor’s question, he looked around to see if anyone would stand. At first no one did, but then most of the congregation was on their feet. He said to himself, “These are my kind of people!”
We can all find ourselves in Paul’s list in 1 Corinthians. But when we confess our sin and accept the gift of eternal life paid for by the death of Jesus, we become a new creation saved by grace (Rom. 6:23; 2 Cor. 5:17). —David Roper
Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling.
-Our Daily Bread
And the serpent said to the woman, "You surely shall not die!
"For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened,
and you will be like God, knowing good and evil" (Genesis 3:4-5).
When the devil saw that the woman had already shown a subtle disrespect for God's command by adding to it, he then pushed her all of the way into the trap by boldly contradicting God. When Eve did not recoil at this, her fate was sealed. If we are prone to either add to or take away from the Word of God, we will be prime candidates for deception. If we do not take a stand against the blatant contradictions to God's Word, we will likewise be easy prey for the crafty.
In contrast to Eve, when Jesus was tempted by the devil, He took His stand on God's Word. The foundation of obedience is having it settled in our hearts that God's Word is true. Whenever we are being tempted, we should flee to the Word of God and search for what the Bible says on the issue. It is very unlikely that Eve would have eaten the forbidden fruit if she had waited to ask God about the serpent's assertions. The Lord promises us that if we seek, we will find (see Matthew 7:7). He will teach us His ways if we seek Him. It is not wrong to take our questions to the Lord.
We should also note that the very first recorded lie of Satan was "You surely shall not die." This is still his basic lie, and the great deception that is the root of most false religions and beliefs. Yet, the Word of God is clear, "For the wages of sin is death" (see Romans 6:23). Sin leads to death. It does not matter how crafty the philosophies or religions sound, if we believe anything other than God's Word, it will be our doom.
What is sin? It is disobeying God. He made us, and He knows what is best for us. He only established one rule for the first man and woman, and it was to protect them. He did not say to them that the day they ate from the fruit of the tree that He was going to kill them. He said that the day they ate from it, they would die. He knew that the fruit was poison. It was the fruit that would kill them, and it did. The Lord always has our best interests in mind. He has only designated those things as sin that will hurt us and His creation.
God has established guidelines for our lives. If we insist on bending the rules, it will result in our own destruction. These rules were not made just to frustrate us, but rather to keep us safe. Sin kills. Disobedience is sin, and it will always result in tragedy. Let us establish in our hearts that God is good, His ways are all righteous and true, and it is for our good that He has established the guidelines by which we should live. If we desire understanding, let us ask for the sake of becoming more perfect in our obedience.
We should also note that the Tree of Knowledge is in the middle of the Garden. This is also indicative of the primary result of eating its fruitâself-centeredness. When Adam and Eve ate from it, the first thing that they did was look at themselves. God-centeredness leads to life, while self-centeredness leads to death. The final push of the serpent to get the woman to eat the forbidden fruit was to get her to think that God was withholding something that she needed to feel complete. If the enemy can get us to focus on ourselves, especially on real or perceived personal inadequacies, we will then be easy prey for deception.
The enemy's strategy is to get us to look at ourselves, either the good or the bad, instead of looking to the adequacy of the Lord. By this we can usually recognize what the devil is planting in our hearts to lead us astray. Again, the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge kills by getting us to look at ourselves. In contrast to this, eating from the Tree of Life will result in our being Christ-centered. It is not who we are in Him, but who He is in us that leads to life and power.
We must know what sin is and be able to recognize it, but keeping our attention focused on the sin is not the path to a sin-free life. We do need to understand the schemes of the devil, but we must not keep our attention on him, or concern ourselves with knowing his ways too deeply. We are told in I Corinthians 11:31, "But if we judged ourselves rightly, we should not be judged." It is therefore right that we examine ourselves, but if we focus on self, we will fall.
We must focus our attention on the Lord and behold His glory if we are going to be changed into His image. We must guard against any doctrine, or person, which tries to make us focus our attention on ourselves, the devil, or sin. The key word here is "focus." Follow those who are following Christ, growing in the knowledge of who He is, and getting ever closer to Him.
I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir.
God desires us to make use of every opportunity for securing a preparation for His work. He expects us to put all our energies into its performance, and to keep our hearts alive to its sacredness and its fearful responsibilities.
Many who are qualified to do excellent work accomplish little because they attempt little. Thousands pass through life as if they had no great object for which to live, no high standard to reach. One reason of this is the low estimate which they place upon themselves. Christ paid an infinite price for us, and according to the price paid He desires us to value ourselves.
Be not satisfied with reaching a low standard. We are not what we might be, or what it is God's will that we should be. God has given us reasoning powers, not to remain inactive, or to be perverted to earthly and sordid pursuits, but that they may be developed to the utmost, refined, sanctified, ennobled, and used in advancing the interests of His kingdom.http://feeds.feedburner.com/~r/BibleUniverseDailyDevotionals/~4/yD1IyfiecGA?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email" border="0" width="1" height="1">
Monday, May 5, 2014 Deuteronomy 7:17-19
Like a deer paralyzed by the sudden appearance of headlights, we can be brought to a standstill by unexpected emotions or circumstances. We stare blindly at the unforeseen event, unable to think or move—helplessness has moved in with us. It is in those initial moments, when our mind is blank and our emotions frozen, that we are most vulnerable. Satan and his cohorts stand ready to whisper lies into our mind and distract us from the truth.
The Bible is essential in many ways, especially in its ability to point us to the truth. The Scriptures are a record of God’s relationship and work in and through the nation of Israel and the New Testament church. We are blessed as we read how He worked in people’s lives. It is important to develop a habit of Scripture reading so that when we face a crisis, our automatic response will be to turn to God’s Word.
A personal diary or journal is also invaluable. Why? Because it is a record of how the Lord has worked in our own life. If not recorded, many details would be forgotten. These details give a marvelous testimony to God’s presence in our life and His intervention on our behalf.
In the Old Testament, Israel was often instructed to remember what God had done. Writing down how He’s made Himself known to you personally will help you recall His goodness. It will also assist you in fighting the lies of the enemy, who says that you are helpless. God’s Word and your recorded testimony of His work in your life form a powerful weapon to make helplessness flee.
Pursuing the Kingdom of God
By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.
Every day, millions of people pray the Lordâs Prayer without understanding what it means to pray, âThy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heavenâ (Matthew 6:10 KJV). When you pray this to the Lord, you are saying, âYou rule supreme over my life.â As followers of Christ, we are pledging our allegiance to Him by saying, âKing Jesus, may Your priorities be my preoccupation.â
You cannot say that you are a member of the Kingdom of God without Jesus being the King of your lifeâbecause the King and the Kingdom are inseparable. If you pray for the Kingdom to come and for Godâs will to be done, then you are saying, âKing Jesus, take over.â You are abdicating the throne of your life, for God to become the very center of who you are.
When most people pray, they focus on their plans, needs, and agendas. God cares about our lives and wants us to ask Him for our needs in prayer (see 1 Peter 5:7). Human needs are not irrelevant in prayer. However, if our perceived needs become the focus of our lives, then they can become our godâand thatâs a problem. When our needs become the focus of our lives, it is not long before we cease to pray, âYour will be done,â and instead begin to pray for our own will to be done.
Jesus encouraged His disciples when he said, âDo not worry, saying, âWhat shall we eat?â or âWhat shall we drink?â or âWhat shall we wear?â For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as wellâ (Matthew 6:31-33).
You cannot pledge allegiance to two kingdoms. Either you are pursuing the kingdom of the world system, or you are pursuing the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ. You cannot serve two masters because you cannot have divided loyalty.
Prayer: Father, help me to be completely loyal to Your kingdom. Help me to put You and Your Kingdom first in my life. Amen.
âNo one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the otherâ (Matthew 6:24).
Saturday, May 3, 2014 2 Chronicles 20:5-12
Yesterday, we saw what Jehoshaphat did when he found himself in a seemingly hopeless situation. Today, let’s extract another principle from the story as we learn how to handle helplessness.
In verses 5-12, Jehoshaphat is still focused on the Lord, which should also be our first response to fear. Yet notice what he does in this prayer. He is not looking forward, stating his fears of what might happen. Instead, he is remembering the past, recounting the times in the nation’s history when God brought Israel through similar “helpless” situations.
How often has the Lord done a mighty work on your behalf when all seemed lost? He is actively involved in our lives today. Sadly, we often thank Him in the moment but then forget what He’s done for us. Later, when we are fearful again, it’s far too easy to forget how He has already proven Himself in our lives.
We all need encouragement when we feel powerless. At such times, it helps to be mindful of what the sovereign Lord has achieved throughout history and in the world today. Not only that, but it’s also extremely valuable to recall the ways our loving Father has worked in our own lives.
God knows our faith is strengthened when we take His track record into account. That’s why the Bible so often instructs us to remember what the Lord has done—and to share that information with our family members.
In thinking about His many blessings, you view God’s work from a new perspective. You’ll start to see how He’s weaving the individual threads of your life to create a beautiful tapestry—for His glory.
Friday, May 2, 2014 2 Chronicles 20:1-4
Have you ever felt totally helpless? Can you remember facing a situation or emergency in which you were completely powerless? It's a sobering experience for anyone. Even people who claim to be wholly dependent on God still like to feel as if they have some control over their circumstances.
Jehoshaphat faced a moment like that. In today's verses, the good king was confronted with dangerous news: Three different armies had joined forces to destroy Israel. As he listened to the report, "a great multitude" of attackers were already on their way (v. 2).
What was the king's response? Verse 3 tells us he was "afraid". That makes perfect sense—he no doubt felt utterly powerless. However, even in that moment of helplessness, he knew exactly what to do. Scripture doesn't say, "Jehoshaphat was afraid and ran away" or "Jehoshaphat was afraid but charged headlong into battle." Instead, the Bible tells us that "Jehoshaphat was afraid and turned his attention to seek the LORD" (emphasis added).
That was the perfect response to a helpless situation. The king knew that this was neither the time to give up nor the time to take action motivated by fear. Instead, he did the only wise thing he could—he prayed. More than that, he asked others to pray. And suddenly, the whole situation changed because God had been brought into a hopeless situation.
When we feel helpless, the first word out of our mouth should be "Father". From then on, helplessness isn't an issue, because God will provide what we need.
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
Jesus emptied Himself, and in all that He did self did not appear. He subordinated all things to the will of His Father. When His mission on earth was about to close, He could say, "I have glorified Thee on the earth: I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do." And He bids us, "Learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart." "If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself"; let self be dethroned, and no longer hold the supremacy of the soul.
He who beholds Christ in His self-denial, His lowliness of heart, will be constrained to say, as did Daniel when he beheld One like the sons of men, "My comeliness was turned in me into corruption." . . . Human nature is ever struggling for expression, ready for contest; but he who learns of Christ is emptied of self, of pride, of love of supremacy, and there is silence in the soul. Self is yielded to the disposal of the Holy Spirit. Then we are not anxious to have the highest place.
We have no ambition to crowd and elbow ourselves into notice; but we feel that our highest place is at the feet of our Saviour. We look to Jesus, waiting for His hand to lead, listening for His voice to guide. The apostle Paul had this experience, and he said, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me."
byr. David Jeremiah
And we have known and believed the love that God has for us.
1 John 4:16a
1 John 4:7-19
The evidence of God's love has existed since the beginning of the world. When God created man, He gave him a beautiful garden, a companion, and a purpose. Instead of withdrawing from the world after its creation, God remained involved. Even after Adam and Eve sinned and were banished from the Garden of Eden, God did not abandon them.
We are sometimes tempted to believe the lie that God does not love us. Thankfully the Bible is filled with evidence that this is not true. We see God's love illustrated through the prophets. Their inspired message proclaimed God's desire for fellowship and intimacy with His people, despite the people's unfaithfulness. When Jesus came to earth, He loved the unlovable, healed the sick, and gave generously of Himself and His resources. Perhaps the most poignant picture of God's love is the cross. Jesus suffered so that we could have forgiveness, life, and restored fellowship with God.
We have been given the gift of life. The intricacy and wonder of creation reveal a God who cares about details and leaves nothing to chance. He created you. He loves you. When you feel distant from God, remember that He wants to be involved in the details of your life. He is with you.