We all want to hear the praises of others. It is very important that we each learn who to listen to early in our lives. I will warn you that the praise of men stroke the pride in each of us. When you are playing sports, you are hoping to hear the applause of the fans for you when you make that winning shot. When I was a boy, I would shoot baskets alone, or throw a ball by myself, or hit a ball and I would become the radio announcer. I would tell the situation with the game on the line, and me in the center of the field/court with all eyes on me. I would even make the sounds of the crowd as I prepared to do the amazing athletic activity! All of us have this desire in our lives.
I want to warn you of two things. First, the Devil will always have people around you that will cheer you when you do the wrong things. He will use this applause to encourage you to get out of the will of God, just to hear the praise! Be careful of that. The second thing about the praise of men is that it usually is fairly empty. It sounds good when you are hearing it, but it does not last very long. People often praise you, just to say the words. Solomon had these words to say about it: “It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools” (Ecclesiastes 7:5).
There will always be a fool ready to sing your song. Their motivation might be to get you to join their cause. It might be to get you off the track from doing what is right. It might be, to prepare you to help them, or join their cause in the future. It might be just an empty song, just for the sake of singing. Whatever the motivation, it is important for you and I to avoid this kind of praise.
Knowing that we each desire to hear praise from others; and knowing that fools will be ready to give praise; let’s determine that we will do all we can to listen instead for the “rebuke” of the wise. Hmmmm … would I rather hear praise, or rebuke? I would rather the praise, but the reality is that it is the rebuke that will benefit me the most. Today, make it a point to look for those who are willing to help you by saying the difficult things to you. These are the ones who will help us more than those who give empty flattery. Also, try to be the person who is honest with those you love. Don’t be foolish and give empty compliments and praise in order to make friends.
Men have always thought they knew better than God when talking about the issues of life. They have exalted themselves above the Word of God; above the commandments God clearly gave; above the doctrines of the church. Mankind in general continues to think that there will come a time when God will ignore what He has clearly stated, and agree with their ideas and opinions. I want to encourage you to be careful today that you agree with God and not try to struggle against His plan.
I am not referring only to His commandments and doctrine, but His perfect plan for your life. Do you know that God has a perfect plan for you? He has an individual will for you that no one else shares. He has that plan for you so that it fits the perfect plan He has for every other one of His children. We each need to do our part to make His plan work. However, we often act as though we know better than Him, and we do not follow His plan. The psalmist wrote; “Now consider this, ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver. Whoso offereth praise glorifieth Me: and to him that ordereth his conversation aright will I show the salvation of God” (Psalm 50:22-23).
I’m not real smart, but even I know that I would rather have the salvation of God than be torn apart by Him. Don’t be fooled by the things you hear in this world today. I just read this morning on a news website how religion is being threatened again in our nation. They are trying to remove the word “God” from a simple statement because they say it is threatening to some. Bible verses are being removed from documents that are from the history of our country. We have seen this coming, and we will see it continue. When you see it, be totally aware that God is still God. Those who forget Him will suffer the consequences of Psalm 50:22. They will have none to deliver them.
I do not write this devotional to attack them, but to encourage you to stand strong for God. I want you to experience the salvation of the Lord, not the punishment that comes from ignoring Him. Let it be sufficient for each of us to realize that we are living in a world that hates God, but in a world that desperately needs to know Him. His desire is to shed His love on all them. Even though they might shake their fist in His face, He desires to save them through the blood of His Son. Stay in the center of His will today! He is depending on us to stand for Him in this darkening world!
“All the darkness in the world cannot put out one candle.” – Unknown
There is a familiar story in the Old Testament about Joseph, one of the sons of Jacob. His brothers learned to hate him because he was the “favorite” son, and because he had dreams. He told his brothers of two dreams he had where they all had bowed down to him. Of course, we know “the rest of the story.” They eventually did bow down to him, and God used him to save their lives during a horrible famine in their area. All this is background to one phrase I want to share with you today. After having the dream, Joseph was sent by his father to check on his brothers. When he was approaching them from the distance … “… they said one to another, ‘Behold, this dreamer cometh’” (Genesis 37:19).
I believe this statement was made mockingly, not with admiration. You see, these brothers hated Joseph in the present because he had revealed something to them that was going to happen in the future, and their pride was revolted by the idea. I am not saying that you need to have “visions” that enable you to look into the future and see what’s going to happen. I’m not saying that we need “fortune-tellers” today. I am saying that each of us as believers ought to have a vision and a dream for what God wants us to do in the future that should drive us today.
One of the most spectacular things about being a teenager is an unlimited view of what “could” be. The enthusiasm that recognizes that there are going to be challenges and obstacles, but there are still great opportunities ahead of us. What a sad day when we “mature” enough that we stop dreaming! That is a horrible day when you stop believing that God can do thing that are far beyond your abilities and resources, and you step out by faith. Today I want to encourage each person reading this to keep on “dreaming.” Keep on looking to God for things you cannot reach on your own.
Just as a child might ask help from their parent to reach that peanut butter that is on the higher shelf they cannot reach; ask God to help you reach today far beyond your capabilities into His capabilities. Joseph was mockingly called “this dreamer” by his brothers. A few years into the future, his brothers were praising God that he was a dreamer, and that God had used him to save the lives of them and their families. Don’t let other’s lack of faith influence you from dreaming of what God wants for you!
“Had I cared for the comments of people, I should never have been a missionary.” – C.T. Studd
When I was a young boy, I loved to watch the Saturday morning TV show called “The Lone Ranger.” The Lone Ranger was a cowboy who traveled around and helped people who were in trouble. He always showed up at the perfect time to rescue those in trouble. He used silver bullets, and when he was gone people would notice that he had been there by the silver bullet. He wore a little black mask with eye holes so you could not tell who he was. Another favorite show I liked growing up was a show called “Zorro.” He also rescued people too, but he used a sword and would always slash the letter “Z” on the person he had defeated. He too wore a mask.
I find that there are times in my life that I put on a mask too. I don’t use a sliver bullet, or a sword, and I am not wearing that mask to rescue people. I put on my “Christian” mask so other people will think I am more spiritual than I really am. You see, just like you, I want to be accepted by people, and if I’m not careful, I will begin to play the game of Christianity without being authentically committed to Christ. Today I read, “Behold, Thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part Thou shalt make me to know wisdom” (Psalm 51:6).
God is not interested in the masks I put on to appear spiritual, He is looking far deeper into my heart and wants to see truth there. Truth in the inward part of me is what God desires. Truth that gets deep into my heart will produce wisdom. Truth that gets deep into my heart will cause me to remove the masks I like to put on. Truth in the inward part of me will change what I do on the outward part of me. There is a great temptation today for Christians to simply look the part of Christianity without having any inward truth. It’s easy to dress the part … to use the right Christian words … to appear compassionate … to fake interest in what someone is saying to you, only to turn and ignore them.
Stop the trend of putting on your mask. When you tell someone you will pray for them … do it! When you hear of a need that you can meet … give! When your heart is stirred … go forward … confess … forsake … surrender! Allow God to reveal sin to you, and then get it right with Him so He can reveal wisdom from you. There is no way to hide anything from God. Confess your sin. Ask God to restore you to fellowship with Him. Go out and help others with authentic wisdom from God.
When I was growing up, I heard that phrase from all over … “Jimmy, listen to your elders.” I heard it at home from Dad and Mom. I heard it at church from Sunday School teachers and Pastors. I heard it in school from teachers (yes, I am so old that I remember when teachers tried to help build a moral compass in young hearts). I heard this statement everywhere I went, it seemed. I guess it sunk into my heart, because through this day, I try to listen to my elders. You will notice that I was not instructed to “agree with” my elders, but simply to give importance to what they said to me.
When I was eight years old, we moved into a house my Grandmother and her husband (my Grandfather had graduated to Heaven when my mother was twelve) had purchased. We moved in because her husband passed away, and my grandmother could not afford to pay the mortgage. We moved in to help her … but I believe God had other plans that we were not aware of at the time. I lived in the same house with this little lady that had survived the Great Depression, while raising eight children. She had served as a maid (house-cleaner, dish washer, seamstress, etc.) to a rich family in the area. She had survived the death of two husbands. Through all these things, she had remained a woman committed to the Word of God and to the God of the Word.
I remember sitting beside her bed, listening to her tell stories about our family. Interspersed throughout the stories were Bible principles that had worked and were now being handed down to me. The book of Proverbs says, “Bow down thine ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply thine heart unto My knowledge” (Proverbs 22:17). When wise people are available to you – wise people being those who will share HIS knowledge with you – stop what you are doing and listen. Did you know that all the answers to life cannot be found on Google?
It is surprising what you will learn if you stop and sit and listen to those who have been through the battles of life and survived. Listening to those who have held firmly to the Word of God will help you to gain experience that you did not pay the price for. There is great wisdom in this verse, but, I am afraid, wisdom we are neglecting for the most part today. Find someone who has walked with God for some time, and get to know them. Listen to what interests them. Ask questions that are on your heart today and be quiet and listen to what they have to say. This is God’s plan for your education.
“Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord: though hand join in hand, he shall not be unpunished. By mercy and truth iniquity is purged: and by the fear of the Lord men depart from evil” (Proverbs 16:5-6).
One of the things I love about the Bible is how clearly it is written. When I was a young boy, I began to memorize the Word of God, and those verses are just as beneficial to me today as they were as a boy, a teen, a young adult, and now a mature (old) man. God’s Word lays out what God thinks. He is not impressed with what the world says is best. He knows the heart of man. What is in your heart today? Consider the two verses above, and ask God to help you live in a way today that will please Him.
There are two distinctly different people introduced to us in Proverbs 16. The one is characterized by being “proud in heart.” This person is not the person God wants you to be. This person is described as an “abomination to the Lord.” I don’t think I need to explain that at all! God hates the person who is filled with pride! The second part of that verse says that it doesn’t matter how many of them line up together and spout off their worth, they are still an abomination! They can line up hand in hand all over your country … still an abomination. Before we start trying to point out who these people are … look in the mirror. I believe pride is one of the common enemies to all of us. All of us want our way and think we are always right. That is a part of our human nature (unfortunately).
This is the person God does not like … but the writer then describes the kind of person God is looking to bless. This person is characterized by mercy, truth, and the fear of the Lord. This is the person I am not naturally, but want to become. I certainly want God to pour out His mercy on me. I want God to reveal His truth to me. When it comes to me fearing Him enough to turn over the controls of my life … that’s where it gets tough. I am naturally a person with pride, but I want to live above what is “natural,” and live a life that pleases my Heavenly Father. Do not be fooled … God is not impressed with pride – and it doesn’t matter how many of you line up hand in hand and agree about it. God is looking today for people who will demonstrate mercy and truth. He is looking for someone to fear Him and walk in His ways. Volunteer today! It will be an exciting ride!
“… Now mine eye seeth Thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” – Job the patriarch
There was a song some years ago that I believe was called, “Peace in the Midst of the Storm.” The idea of that song was the story of Jesus sleeping in the bottom of the ship while the disciples feared for their lives on the deck. I read a verse today that is one of my favorite verses in the Bible. Jesus clearly stated this: “These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
I just love how Jesus worded this verse. We can be sure that while we are serving God here on this earth we are going to face opposition, and have people that will not like us. Don’t be surprised when the world hates you for taking a stand for God! The world hated Jesus first! By the way, if you are not going against the flow of this world in your life, you are not living for Jesus Christ. There should be opposition to your testimony! There ought to be people that are disturbed by your love for God! That should be the normal behavior of we Christians … however, too many of us have fallen into the trap of trying to please God and this world at the same time. We cannot do both – what pleases one, makes the other mad. Choose which you will serve today.
Jesus clearly stated in this verse that when we remain in Him we will have peace. If we move away from him, there will be winds of war. He quickly added that it is sure that we will have tribulation (troubles) in this world. My favorite part of this verse is that last phrase “… I have overcome the world.” Simple, straightforward, and absolutely true! Can you imagine just before a game where you are facing an opponent that seems too much to handle, that someone would come to you and tell you that they had the ability to look into the future, and they knew you were going to win this game? What a joy to know that you are a winner even before you start to fight!
The key is to remain IN Jesus Christ! There is no peace outside Jesus. There is no promised victory if you face the battles of life on your own (just ask Jonah how he made our). There will be troubles in your life as a Christian, but there is a promise of ultimate victory if we remain standing in Jesus Christ! One of my former Pastors reminded me often, “Stay under the spout where the glory comes out” (Dr. Shelton Smith). Today there will be battles … stay close to your Master … He is a winner!
“He that hath knowledge spareth his words: and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit. Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding” (Proverbs 17:27-28).
I have a good friend who is far more intelligent than I am. When we are together having a conversation, he will pause to choose just the right word to explain what he is thinking. When he pauses, I will try to fill in the blank he has left with the pause in the conversation. Most times he simply says, “No, that’s not what I’m talking about …” I am learning that I don’t always need to be talking. I am learning that I am not always right (that is a tough lesson for any of us to learn). I am learning that I don’t have all the answers and that sometimes the best thing for me to do is to remain quiet and think before answering.
There are plenty of people who are more than willing to give their opinion to you today about how to live your life … spend your money … do your job … raise your family … choose your mate … etc. You can join them and try to act the part of an expert on every subject, or you can practice these verses in Proverbs 17 today. The words in these two verses above are very convicting to me. I want to be a wise man. I do not want to be called a fool. There is a fine line between the time to speak and the time to remain still and quiet. I want to have that godly discernment and speak at the times God leads me to, and remain quiet if He has not.
I think the key to these verses is to use the knowledge God has given us at the appropriate times. If we do not have knowledge on a subject, or if someone else has more knowledge than we do, it is best for us to remain quiet. In the Old Testament book of Job, his friends had come to comfort him. They were doing that until they began to speak! Once the talking started, they could not resist trying to sound like an expert and offer their advice. Most of their advice was incorrect because they had a lack of knowledge and understanding about the reason Job had been afflicted to begin with. This lack of knowledge did not stop them … and they served to be more of a pain than a comfort. Use your words wisely today and be a blessing even in your silence! When you speak … make those words count for the betterment of those hearing.
“I ask God for things, but He never answers my prayers …” “I have become frustrated with God because He never gives me the things I want Him to give me!” I have heard these statements and many others like them over the years. It seems that we have the idea that God is like some Genie in a bottle that we can rub and get anything we wish for, or desire. This is nothing new. People for decades have thought that God was in Heaven to carry out their will, not His own. Perhaps you have fallen into this same way of thinking, and as a result, you are either mad at God or disappointed with His attention to what you want.
Mary, Martha and Lazarus were friends of Jesus while He lived on this earth. Lazarus became ill and his sisters sent for Jesus. They had faith to believe that if Jesus arrived and touched their brother, that he would be healed. Jesus purposely waited enough time that Lazarus died and was buried. When Jesus finally arrived at their home, the gossip among the people went like this … “And some of them said, ‘Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died’” (John 11:37)? It made sense to all who were listening … I’m sure there was more than one head nodding in agreement. After all, anyone could see the logic of this question. The people gathered had seen Jesus do miracles that were not as difficult as this one might have been. Human reasoning would tell you that He could have fixed this situation too, but He hadn’t … He failed …
How many times have you been tempted to complain to God that His timing was off? How many times did you ask for healing for yourself, or a loved one, and it did not come, or it took too long to happen (in your opinion)? It is time for us to realize that God does not need our wisdom, our opinions, or suggestions to accomplish His will. Certainly Jesus can do anything. He could have come a week earlier and healed Lazarus … but we would not have such an amazing story, and Lazarus would not have had nearly as powerful a testimony as he had for the remainder of his life. God does not make mistakes. Don’t fight His timing, or His will. He has things planned for you that will bring the ultimate glory to Himself and His Heavenly Father. Don’t struggle today against God and His plan. Rest in the fact that He is the Resurrection and the Life. Nothing is impossible for our God. Trust Him today with your life, death and the parts in between.
“Resist the urge to criticize.” – Unknown
When someone comes to you with some trouble you have gotten into; wouldn’t it be nice to simply say, “Call my lawyer!” It would be nice to have a lawyer on call to be able to get us out of the trouble that we seem to find ourselves in. As a believer, we have Someone far better than any earthly lawyer that defends us when we sin. His name is Jesus Christ!
“My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (I John 2:1-2).
Can you picture the courtroom scene that might happen? There in the front of the room, raised up from the level where the common man stands, sits the righteous Judge, our God. Down below we stand at the desk in front of the judge’s seat with nothing more than our own guilt and sin. There is no denying the fact that we have been less than perfect. There is no denying that we owe a penalty for the things we have done wrong. Next to us stands the Devil with a smile from ear to ear because he knows we are filled with guilt and sin.
About that time, the back doors of the courtroom open and Jesus Christ, our righteous Advocate enters the room. It’s interesting how the smile now fades from the face of the Devil, and is transferred to the Judge! After all, Jesus Christ is His only begotten Son! As Jesus comes to the seat next to us, He reveals to us nail-scarred hands … we realize some things that day with Jesus. First, we are absolutely guilty and have a debt to pay for our sin. Second, He took that sin to the cross suffered our penalty for that sin. Third, our acceptance of His death on the cross means that our debt for that sin has already been paid.
Jesus doesn’t need a briefcase … He doesn’t need a legal pad with notes scribbled all over it … He doesn’t need witnesses to come … He doesn’t need a fancy speech at the end of the trial. He simply brings with Him one book. He opens the Book of Life to the section that contains your name. He approaches the Judges bench (God) and shows Him the page. God asks all to rise and makes the declaration. This sinner is forgiven! This sinner has their name written in the Lambs Book of Life and the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world is here to prove it! WOW!
When the Devil tries to convince you today that you are unworthy, or that you have no right to do anything for God … take Him to your Advocate!
When I was a Youth Pastor, we would make a hay maze every year in a local farmer’s barn. We made paths through the hay bales that led to a destination where hot chocolate and snacks were waiting. It was interesting to see how the teams worked. We sent people through in groups of four and timed each group, giving a prize to the quickest team to make it through. After years of experience, these teams would get their heads together before entering, working on their strategy for success. Most times, one person became the leader and would be the person making decisions for the rest of the group. It was tough because it was totally dark in the tunnel and the leader was given multiple choices throughout the maze. One wrong choice could lead them to a dead end, and ultimately, defeat.
In the Christian life we have a Leader Who can see through any difficulty that might confront us in life and ministry. Jesus Christ led by example and encouraged us to do the same. His example was humility. After eating His last meal (with His disciples before the crucifixion) Jesus wrapped the clothing of a servant around Him, and took and towel to wash the feet of the disciples. As He made His way around the room, it fell silent. The disciples watched as the King of all kings humiliated Himself and became the servant of all of them. Jesus, after finishing the washing, said, ‘If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you” (John 13:14-15).
If you are not careful, you might find yourself following the CEO of your company today. You might find that you have begun to view the people around you like resources that you can use to advance your plan. You might even follow one of the many millionaire athletes that are playing sports today. You follow their lead in what you wear, how you talk, and in your attitude toward others. You might follow a favorite actor/actress that you have admired in a movie recently. The things they wear, the way they cut their hair, etc. are copied completely by you.
Whose example are you following today. Will you follow someone from this world into a dead end in life? Or, will you follow Jesus Christ and serve others for the glory of God? Jesus laid out a plan for living that He wants each of us to follow. He is still inviting you today to “Follow Me.” Get in line and stay on course!
“People are more impressed by behavior than beliefs.” – Unknown
Have you ever felt that you were mental over-matched when facing a problem. Like you could not figure out the answer, and you just did not have enough wisdom to ever know what was right to do? Join the group of the rest of us that have felt that very thing. Here are some encouraging words for you today … “For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of His mouth cometh knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 2:6). This is the source of wisdom. I know in my own life there have been many times when I have been unable to know what to do in a certain situation. Maybe you are like me … I will try to “fix” whatever is wrong by doing what I think it will take to make it right; and when it doesn’t work, I will try that exact same thing over and over again. There is some statement about the insanity of thinking you can repeat the same action over and over and expect different results … that often describes me.
We are living in very difficult times. Not that our times are any more challenging than at other points in history, but we are certainly living in challenging times. There are times I find myself asking, “What is this world coming to?” As much as any other time in history, we need the help of God to know what we are to do, in the situations we find ourselves facing. Human reasoning can only take us so far, and then we are lost. We definitely need the help of a God Who is seeing the entire picture. I know it is challenging to release the controls to someone else in your life, but in this case, it is the only way for success to come.
What a blessing to know that we have a God who is omniscient (all knowing) to guide us and instruct us. Let me ask two simple questions: Did you know that God has all the answers? I’m sure you answered, “Yes.” Then the second question is this: Why don’t you trust Him more? Why don’t we run to Him with every challenge we face? Why do we try to “fix” everything ourselves and turn to Him as a last resort? Why are we so intent on trying to take the place of God? The message of this simple verse from Proverbs is that we ought to be depending on the God Who can provide the answers as well as give the wisdom we will need to make wise choices. Today determine that you will give over the controls to Him. He can steer you into the right place with the answer to ever challenge along the way. Trust Him today and not your own wisdom. Depend on Him to provide today, and don’t try to do it alone!
“God is at the beginning and the end of a God-ordained vision” – Unknown