There was a familiar statement that my parents made to me many times when I was growing up. It went something like this; “Birds of a feather flock together.” The other question I heard many times was, “If everyone else jumps off a bridge, will you jump too?” The idea is the same … the people you spend time with will heavily influence the way you think and eventually act. It is so important that we have good relationships with godly people who will be able to influence our way of thinking. Our way of thinking will eventually result in actions that will determine the success or failure of our lives.
“Whoso keepeth the law is a wise son: But he that is a companion of riotous men shameth his father” (Proverbs 28:7). There are two keys in this verse that really set out the plan for living a successful Christian life: The Word of God; and the right friends. I cannot stress enough the importance of making the Word of God the foundation upon which you build your opinions and convictions. It is not a good idea to allow your friends to build your foundation. God alone is the One to give you the truths to build your life upon. God has the wisdom for all the situations you will face in your life, and He has provided the owners manual for your life … the Bible. Don’t ever minimize the importance of allowing the Word of God to seep into your heart. Those truths are the ones that will hold you when everything and everyone around you is spinning out of control. Without a firm foundation, other people can easily move us from the truth to a lie without us even knowing what is happening.
The second thing is to find friends who also want to stand on the Word of God as their foundation. There is something about the fellowship of people who are standing with you during the tough times. When I was in High School, we did not have a full-time Youth Pastor, so we took it on ourselves to serve God and to stand strong on the truths we were being taught. I do thank God for lay leaders who influenced our lives as teenagers. We needed that adult influence for sure. I am also thankful that I had Christian friends who encouraged me to stand for Christ in a public school, and not to bend to the pressures of teenage years. God allowed us to be involved in precious ministry opportunities as young people that have held strong all these years. Make the Word of God your foundation and stay in the truths of the Word of God. Then choose the right people to stand with today!
“Begin to be now what you will be hereafter.” – William James
When troubles come and you don’t know where to turn … there is a God in Heaven. The psalmist said, “I cried unto Thee, O LORD: I said, ‘Thou art my Refuge and my Portion in the land of the living’” (Psalm 142:5). What a comfort to know that we can call upon the Lord. According to this verse, He is a place of refuge. Literally this means that God is a hiding place for the believer. He is a shelter in the middle of the storms of life. He is also described as our portion. This has the idea of being our inheritance. God provides not only a place of shelter in troubled times, but He is our inheritance as well. He will take care of us into the future. God is that welcomed place of peace in the otherwise turbulent world we are living in for the Christian.
This description of what God provides for me is a welcome and comforting thought. I seem to spend far too much time in fear of what “might” happen, when I need to learn to simply trust on this God Who promises to be a refuge for me, as well as my portion for the things that are coming. Fear is a result of a lack of trust. When I am fearful about something, or someone, I am looking in the wrong place. When I allow my focus to move off God, and onto my circumstance or situation, I have begun to live a life that is “faith-less.” As easy as it is to say this, it is tough in our daily life to practice this. I want to be a person who fully relies on God to take care of me, both in the area’s I am facing today, as well as with the control over things that are going to take place in my future.
As a child, I was blessed to have parents that loved me and were a beautiful picture of the meaning of this verse. I had a father who provided comfort for me when fear seized me. He also provided for my daily needs, so that I never had to worry about where our next meal was coming from; or where I would get the clothing I would need to wear for school. In the same way, we should not waste a moment in fear and anxiety as a Christian. We have a Heavenly Father Who is far more capable of providing for our needs than my earthly father was. As a child, I never worried about those things because my dad was taking care of it. As a child of God, I should not worry about these things, because my Heavenly Father is taking care of me. Today, rather than spending a moment in fear or worry, turn to your God and thank Him for taking care of all of your needs today.
“There are always better things ahead than any we leave behind.” – C.S. Lewis
We often flatter ourselves by thinking that God somehow needs us. The reality is that God is able to do whatever He likes with or without us. The truth is that God has accomplished many things in my life in spite of me, not because of me. I can recall many times when I asked God to give me something, or do something that later I realized was exactly the opposite of what I actually needed. God is so good to us to give us what He thinks is best. John the Baptist said it this way: “Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, ‘We have Abraham to our father:’ for I say unto you, ‘That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham’” (Luke 3:8).
The Jews of John the Baptist’s time were so confident in their heritage that they considered themselves something special when compared to the rest of the people on the earth. I would love to look down on them, but I am guilty of the same thing most days. I like to think that my opinions are the only correct ones. I also think that everyone ought to like the same things I like; rout for the same teams I like; enjoy the same kinds of food I enjoy; and generally allow the world to revolve around me. I can’t understand why the rest of you won’t get with the program!
The bottom line is that God was and is completely capable of choosing any people group to carry His message to the lost world. I have found that others don’t need to agree with me to receive God’s blessings. I have also learned that if I refuse to serve God, He will use others to serve Him totally without my help, or advice! It amazes me that God can use people who think differently than me, but He does. The most important thing that I learn from this passage is that I want to be used of God more than anything. I don’t want God to give that blessing to a rock. It is not something I like to admit, but I realize that God is still not dependant upon me today to do anything.
God can reach the lost world any way He desires, but I praise God, He has chosen to allow me to be a part of the process of reaching this world for Him! What a great honor we have today to be a part of His Divine plan for this world! As you finish reading this today, thank God along with me that even though He does not need us, He has chosen to use us. What a great privilege to serve the God of eternity past and future! There is no greater joy than to stand for God where we go today!
“God can do extraordinary things with ordinary people.” – Ted Camp
There is nothing worse than walking into a room that you are unfamiliar with and not knowing where the light is. Recently, we stayed in a Prophet’s Chamber (like a hotel room in a church) where we had never stayed before. The church did a wonderful job of converting a couple of rooms in a previous wing of their church into this nice area for visiting pastors and missionaries to stay. One night while we were there, I needed to adjust the temperature in the room. The controls for that were in one of the other rooms the church still used for classrooms for Sunday School. The Pastor had shown me where the controls were when he first showed us our room. The problem was, when I went to change the controls, it was dark, and I could not remember where the light was. I was really thankful there were no video cameras to capture my adventure. I’m sure we could have won something for a funny video!
We all were in darkness … stumbling around in our sin trying to find the switch for the light that we needed for our souls. We Gentiles were of all men without hope. The Jews had been given the responsibility of carrying the light through the early history of mankind. They were to take that light to the whole world. God stepped in to provide what man could not do. Here’s what the Bible says about the time Jesus was born … “A Light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel” (Luke 2:32). God turned on the Light for the world! As we groped about in our lives, searching for something with eternal meaning that would satisfy the longing of our soul, God provided exactly what we needed; Jesus Christ!
I am so thankful today for two things: First, I am thankful that God provided the only Light that would conquer the darkness of our sin. Let me be absolutely clear. In a day when we are being told that the only important thing is to believe in a “higher power” (whichever higher power you want to believe is okay … as long as you believe in one), I want to tell you clearly there is only ONE Light. That Light is Jesus Christ … THE Redeemer … THE Way … Truth … Life – there is no other light! The second thing I am thankful for is that Jesus came here to the earth for me! I know He came for the whole world, but He actually came to rescue me from my sin! MY sins are forgiven by the blood of Jesus Christ! My debt is paid in full! I have a Savior, Who has taken away the sin of the world, including mine!
“Faith is the strength by which a shattered world shall emerge into the light.” – Helen Keller
Have you ever had the feeling that someone is watching you? I have felt that way a number of times when I am walking through a crowded area. I am sure that there have been times that someone was watching you that you did not know about. It can be a weird thing if you think about it, but it can also be a wonderful thing in the case of these verses in Psalm 139. The psalmist wrote, “O LORD, Thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, Thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, Thou knowest it altogether” (Psalm 139:1-4).
In one way it is a blessing to know that we are never outside the care of our God. What a comfort to know that whatever stress I am going to face today … my God is with me and offers help. What a blessing to know that when I am lacking in strength, I have a God Who is well able to handle whatever supposedly impossible thing I am facing. I am thankful that He even helped me when I read my Bible this morning to understand the truths He had for me there. I am grateful that when I pray to Him, pouring out my heart to Him, that His Holy Spirit is able to take the language of my heart that I cannot put into words, to the very throne of God! What a blessing to know that He is closer than any brother could be.
In another way, it can be very convicting to think that God knows me so intimately. We all have become very proficient in putting on our spiritual masks so others cannot see the “real” us. There are no masks when we go to our Heavenly Father. He knows, not only what we show Him, but He also knows the thoughts and intents of our heart. He sees all the filth we deal with everyday in our own sinfulness. Let’s consider this question … if God knows us this intimately, why do we even consider trying to hide our sin, or rationalize it? He already knows what is there … why not simply confess and genuinely forsake it?
I am thankful for this relationship with my Heavenly Father. With this knowledge of how well He knows me, I want to live in a way that will please Him more and more everyday. I want to make this day one that will honor Him and be pleasing in His sight. I want to walk in a way that will please my Heavenly Father and demonstrate to the unsaved world that He has made a difference in my life!
“I am not satisfied with me – I am satisfied with God.” – Unknown
“And when he was in affliction, he besought the LORD his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, and prayed unto Him: and he was entreated of him, and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD He was God” (II Chronicles 33:12-13).
The beginning of this chapter says that Manasseh did evil in the sight of God; so these verses caught my attention. In these two verses, the Bible speaks of Manasseh turning back to God, and God taking care of him. Have you ever felt that you had sinned against God so many times, or so badly that He would never be willing to forgive you? Manasseh might have felt that way, but he did something that each of us needs to do on a regular basis. Verse twelve says that Manasseh “humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers.” When was the last time you humbled yourself greatly before God? Most of us don’t have time to humble ourselves greatly. Most of us are too proud to humble ourselves greatly.
I believe that we will never see the power of God made evident in our lives until we humble ourselves greatly. I do not mean talking about it … I’m talking about actually doing it. I remember in college during a testimony time hearing a girl say that she thanked God for her humility. I almost laughed out loud! When someone feels a need to tell you how humble they are, they typically are not very humble! Don’t talk about being humble, practice it today. Go to God with a humble heart and admit your sin. You have sinned … He knows all about it … don’t try to explain it away; accept responsibility for it, and forsake it! Go to God with a humble heart and admit that you don’t have all the answers to the problems facing you. Yield your heart to His and ask for His incredible power to stand in your place! Go to God humbly and trust Him for the provision of your needs. We waste too much time worrying and fretting about how we will meet the needs we have, when in reality, we simply need to humble ourselves before Him and let Him show Himself strong.
After Manasseh made a mess of his life doing it “his way,” he turned to the God of his fathers and found forgiveness, and help. That same God is alive and well today and is ready to help you … if you will humbly turn to Him. I thank God for his grace and mercy! I am grateful that He does not give me what I deserve, but mercy instead!
“Go as far as you can, then wait on God.” – Unknown
Have you ever felt so “down in the dumps” that you did not feel like singing? That is exactly the time when you ought to sing. Have you ever felt that God had forgotten you and that you had no hope? That is a great time for a song to cross your mind and lips. In Psalm 137, the psalmist writes of a time like that and asked this question: “How shall we sing the LORD’s song in a strange land” (Psalm 137:4)? The writer was obviously discouraged and thought it was a bad time for a song, but the reality is that we ought to always have a song on our hearts that we can lift to God.
Do you remember two men in the early church that had been thrown into a jail in Philippi? At midnight they were singing and praising God. Paul and Silas had learned the value of a song while in tough times. Later that night, God not only opened the gates to the prison, but also to the heart of that Philippian jailor! What a great God! A God that is worthy of our praise all the time, not only in the good times.
If we are not careful, we each can focus on the bad things that are happening around us, or to us, and we can totally miss the good things our God has done and is doing. Take a moment today to sing a little for your God. He is absolutely worthy of our praise, and there are many things I am sure you can be thankful for today. A friend of mine is battling cancer as I write this. I constantly hear her say how thankful she is for all the blessings she has. There is only one way she can make this statement … God is still God! When we focus our attention on our problems, and ourselves we miss the opportunity to have a godly song in our heart.
I realize today that as you read this, you may be facing some very difficult times just ahead of you. I want to encourage you to look to your Heavenly Father and break out in a song of praise today. All around the world today we are seeing people that are in despair; thinking there is no hope. If we believers stop praise God in the challenging times, how will they ever know of the hope we have in our relationship with God? We must sing! It is not an option! Be encouraged today to “pick up your harp” (those Israelites in bondage had hung their on the tree limbs) and play a song to your wonderful God today! He is worthy of the praise, and it will lift your spirit as well when you praise Him. There is a world without hope that needs to hear your song of hope today. If you are having trouble coming up with a song, read your Bible … it’s full of them!
“When you don’t know what else to do … try singing.” – Numbers 21:17
“… The heart for mercy cries …” is a line from an old hymn that I love. In reality, all of our hearts cry out for the mercy of God. We really do not want the justice we deserve, but we want God’s mercy in its place. Psalm 136 has the phrase, “His mercy endureth forever,” twenty-six times. In the margin of my Bible at the end of this great chapter, I wrote; “I think God wants us to know that His mercy endures forever!” I am so thankful for a God that gives me what I don’t deserve, rather than giving me all that I have earned in my sinfulness.
Too much of our lives are spent thinking about how much good we deserve that we are not getting. In other words, there are times when others are promoted, and while we are clapping we are thinking that we deserved that recognition more than they did. We constantly view the world through our own opinions and think less of the people who do not share our thoughts and idea’s. If we are not careful, we actually begin to think that we are the king (queen) of our domain and all others should bow to us. Time for a reality check today …
Here are the cold, hard facts … “They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Romans 3:12). You are I are nothing without the mercy and grace of God. Today as you begin this new day, why not pause and thank God for His mercies. Psalm 136 lists some things that we have received as a result of the mercy of God. He does great wonders … in His wisdom He made the heavens … He stretched out the earth … He made the great lights … He made a sun to rule our day … He made the moon and stars for the spectacle at night … He conquers enemies for us, and without our help … He divided the Red Sea for Israel to pass through and then collapsed it just at the right time to destroy the powerful Egyptian army … He has conquered powerful and famous kings … He remembers us when we are low and no one else cares about us … He redeems us from sin … What can we say except, “His mercy endureth forever!” Thank God today that He has not given you the things you deserved, again, and again, and again. In the place of what we deserved, God has given us grace. He has pardoned our sin through His Son, by His grace. Don’t take these blessings for granted today. Look at your own life; thank God for the times of mercy He has poured out on you.
“We are all flawed, bruised, and broken people needing the Lord.” – Unknown
When Jesus was being led up Calvary’s hill to be crucified, He fell beneath the weight of the cross. The soldiers compelled a man named Simon to help carry the cross. “And they compel one Simon a Cyrenian, who passed by, coming out of the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to bear His cross” (Mark 15:21). This man was a Cyrenian who was probably in Jerusalem for the Passover festivities that were about to take place. An innocent by-stander, minding his own business … asked to help carry the cross of Jesus. Imagine his horror, as he shouldered the cross and saw the blood of Jesus all over his own clothing, and I am sure, on him as well. He had no idea that the very blood that would free all mankind (who call upon the name of Jesus) from their sins! He had no idea that this was the blood from the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world! Here was a common man, from another country, who was “volunteering” to help carry the cross of the Son of Almighty God!
As far as we know, Simon did not know about Jesus. He was obviously visiting in Jerusalem, as many Jews would do to commemorate the Passover. He was placed in the position of giving help to Jesus Christ in His time of need. What he might not have initially realized was the fact that Jesus was about to give His life up for his sins, and the sins of his sons, and for whosoever will … The mention of these sons names in particular leads me to believe that they were known of the apostles. As a matter of fact, Paul mentioned a man named Rufus in Romans 16:13 with very kind words. I’m not sure if he is the same man that was Simon’s son, but it made me think about the impact this contact with Jesus would have, not only on Simon, but also on these two sons of his. When a person meets Jesus Christ, it will make a difference. What difference has it made in your life? Can others tell that you have had an intimate encounter with Jesus Christ? Can your friends and family see the difference He makes? Can those co-workers and fellow students see a difference in you? The question for today is simply this; can other people tell that you spend time with Jesus Christ? If you do, it will show up in your language, attitude, and heart for lost people, in your habits, and in how you serve Him. If you know Jesus as your Savior, but are not surrendering to Him as the Lord of your life, you are missing out on a tremendous blessing! Why not stop what you are doing right now and give God permission to rule your life? It will be a great decision today!
“Be willing to come up and out of your comfort zone.” – Unknown
I was reading about one of the good kings in the history of Judah named Hezekiah. When he took over as the king, he made some radical reforms. He actually cleaned out the temple and encouraged the Jewish people to turn back to God and worship only Him. He also made a way for all the people to sacrifice to God. He did all this because he had his heart in the right place. “And in every work that he began [King Hezekiah] in the service of the house of God, and in the law, and in the commandments, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart, and prospered” (II Chronicles 31:21). When my eyes crossed these words, it was like the eyes of the Holy Spirit crossed over my heart. I wondered … if God was writing my life’s story, could He write these words about my passion for Him?
Unfortunately, I believe that many are serving in churches today “half-heartedly” or without any fervent heart for God. How can we do that when we are serving a God Who demonstrated His heart for us on the cruel cross of Calvary? He gave all He had in order to demonstrate His love toward us. He did this while we were yet sinners. Today, I do not want you to think of anyone else but yourself. Are you serving God with a whole heart? Are you living 100% for God today? Totally committed to His will for your life? Are you fully surrendered and going forward in that direction with all your might? That is what God deserves … that is what God demands if you want to have success in your Christian life.
Hezekiah sought God with that whole heart. Hezekiah sought the laws and commandments of God. When he did that, he did it with all His heart! Are you seeking God wholeheartedly today? Have you considered what He wanted you to do with this day before you started on your path? Did you dig into the Word of God this morning to give light to your path? Have you had the Word of God convict you to the point that you decided to change your attitude or direction to match what you read? You cannot have a heart for the things of God without having a heart for the Word of God. I’m not talking here about reading this devotional as your spiritual food for the day. I’m hopeful that this is your spiritual appetizer, the thing that leads you into the main course you will find between the pages of God’s precious Word.
I want to be a man whose heart is fully surrendered to God and His will for me today. I want to be a man who can prosper in the way I am going, because I am going in the way He has chosen for me!
“God is more concerned about your heart than your health.” – Unknown
Think for a moment about how much time you waste in a normal day. There can be quite a lot of “down time” if we are not careful. We look at our day and think about the things we would like to accomplish. We then begin to attack those challenges, only to be confronted with other options that take our attention away from our original plans. Before we know it, we have wasted away a whole day. I believe it is the same in our Christian lives. We have all had times during a service where God specifically prompted our hearts to accomplish something for Him. Before we know what has happened, we find that we have wasted away the opportunity, and we have turned our focus onto a totally unrelated area. This creates a list that seems to grow all the time of “unfinished” tasks.
Jesus made a very strong statement that I believe we all ought to take time to consider today. He said about the rapture of the church, “Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is” (Mark 13:33). Jesus was making the point that our time is limited to serve the Lord here on earth. It is important to do the things that are MOST important, and leave those things that serve only as distractions alone. I have heard it said before that the enemy of BEST is GOOD. Be careful today to do the things that are most important for the cause of Christ before you waste your time on things that will not last for eternity.
Think about the things you are planning to do today. If you accomplished all of those things, how much of a difference will it make in eternity? If you don’t accomplish those goals, how many other people will be affected for eternity? If you do not have plans to make an eternal difference for someone today, consider changing your plans. If you have plans that will affect someone else’s eternity, don’t let anyone pull you away from the completion of those goals. Have a bull-headedness that will keep you on the mark until you complete whatever it is that God touched your heart with. Others may tell you that you are foolish to pursue that goal … if you know that God touched your heart to do it, don’t let anyone pull you away from it. There is a day coming when the trumpet will sound, and all our earthly efforts will be done. Don’t waste a minute today. Do all that God has touched your heart to do while you have the chance. Share your faith; read your Bible; teach that class; sing for the Lord; go on visitation; volunteer for the nursery; visit a shut-in; learn Sign Language … Do it now!
“Your lifetime is just a hyphen on a tombstone.” – Unknown
When Jesus was asked by one of the scribes what the first or most important commandment was, Jesus answered; “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31).
Is it possible that in all the hustle and bustle of our normal ministry that we could forget these simple truths? Is what you are planning to do for God today within these guidelines? Do the efforts you put forth revolve around loving the Lord with every fiber of who you are … your heart, soul, mind and strength? It seems to me that we start serving this Lord with this as the goal, but if we are not careful the praise of men flatters us so much that we begin to serve God for what “others” will say about us. We become so enamored with hearing how good we are from others that we forget that we originally were doing it for the love of God. Jesus stated this so clearly that we should never forget it, but we seem to do it regularly.
Think about it … the last time you sang a song in church; did you do it for others to hear you, or to glorify God? The last time you gave an offering; did you do it to please your pocketbook? to impress the person next to you? or because you would give all you have to show your love for God? The last time you shared a testimony, or prayed publically in a meeting; were you trying to use vocabulary that you knew would impress those in the room with you, or were you pouring your heart out to your God? The last time you shared your faith with an unbeliever; did you do it to fulfill a requirement of a class, or to impress others with how many tracts you handed out, or were you about your Father’s business?
Sadly it seems today that we all do “spiritual” things for very “unspiritual” reasons. Today is a day for you to love the Lord your God with all you have; and then to demonstrate that by loving those around you like He would. Verse 31 speaks to the proof of loving God with all your being. If we really do love Him that way, we will love those God has placed around us, like He would do it in our shoes. The proof of loving God with all you have is to love those He sent His Son to save!
“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” – John Maxwell