A few years ago I heard a song that really touched my heart. I read these two verses in the Old Testament book of Nahum and thought of the grace of God. The prophet Nahum wrote, “Who can stand before His indignation? And who can abide in the fierceness of His anger? His fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by Him. The LORD is good, a strong-hold in the day of trouble; and He knoweth them that trust in Him” (Nahum 1:6-7).
The words of the song are:
Condemned to die on a cross for crimes he had done. He was guilty, everyone could see. But his destiny was changed as he looked at Christ and said, “When Your kingdom comes, remember me.” In Paradise that day he stood, just like the Lord said he would; surrounded by those who had gone before. One said, “Friend how do you come? What are the deeds you have done?” With tears in his eyes, I can hear him reply; “There are no merits to my name … and no works that I can claim … He that brought me here, told me to say …” I have come by the way of the cross; I have come by the way of the cross; it is nothing I have done, it’s the blood of God’s own Son. I have come by the way of the cross.
I had nothing to claim, but my guilt and my shame … hopelessly lost, I could not find my way … until His glorious light of love showed down on me. His mercy washed all my sin away. What He did for me that day, was the price I know He paid … by His grace I too can say … I have come by the way of the cross; it is nothing I have done, it’s the blood of God’s own Son.
I see millions gathered round the throne from every kindred and tongue. Those redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. Every person casting down their crowns at His feet. This will be their song … we have come by the way of the cross.
Today is a good day to remember that you cannot do one thing to EARN the favor of God. That grace is given without any merit on your part! What a blessing to know that God paid my debt, not my own efforts! I am thankful that even the Old Testament speaks to the grace of God. You see, it has never been about us reaching up to Him, but has always been about Him and His reaching out to us. Nahum understood it, and we should too. Take time to thank God today for saving your soul. He is worthy of our praise!
“I am not saved because I love God – I am saved because God loved me.”
When we were young children, my father and mother would load my sister and me in the car on a hot summer afternoon and we would take a drive. It was always a great time with the windows down and the warm wind whistling through the car. I was excited to see all the things a little boy’s eyes can see that others might miss. One of the highlights of that trip was coming down a hill into a valley where a natural spring shot water out a pipe and into a holding area. Dad and Mom always had a cup in our glove compartment, and we all would get a drink of wonderful, cold, refreshing water. I never knew where the water came from, but I knew no man had made it come out of the side of that hill.
As a Christian, I have a source of refreshment and comfort. It is not physical water. This refreshment comes in knowing that I have a God Who is constantly watching out for me and giving me the very things that are essential to my walk with Him everyday. The psalmist wrote, “Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and He shall sustain thee: He shall never suffer the righteous to be moved” (Psalm 55:22). The constant that we find in this verse is the Lord. He is always going to be God. He is always going to be available. He cannot be explained away by men, or fully understood by us either. But He is faithful to us.
In a day when it seems nothing is dependable, we can depend on our God. He is real. He is not some mystical “force,” but a personal, living God. Just the other day I was standing in a line and I heard a man say something about the weather. He commented, “That’s mother nature for you.” I thought about how bad it is that we cannot even give God the credit He deserves. Now, it’s one thing for someone in the world to say things like that, but how often do you give God the credit for the good things He has done and is doing in your life? It is God Who sustains you, not your family … boss … friends … president … 401K plan.
Today take time to give honor to God. Thank Him for his sustaining work in your life. Ask Him to help you to lean on Him more for the challenges you will face today. Remember, He is the Fountain of Living Water for each believer. He is ready and willing to provide for the needs you will have today and for the rest of your life. Drink from His Word today!
“Attempt great things for God; expect great things from God.” – William Carey
We are stuck in a vicious time today. It is vicious because there are people constantly telling us how good we are. These people are telling us how much value and worth we have in this society. We are told to demand a better way for us, and to think positive thoughts about ourselves. I hate to break the news to you, but we are not basically good. We have no value, except for the value God placed on us when He sent His only begotten Son to die in our place. Now, there is great value in that, but there is nothing in and of ourselves that we can boast in.
Look what your Bible says about you … “God looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, that did seek God. Every one of them is gone back: they are altogether become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Psalm 53:2-3). Not real pretty compared to what we are hearing today in our world. My real fear for you is that this kind of thinking has spread dramatically into our churches today. There are many churches you can choose from that will not speak plainly and clearly about our sinful condition as expressed in Psalm 53.
We are told how good we are and how valuable we are even in our churches. I especially notice it in some of the new praise/worship songs that are being sung. The words in one of these songs that I heard for the first time a few years ago really touched my heart. It was talking about how what we are living today in not about us, but all about Him. I thought about how true that really is. We tend to yearn to draw the attention for what God does to us rather than reflecting it to Him. I remember being drawn into the truth of the words, only to be disappointed with the actions of the singers who were singing the song. Every one of them was doing all they could to draw attention to themselves! The exact opposite of what they were singing.
I don’t mean to be judgmental, but I am telling you that this is the problem I face today, and probably you too, if you are honest with yourself. We want the praise of men, even in church. The harsh reality is that there is none that doeth good here on this earth. There is not even one of us that would seek God on our own. I am thankful for the work the Holy Spirit is doing in my life today to draw me to consider my Heavenly Father! I need Him even to get me to the place that I will truly worship Him. Trust Him today, and ask Him to draw you into a more intimate relationship with Him today.
“We are all failures – at least, all the best of us are.” – J.M. Barrie
More and more I realize how much more value I place on the heart of a person than the words I hear, or the things I see. I am less impressed with your words, and far more impressed with your actions. There are more and more people today making great promises, or great promotions about what they are going to do. I have become very skeptical of the promises of men, rather I find myself waiting to see how they act when out of the eye-shot of others.
I remember meeting a man who was introduced to me as the next president of a large and respected Christian organization. He appeared to be very compassionate, and very concerned about the group he ministered in. I watched him from afar greeting all the people who had come to his initiation ceremony. He had a friendly face and seemed very humble in his interactions with these people. Just a few minutes later, I witnessed him (behind the scenes) being very gruff with some of the people that were not going to be on stage … people that would have been considered less important. My mind quickly changed at seeing his “real” heart come out.
Josiah became the king of Judah as a young boy. He immediately began to turn his nation back to God. One of the first things he did was order the repair of the temple. While the men repairing the temple were working, they found a copy of the laws God had given Israel. When he heard what was in that book, he rent his clothing and began to weep because of the sins of his people. God responded to Josiah’s actions with these words:“’Because thine heart was tender, and thou hast humbled thyself before the LORD, when thou heardest what I spake against this place, and against the inhabitants therof, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and hast rent thy clothes, and wept before me; I also have heard thee,’ saith the LORD” (II Kings 22:19).
God is more interested with what is in our heart than how much money we have … how smart we are … how often we go to church … what our title is … who we know … where we have been. You see, with God it is a heart issue all the time. We cannot see each others physical heart (thankfully), but we can see what is in the heart of a person, motivating them to the actions that come out of them. Give God your whole heart today. Ask Him to help you maintain a sweet testimony for Him today. Remember, there is always someone watching you when you are “behind the scenes.”
“It is the unseen root that produces the seen fruit.” – Unknown
Whenever it gets close to Christmas you will begin to hear the question asked, “What do you get the person who has everything?” In the ultimate sense, God is the Person Who has everything. What could you and I possibly give Him that would make Him most happy? Here’s your answer; “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: A broken and contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise” (Psalm 51:17).
There is one thing that you and I can give God that pleases Him far more than the money we drop in an offering plate. There is one thing that we can give God that pleases Him more than something we give up (that we love) for a certain time. There is something that means more to God than the car we drive, or the square-footage of the house we live in, or the price-tag on our clothing, or ______________. That one thing is a spirit within us that is broken and contrite.
Sounds strange, but think about it from God’s perspective. The child of God who is constantly trying to impress Him with what they can do or what they can give Him, is simply giving back what has been given by Him anyway. I remember when our children were small and the time came for my birthday. One day one of our children asked me if they could borrow $5. When I asked what they needed $5 for, their reply was that they needed to buy me a gift for my birthday. I gave them $10 and asked for something better than what they were planning on (just teasing).
While I appreciated their thoughtfulness about buying me a gift (with my own money), I would have preferred for them to have always asked my advice before making a decision and then to completely obey what I told them. That’s what God wants from us. He doesn’t need our “token” offerings to Him. He wants our spirit to be totally crushed before Him, so He can do whatever He wants with us.
He wants us to run to Him when decisions are placed in front of us, and to hear us promise Him that whatever He tells us to do, we will completely obey! He wants a totally yielded spirit to be presented to Him every morning, and repeatedly surrendered all through the day. That is the sacrifice He is looking for from us. Our money, time and talents will all follow if we have first offered Him a broken and contrite (crushed to powder) spirit. What are you bringing to God today?
“If you do what you can – God will do what you cannot.” – Dr. Ted Camp
When we went to church there were unwritten, but clearly understood rules for our family. These were not “church rules” established by the Pastor or the Deacons. These were rules that were set in place for our four-person family. There was not an arbitration committee to solve differences, or disputes
. There was no room for a lawyer to plead our case, or to stand in our defense if we violated. The only justice we knew was in the form of the famous “wooden spoon” that somehow made if from our kitchen into my mothers purse.
Let me give you some idea of the rules that were in place for our family (in no particular order). Rule #1 – Be early for every service – showing up just before the service was not on time – at least twenty minutes before was on time. Rule #2 – Sit still and face the front of the church at all times – there is no excuse for turning around to see who is behind you, or what they are doing. Rule #3 – When it is time to sing, you sing with your whole voice (musical ability was optional). Rule #4 – Always bring your Bible to church – there is no reason to go to church without a Bible. Rule #5 – Dress in the best clothes you have to go to church – you are going there to honor the King of kings – dress like you are going to visit the president of the United States. Rule #6 – Absolutely NO goofing off during the invitation time. Rule #7 – There is no excuse for missing a service without a doctor’s excuse.
All these were rules that we followed as a family and I find that they are still firmly settled in my heart. God spoke to His children and told them, “These things hast thou done, and I kept silence; thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself: but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes” (Psalm 50:21). I am thankful that God has rules that He will enforce. When I think of the benefit to me and now our children and grandchildren, I am grateful for a good foundation to build a life upon.
God promised in this verse to “reprove” us and to “set them in order before thine eyes.” God has standards and principles that are meant for our good. I will tell you that my folks were criticized for the strict rules we lived by, but now that I am a father and grand-father, I am thankful for the guidelines put in place for me to help guide my life. I thank God for His reproof and rules that He sets in place for my life. I know they are good for me.
“Be still and KNOW God – Be busy and NO God.” – Unknown
Here in the part of the country that I live, in the fall months of the year we have something that can be very enjoyable, or frustrating (depending on your sense of direction). The farmers here plan ahead and grow a field of corn. Once the corn is full-grown, they cut paths that form some kind of shape (if you are in a helicopter you can enjoy the shape). They call this field a “corn maze.” People line up by the thousands and pay money to get lost in the corn maze for hours. I have gone to a corn maze a few times and usually with a group from our church. We make it a competition, dividing up by teams or families to see who can find the exit fastest. I will readily confess, I have never once been on the winning team.
Someone on my team always claims to know the fastest way out of the corn maze … claims are not always true. Today I read a verse in Micah that made me think about who I am following today. “For all people will walk every one in the name of his god, and we will walk in the name of the LORD our God forever and ever” (Micah 4:5).
Who are you following today? Quickly you will tell me that you are not worshipping idols, and that you are following God. The wooden and stone idols that the people of Micah’s day were following had no more chance of making it into eternity than that car you polish weekly … that computer you spend so much time admiring everyday … that phone you can’t leave home without … that FaceBook page you must constantly refresh … that TV show you cannot miss … that football/baseball/basketball/hockey team you must stay home from church to watch. OOOPPPSSS, I moved from preaching and went to meddling (that’s old-fashioned language for prying into you business).
Let’s face it; idol worship is just as real today as it ever was in the past. If we are not careful we will erect idols of our own making in our own Christian home. Take the challenge today that Micah made so clearly here in this verse. Join him today in saying that you will walk in the name of the LORD your God forever and ever. Read this quote below and surrender your entire heart, mind, plans (both present and future), loves, commitments … your entire life forever and ever to Him. You will not regret it!
“Whatever you yield to God He accepts – What He accepts He cleanses – What He cleanses He fills – What He fills He uses. The process begins with you – it ends with God.” – Unknown
We traveled to Israel in 1996 for a ten-day tour of that area. It was one of the most incredible times I have had in my life. To be in the area where our Bible was written and in the places it was written about was really exciting. I remember one day traveling to the northern border to an area that the Israeli army had burrowed cave-like hiding area’s to protect their border. I clearly remember the many fences on either side of the road. Each had an obvious warning sign attached to it. When we asked our guide what the signs said, he explained that there were still many “live” mines in that area from the time of the war in 1967. These land-mines had never been deactivated, and still posed a danger to anyone venturing into those areas.
I was very glad for the warning signs on the fences. I am also thankful that God places warning signs throughout the Bible for us to avoid dangerous areas in our Christian lives too. In the second-to-last book of our Bible, Jude gives us this warning sign: “These are murmurers, complainers, walking after own lusts; and their mouth speaketh great swelling words, having men’s persons in admiration because of advantage” (Jude 16). These are the warning signs God gives us for the people around us today.
BEWARE of people who are constantly murmuring and complaining – God does not want you to be around people that will make you think that complaining is the natural way to do things. RUN!
BEWARE of people who follow only their fleshly desires; for money, possessions, the attention of others; self-gratification. They will either draw you into their addictions, or they will use you to satisfy them. RUN!
BEWARE of people who flatter you and speak in such a way as to draw you in to their trap of half-truths. There are plenty enough politicians and preachers today who are guilty of this. Be careful if you do not see their message matching the Word of God. RUN!
BEWARE of people who are only interested in hearing the applause of men. They are dangerous … why? These people will do anything to hear that applause. They are driven by the need for popularity and they are not good role-models for you. RUN!
The key to all this is this“… building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ …” (Jude 20-21).
“God has given you a … Mind to think – Heart to know – Will to decide.” – Dr. Ted Camp
“A fool hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart may discover itself” (Proverbs 18:2).
I have noticed that human beings are almost always convinced that their way is the best way. When we believe that we are always (or almost always) right, we then tend not to search for truth, but simply to search for a way to reinforce our own opinions. Here is the simple devotional thought for you today … Don’t be so busy trying to prove your point of view, or your opinion true that you miss the heart of God.
Regardless of how strongly you are convinced that your point of view on a subject is correct, it is a good practice to ask for God’s opinion first. Think about how much time you spend each day trying to convince yourself that what you think about something is right. Have you ever been alone and had an argument with yourself about something? I have done that many times. It is funny when I finish arguing with myself, I then convince myself that I know what I’m doing, even though I’m not even sure I won the argument!
There have been times in my life that I have argued a point with someone and I was fully convinced that I was right … that is, until I came to the end of my argument and realized … I was wrong! I hate when that happens! The truth that we all need to come to is that we do not have all the answers we will need for life. This verse says that if we are not careful, we will spend all our time seeking to prove our heart to be right, rather than looking for the truth God has for us.
I want to encourage you today to search out God’s heart for whatever you are facing today. He has a specific plan for your life, and it’s perfect. His plan is the only perfect plan for you. He has a will for your life, and it’s perfect. His will is the only thing that will bring you ultimate satisfaction and joy. He gave you an entire Bible to guide your steps and to give you the opportunity to have a successful life here on this earth.
The only way you can access God’s plan is to open His Word everyday as you open your heart to its truths. Don’t be a fool and only focus on your own heart. You already know that in your heart dwelleth no good thing. You know that it’s deceitful and desperately wicked. Don’t trust your heart, trust His! With humility and a surrendered heart, there is opportunity for wisdom in your life and for your future.
“You must go forward on your knees.” – J. Hudson Taylor
In a time when nothing seems to be stable and dependable, I am thankful that God is God. I am grateful that regardless of how my health is … God is still God. I am thankful that whether the value of the dollar goes up or down … God is still God! I am relieved to know that regardless of who is in the position of political power … God is still God! I am thankful that no matter what the challenge is that is waiting for me today … God will still be God!
I would recommend that each of you read the entire chapter of Psalm 46. It is an amazing collection of encouraging verses for times just like we are living in. The last verse of the chapter is what captured my attention today. “The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah” (Psalm 46:11). Think a little bit with me about how strong God showed Himself to Jacob and the nation of Israel.
God allowed Jacob to have a blessing and birthright that he did not earn or deserve. God has given us many blessings in spite of how many times we have turned our back to Him. God allowed Joseph, Jacob’s son, to be taken into captivity in order to save Jacob and his other sons and their families during a famine. God has provided for each of us repeatedly in ways we cannot explain, or fully understand. God provided a heritage for Jacob that continues today with the twelve tribes of Israel.
Just as you can look at the life of Jacob in the Bible, you can see in your own life how God has blessed you beyond what you deserve too. I am thankful that God has always been the place that I could run to hide when I feel troubles closing in around me. I am thankful that when I am facing a challenge that is far beyond my wisdom that I can lean on His Word He has given me for knowledge. I am grateful that when my heart rejoices to over-flowing and I don’t have words to speak, He can understand the language of my heart.
I am thankful that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). When troubles come and we take the roll, God is never absent! When I need strength to make it through a day … there He is. When you need a place to hide today, run to Him … God is still God! What a wonderful thought for the remainder of this day! God is still God!
“Did it ever occur to you that nothing ever occurred to God?” – Curtis Hutson
In my opinion, some of the saddest verses in the entire Bible are found in the book of Jonah. From the point where God clearly directed Jonah to go to Nineveh and he headed in the opposite direction … to the great fish swallowing him and Jonah describing his surroundings as hell … to being thrown up onto the shore … There are a number of bad things revealed in the book of Jonah … but, none of these is the worst. Here it is …
“And God saw their works, that they [the people of Nineveh after Jonah preached to them] turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that He had said that He would do unto them; and He did it not. But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry” (Jonah 3:10-4:1).
You have heard this preached before, I am sure, but read that first verse of chapter four one more time: “But it DISPLEASED Jonah EXCEEDINGLY, and he was VERY ANGRY.” What a horrible evangelist Jonah was! He preached the message of God (which always carries the power of God with it despite the messenger), and then he was disappointed when God moved in the hearts of men.
Jonah had a problem that I am afraid many of us have today as well. Jonah’s main problem was not that he hated Nineveh so much. The problem that he had that many of us share is that Jonah forgot how wretched he was before God saved him. That’s right, I used the word “wretched.” I have noticed that our modern hymnals and song-books have changed that word in the old hymns to something that sounds much better. The truth is that we are all WRETCHED, and lost in our sin, without hope apart from God’s grace.
Many of us are guilty of the same thing today. We love to look down our spiritually pious noses at the horrible sinners that are all around us today. We have a much easier time praying for the fire of God to come down and consume the sinners around us than we do praying for God to give us just one more chance to witness to those same people before it is too late.
I did not write this today to pound you into dust. I wrote it today to encourage you to ask God to give you the same heart for souls that He has today. God wants all the “Ninevites” to come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ! He is not willing that any should perish, but that all sinners would repent. Will you have the same heart as God today? It’s your choice
“You have one business on earth – to save souls.” – John Wesley
“Life is tough.” “There are traps and “pit-falls” everywhere I turn.” “The challenges I will face today will be far more than I can handle.” “Where do I turn when I am faced with a fork in the road?” “I don’t have the strength or wisdom for the problems I am going to face today.”
You may have said some of these things in the past week, and you were being honest about what was in front of you. We are living in a very challenging time in the history of the world. Things that we once thought were sure, have crumbled and failed. Companies we thought would always be in business have become bankrupt and are gone. Governments we once thought strong have shown signs of weakening and some have fallen. Where is the strength coming from today?
The psalmist wrote these words many years ago about the nation of Israel, but they hold the answer to the questions we have for our own future. “For they got not the land in possession by their own sword, neither did their own arm save them: but Thy right hand, and Thine arm, and the light of Thy countenance, because Thou hadst a favor unto them” (Psalm 44:3).
There is a place of peace and security close to the heart of God. This world we are living in will constantly pull at you to draw closer to it, but I want to encourage you today to realize that the strength you are looking for in the challenges of life, is found in an intimate relationship with God and Him alone. Your money will not be able to meet the needs you will have in the future. Your health is not guaranteed. Your retirement plan is not necessarily going to be around by the time you retire.
The strength you are looking for cannot be provided by someone else. It is only found in a vibrant relationship with our living God! He was the One that opened the door for Israel to go into the Promised Land. He was the One responsible for defeating giants like Goliath. He was the One that parted the Red Sea. He is the One Who will fight for you as you walk with Him today in 2012.
There will certainly be challenges ahead of you today that are outside your ability to provide. Be sure, those challenges are not too big for God. Lean into Him and allow Him to show Himself powerful on your behalf. He is ready and willing to work for you. You must surrender all that you have! You will not regret it for one second.
“When God guides – God provides.” – Adrian Rogers