July 16 Devotional

I am my beloved’s, and his desire is toward me” (Song of Solomon 7:10).  This is the cry of a person in love with another.  The book of Song of Solomon is a collection of “love letters” that have been shared with us.  They are the songs of two people in love, but they reflect the love God has for us, and the love we ought to return to Him.  This simple verse really touched my heart today.  There are two glorious thoughts contained in this one short verse.

 

The first thought is that I belong to someone who loves me.  I am constantly amazed that God has chosen to love me.  I am especially amazed because I know who I am.  I know all my faults and weaknesses and failures.  When my wife and I became engaged to be married, we waited one year and eleven months to our wedding day.  We did that because we were poor and in college still, but it was one of the best things we could have done.  That original infatuation period came and went.  We were able to see all the “real” things that we might have hidden if we were only engaged for a short time.  I am thankful that even though God knows me better than I know myself, He has chosen to love me still!  I am amazed and thankful that “I am my Beloved’s!”

 

The second wonderful part of this verse is that “His desire is toward me.”  This goes beyond God’s choice to love me.  This actually means that God has a longing for me.  When I am away from my wife for any time at all, I am thinking about what she is doing, where she is, when I will get to see her next, and if she is safe.  My body may be separated from her, but my heart always has a longing for her.  We may be apart in a physical sense, but our hearts are knit together in love regardless of where we are physically.  In the same way, God has me on His heart all day long!  He is thinking about me; protecting me; guiding me; guarding me; placing things in my path that are designed to help me; He has a desire for me!

 

Now, I would be horribly negligent if all I talked about was God’s love for me.  I also have a responsibility to return His love to Him.  I am His, but He is mine too!  I want to tell the world about the One Who has loved me enough to give me forgiveness of sins!  I want to have a desire for Him … a longing for Him that keeps Him always on my heart and mind.  I am never ashamed to talk to others about my wife … I don’t ever want to be ashamed to talk to others about my God!  I love Him … and better still, He loves me!

 

Love is not love until you give it away.” – Unknown

July 15 Devotional

There is a simple verse that I hear quoted often, but rarely followed.  “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).  How true this verse is!  I have spent time with very loud people that thought they were getting more of my attention because of the level of their voice.  The reality is that as soon as I hear that level of voice, I seem to automatically turn that voice off in my mind.  However, I have noticed that when a person speaks softly, my mind perks up to catch every word that is being spoken.

 

As always, the Bible is so absolutely true.  I will be very honest with you; I have a hard time with being under control and having this “soft answer” sometimes.  We are living in a society of “loud-mouths.”  We are witnessing people who think that because they have a bull-horn and are standing on a corner yelling out insults, or challenges, that everyone is automatically listening to them.  The truth is that we rarely give attention to that which is spoken from a yelling, or loud voice.  We more often will give attention to that quiet voice.

 

Just ask Elijah … God was trying to get the attention of Elijah.  A strong wind with all its whistling and roaring passed by Elijah … but God’s voice was not there.  An earthquake with its rumbling and rolling shook the ground … but God’s voice was not there.  A fire appeared with all the crackling sounds and the roar of the wind pushing the fire higher … but God’s voice was not there.  Finally, after the wind, earthquake and fire, there was a “still small voice” … and God spoke loud and clear.  Just as God spoke to Elijah, He speaks to us … with a “still small voice.

 

Let me ask a simple question; if God used a “still small voice,” what makes you think that a loud voice is better for you to communicate?  I want to encourage you today to speak up for God.  I want to encourage you to speak up for God with a “soft answer.”  We Christians have been fooled into thinking that if we are to be heard, we need to be loud and obnoxious!  The reality is that our Bible has held the key all along to being heard in this world.  Use that soft answer to confound the foolishness of the world today.  Don’t worry that there are many very loud voices opposing the Word of God today.  Just continue to give out that soft answer, and it will turn aside the wrath that is being spewed out today.  Be ready to give an answer … but do it with a soft answer!

July 14 Devotional

Let all those that seek Thee rejoice and be glad in Thee: and let such as love Thy salvation say continually, ‘Let God be magnified’” (Psalm 70:4).

 

That word “magnify” has the idea of making something large.  It also means to boast, or to increase.  The ultimate goal of every Christian should be to make our God as large as possible in our lives.  We ought to talk (boast) about Him.  We ought to try to increase Him wherever we go in this life.  This is a great challenge to a people who love to magnify themselves.  I know that we will say that we do not want that.  The reality is that ever since Adam and Eve fell into sin, mankind has been pushing God off the main stage of our lives, and replacing Him with our desires and plans.

 

Today try to find ways to let this world know that we have a God we are pleased to know.  How can we “magnify” our God today?  One way is to let people know the great things God has done for you.  It has always disappointed me at how easily I can speak to complete strangers about the baseball or football team that I like, but I seem to hesitate to talk about God.  This should not be true of a Christian that is truly committed to their God.  I want to be a good and active spokesperson for my God today.

 

The second thing I can do to magnify my God today is to give a place of importance to His Word in my life.  I don’t want to give a higher priority to the local newspaper, or to ESPN, or to any other thing this world might produce than I give to the precious Word of God.  The Bible has been called the “Book of the Ages.”  That is not in question today … it certainly is the Book that has eternal truths contained in it.  The real question is whether or not I will give it the place of priority in my life.  If I will set it’s truths as my compass for living, I am magnifying God.  If I choose my thoughts over His thoughts, I am magnifying myself.

 

The last way I can magnify God in my life is to share the news of how to go to Heaven with as many people as I can.  God is interested in men trusting His Son as Savior.  Therefore, if I am telling people about His Son, I am magnifying God.  If I am not telling others about Christ, I am minimizing my God.

 

Think about making God big today in your behavior, speech and attitudes.  The world is in great need of seeing an obvious picture of our God.  Today make it your goal to make God large in your life.

 

July 13 Devotional

We seem to be famous for deciding who is worthy of our respect, and who is not.  We hear a great deal today about equality … between races of people … between men and women … between different political groups.  Where should the Christian stand on these issues?  While the Bible does have clearly defined roles and qualifications for leaders within the church, there is a broader principle that covers how we treat each other that we need to realize today.

 

After Peter had seen Cornelius’ and his household saved (the first Gentile convert whose name we are given), he is challenged by the Jews who thought this should have been an exclusive club … this Christian club.  They were upset with Peter that he had actually entered the home of a Gentile and had eaten with him.  Look at the words God had spoken directly to Peter on the topic: “But the voice answered me again from heaven, ‘What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common” (Acts 11:9).  Do you see the power in the words God spoke to Peter?  God views every life as one that has great importance to Him.

 

There is not one person you will pass today that God views as common or ordinary.  Every single person you will see with your eyes today is a person that God would love to see in Heaven.  Oh, I know that not all will receive Him, but that will not change the fact that God would like them as a member of His family.  Jesus Christ died for the sins of the WHOLE world!  There is not one nationality that God views as less than another.  We learned a children’s song in our churches that is absolutely true … “Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight … Jesus loves the little children of the world.”  There is not a socio-economic group that means more to God than any other.  He does not care how much money you have in your bank, He is interested in you.  You see … God sees you as a living soul … He could care less if you are a Jew or a Gentile … black or white … rich or poor … male or female.  God sees all of us as “uncommonly” valuable!  You are worth the life of His Son!  Whether you feel valuable or not, you have great value to God!  He spent all that He had in order to redeem you back from the sin you have chosen to wallow in.  He sent out the Shepherd looking for you, even if you were the 100th sheep and the other 99 were safely in the fold!  You have value … and so does everyone you will meet today.

 

You have one business on earth, to save souls.” – John Wesley

July 12 Devotional

We were in a Deaf Camp in Ukraine last week in Simferopol.  I was staying in a room with three other men who were from America.  One of the men was the missionary we were helping who has a Deaf Church there.  We were lying in bed on the second night, getting ready to go to sleep when our door opened and a ten-year-old Deaf boy stepped into our room.  He stepped in, gave a greeting to all, and stepped back out again.  We laughed and kept on fellowshipping.  About five minutes later, our door opened again, and the same boy stepped into our room.  He had a Gideon New Testament in Russian language with him.  He then proceeded to read Galatians 1:1-3 to us and preach a little message, complete with a closing prayer.  It was a blessing to all of us, but we decided that if we wanted to sleep at all we better lock our door.

 

In the book of Acts there is the wonderful story of how God directed the steps of apostles to different people groups.  One that surprised them all was when God directed Peter to the home of the Gentile, Cornelius.  The Jews thought that the Gentiles were beyond the grace of God.  Much like we determine that certain religious groups or people groups today are beyond reaching for Christ.  However, God made this statement loud and clear to for us to understand His heartbeat.  “But in every nation he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with Him” (Acts 10:35).  When I read these words today, my heart rejoiced that I am a part of that “every nation,” and so is everyone that I will meet today and for the rest of my life.  I’m so glad that my God has left the door open for “whosoever” to come in!  He has not locked the door, but encouraged us to go into all the world and preach the gospel.  He has commanded us to take the Gospel to the uttermost part of the earth.   He has told us to ask Him for the heathen for an inheritance and told us that He would give them to us for an inheritance!  You see, God is really not a respecter of persons!  He really does love everyone!  He desires that everyone we meet would know Him personally and trust Him as Savior!  What about you?  Do you have that same burden for lost souls?  I don’t think any of us could … but do you have that desire for lost family members?  Remember, God made each of us in His image.  He loves us like His own children.  We are the ones who walked away from Him.  Praise God; the door is still open for all to come in!

July 11 Devotional

I have always counted friendship as something that was very valuable.  When I was growing up, I was always the smallest guy in the group.  The one thing I had going for me was that I could run fast.  If the bully tried to beat me up, I would run, and run, and run, and run until he finally gave up, or saw a slower skinny kid he could beat on.  As a result of this, I always tried to become the friend of a guy who was strong and would stand up for me.  God has really blessed me with strong friends in my life time.  I am still looking for friends who are strong in area’s I am weak.  I have been blessed with many friends who have stood beside me in difficult times.

 

In the Bible, there was a man who had not earned friendship with the early believers.  Saul of Tarsus … even the saying of the name created fear in the heart of Christians.  He had made it his life’s ambition to kill or imprison Christians.  However, something happened to him on his way to Damascus to capture more Christians.  He met Jesus Christ, face to face!  That meeting made an incredible difference in his life (as it should in your life and mine).  He was transformed from a religious warrior to a witness!  His goals in life changed in one quick meeting with the Savior.  A change he had not anticipated, but one that was very real by the evidence of the remainder of his life.

 

In the early days after Saul’s conversion, very few Christians wanted to have anything to do with him.  “But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus” (Acts 9:27).  What a wonderful friend Barnabas was to Saul of Tarsus!  What a wonderful friend he would be for you to have today in the struggles you are facing in life!  We need friends like this … and everyone says, “Amen!”  The real question on my mind is not if I need a friend like this … the question is am I a friend like this?  There is not one person in this world that had made right decisions all the way through their lives.  If you are looking for someone like that for a friend, you will be searching for a long time.  The quality Barnabas displayed in be-friending Saul was a forgiving spirit.  Today, make it a goal of yours to see the best in others and reach out to them.  If you see evidence that their change is not real, be very careful; but reach out to them … they could be the next Apostle Paul!

July 10 Devotional

Have you ever left for a long trip and stood over your suitcase wondering what it is that you are forgetting?  Have you ever loaded that suitcase you thought had all the essential things in it, only to realize one hour down the road that you forgot all your socks?  Have you ever stood at a business meeting and realized that you forgot that report you had worked all week prior to the meeting to produce?  Have you ever pulled that pie out of the oven, only to realize you never added the sugar that the recipe asked for?  Have you ever opened you gym bag to suit up for the big game and realized that you forgot to pack your shoes?

 

We all have certainly had one of these things happen to us at some point or another in our lives.  An interesting story is in our Bible about a man named Moses.  He had been born during a time of captivity for the Jews, but was raised in the home of the Pharaoh of Egypt (by the amazing grace of God).  He had tried to take matters into his own hands when he defended some Jewish slaves, only to see that backfire in his face.  He had run to the wilderness to hide.  After forty years of hiding, God called him from a burning bush to lead Israel out of bondage.  He thought that he was not prepared to lead anyone.  He asked God about the authority he would have to lead.  What should he say was his authority?  God’s reply was this: “And God said unto Moses, ‘I AM THAT I AM:’ and He said, ‘Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you’” (Exodus 3:14).  Moses had looked into his bag of personal authority and found he was missing a key ingredient … no one had listened to him before, and he was sure no one would listen now.  There was one big difference that we need to realize in our lives too.  This time, Moses was not going on his own leadership; but the God of eternity had sent him.  Make sure today that the plans you are making are at the direction and leadership of this God.  Don’t make big plans to serve God … to lead your family/friends … to serve God, without first making sure that I AM has sent you.  When you are going in His power and with His authority … you will have all you need to get the job done.  We have just returned from Ukraine.  A trip that is far outside of my comfort zone; but God did amazing things again!  I watched God give two saved wives, saved husbands.  These ladies had been praying for their Deaf husbands to trust Christ.  I could not make them become saved, but God reached down and did what we could not.  He will do the same for you today, if you will trust Him.

 

A leader’s first victory is over himself.” – Unknown

July 9 Devotional

There are only two kinds of people in this world … those who are “IN” Christ, and those who are “WITHOUT” Christ.  Which are you?  You will notice that this has nothing to do with your religion, but totally with your relationship.  I was reading today in the book of Psalms where David was begging God to protect him from his enemies.  All of us have enemies (maybe not with swords and spears as David’s enemies) in this life.  What will you do when enemies attack?  David ran to his personal relationship “in the LORD.”   “The righteous shall be glad in the LORD, and shall trust in Him; and all the upright in heart shall glory” (Psalm 64:10).

 

When you trust Jesus Christ as your Savior, you move from being “without Christ” into an intimate relationship “in Christ.”  Before entering this relationship you have fear, worry, trouble and anxiety without any hope.  When you trust Christ, these things can be conquered as you yield to His will in your life.  Think about the major differences with me today between being “in Christ” and in being “without Christ.”

 

“In Christ” you have eternal life.  As the Bible states it, you have passed from death unto life.  “In Christ” you have everlasting joy and contentment.  This does not mean that everything will be fun and games, but there will be a deep and lasting joy that stays with you, regardless of what challenges you are facing.  “In Christ” you have a reason for living that goes beyond your present life.  “In Christ” you will live to affect the eternity of others.  You will think of where others will spend eternity and it will drastically affect how you live this life.  “In Christ” you will have a desire to serve Him and spend time with His people.  No one will need to tell you to go to church, you will want to be there so you can be with the people of God, and so you can serve God.

 

“Without Christ” you will have eternal damnation because your sin separates you from God.  “Without Christ” nothing you try that should bring joy will give you anything more than a brief sense of pleasure.  “Without Christ” there is nothing eternal driving you.  You will live only for what you can get today.  “Without Christ” you will live to satisfy only your desires.  You will become self-centered and not concerned about anyone else.  David ran to his relationship with his LORD when troubles and enemies approached.  Do you?  If you have been fighting on your own … stop and return to your God today!

 

God does not leave you, you leave God.” – Unknown

July 8 Devotional

These summer months bring a time of my year when I feel like I cannot get enough to drink.  I can remember as a boy starting to play outside with my neighborhood friends as soon as we were finished breakfast.  We would play until lunch time.  After lunch, we started all over again, and we would not come back to the house until our thirst drove us home.  I can remember getting into our refrigerator and getting the gallon jug of water (we poured out of our faucet … from our own well).  I would drink and drink and drink some more.  Eventually I would drink so much that I would start to feel nausea setting in.  I remember many days where I would lay down on the couch waiting for the nausea to pass so I could go back outside to play some more.

 

The psalmist must have been a little boy once too.  He wrote, “O God, Thou art my God; early will I seek Thee: my soul thirsteth for Thee in a dry and thirty land, where no water is” (Psalm 63:1).  I will tell you that God has made each of us to need Him, and Him alone!  He is the only Person Who can satisfy the deep longing that is in your soul today.  Don’t look to the world to meet this need … they will never be able to, no matter how much money, time or effort they put into it.  Trust your Heavenly Father for meeting your needs.

 

When I am thirsty, I search for water.  Recently I preached in a meeting for the Deaf and Hearing.  When I do that I use my voice and my hands to communicate.  I was not so concerned about my voice (because the large majority of people listening were Deaf); until I found out they were trying to capture the messages on DVD.  I then began to speak with more force so that the equipment would pick up my voice.  When I finished preaching, I wanted a drink of water.  I would have paid a high price for one cool glass of water.  I began a hectic search for one glass of water.  When I found it, my throat was satisfied.

 

It should be the same with my desire to know my God!  Do you desire to know what God thinks about the things you are facing?  Are you concerned that you please Him in your attitudes and actions?  If you are not … today is a great day to begin.  Remember, it is this holy God you will stand before one day, not your friends, family, or co-workers.  Don’t focus on pleasing this world, it will not satisfy.  Stand for God today wherever you go, and seek for His favor!

July 7 Devotional

I will praise Thee, O Lord, among the people: I will sing unto Thee among the nations.  For Thy mercy is great unto the heavens, and Thy truth unto the clouds” (Psalm 57:9-10).

 

Do you spend time praising God in front of other people?  We love to complain when things do not go our way, but do we give God the credit for being our God and watching out for us?  Don’t fall into the trap of complaining about the things you do not like, while neglecting to thank God for what He has done and is doing.  I have a dear friend battling cancer all through her body.  I may have mentioned this before, but I cannot get over how she can praise the Lord for the smallest things, while enduring such horrific challenges.  She is a blessing, simply by her praise to God.

 

As you think about the mercies of God, this verse says they reach into the heavens.  I think the idea there is that the mercies of God are without limitation.  They are not dependent upon anything we do for God.  They could not be purchased, but are given away to us.  They are not earned; they are just the choice of God.  Praise Him for His mercies.  I thank God that He did not give me justice – the things I have earned – but He has given me far more than I deserve, far more than I have earned.  I am thankful that He has not given me what I really deserve.  I am thankful for His mercies today.

 

I am equally thankful that God’s truth is not limited either.  In a world where a person’s word means little or nothing, I am thankful that whatever God said He would lo, He will surely do.  Never trust another person’s word over the Word of God.  Get to know your Bible so when you hear false teachings you know that is what you listening to.  Always remember, the Devil could never tell the truth, and God can never lie.  I know that sounds overly simplistic, but it is extremely powerful!  Be careful where you go in your search for truth.

 

Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth?”  He had no idea that standing directly in front of him was the Way the Truth and the Life!  This is the God Who offers us mercies unto the heavens, and Who is the Author of truth.  Don’t hesitate today to praise Him for His mercies and truth.  What a God we serve!  He is worthy of our praise, and is totally dependable because of the truth of His character.

July 6 Devotional

Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the Word of God: Whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation” (Hebrews 13:7).

 

I have always taught our children this simple rule: If there is someone leading the right way, follow them; if there is no one leading the right way, you become the leader.  God has always had a plan for reaching the entire world with the Gospel.  It is wrapped up here in this verse.  The first part of God’s plan is that there would be faithful men who would learn the Word of God and then pass along to others what they have learned.  They have the responsibility to be true to the Word of God and to share those truths with others.  The second part of God’s plan is that we would find these faithful teachers and follow them and their teaching.  It is not enough to have good teachers; we also need some good learners.

 

Are you learning enough to become that faithful teacher one day?  Are you teaching the things you are learning to someone else today?  If you’re not, you ought to be searching for people you can influence.  This is part of God’s plan.  Are you placing yourself in a place where you can receive faithful teaching and growing yourself spiritually?  If you’re not, you need to be searching for people like this to learn from.

 

You might ask, “How do I go about getting under the teaching of a faithful person?”  The first thing is to find a good church that will provide good teaching on a consistent basis.  Finding the right church, with good faithful teachers is a key to an effective Christian walk.  The second thing to do is to pray that God will direct your path to just the right person for that to happen.  The third thing is to approach them and ask them to help you in your spiritual growth.  These are the things that are necessary for you to follow a faithful person.

 

One of the greatest investments you can make in your life is to seek out these kinds of people and follow what they teach you.  One of the pitfalls of youth is that you will think you have all the answers, and that you don’t need any help.  One of the things you realize as an older person is how much you need others.  It is a strange thing that happens, but it is healthy, and is God’s plan.  Follow His plan and find and follow faithful people who are setting the path for you to follow.

July 5 Devotional

I have always enjoyed playing sports and coaching sports.  I have a very competitive nature, and have my heart in the game long before it started.  I can recall when I was coaching basketball, watching the other team warm up, not my own.  I knew what my players could and could not do.  I also knew where my player’s strengths and weaknesses were.  As I watched the other team warming up, I would constantly be looking for an advantage for my players to be able to beat their players.

 

When looking at life and ministry, I am constantly trying to find the edge that will give me the advantage in winning in the ultimate sense.  The psalmist wrote, “Through thee will we push down our enemies:  Through Thy name will we tread them under that rise up against us” (Psalm 44:5).  It is not by my power that victory in my life will be won; victory will come when I totally yield to the power and strength of the Lord.

 

Notice that this verse says two times that the victory will be found in God alone.  The enemies of a Christian can only be defeated when we trust in God.  The enemy of pride … the enemy of selfishness … the enemy of worldliness creeping into our lifestyle … the enemy of compromise … the enemy of hate and envy and jealously and _____.  All can be defeated by our God, but none by us alone.  Each of these things will overpower a Christian who is depending on their own strength.

 

Only the things we do in the name of Jesus will have a lasting reward.  How much are you doing today in the name of the Lord?  How much are you doing that will result in things that will still be with us in Heaven?  Think about how much time we waste here on earth on non-eternal issues.  This is the time for us to begin to serve in the name of our God so that we can help others to enjoy eternal blessings.  This is a good time to examine your life, your motives and your ministry.  Is what you are focused on tonight something that will last into eternity?  If it’s not, this would be a great day to re-focus.  Looking at the enemies of our walk with God, determine that you will surrender totally to the plan of God.

 

Don’t worry so much about exalting your name, but His.  Make His desires your top priority and re-organize your goals to match those priorities.  There is a way to be a winner today, and that is to trust Him completely today, and to live for the good of His name.

 

God does not require you to be skilled in all areas of life.” – Unknown