Category Archives: Daily Devotional

Transforming Your Prayer Life

“You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss . . .”

— James 4:3

What do the following bestseller titles communicate to you about our society: The Virtue of Selfishness and Looking Out for Number One? What does it mean to you that we buy books like these in droves?

Tragically, selfishness characterizes our age. Our society has hurled God from the throne and crowned self as monarch. Then we’ve turned around and treated God as the conduit to all our desires. We “conjure up” God as if He were a genie in a bottle, commanding Him to manipulate the world to our liking.

But we shouldn’t treat God as a means to whatever we want. He isn’t a means to our own ends; He Himself is the end we should seek. If we think otherwise, we should ask the Lord to change our selfish hearts.

Selfishness is at the root of many an unanswered prayer. When we “ask amiss,” we ask for fulfillment of our selfish desires, not for the furtherance of God’s kingdom. But Christ showed us, through the Lord’s Prayer (found in Matthew 6), that we must seek God’s kingdom first, not our own. The first petition in the Lord’s Prayer is “Hallowed be thy name.” We should make it our priority to praise and honor God when we pray. The second petition reads, “Thy kingdom come.” We should diligently beseech Jesus Christ to bring His kingdom into this world and into our lives. The third petition is “Thy will be done.” We need to lay our will at Jesus’ feet and ask Him to fulfill His purposes through our lives.

Today pray, “Lord, what would you have me do this day?” Then make yourself available to do His will and further His kingdom in whatever way He desires. Pray every day, focusing your petitions not on yourself but on your King.

“Seven days without prayer makes one weak.”
Allen E. Bartlett

Your Thought Life

“For as he thinks in his heart, so is he . . .”

— Proverbs 23:7

Many people constantly dwell on negative thoughts. They dwell on their fears, hurts, and problems. They focus on the fly in the ointment, never seeing the ointment but only the fly. With their negativity and destructiveness, these people can ruin the lives of those who have the misfortune of living with them and around them. Most of all, these pessimistic people destroy their own bodies and souls with their negative thoughts. And so their lives shrivel.

What kind of thoughts do you dwell on? Are you a positive thinker, or do you most often find yourself dwelling in the pit of despair?

Echoing a Biblical truth, Marcus Aurelius once said, “The most important things in life are the thoughts you choose to think.” The Bible says, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” Many people believe that they don’t choose their thoughts at all, that instead their thoughts choose them. Thoughts rush at them in a stream, like a rolling script going across a TV screen, and no one can control them. But this is not so.

We do choose our thoughts. We choose what we think, and what we choose to think impacts our lives. Our thoughts determine what we say and how we say it. They determine what we are and what we become. “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” We are the outward embodiments, the incarnations, of our thoughts, and because of this, we need to choose well what we think.

Take notes from the apostle Paul. He was beaten and imprisoned for the Gospel’s sake. Because of all his trials, he could easily have had a gloomy outlook. Instead he chose to think good and positive thoughts, beginning with thoughts of the Lord. We should heed Paul’s instruction: “Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things” (Philippians 4:8).

Do you need to make a thought adjustment today? Let me encourage you to counteract your negative thoughts with positive ones. And as you do this, watch how you and your life change.

“Every act of a man springs from the hidden seeds of thought.”
James Allen

Debtors

“I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise.”

— Romans 1:14

Are you in debt? These days, it seems, who isn’t? But financial obligations are one thing. We also incur spiritual debts. Paul claimed he was a debtor to the Gentiles, the barbarians, the wise, and the unwise. Yet how could this be? What had those people done for him? Nothing at all. At least, nothing good. In fact five times they beat him with forty stripes minus one. Three times they beat him with rods, and once they stoned him and left him for dead. So what debt did he owe?

Just the same debt that pertains to every single person who claims to believe in Jesus Christ. Everyone who has received the gospel of Christ has received it as a steward, responsible to God, who gave it, and to the rest of humankind, for whom it’s intended.

“I am a debtor,” cried William Carey as he launched the modern missionary movement, setting sail for India to bring the Gospel to the Hindus.

“I am a debtor,” cried David Livingstone as he plunged for the first time into the interior of Africa to open the dark continent to the light of Christ’s gospel.

“I am a debtor,” cried William Wilberforce as he devoted his entire life to ridding Great Britain of the onerous slave trade. On his deathbed he received word that he had finally succeeded.

“I am a debtor,” cried Florence Nightingale as she went to far-flung battlefields to begin the noble profession of nursing, to bind up the wounded, and to care for the dying.

“I am a debtor,” cried William Booth as he started the Salvation Army to reach the downtrodden of the world.

And how about you, my friend? Are you a debtor? Does the realization of what Jesus Christ has done for you compel you to serve Him and others? Today ask God to use you to share the Good News.

“That land is henceforth my country which most needs the gospel.”
Count Zinzendorf

To Obey Is Better Than Sacrifice

“. . . Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice . . .’”

— 1 Samuel 15:22

Do you ever dread going to the doctor or dentist, fearing what he or she might find in the exam? Well, every once in a while, we need to have a spiritual checkup, as painful as it may seem. Let’s search our hearts today.

Have you neglected any duty in your life that God has called you to perform? God wants us to obey Him. To obey (follow Him in whatever He asks) is better than sacrifice (the confessions we offer to Him). Husbands and wives, have you neglected duties to each other? Do you have that tender relationship of love and intimacy that Christ calls us to? Or have you let it sit on the back burner for a while? As children, do you honor your parents? Do you fully obey that commandment, or do you do it only when it’s convenient? What about the other commandments in the Bible and the whisperings of God to your heart, calling you to some great work—have you obeyed?

We also need to search our hearts for any evil. Have you persisted in evil habits contrary to God’s will? We need to allow God’s Word to convict us so that we might obey Him in all He asks. One of our church members told me that a few years ago I really convicted him when I talked about his addiction to cigarettes. This man was absolutely bound to smoking despite Scripture’s admonition against bondage to anything. I wonder how many condemn drug addiction in the young yet themselves nurture an addiction to cigarettes? Some four hundred thousand Americans will die this year from smoking-related diseases. Others are in bondage to the bottle and refuse to obey the Lord, refuse to see their bodies as the temple of the Holy Spirit. Yet others habitually look at pornography in magazines, movies, television, or videos, all of which surround us like a polluted swamp.

Consider your life today. Have you avoided a duty God has called you to? Do you not want to hear some passage of Scripture because you know you are disobeying it? Then face it today. Ask God to forgive you, then purpose in your heart to obey. Remember: “To obey is better than sacrifice.”

“Yes, Lord.”
Motto spotted above the sink of a joyful,
well-respected, active christian

Our Footprints

“Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.”

— Daniel 12:3

When your time comes to leave this earth, what would you like others to remember about you? Have you thought of how you could make a lasting impact on this world? Most of us would like to know that we’ve made some enduring contribution and that people will never forget us. We hope that our lives will not have been just footprints in the sand along the edge of the water, washed away by the next wave to hit the shore.

Ever since the beginning of humankind, people have desired to make a memorable stamp on the world. Some people have attempted to leave great monuments to secure their names in the annals of history. Have they succeeded? Consider the Great Pyramid of Giza, no doubt one of the most massive structures in the world. Someone built that pyramid as a memorial to himself. “Who?” you ask. He was King Khufu, not exactly a household name. The Shah of India had a similar wish, desiring that his wife would be remembered by others for centuries. So the shah built the Taj Mahal. Yet he, too, built in vain; after all, who knows the name of Arjumand? How about the Great Wall of China? The Wall is the largest man-made structure in the world. Astronauts say you can even see it from outer space. Yet no one remembers the name of Chin She Whon Tea, the man initially responsible for this incredible structure.

While these people are forgotten by the masses, we can make a permanent imprint on the world. In fact, God placed the desire in our hearts for significance and permanence. Why? Because we’re bound for eternal life. So how can we make a name for ourselves for eternity? By bringing others to a saving knowledge of Christ’s grace that they may have eternal life.

Do you know someone who needs to discover God’s gift of grace? Those saved through you will be ever grateful that you took the time and made the effort to bring them into God’s presence. If you bring others to Christ, you shall shine like the stars of the firmament forever.

“He who has no vision of eternity has no hold on time.”
Thomas Carlyle

Two Options

“Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts . . .”

— Hebrews 3:15

There are two groups of people: those who are on their way to Heaven and those who are not. The first group comprises people who have trusted in Christ alone for their salvation, gaining eternal life for their souls through Christ’s death on the cross. The second group consists of people who haven’t committed their lives to Christ, including (ironically) those who may be trying to work their way into Heaven, hoping to gain entrance by their own merits.

Which group are you in today? Have you made the decision to give your life to Christ? Many decisions in life offer only two options. And often we find that while we’re deciding which option to choose, we’ve already chosen one by default. For example, suppose your car is stalled on a railroad track, and before you’ve restarted it, a train approaches at high speed. Two options now loom before you. You can leap from your car and save your life, or you can stay in your car and try to save both your life and your auto. As you weigh the dangers and gains of both options, you’ve made a choice with life-impacting consequences: You’re still in your car, and the train is still coming.

Likewise, you have two options today: life or death. But while you consider your options, you’ve already made a choice, for if you’ve never accepted Christ, you’re still in that state of death into which every soul was born. And every second you put off that decision, the judgment train of God continues to roll.

Christ’s gift of salvation is the greatest offer ever made. Someday God will rescind His offer, and this period of grace will end forever. But now, the sun of His grace shines, and the offer of His free gift is still available. I urge you this day, at the dawn of this new year (if you have not already), to repent of your sins, to place your faith in Jesus, and to accept Him as your Savior and Lord. Your life will never be the same again.

“Salvation is free for you because someone else paid.”
Anonymous

The Folly Of Shortsightedness

“For we walk by faith, not by sight.”

— 2 Corinthians 5:7

Is your spiritual vision 20/20? Sadly, many of us suffer from spiritual shortsightedness. For example, Adam and Eve exhibited shortsightedness as they contemplated only the immediate delight and satisfaction that would come from eating the forbidden fruit. They didn’t consider the long-term, disastrous results.

Abraham, on the other hand, was a man of great vision. The Bible says that Abraham sought a city whose builder and maker was God. Though he passed through many of the cities of this world, he knew his long-term search would be worthwhile.

Moses is also a prime example of a man with farsighted vision. He endured seeing Him who is invisible. That takes very long vision, and God calls us to the same effort. We must look not merely upon the things we can see—short-lived, temporal things—but upon the things we cannot see—the long-term, the eternal. Yet most people spend more time planning a party than they do planning where they’ll spend eternity. How many people have told me that they’re ready to die because they’ve made out their wills and have bought their burial plots. How utterly deceived people can be. No wonder the Bible calls sin folly and the sinner a fool, because our shortsightedness is foolishness.

If God had called us to climb Mount Everest in order to gain eternal life, millions would line up to try it. But He calls us to no such arduous task as that but instead to simple trust in Christ as our Savior. Doing that humbles us because we must acknowledge our sin and our unworthiness, casting ourselves upon Him and His mercy.

Sometimes people criticize Christians for not living in “the real world.” And yet ultimately two real worlds exist: Heaven and Hell. We must focus on eternity, cultivating a long-range view on life.

“A little faith will bring your soul to heaven;
a great faith will bring heaven to your soul.”
Charles Spurgeon

Forgiving Our Enemies

“But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you . . . ”

— Matthew 5:44

I want to talk to you today about the incredible importance of forgiveness in our lives. Without it, we’ll never make it in this world or the next. Doctors now know that we don’t get ulcers as much from what we eat; we get them from what’s eating us. If you want to have a miserable existence and risk contracting one or more diseases, then hold resentment and unforgiveness in your heart. They can destroy the body.

Would you prefer to cultivate a forgiving heart? Then learn from Joseph’s example. He had much to forgive . . .

  • He had to forgive his father, Jacob, because of Jacob’s folly in preferring him over his brothers.
  • He had to forgive his brothers for throwing him into a pit then selling him into slavery as a mere alternative to killing him. He had to forgive his brothers for all his years of slavery in Egypt and for the long, arduous tasks he had to perform until finally he was accepted into Potiphar’s household.
  • He had to forgive Potiphar’s wife, who took hold of his garment, bringing his integrity into question.
  • He had to forgive Potiphar, who never even looked into the matter between Joseph and his wife but condemned Joseph out of hand, sending him to prison to languish for years.

Joseph could well have said he had much to set right, but he never did. Instead he freely forgave them all.

Abraham Lincoln is also a wonderful example of forgiveness. He regularly forgave his enemies. On the very afternoon before he was shot, Lincoln gave instructions to his cabinet, many members of which were bent on stepping on the face of the South now that the Civil War had ended. Lincoln told his cabinet, “There will be no reparations.” He had a heart as big as the whole world and yet not big enough to hold a grudge.

Do you have an enemy whom you have not forgiven from your heart? Then ask God for the grace to forgive; after all, Jesus has forgiven us for so much more—who are we to hold grudges?

“I shall never permit myself to stoop so low as to hate any man.”
Booker T. Washington

Faith Without Works

“But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”

— James 2:18

Do you ever get confused by all the different religions in the world? Many do. So let’s reduce this complex subject to its simplest components. Ultimately, only three types of religions exist. The first type of religion (“Christian” or otherwise) teaches that people become acceptable to God by their own works, such as keeping commandments and following certain rules of morality, piety, and benevolence. Another type of religion teaches simply that people are saved by faith in Christ. And the third type of religion teaches that people are saved by a combination of faith and works.

The Bible makes it clear that only by faith in Christ can we be saved. We can’t add good works to the equation. However, the Bible also says that true faith in Christ manifests itself in good works. Faith is invisible. Someone may say that he or she has faith, but you cannot see it, nor can a person show it apart from works. And that is precisely why, at the Judgment, God judges people by their works. Though only Jesus can save us, we demonstrate the genuineness of our faith in Jesus to the world by the works we do. In the second chapter of his letter, James denounces the barren orthodox, those who believe that they save themselves by the correctness of their creed, those who may confess expertly, may argue their faith with great eloquence, and believe it in all of its details; yet they have no fruit: joy, love, peace, works, or service for Christ. They may profess religious faith, but their actions show they don’t possess it.

Do people know what you believe by how you live? Today, choose to honor God in all you do, so that those around you may know the truth.

“The first good work you will ever perform
is to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Anonymous

If God Is Love, Then Why…?

“Then Job answered the Lord and said: ‘I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You . . . I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.’”

— Job 42:1–2, 5–6

Have you ever said, “Why me, Lord?” when something bad happened to you? Rabbi Harold Kushner, in his book When Bad Things Happen to Good People, tried to answer this question. Unfortunately, Rabbi Kushner’s conclusions were not Biblical. Kushner says, “God would like people to get what they deserve in life, but he cannot always arrange it.” He says that God does not really control the events of this world but helps us respond to them in more positive ways. But the Bible says that God is all-powerful and all-good, able to do anything and wanting to bless us.

Another example of Kushner’s unbiblical assertions is that Job, a man who endured tremendous tribulation, thought of himself as a good man. But notice what Job actually says in Job 42:5-6 after God confronts him: “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” When Job asked God, “What have I done wrong?” God did not answer his question. Instead, God just showed Himself. Through this revelation, Job came to see that God has no limitations and imperfections whatsoever, and that by comparison, he himself was vile.

None of us is good; none of us deserves unending blessing. The Bible says so. So the question is not “Why do bad things happen to good people?” but “Why do good things happen to bad people?” Peter tells us that we should not be amazed when fiery trials come upon us. We should expect that God will try our faith with fire, so that we might come out as pure gold. For He is in the process of forging our character, drawing us nearer to Him for now and for eternity.

Have you been experiencing a severe trial in your life? Don’t despair. Instead, thank God for the trial, no matter how difficult, and keep trusting Him. God will never disappoint you. Our false, unbiblical perceptions of Him might, but He Himself never will.

“If it is true that all of us deserve hell, then anything
we get in this life, less than that, is gracious.”