Spring is here!
Soon it will be time to prepare your garden soil for planting. Just like garden soil, your heart needs to be prepared for the planting of God’s Word. Ask & Seek for a heart that is soft & fertile, so you will grow in the likeness of Christ Jesus.
DAILY DEVOTIONAL 04/20/18
Standing for Truth
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 04/20/18
Even though we are called to stand firm for the Gospel, we should not be surprised when the world rejects our stance on Truth.
You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood. (1 John 4:4-6).
We can praise God that He does not expect us to make this stand on our own. He will be right there with us, no matter what persecutions we face. He has given us every tool and weapon we need for our spiritual fight. "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes . . . so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand" (Ephesians 6:10-11, 13).
If we continue on the road of compromise, eventually we will face serious consequences. Jesus appeals to each of us to change our lifestyles before it is too late. He knows the pressures and temptations we face, and He wants to give us the strength we need to stand against these attacks. He wants to give us courage to denounce sins, errors, and false teachings. He wants us to speak up when we see people twist the Gospel message.
Prayer: Father, You are worthy. In the face of opposition, give me Your strength to stand up for Truth. Give me wisdom to know what to say and when to say it, and comfort and protect me when I face the enemy. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong" (1 Corinthians 16:13).
DAILY DEVOTIONAL 04/19/18 to 04/01/18
The Lord Our Righteousness
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 04/19/18
Today, we tend to define righteousness as that which is morally acceptable or which conforms to rules of conduct. But the Biblical usage has a far deeper meaning and implies a covenant relationship with God.
Righteousness is more than a character trait of God. The people of the Old Testament saw God's righteousness as His actions done in fulfillment of His covenant for His glory. God tells us, "I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight" (Jeremiah 9:24). We are not simply to know that God is righteous, but we are meant to experience His righteousness.
One of the first examples we see of God's righteousness is in the book of Jeremiah, a time when God's people were living in sin and idolatry and their land was oppressed on all sides by violence and crime. The spiritual leaders were confused and scattered. The prophets were lying to the people rather than proclaiming God's Truth. Righteousness was a distant concept.
But to one prophet, Jeremiah, God promised a day to come when a righteous King would reign wisely and "do justice and righteousness in the land"; He would be called Jehovah-Tsidkenu, "The LORD Our Righteousness" (Jeremiah 23:5-6, NASB).
The word Tsidkenu, the Hebrew word used for righteousness in "The LORD Our Righteousness," means upright, straight, and narrow. The righteousness of God is the root of all integrity. It is the definition of all that is genuinely good in this life.
We cannot earn righteousness, but because Jesus Christ became our righteousness, it is ours through Him (see 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Once we receive righteousness through our commitment to Christ, God continues to work His righteousness in us. We are not alone in the struggle between our flesh and spirit. In our daily lives, the Holy Spirit will guide us and convict us of what is right and wrong (see John 16:7-15). And God promises us the strength to turn from temptation if we seek His help (see 1 Corinthians 10:13).
God has also blessed us with a manual on righteousness—the Word of God (see 2 Timothy 3:16). By the power of the Holy Spirit, we must allow God's Word to guide us in righteousness every day, that we might grow in Christlikeness.
Prayer: Jehovah-Tsidkenu, I ask for a heart that submits to the guidance of the Holy Spirit to live a righteous life. Give me wisdom to apply Your Holy Word to my life. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"It is because of [God] that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption" (1 Corinthians 1:30).
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 04/18/18
Until you develop a strong sense of conviction, you will not have the sure-footedness that is needed to be a follower of Christ. When faced with a crucial decision, you will be tempted to waver between right and wrong—what you know is godly and ungodly.
Those who are soft in their convictions often experience disappointment, doubt, and fear. When we allow temptations to lure us away from what we know is right, we miss God's blessing. But when we are fully committed to Christ, we have a sure hope.
The rich young ruler wanted to follow Jesus, yet his emotional attachment to earthly treasures kept him paralyzed. He was not free to join those who were a part of Christ's band of followers (see Mark 10:17-23).
The apostle Paul did not have a problem with commitment or conviction. He gave his life to the Lord and in doing so left behind the very things this world deems as both impressive and valuable.
Paul had been a Pharisee—a man of social influence and position. He had been trained by one of the most eminent scholars of his day—Gamaliel, a member and former president of the Sanhedrin, the high council of Jews in Jerusalem. It was said that Gamaliel's influence was so great that he was one of only seven Jewish scholars who have been honored by the title "Rabban."
None of this mattered to Paul. He had formed a strong conviction: "I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things" (Philippians 3:8).
Prayer: Lord, I want to be able to say with Paul that the only thing I hold dear is Christ Jesus who lives inside of me. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"I consider everything a loss . . . that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith" (Philippians 3:8-9).
At Odds with God
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 04/17/18
The tragedy of the church today is that we have identified with our dying culture instead of being distinct from it. Like the Israelites in the time of the judges, we have mingled false religion with our worship of the one true God.
If we are not at odds with our culture, then we are at odds with God. In Deuteronomy, God speaks affectionately of finding the people of Israel, caring for them, and keeping them as "the apple of his eye" (Deuteronomy 32:10). But in Judges we sense the wounded heart of God as He grieves over His people for squeezing Him out of the center of their lives. We see that God's most difficult battle is not with the pagans; it is with His own people.
God grieves for His children who rationalize sin, redefine marriage, make excuses for the slaughter of innocent children, and call themselves Christians but live for lust, greed, and selfish ambition. He aches for those who identify with the name of Christ, but who live lives that are indistinguishable from the lives of the Canaanites.
If you think you are grieved by the decline of your culture, by the sin and immorality that surrounds you, by the suffering and sadness that pervades this fallen world, how much more must our loving Father grieve over us and our nation? Don't let your children, your grandchildren, or the children you teach and influence become another generation who did not know the Lord.
Even though the story of the book of Judges is heartbreaking, its message is encouraging. The book records the history of Israel's failure. But it also records the message of God's grace. The book of Judges tells us that if we cry to God, if we repent and turn to Him, He will extend grace to us—and not just to us, but to the next generation.
Prayer: God, forgive me for the ways I have not been faithful to You. Thank You for Your grace and mercy. Give me Your strength to contend for the next generation for Your glory. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Don't you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God" (James 4:4).
Doing What’s Right in God’s Eyes
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 04/16/18
The last few chapters of Judges do not tell the story of a particular judge. Instead they show the depths of depravity to which Israel had sunk through disobedience to God's commandments. The people of Israel had fallen to such a spiritual and moral low point that they saw no problem whatsoever in worshiping the Lord and pagan idols side by side.
Life in that society was not so different from life in our own postmodern, post-Christian, anything-goes society. These days, people avoid words like sin or disobedience. They prefer to justify their actions with phrases like, "Everybody does it," or, "The old rules don't apply anymore," or, "Times have changed." It's true that times have changed, and not for the better. But God hasn't changed. He still says to us, "You cannot receive blessings from Me while you live in disobedience. You can't have it both ways."
There is nothing in the world as futile as being religious yet lost, maintaining a form of religion but lacking in faith. If you think you can be a discerning believer without spending time with God—think again. If you think you can be a woman of God or a man of God without studying His Word—think again. If you think you can experience God's blessings without living in faithful obedience to Him—think again.
We seem to have lost the key to salvation, the key to the Good News of Jesus Christ, the key to healing from guilt, shame, and inadequacy. We seem to have lost our faith. By faith, we give our lives to God. By faith, we surrender control of our lives to Him. We do this not to impress God or to buy His favor but as an expression of gratitude to God for the salvation He freely gives us through Jesus Christ.
If you find yourself caught in the downward spiral of disobedience, if you are doing what is right in your own eyes rather than in God's, it's time to come home. God anguishes over His people and longs for them to love Him and trust Him. He longs for us to manifest a strong, obedient faith in Him. Come home. The one who loves you is waiting.
Prayer: Lord, forgive me for going through the motions and not surrendering control of my life to You, for not living in faithful obedience. I want to come home to You. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith" (1 John 5:3-4).
Is God Inclusive?
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 04/15/18
In the last few decades our culture has made several dangerous shifts in direction. One of the most dangerous shifts has been a move from an emphasis on thinking to an emphasis on feeling. We have shifted from absolutes to relativism.
Many do not want to speak or even admit the Truth for fear that it may hurt people's feelings. Inclusivity has not only become a buzzword in our society—it is now a virtue that is preached. In fact, vast numbers of preachers today have abandoned the Truth of the Scripture in favor of inclusivity.
And yet the Bible declares that while the invitation God has issued is an inclusive invitation, God is an exclusive God. The invitation is for everyone in every nation and every tribe.
But the reward is for those who have accepted the invitation; the reward for obeying the Word of God is very exclusive. In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus gives us a picture of what it will be like on the Day of Judgment when He returns.
In this passage, Jesus talks about the separation of the sheep and the goats—true believers and those who might look like believers but do not live like believers.
How do you know if you are a sheep or a goat? First, you must confess faith in Jesus as the one and only risen Messiah (see Romans 10:9). Second, in 1 John 2:3-6, John says that those who know Christ obey His commands. The apostle adds that those who love God's people—their brothers and sisters in Christ—are living in the light of God's Truth (v. 10).
Sheep and goats look very similar. If you are driving in the countryside and you see them, they look alike from a distance, but in Truth, they are very different creatures. Scripture tells us that on the last day, Christ will separate true believers (sheep) from unbelievers (goats) based upon whether they followed His example—whether they understood their need for a Savior and allowed this humility to transform them into gentle and sacrificially loving people.
We must all examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith. Will you do so today?
Prayer: Father, I confess faith in Jesus Christ as the way, the Truth, and the life. Empower me by Your Spirit to demonstrate my love for You through my obedience to Your will, and grant me love for my brothers and sisters in Christ. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats" (Matthew 25:32).
Confronting the Culture
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 04/14/18
The Truth of Christ has not changed since before time began. God is constant and true; He does not change. Yet throughout history, humanity has tried to transform God into its own image. When people do not like something in God's Word, they try to twist it to fit their own needs and agendas. When people try to understand God through their worldly views instead of through the Holy Spirit's discernment, they are easily fooled by Satan's lies.
All around us we see the consequences of our deceitful hearts and judgment errors. We see the Gospel watered down for the sake of appeasing the culture. We see Christians allow the name of Christ to be trampled and ridiculed. We allow false teaching into our churches and homes. But how many of us stand up for God's Truth? How many of us confront those lies and false doctrines? How many of us defend Christ's name when we hear it mocked?
We may follow Christ in our hearts. We may boldly profess His name in the company of other believers. We may worship Christ in the security of our church pews. But how do we react when confronted by our worldly culture?
Prayer: God, give me the courage to stand up for You and Your Truth. Help me not to ignore the lies I hear, but to boldly confront them with the Truth in love. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15).
Living in Opposition to God
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 04/13/18
Throughout the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, Babylon is a symbol for what it means to live at enmity with God. This dubious reputation was born when the inhabitants of Babylon said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens" (Genesis 11:4). With that statement, a well-organized human opposition to God began.
The implication of the Babylonians' figure of speech, "reaches to the heavens," is that the top of their tower would be dedicated to the worship of the heavenly bodies. It was from Babylon that astrology, the belief that the stars and planets influence human affairs and events on earth, was passed on to the entire world.
After four hundred years of slavery in Egypt, even the Hebrews had begun to practice astrology. When the Lord brought them out of Egypt, He warned them against worshiping the stars (see Deuteronomy 18:9-13). In reality, those who look to the stars for the key to their destinies are worshiping Satan and his demonic forces.
Notice Satan's modus operandi. After he was thrown out of heaven, Satan deceived Adam and Eve into doubting God and managed to get them thrown out of the Garden of Eden. Then Satan deceived Cain into worshiping in his own way rather than God's way, which led to Abel's murder and ultimately to the massive destruction of life by the flood. Then Satan deceived Ham's descendants into worshiping the zodiac—actually the worship of demons—thereby causing their destruction.
Satan always sows deception and confusion. He convinces people to take a gift and turn it into an idol. When people don't worship God, they embrace false gods, intentionally or not.
Prayer: Lord, You have warned us against worshiping false gods. Help me to avoid the temptation of looking to the world's deceptive practices for advice and counsel. Instead, turn my heart toward the Truth of Your Word. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"And when you look up to the sky and see the sun, the moon and the stars—all the heavenly array—do not be enticed into bowing down to them and worshiping things the LORD your God has apportioned to all the nations under heaven" (Deuteronomy 4:19).
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 04/12/18
Faithfulness stands at the heart of who God is and what He wants to do in and through us. It is rooted in commitment and trust. Trust is produced when we make a promise and then keep it, when we make a commitment and then honor it, and when we say something and mean it. Consistency, reliability, and proven track records are all aspects of faithfulness. Faithfulness means giving your best to any effort you undertake, whether it is a task or a relationship.
We must be faithful in all areas of life—whether they are little things or big things. In being faithful, we keep appointments and promises. We remain faithful to our spouse, not only through fidelity but also by making decisions with their good in mind. At the office, it means doing your best work even when no one is watching.
As you develop this fruit, you may discover a few foes to faithfulness. You will find that your faithfulness decreases as you diminish your relationship with God. If you find yourself spending less time in prayer, becoming sporadic in your church attendance or negligent in your giving of tithe or time, your faithfulness will suffer. But God calls us to be faithful to Him, just as He is faithful to us.
The compromise of God's Truth is another foe to faithfulness. When we begin to interpret Scripture to fit our own desires, we diminish both our ability to rely upon the faithfulness of God and our ability to be faithful. If we see God as someone who changes His mind or who is capricious in His judgments, we will have little desire to follow Him. So, it is paramount that we ask the Lord for His wisdom to understand Scripture and seek His Truth faithfully, allowing it to transform and renew our minds (see Romans 12:2).
Prayer: Father, help me to be faithful in every area of my life and especially in my relationship with You. Help me to spend time in Your Word and never compromise Your Truth. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful" (1 Corinthians 4:2).
Loving Jesus in Spite of Obstacles
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 04/11/18
If we want to grow in intimacy with Jesus, we will encounter distractions, temptations, and difficulties along the way. That is sure. What is not sure is whether we will allow these obstacles to be hindrances to our love for Jesus or whether we will see them as stepping stones for growing deeper in Christ.
In pursuing a deeper love and intimacy with Jesus, there are three things that stifle our relationship with Him: the inability to accept correction, the unwillingness to change, and the temptation of confusing the journey for the destination.
Let's look at the first obstacle: the inability to accept correction. When a godly person points out some of the blind spots in our lives, how do we react? Our willingness to accept correction from a loving Christian brother or sister is one of the greatest indications that we are growing in our love for Jesus.
Secondly, to love the Lord Jesus with all our hearts, we have to be willing to grow and change. Some people are afraid of change and want to cling to the past. They would rather live comfortably than obey Jesus no matter the cost. As believers, our middle names should be change and growth because that is the nature of sanctification. In our efforts to love Jesus more intimately every day, we must realize that whatever heights we've attained, there is more. Whatever level of growth we have reached, there is always further to go in our love for Christ. The day we stop changing and growing is a day of immense spiritual danger.
Finally, the third obstacle to loving Jesus more intimately every day is confusing the journey for the destination. We either see ourselves as a citizen of this world with a passing interest in heaven or as a citizen of heaven passing through this strange land on our way to our final destination. Loving Jesus intimately means that we keep our eyes on our destination and yet serve Him here and now as we await the call of our Redeemer (see Philippians 3:20-21).
Prayer: Lord, protect me from the complacency, apathy, and pride that would keep me from seeking You wholeheartedly. When I encounter an obstacle in my faith, let it become a stepping stone to growth instead of a source of discouragement. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way" (Colossians 1:9-10).
Don’t Settle for Disobedience
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 04/10/18
How often do you find yourself negatively influenced by another person? How many times have you realized that you've compromised your convictions and have fallen short of God's plan for your life?
Don't settle for sin and disobedience. Don't let fear, or even fatigue, keep you from faithfulness. And don't let the temptations of the world lead you astray.
Sin—the product of disobedience—is deceitful. We can even be mired in sin and yet unaware of our disobedience because of our cultural blindness. It is a consequence of the fall that we struggle against daily—a brokenness that we could never cure—a failing with an ultimate cost. Romans 6:23 tells us that "the wages of sin is death"—a debt too high for any of us to pay. That's why our God of grace ransomed us, just as Romans 6:23 concludes, "but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Our disobedience is painful; it stunts our growth, and it hurts those around us. But thank God that His promises are never affected by our disobedience. He is faithful, and His mercy is new every morning (see Lamentations 3:22-23). So let us run to our God of grace, repenting of sin, and pursue righteousness by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Prayer: Father, help me to never settle for disobedience. Remind me of the price that You paid for my salvation. Thank You, God, that Your promises are not affected by my disobedience. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh" (Galatians 5:16).
The Comparison Trap
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 04/09/18
Do you fall into the comparison trap? It's a common ploy of Satan to get us to become dissatisfied with what God has given us. We suddenly become aware of what other people around us have. Maybe they have a bigger home, a better job, or a larger paycheck. Or maybe they just seem to have more talent or intelligence or skill than we do. Then once we begin comparing ourselves to others, envy and jealousy set in, which are soon followed by bitterness and misery.
If you are constantly comparing yourself to others, you will feel that you never quite measure up, that something is lacking in your life, or that life is just unfair. You begin to feel that your own self-worth is somehow insignificant. Comparisons rob you of the joy that comes from seeing yourself as a unique, beloved, and one-of-a-kind person. They rob you of the joy that comes from delighting in the way God has made you and His promises for your good.
Real joy does not come from favorable economic conditions, being accepted by society, or by owning a luxury car. These bring only temporary happiness at best. Joy comes from one thing alone: a sure knowledge that you are saved through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Real joy comes from knowing that your sins are forgiven, that you are in a right standing with God, and that He is working all things together for your eternal good—preparing an eternal home for you.
Prayer: God, forgive me for the times I fall into the comparison trap. Thank You for being the source of my real joy! I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit" (Romans 15:13).
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 04/08/18
The world tempts us with fickle and fleeting power—rooted in selfish desires for wealth and fame. But the power of the Holy Spirit is completely other than the power the world offers and values.
The power of the Holy Spirit gives God's children the ability to serve His purpose for our lives, giving us joy abundant and readying us for everlasting life unhampered by sin. The Holy Spirit's power is unlike any other in the world. Only the power of the Holy Spirit can transform us, relieve our guilt, and heal our souls. The Bible tells us:
And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you. . . . those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. (Romans 8:11, 14-16).
God wants us to use His power for His Kingdom. Jesus said, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8). Whatever tasks God calls us to do, we can remain confident that He will equip us with His Holy Spirit to guide our steps.
As Christians we have an amazing power source available to us. But as long as we cling to the unfulfilling temptations of worldly power, we cannot experience the true power of the Holy Spirit. As long as we are deceived and mesmerized by worldly power, God's power will remain elusive to us.
Where do you seek power? Is it in a solid portfolio or a corner office or a prestigious degree? Or do you seek the power of the Holy Spirit to guide your steps and direct your purpose in life?
Prayer: God, help me to use Your power for the furthering of Your Kingdom. I pray that Your Spirit would guide and direct my steps each and every day. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth" (John 16:13).
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 04/07/18
There is no doubt about it: Power is enticing. It also can be intoxicating. But it is the one thing people want more of today. In the 1990s, the trend was not just to have lunch with a colleague—it was to have a "power" lunch.
Even today, this trend continues at a feverish pace. Instead of asking how a person is doing and listening to him or her talk over lunch, laptop computers are opened, cell phones are turned on, and handheld devices are readied to record important data. We don't just talk; we "power" talk!
Sadly, those who get caught up in this whirlwind usually want those around them to take notice. They want others to think they are powerful. But the Truth is that if they are not living lives submitted to Jesus Christ, then they are powerless.
A large number of people were drawn to the early church thinking that they would receive a certain degree of power. However, they quickly realized that if they wanted to experience God's power, then they would have to change by leaving their quest for control and personal gain behind.
God's power is something He gives to those whose lives are submitted to Him. The power we experience as believers is not a power that takes advantage of others, rules over individuals, or seeks to be well-known. It is a power born of humility and sacrifice.
Are you living life with the goal of gaining more power, money, or influence? Remember, the resurrection was the single most powerful event in history. Yet, it could not have taken place apart from the crucifixion. If you want to experience true power, begin your quest at the foot of the cross.
Prayer: Father, help me to rest in Your power, trusting Your Holy Spirit to work through me daily. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Our Only Hope, Now and Forever
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 04/06/18
Read 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, 20-26. Think about what it must have been like to arrive at Jesus' tomb Easter morning, full of sorrow, only to discover the large stone in front of the tomb had been rolled away. Imagine being greeted by an angel with the incredible news that your Lord was no longer dead but alive!
To witness the resurrection and experience it as a close friend of Jesus must have been something. But here's the amazing thing: The Bible says we haven't missed out. Though we are two thousand years late to the party, we can still experience the resurrection of Jesus Christ and bear witness to its power.
How? you might ask. In his letter to the Ephesians, the apostle Paul says that when Christ comes into your life, when you truly surrender to Him, repent of your sins, and receive Him as your only Savior and Lord, the risen Christ comes into your life.
This resurrection power dwells inside of you to give you victory over sin and temptation, joy in the midst of sorrow, peace in the midst of trouble, hope in the midst of hopelessness, and confidence in the midst of discouragement. The power of Jesus' resurrection working in you is far greater than all the challenges that this life can throw your way.
You and I may not have had the privilege of seeing Jesus' empty tomb with our own eyes on that first Easter Sunday, but we can experience the reality of the empty tomb every day that we walk with Jesus. And, one day, should Christ return after our life on earth has ended, we will all gaze upon another empty tomb—our own. For, at His coming, He will call us from the grave to meet Him in the air (see 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). The Bible tells us Christ's resurrection power is this same power that will transform our earthly bodies into heavenly ones, no longer subject to death or disease. We, like Jesus, will live forever (see 1 Corinthians 15:50-54).
Through the power of the resurrection we have hope for today and hope for the future, for He is risen—and so are we, now and forever.
Prayer: Lord, Your sacrifice and resurrection power are everything—they give me power for living and unparalleled hope for the future. Thank You for Your love and salvation. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Defeating Death Once and for All
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 04/05/18
Death is our great, inescapable enemy, for we are all destined to die and then face judgment (see Ecclesiastes 7:2; Hebrews 9:27). And we were without hope, that is, until Easter morning.
Read John 11:21-27. Since Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden, men and women have stood helplessly before death, not knowing what to do. We are powerless before it. Death comes. Death takes. There's no stopping it.
Throughout history, different cultures have tried to cope with death in a variety of ways. For example, my ancestors, the ancient Egyptians, tried to preserve their bodies by mummifying them. They placed gold and other prized possessions in their tombs, hoping that one day the soul of the deceased would come back to their body. But the only people who came back were the robbers who stole the gold and sold the artifacts.
Others in Asia came up with a theory called reincarnation. If you live a good life, you can come back as a higher being. But if you don't live a good life, you come back as a cockroach. It's a great deterrent, but it's a hoax.
All of this hocus pocus is mankind's attempt to deal with death. But their efforts are ineffective and, ultimately, irrelevant. God has already provided a way to overcome death and the grave, and His name is Jesus.
When Jesus healed the sick and the lame, He was giving people a glimpse of His Kingdom, a Kingdom with no brokenness, pain, or suffering. When He raised people from the dead, He was demonstrating His divine authority over all creation, even death. And when He died on the cross and rose again, He ushered in the new covenant of His blood by which we can enter the Most Holy Place as children of God (see Hebrews 10:19-21). It is just as Jesus revealed to Martha before raising Lazarus, "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?" (John 11:25-26).
If you trust in Jesus as your Lord and Savior, the Bible says that "you have been raised with Christ" (Colossians 3:1), meaning you have been given new life, here and now. But it also means that, just like Christ, you will rise from the grave, never to die again (see 1 Corinthians 15:20-23).
Prayer: Jesus, thank You for the promise of eternal life in glory with You. Help me to face death with great faith so that I too can say, "Death, where is your sting?" I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?" (John 11:26).
Inseparable from the Cross
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 04/04/18
Many people today, even professing Christians, wake up Easter morning and think, "Well, if Jesus did rise from the dead, so what?"
Read 1 Corinthians 15:12-22. People who have this kind of response have not understood the power of Jesus' resurrection and what it means for our lives here and eternally. Without the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, His crucifixion is nothing but martyrdom. Without the resurrection, the death of Jesus leaves us helpless, hopeless, and trapped in despair. But that is not the true Christian faith.
Our God is full of grace, mercy, and love. He sent His Son to die to pay the price for our sin—to make an offering once for all to secure our salvation by the shedding of His blood (see Hebrews 9:12-15). At the same time, the apostle Paul wrote, "If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. . . . you are still in your sins" (1 Corinthians 15:14, 17).
We can come near to the throne of God because Jesus opened His eyes on Easter morning and walked out of the grave, His heart beating, His lungs breathing. He defeated the power of sin and death, finally and forever. And through Him, we have the victory: "in Christ all will be made alive" (v. 22).
The cross and the empty tomb go together. They cannot be separated. For it was by His crucifixion that Jesus paid for the sin of every person who would come to Him, believe in Him, surrender to Him, live under His lordship, and receive Him as Savior. But it is by His resurrection that He gives us power to defeat sin, guilt, and the grave.
The crucifixion and the resurrection are two sides of a coin. If you split that coin, it is no longer legal tender. It doesn't work. If you try to take the resurrection away from the cross, it doesn't work either. Good Friday is only good because of Easter Sunday, and Easter is only a celebration because of the price paid on Good Friday. For, through Christ's atoning sacrifice and resurrection power, we will be changed: "When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: Death has been swallowed up in victory'" (1 Corinthians 15:54).
Prayer: Lord, thank You for the power of the resurrection to give me true and everlasting life. I praise You for Your mercy and love displayed on that first Easter. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead" (1 Corinthians 15:19-20).
A Truth to Wrestle With
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 04/03/18
"Because I live, you will also live" (John 14:19). Jesus said these words on the night He was betrayed by one of His friends, just hours before the Roman governor Pilate would sentence Him to death on a cross. Jesus was preparing to die for all those who would believe in Him, yet He spoke to His friends about life. That's because Jesus was focused on the other side of Easter.
Read 1 Corinthians 15:1-7. Today, there are people who deny the resurrection. They ignore the historical evidence and balk at the claims of the Bible. Even worse, some respond to the resurrection with indifference, saying, "Even if He rose from the dead, so what?"
Friends, I want you to know that there is no more important fact of history than the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In fact, your eternal destination depends on how you respond to the Gospel, for no one will enter heaven without believing wholeheartedly that God the Father raised God the Son after three days in the tomb.
On another occasion, Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die" (John 11:25). He said this at the grave of Lazarus, who had been dead four days. Unless you are alive on the day that Jesus returns, you will someday find yourself dead and buried, like Lazarus. But the Good News of Jesus Christ is this: Because Jesus rose from the grave, so will you—if you put your trust in Him. You too will live, even though you die.
Jesus paid for our sins on the cross, but He didn't stop there. He conquered the grave so that we could have eternal life with Him. That's why we celebrate Easter. "Because He lives, I can face tomorrow," the old hymn tells us. And it's true! We have nothing to fear in this life or in death because, in the end, we will rise like Jesus if we know Him and love Him. And that is good news indeed.
If you've never really considered whether or not you believe Jesus rose from the dead, don't waste another moment! Read the Gospel accounts of Christ's death and resurrection; ask God to open your heart to the Truth; and place your full trust in Jesus today. It will make all the difference in your life—and in the life to come.
Prayer: Lord, help me to grasp the awesome impact of Your resurrection on my life. Help me live with joy and peace, trusting in what glorious promises You have lovingly secured for me through Your death and resurrection. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day" (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
His Power in Us
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 04/0218
On Easter Sunday, we enjoy the good news of the resurrection. We sing songs about the empty tomb. We listen to the pastor tell us how Christ conquered death. But then something happens. For too many of us, Monday rolls around, and nothing has changed.
Yet the resurrection of Jesus Christ changes everything. The reality of the resurrection demands a change. We cannot be the same if we truly understand its power.
Read John 20:1-8. Simon Peter had been part of Jesus' inner circle of disciples. Yet when Christ was arrested, Peter was so scared that he denied even knowing Jesus—three times! Peter saw what was happening on that dark night: Jesus would be killed, and he might be next. Out of doubt and a desire for self-preservation, Peter abandoned Jesus when he should have been by His side.
Like Peter, we are often guilty of living on the wrong side of Easter. How often do we live our lives as if Jesus died on the cross but never rose again? How often do we doubt His promises in the midst of the tests and trials of life?
When Peter came to the tomb on Sunday morning, he made a life-changing discovery: "He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus' head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen" (John 20:6-7). This was the moment when his doubts gave way to hope and soon to resurrection power.
In Acts 2, we see a transformed, emboldened Peter. No longer denying Christ for fear of death, now Peter is declaring Christ boldly and publicly: "God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him" (Acts 2:24).
What happened to this fearful fisherman? He experienced the power of Christ's resurrection. He discovered there was no stopping Jesus.
Are you living on the wrong side of Easter—or do you truly believe that "the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you" (Romans 8:11)?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, I confess I have often lived on the wrong side of Easter, doubting Your promises or questioning Your power. Like Peter, help me to know the reality of Your resurrection in such a way that I am forever changed. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8).
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 04/01/18
The supernatural events of that first Easter morning declare to us the power of God.
The Grave Clothes Remained
"Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus' head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed" (John 20:6-8). They didn't find evidence of a hasty retreat or disturbance by humans, but the linens lying neatly and in order revealing the miracle of the resurrection.
The Power of the Resurrection
The miracles that occurred during the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ were not random. These miracles declare the supernatural significance of that first Easter and work together to make it clear that the death of Christ was not ordinary, but a sacrifice of immeasurable, eternal consequence. These miracles demonstrate that the crucifixion and the resurrection are two sides of the same coin. That the death and resurrection must go together.
Why is that? Because, by His crucifixion, holy, sinless Jesus ransomed sinners—all who will come to Him—from the just wrath of God toward sin and evil. And by His resurrection, He has freed believers from the bondage of sin and the sting of death. Through His death, Jesus redeemed all those who would believe in Him from hell and eternal judgment. But through His resurrection, He assured them of their own eternal resurrection.
At the cross Jesus became the victim of sin, but three days later, He became the victor over death and the grave. The crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus Christ are inseparable. You cannot have one without the other. As you celebrate the resurrection this Easter, remember that God's greatest miracle was not a one-time event. Christ is still alive, and He walks with us daily. And His resurrection is the prelude of our own to come.
Prayer: Thank You, God, for the sacrifice of Your Son and for the power of the resurrection! I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him" (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10).
DAILY DEVOTIONAL 03/31/1/8 to 03/01/18
A Torn Curtain, Split Rocks, and Open Graves
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 03/31/08
Today we continue our look at the supernatural events that took place from the death of Jesus through the days following His resurrection.
The Curtain Tore
"And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom" (Matthew 27:50-51).
Upon Jesus' death, the curtain in the tabernacle that separated the Most Holy Place from the rest of the temple was torn in half. The sacrifice of Jesus destroyed the barrier that separated the people from God. No longer do we need an earthly priest to approach God for us—we go straight to the Father through the Son, our great high priest (see Hebrews 4:14-16).
The Earth Shook
Another miraculous occurrence that happened during the death of Jesus was an earthquake. Matthew 27:51 tells us that, "The earth shook, the rocks split . . . " This was no small tremor, but a quake strong enough to tear open rock.
The Graves Opened and the Saints Arose
After the earthquake, some of the graves located at Calvary were opened: " . . . and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus' resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people" (Matthew 27:52-53). It wasn't until after Christ's resurrection that the saints arose as well. What a testimony to the resurrection power!
Prayer: God, thank You for the signs that displayed the significance of what was taking place in the death and resurrection of Christ. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"[His incomparably great power for us who believe] is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 1:19-20).
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 03/30/18
Through the years, people have refused to believe the miracles of Calvary. They've developed theories to explain away the events surrounding the death and resurrection of Jesus.
And the one thing these people and their theories have in common is that they refuse to accept the supernatural and continue to search for a natural reason. But there are no natural, coincidental occurrences surrounding the resurrection of Christ. God's hand was evident through it all. God's miracles do not begin and end with the resurrection itself.
There are several more supernatural events that happened from the death of Jesus through the days following His resurrection. Over the next couple days, we will take a look at what the Bible says happened during that time.
The Darkness Fell
Just before Jesus' death on the cross, darkness fell upon the land during the middle of the day. The Bible tells us that, "It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining" (Luke 23:44-45). While no one knows for sure if this darkness covered the earth or if it was localized to Judea, we do know it was a supernatural darkness. This was not a coincidental occurrence of a natural eclipse. This three-hour darkness was caused by God's hand, symbolizing the significance and intense suffering of the death of Jesus.
Prayer: Father, I am grateful that the events that took place around the death and resurrection of Christ can't be explained apart from Your hand at work. Thank You for showing Your power even in the darkness that fell the day of the crucifixion. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also" (1 Corinthians 6:14).
His Hour Had Come
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 03/29/18
"It is finished" (John 19:30).
How many times in the Gospel of John does Jesus talk about His hour? He regularly said, "My hour has not yet come," or, "The hour is coming." It was as if Jesus was hearing the chimes of a clock that nobody else could. The life of the Lord Jesus Christ—the sum total of His ministry and mission—was leading to this one, final cry, "Tetelestai," or, "It is finished.
From His birth through His boyhood, manhood, and public ministry, Jesus' focus was to finish the work His Father had given to Him—the work of redemption. From the very beginning, God's plan for our redemption required Jesus' death and resurrection.
If you have never experienced the finished work of the cross of Christ, you can today. Right now you can say, "It is finished. Lord God, I come surrendering my life to You. I know that You have conquered sin and death. I accept Your gift of eternal life."
For believers, Christ's final cry encourages us not to worry about the future; His finished work secures our glorious and eternal destiny as a child of God.
Prayer: Jesus, thank You for finishing what You came to do, conquering sin and death. Thank You for the eternal security I have as Your child. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Jesus said, 'It is finished.' With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit" (John 19:30).
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 03/28/18
The final statement from the cross was only recorded by John. John was there. He heard every word from the lips of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. John 19:30 tells us: "Jesus said, 'It is finished.' With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit."
It is finished. Tetelestai. Tetelestai is a Greek perfect passive verb, meaning that the purpose has been fulfilled. It means that the goal has been realized—it is finished.
A perfect passive verb also indicates that the result of that fulfilled purpose continues forever. It means that the impact of the benefits that were accomplished on the cross will go on to the return of Christ and, from thence, multiply beyond our wildest dreams. The effect and blessing of the finished work of Christ dying on the cross are for eternity.
When Jesus said, "It is finished," it meant that in every generation and from every nation, anyone who comes to Him and bows at His feet, receiving and accepting the blessings that come from that finished work of Christ, will be eternally saved.
His sacrifice was once and for all, but its effect, its blessing, continues on and on and on to everyone who comes and bends their knees before Him, acknowledging Him as their Savior and Lord. The action is finished, but the results continue. The work is done, but the effect continues.
What effect does the finished work of Christ have on you today?
Prayer: God, thank You for the perfect and complete salvation You secured for me at the cross. Help me to never take my salvation for granted. Thank you that I am eternally saved. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession—to the praise of his glory" (Ephesians 1:13-14).
I Commit My Spirit
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 03/27/18
As Jesus nears the end of His agony, we meditate on the sixth statement from the cross: "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit" (Luke 23:46).
This cry was not the cry of defeat, but the cry of victory. It was not the cry of one conquered by death, but of one conquering death. It was not the cry of a victim of circumstances, but of one in control of His circumstances. As a commander would dismiss a servant from His presence, Jesus dismissed His own spirit and went to be with God the Father, speaking the words of Psalm 31:5: "Into your hands I commit my spirit; deliver me, LORD, my faithful God."
When the centurion at the cross witnessed Jesus' victorious cry, the officer recognized the difference between Jesus and every other dying man he had seen. It was in this moment that he said, "Surely this was a righteous man" (Luke 23:47).
Prayer: Lord, thank You for conquering death. Thank You for Your words that remind us You were not a victim but the one in control. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Into your hands I commit my spirit; deliver me, LORD, my faithful God" (Psalm 31:5).
My Souls Thirsts for God
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 03/26/18
As we continue to meditate on Jesus' statements from the cross, today we look at just two words. "I thirst" (John 19:28, ESV).
After enduring unimaginable stress through three days of imprisonment, trials, floggings, and crucifixion, the Son of God—who made the waters of the world—experienced extreme dehydration and thirst. In this moment, Jesus fulfilled another prophecy found in Psalm 69:21: "They put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst." John 19:29 records that when Jesus said He was thirsty, He was offered a sponge full of sour wine on a hyssop branch held to His mouth.
Still, there is a deeper meaning to His thirst. Psalm 42:1-2 says, "As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?" Jesus' cry echoed that of the psalmist; He was thirsting for the presence and fellowship of God the Father during the separation of the cross. No amount of water could quench that thirst.
Prayer: Lord, help me to be able to say with the psalmist, "My soul pants for you, my God." May I have that deep desire for Your presence and for fellowship with You. Thank You that You experienced unimaginable thirst so that I could partake of Your living water. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"They put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst" (Psalm 69:21).
We Are Forgiven, He Was Forsaken
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 08/25/18
"About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, 'Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?' (which means 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?')" (Matthew 27:46).
This fourth statement from the cross is the very core of our redemption. It is the very essence of the Christian faith. If you miss this, you miss everything.
Had the Father not turned His back on the Son, had the Father not abandoned the Son at that moment, we could never be sure that the Son actually carried our sin and our judgment on the cross.
This is the most surprising statement of all those Christ made from the cross. In fact, it is downright confusing to many people. Here the word forsaken literally means "to leave someone in a lurch, to abandon someone completely." How can the Father abandon His Son who coexisted with Him in perfect unity for eternity? The Father and the Son were always one unit. Why would He abandon His Son now?
Make no mistake about it, He did abandon Him. Why? It was for you. It was for me. It was for our redemption. It was for our forgiveness—so that we could live forever.
In Jesus' most desperate moment, He could not turn to God as His Abba Father with whom He had always had the most perfect, intimate relationship of love. Instead, He faced God the Father as just Judge of all the sin of the world that Christ bore for us on the cross. God "did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all" (Romans 8:32).
Prayer: Father, I am humbled to think that You would forsake Your Son because of my sin. Thank You for the reminder of the incredible cost of my sin. Help me to live a life of gratitude for Your love and forgiveness. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered" (Psalm 32:1).
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 03/24/18
In Jesus' third statement from the cross, His focus has shifted from the criminals at His side to the people in front of Him. "When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, 'Woman, here is your son,' and to the disciple, 'Here is your mother'" (John 19:26-27). Jesus' first two statements clearly revealed His divinity—His power to forgive sin and to grant eternal salvation. His third statement reflects His humanity.
As fully God and fully man, Jesus' concern for Mary was not just as a Savior, but as a son. While Jesus understood what was taking place in the spiritual realm—that His death was going to change eternity—He also realized that in that moment, His earthly mother had deep, human, physical needs. His compassion for His earthly mother reminds us that Jesus also cares for our well-being and direction in life, even when we don't understand God's plans. And as Jesus asked John to care for Mary, He asks us to care for others on His behalf.
Prayer: Jesus, thank You for being a God of compassion who sees and cares about everything that concerns me today. Help me to show that same compassion to those around me who are hurting. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, 'Woman, here is your son,' and to the disciple, 'Here is your mother.' From that time on, this disciple took her into his home" (John 19:26-27).
With Me in Paradise
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 03/23/18
As we continue looking at the statements of Jesus on the cross, today we look at His second: "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:43).
In one of His final interactions before His death, Jesus compassionately extended eternal life. As He openly prayed for the forgiveness of His killers, Jesus sparked an internal transformation in the criminal next to Him. In humility, the criminal said to Jesus, "Remember me when you come into your kingdom" (v. 42). In the midst of great suffering and torment, our Savior did not allow His own pain and circumstances to distract Him from the cries of faith from a repentant sinner. Jesus knew that this was the very reason He was hanging on that cross. Just as He was not too preoccupied to minister to this criminal, He is never too busy for our concerns.
Prayer: Jesus, thank You for being there to hear my cries for help. I cannot fathom how You care for me, but I trust Your Word and thank You that I can boldly come before Your throne, knowing that You hear my prayers. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Jesus answered him, 'Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise'" (Luke 23:43).
Ending the Sin Cycle
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 03/22/18
When Jesus hung on the cross, He prayed, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34). As we think about this prayer, we see that the cross alone can end the vicious cycle of hate and sin.
In essence, when Jesus was suspended between heaven and earth, He was acting as a magnet, drawing all hatred, anger, and viciousness to Himself. In doing so, He not only accomplished our forgiveness, but He also gave us the power to forgive others when they wrong us. He instills us with His Spirit and transforms us into His likeness so that we can love sacrificially because of His love poured out on us.
When we are wronged, we take our hurts to God and declare our forgiveness for the offense and offender, and we trust God to heal our hearts. When we determine to forgive others through the power of the cross, God will break the power of sin and hate in our lives. We don't have to be bound by unforgiveness. But we are free in the hope of Christ and the promise of His return—of new life that we can already taste as we follow Him.
Prayer: God, help me to remember to take my hurts to You, allowing You to heal my heart so that with Your help I can offer forgiveness to those who have hurt me. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you" (Ephesians 4:32).
Father, Forgive Them
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 03/21/18
Hanging from the cross on Calvary, Jesus uttered seven powerful statements that reveal His heart and ministry. Each individual statement carries the full weight of the Gospel, but together they are a concise portrait of God's eternal plan of salvation. This portrait reminds us that nothing but the finished work of Jesus Christ assures eternal salvation. Over the next several days, we will look at these seven statements from the cross.
In His first statement, Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34). Jesus did not ask forgiveness for Himself—being sinless, He did not need forgiveness. Jesus did not ask for a quick, painless death—He knew His purpose for dying on the cross. Jesus did not ask God for vengeance on the people who sentenced Him to death—instead He prayed on their behalf. Even in His suffering, Jesus forgave His tormentors and cared for their souls. If sinless Jesus could forgive those who hurt Him, could forgive us of our sins—taking our just punishment for those sins—He can give us the strength to forgive others. Is there someone in your life who you need to forgive today?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me follow Your example and offer forgiveness to others, whether I think they deserve it or not. Help me remember the grace I have received so that I might extend grace and forgiveness to others with compassion. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Jesus said, 'Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.' And they divided up his clothes by casting lots" (Luke 23:34)
In the Hand of God
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 03/20/18
Charles Spurgeon once told a story about how, during a sudden storm, a woman on a ship became terrified. She was so distraught that she went to her husband, the captain of the ship, and cried, "I don't understand how you can be so calm, while I am utterly unnerved!"
Her husband calmly walked across his quarters and picked up his sword. He took it and aimed it at the center of her chest, but she only laughed. Then he asked, "Why aren't you afraid of this sword? It could slay you in less than a minute."
His wife replied, "I am not afraid of a sword that is wielded by the hand of my husband."
"Neither am I afraid of a storm in the hand of my heavenly Father," the captain professed.
In 2 Timothy, Paul writes, "For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control" (2 Timothy 1:7, ESV). This is the same Paul who was stoned and left for dead, who was beaten to the point of death, and who was rejected and imprisoned. Yet, he wrote:
For when we came into Macedonia, we had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn—conflicts on the outside, fears within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him. (2 Corinthians 7:5-7).
The security of God's close presence, the warmth of His words to us, and the visitation of and care from friends are like a cup of cool fresh water in the heat of a fierce battle. God's love brings hope to our heart.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, I need Your words of encouragement today. The world is pressing in on me, but I know You are in total control. I thank You that Your perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). Help me to be a comfort to others. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"The LORD upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down" (Psalm 145:14).
Claim God’s Love
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 03/19/18
God's redemptive love for us is beyond anything this world offers. There is nothing we can do to earn it. It is a free gift that God has chosen to give us. It is, however, our responsibility to accept His gift by faith. Paul admonishes us to "Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses" (1 Timothy 6:12). Paul calls us to live out our faith, to grasp it with confidence, for God's love is sure. We have nothing to fear: "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31).
Author and evangelist E. Stanley Jones wrote:
I am inwardly fashioned for faith, not fear. Fear is not my native land; faith is. I am so made that worry and anxiety are sands in the machinery of life; faith is the oil. I live better by faith and confidence than by fear, doubt and anxiety. In anxiety and worry, my being is gasping for breath—these are not my native air. But in faith and confidence, I breathe freely—these are my native air.
We have been redeemed from eternal death through Jesus Christ. We no longer have an occasion to fear. Our fate has been sealed, and we have every reason to have hope for the future. Many people, however, do not realize the power of God's redemption. They cower in fear and worry about tomorrow.
But fear stifles creativity. Fear destroys our dreams. Fear blocks God's love. Fear prevents us from telling others about the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Fear is one of Satan's favorite weapons against the believer.
Each one of us can think back to a time when we felt fearful and wanted to retreat. God, however, calls us to move forward in the victory His love has secured, just as the apostle Paul reminds us "we are more than conquerors" through Christ who loves us and gave Himself for us (Romans 8:37). The redemptive love of God is yours to enjoy. Claim it by faith and refuse to allow fear to rob you of God's blessing.
Prayer: Father, forgive me for the times that I have taken my eyes off of You and allowed myself to be overwhelmed by my circumstances. I know that You are sovereign over all things, that Your love for me is deeper than I can fathom, and that I have nothing to fear, for You have overcome the world. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1).
Blessings Beyond Compare
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 03/18/18
Because of His great love for us, God provides blessings beyond compare. He has redeemed us for eternity, and He walks with us throughout our lifetime. He comforts us, protects us, delivers us, and He sustains us.
Before the foundation of the earth, God knew each of us by name. He orchestrated every detail of our lives and gave us spiritual eyes to see His great salvation. Then He gave us His Spirit to teach us all things and to remind us of everything Jesus taught (see John 14:26).
Every one of us encounters difficulties—and all the world might turn to God in desperation, praying, "Oh God, get me out of this trouble. Please, God, I'll be good. I will repay You some day, just get me out of this mess." This is the prayer of someone who hasn't grasped the deep love and grace of God, which He clearly displayed on the cross when He bore our punishment for sin to secure our salvation.
But as Christians, we can turn to God with confidence, knowing we are His beloved children, and pray:
Lord, we both know that I'm in trouble, but I know Your Word says, "Do not let your hearts be troubled" (John 14:1). I am confident that You have already blessed me with every spiritual blessing. You have given me all the strength I need to face these problems. I know that You are walking with me and that You promised never to leave me or forsake me (Hebrews 13:5). I thank You for hearing my concerns and for providing a solution. Help me to discern Your will and to obey You faithfully. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given" (John 1:16).
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 03/17/18
One of the most dramatic stories of the love of Jesus conquering prejudice and human desperation is found in John 4:4-26 and is often referred to as the story of the woman at the well.
To understand the magnitude of Christ's gesture when He reached out to the Samaritan woman, you first must try to understand the depth of the hatred and prejudice between the Jews and Samaritans.
Orthodox Jews felt revulsion at the way Samaritans mixed Jewish beliefs and idolatry. When Jesus set out to walk from Jerusalem to Galilee, His detractors would say He should not have taken the two-and-a-half day route. Instead, most Jews would have taken a five-day detour in the scorching desert to avoid contact with Samaritans.
But Jesus defied the expectations of others and traveled right into the heart of Samaria. Upon arrival, He stopped and rested at a well, clearly not avoiding the Samaritans. Though tired from His journey, He waited.
The woman at the well was hated and degraded on many levels—by her birth as a Samaritan, by her gender that was considered inferior in that day, and by her infamous immorality. Yet this is the person the Christ, the Son of God, waited for expectantly.
We cannot fathom how shocking it was for Jesus to say to this fallen woman, "Will you give me a drink?" Not only did Jesus defy tradition by speaking directly to a woman, this woman was a despised and immoral Samaritan.
You may have unsaved neighbors or co-workers who have different values or different cultural backgrounds from yours. They need the Good News that Jesus loved them enough to give His life for them. The Lord has placed you at a well in your community so you can meet people who need to know the salvation message.
Prayer: Father, help me to have a desire to share Your love with everyone, no matter what their cultural background. Open my eyes to see those You have placed in my community who need to hear the Gospel. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7).
Lead like a Shepherd
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 03/16/18
In order to lead like Jesus, we must become shepherds. But the people of Jesus' day did not think much of shepherds. Because of their work, shepherds were often ceremonially unclean and not permitted in the temple courts. Most self-respecting Jews considered shepherds dishonest, transient, and unsavory. As a result, shepherds were often treated as outcasts. So disregarded was a shepherd, his testimony was not even admissible in a murder trial even if he were the only witness.
Why then would Jesus relate His own ministry to the job of a shepherd (see John 10:1-16)? While a shepherd might not appear to be of much consequence to the world, he is the friend, protector, and defender of his sheep—even to the point of death. To be more like Jesus, we must be willing to humble ourselves in order to care for those we lead.
The Good Shepherd even lays down His life for the sheep. Jesus quoted Zechariah 13:7 when He predicted His death to His disciples. He said, "This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: 'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered'" (Matthew 26:31). When the Good Shepherd was struck down, He ensured the safety of His sheep. He willingly sacrificed His own life to save the sheep.
It's true that leaders must lead. Leaders must cast the vision, set the direction, inspire and motivate, and give orders. However, the leadership style of Jesus shows us that a leader does much more than that. A true shepherd-leader knows, serves, and sacrifices for the sheep.
Prayer: God, forgive my prideful ways. I turn to You as the right example for servant leadership. Instill Your attitude within my heart, that I may lead others with a Christlike character. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others" (Philippians 2:3-4).
Roadblocks to Godliness
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 03/15/18
Jesus said, "I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). The secret to growing in godliness is simply to remain in Christ, yielding to Him daily so that His will is lived out in our lives. Growth in holiness is an essential part of being a follower of Jesus. Even still, there are roadblocks that threaten to sidetrack us if we're not careful.
Paul warned Titus about four such roadblocks: foolish controversies, useless debates, endless arguments, and unedifying conflicts. Each of these detriments to godliness occurs in relationship.
There is nothing wrong with controversies, debates, arguments, or conflicts. When the Gospel is at stake, each one of us should be ready to take a stand for the Word of God. But here, Paul described people who argue for the sake of arguing and obsess over minor details of the faith. Rarely do these controversies end peaceably or constructively.
When we argue about secondary matters of the faith, we take our focus off the one who matters most: Jesus Christ. People who live to fight and debate unimportant matters can be dangerous, and Paul has some strong words for how to deal with them. He says, "Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them" (Titus 3:10). That's how seriously Paul takes our responsibility to grow in godliness.
We tend to think that the best way to love someone is to endure their destructive behavior by showing that person undeserved patience. But Paul says we are to warn such a person, then warn them again, and finally, if he does not repent, break off the relationship. This may seem unloving, but Paul says these divisive people are in spiritual peril if they continue this way.
The most loving thing we can do is to make room for the Holy Spirit to do His work of conviction leading to repentance. At the same time, by removing ourselves from the conflicts and debates, we can better focus on the Lord and continue growing in godliness.
Prayer: God, show me any secondary matters that I am turning into essentials. Help me to move past these in order that I may focus on You and pursue godliness in community. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless" (Titus 3:9).
God Uses the Broken
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 03/14/18
Through the years, I have met believers who have convinced themselves that God cannot use them because of a past, horrendous sin in their life—a sin of which they had repented a long time ago once Christ had redeemed them.
I remember telling one of them:
While I admire your spiritual sensitivity, I have to say to you lovingly and in candor that you are dishonoring the Lord if you have come to a point in your life where you have said, "Lord, I know that I have sinned greatly. I know that I've borne the consequences of my sins. Lord, I know that you have forgiven me and have commanded me to forgive myself," and you are still idle in the Kingdom of God because you have bought into the lie that says once you're damaged goods, God can never use you again.
While the scar of failures and sin may remain for many years or even a lifetime, God loves to forgive a repentant sinner. God loves to restore those who genuinely want to be restored. God longs to renew the humble. God only despises those who are arrogant and haughty, those who are proud and are never willing to humble themselves and confess their sins. Those who have made a habit of rationalizing, explaining away, and justifying their sin will not experience restoration.
But God loves to forgive and restore a repentant sinner. God loves to use those who are truly brokenhearted and contrite. God loves to use them in a unique way.
Prayer: God, thank You that You are a God of forgiveness and restoration. Thank You that despite my past, You can still use me today to glorify You. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him" (Luke 15:20).
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 03/13/18
One perception that many Christians hold in error is their idea of what it means to be meek. People think of meekness as weakness or timidity. Those who are meek are thought of as wimps or cowards. Nothing could be further from the Truth.
The Greek word for meekness, praotes, is synonymous with courage, confidence, security, and strength under control. Gentleness causes us to care for the weak, defend the helpless, and nurture the innocent. A gentle person is strong in character and resolve, yet tender and humble before God.
Gentleness does not brag about accomplishments or bully people around to show strength. It is not false modesty, but true humility. Meek people know they are nothing without God. At the same time, meek people know that because of God, they can do whatever He asks them to do. They know that all talents, abilities, and success come from God.
How do we rely upon the strength of God and not our own strength? Through a continual outpouring of thanksgiving. Acknowledge God daily as your provider and protector. Thank Him for your health, strength, intellect, talents, and spiritual gifts. Thank Him for the opportunities He brings your way and the rewards and blessings He bestows on you.
Prayer: Father, thank You for all that You've given me. I acknowledge that without You, I am nothing. Help me to always rely on Your strength and not my own. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth" (Matthew 5:5).
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 03/12/18
Typically, when we hear the word sin, our minds rush to thoughts of transgressions that to us seem huge: murder, adultery, stealing, homosexuality, and more. While some of these sins do have far-reaching consequences, none of them put people beyond the reach of God. No one is beyond His ability to forgive and to restore.
The Truth is that many Christians have different categories for varying sins. They have a category for "really big" sins and one for "not so big" sins. They believe the "really big" sins are the ones that receive the most punishment, while the "not so big" sins are the ones everyone commits. These also are the ones we mistakenly believe God overlooks.
But this is not how God operates. There are sins that are horrendous and that can impact our lives with great force and sorrow. However, the sins we view as being "smaller" and therefore easily dismiss can also have devastating effects on our lives.
Few people view worry and anxiety as sin, but they are. They stem from a lack of faith in God. Worry and doubt have at their root fear—a lack of trust in our sovereign, loving Lord—a favorite tool of the enemy that he uses to set up strongholds in the life of the believer.
Therefore, instead of becoming anxious or fearful, we need to turn to the Lord and seek His provision for our lives on a daily basis. Be determined to trust Him to lead you through every difficulty, knowing that wherever He guides you, you will find blessing and hope. Put your faith in God, and you will know the joy of a victorious life.
Prayer: Lord, forgive me for my worry and anxiety. Thank You for Your love and care for me. May I rest in You. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I" (Psalm 61:1-2).
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 03/11/18
In 2 Kings 5, we're introduced to Naaman, the commander of the Syrian army. He was a decorated general, but he had one problem—he had leprosy.
In verse 10 we are told that the prophet Elisha sent a message to Naaman. He said, "Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed." In verses 11-12, we discover that Elisha's instructions were not what Naaman expected: "I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn't I wash in them and be cleansed?"
And in a fit of rage, what did Naaman do? He commanded his motorcade to head back for Syria. Fortunately, Naaman's servants intervened and asked him to just slow down, cool off, and give it a try. They said, "If the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it?" (v. 13). And when Naaman finally conceded and dipped in the River Jordan seven times, his skin was healed.
It is important to recognize that the miracle was not in the water of the River Jordan or in the words of the prophet Elisha. The miracle was in the trip to the Jordan River because there is blessing in surrender. Naaman wasn't just suffering from leprosy, but from the sin of pride.
Do you know what is stopping the miracle from happening in your life? Scripture is very clear: "If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened" (Psalm 66:18).
What do you need to surrender today? Perhaps God is asking you to do something that is completely different from what you expected. Will you obey?
Prayer: God, I realize that sometimes You surprise me with the things You ask of me. Help me to be completely surrendered to You, willing to do whatever it is You ask. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice" (1 Samuel 15:22).
The Full Armor of God
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 03/10/18
Many people feel as though we are living in very ungodly times, and they are right. Our world is changing at a breakneck pace. At times, the moral decline of our society seems overwhelming. The appalling lack of true love, respect, and worship for the Lord is disheartening.
While these times certainly can seem desperate, they also are some of the most exciting times to be alive. The opportunity to know Christ and to make Him known is greater than any other time in history. Truly, the Lord has provided a broad door for us to travel through to proclaim His love to the world—the advance of technology has made it vastly easier to reach the nations for Christ.
And so, with this opened door comes a responsibility—one that demands us to take seriously our call to follow Christ. For, righteous living is one of the most compelling means of witnessing to the world the transforming power of the Gospel.
Paul recognized the importance of godly living and sent Titus to the island of Crete for one reason: to establish a plumb line of godly Truth and morality. The believers in Crete, like so many New Testament Christians, came from a pagan background. Therefore, the temptation to compromise their walk of faith with Christ was highly seductive, not unlike the culture in which we live today.
While the power of temptation was broken on the cross, we must remain keen to the enemy's tactics and the ways the world would lead us astray. Begin each day by putting on the full armor of God (see Ephesians 6:11-17); then you will know how to stand victoriously against the enemy for your good and for the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Prayer: Father, thank You that I have victory over the enemy and, through Jesus Christ, the power to live with hope for the future! I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say 'No' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age" (Titus 2:11-12).
Defeating Your Gaints
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 03/09/18
All of us face giants in our lives—whether individual, national, or global giants. What determines victory or defeat when facing these giants?
When Goliath was mocking the people of God, everyone was shaking in their boots until a shepherd boy with a godly perspective entered the camp. He took one look at the heavyweight champion of Gaza and said, "Who is that Philistine in comparison with my God?"
The shepherd boy understood that what was taking place was a spiritual battle between the living God and Satan. David, the young shepherd boy, was a foreshadowing of the Lord Jesus Christ, Chief Shepherd of the sheep.
David placed a stone in his sling, a foreshadowing of the Rock of Ages, and he aimed it at Goliath's forehead and yelled, "Timber!"
When David came and saw how this giant was mocking the people of God, he was filled with awe—not of the giant, but of his God. David's secret to victory was his right view of God, "LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!" (Psalm 8:1). David's perspective was founded on the Rock of Ages.
When your perspective is founded on the Rock of Ages—the giant-slayer—then you, too, will be able to defeat the giants in your life.
Prayer: Rock of Ages, I pray that my perspective would be rooted in You. Help me to remember that, with Your help, I can defeat the giants in my life today. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation" (Psalm 95:1).
The Grace for Godliness
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 03/08/18
But for the grace of God, Adam and Eve should have died the moment they ate the forbidden fruit. But for grace, there would have been no incarnation, no death on the cross for sin, and no resurrection. If it weren't for grace, there would be no hope in this world. Thank God that He is full of grace and that He freely offers it to sinners who trust in Him! It is by grace that we are saved, and it is also by grace that we are made holy.
Grace is receiving goodness when we should receive punishment. When we stumble and fall into sin, grace is what motivates us to cry out to God in repentance. And when we fail in our own human weakness, God gives us this answer: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9).
The more that we understand the grace of God, the more we will be empowered to pursue godliness. At first, this may seem contrary to our expectations. To some, the very concept of grace appears to be a license for sin. Paul confronted this idea in his day, imagining what his critics might ask him: "What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?" (Romans 6:1). And then he answered this foolish question: "By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?" (6:2).
As children of God, sin has no place in our new nature. That doesn't mean we'll never sin again, but it does mean that the Holy Spirit, who is at work within us, will not let sin continue unabated. We have been made new in Christ, and sin is part of the old. It does not belong. Our new nature will war against it.
When we understand our great need for God and the unthinkable price Jesus paid for our freedom, there is only one appropriate response: an offering. So we offer ourselves as a "living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God" (Romans 12:1). And by God's grace, we have received His Spirit that we might live in a way that pleases the lover of our soul (see Romans 8:5-11).
Prayer: Thank You, God, that You are full of grace and that You freely offer it to me. Grow my faith in You, and as You do, may I be empowered to pursue godliness. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Fallen from Grace
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 03/07/18
In Galatians 5:4, the apostle Paul uses the phrase "fallen away from grace." Some think that when a person has "fallen from grace," it means that they have lost their salvation, but that's not necessarily what Paul meant. He is issuing a warning to Christians to not enslave themselves again to the law. For, it is the grace of God that saves us; it is the grace of God that sustains us; and it is the grace of God that's going to present us to the Father holy and blameless on that day of glory.
The grace of God is a complete job from beginning to end. So, what does Paul mean by "fallen from grace"? Falling from grace occurs when you cease to believe that only God's grace can save you. You are falling away from grace when you trust in some external rule or some man-made ritual or church dogma to get you to heaven. When you add something to the grace of God to receive the favor of God, you are falling from grace. It can happen easily, so we must be on guard. We can begin to turn our good works done out of gratitude to God into a means of paying Him back, which is a mockery of the Gospel.
To fall from grace is to fall into legalism. Legalism says that you are not saved by God's grace alone, but rather, you are saved by God's grace and your success at keeping rules. In choosing legalism you have turned away from the all-sufficient grace of God for salvation.
When you teach that salvation is through grace plus something—whatever that something is—you repudiate the whole Gospel of Jesus Christ. If a person is trying to be saved by works, that person has fallen from grace into legalism and therefore cannot be saved at all, for Jesus is the only Savior: "There is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). And even our faith is a gift from God and not our own work so that no one can boast in anything other than Christ (see Ephesians 2:8-10). Legalism is man's way, not God's way.
Prayer: Father, help me remember that it is only by Your grace that I am saved. Give me the wisdom to discern those times when I begin to add to Your Gospel for my salvation and to repent and rest in Your finished work of salvation. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace" (Galatians 5:4).
\Christianity Is Rational
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 03/06/18
Many people, both Christians and non-Christians, fail to understand the important role of verified, objective Truth in the Christian life. They have the mistaken notion that faith is belief without any evidence, or even belief contradicted by the evidence. Many people, both Christians and non-Christians, think that science and Christianity are irreconcilable kingdoms of thought.
The late agnostic paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould tried to resolve the conflict between people of science and people of faith by stating that religion and science are "non-overlapping magisteria." A magisterium is a realm of authority or teaching. Gould was saying, in effect, that the church should stick to matters of faith and leave science to the scientists, and that scientists should stick to science and not get involved in matters of God, spirit, morality, and religion. Dr. Gould meant well, but it's simply not possible to neatly divide reality into two "non-overlapping" realms of Truth, one factual, the other purely spiritual and moral.
All of reality is one. It is all created by God. There is nothing under the authority of science that is not also under the authority of God the Creator. Our world is a rational world, our faith is a rational faith, our God is a rational God, and we are to approach spiritual reality with the same inquiring, reasoning intelligence that we would bring to a science lab.
God, who created the human mind, tells us we are to use our reasoning ability, as well as our spirits and emotions, when we interact with Him (see Isaiah 1:18). And the apostle Peter tells us that when we share our faith with others, we should always be ready to back up our beliefs with sound reasoning and solid evidence (see 1 Peter 3:15). The Truth of God's Word can be logically defended. The Bible is not an irrational document. From Genesis to Revelation, God's Word makes good sense.
Prayer: Lord, You alone are sovereign over all creation. You are the source of Truth. Thank You that our faith is rooted in You—the matchless Creator of order and beauty. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Great are the works of the LORD; they are pondered by all who delight in them" (Psalm 111:2).
Christianity Is Not ‘Blind Faith’
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 03/05/18
Our Western civilization was founded on a belief in the central importance of rational thought, objective Truth, and timeless Biblical principles. For centuries, Christian thinkers—great men of the faith like the apostles, Augustine, Origen, Calvin, Luther, C. S. Lewis, John Stott, Norman Geisler, and William Lane Craig—have taught that the Christian faith is reasonable and based on evidence. The Bible does not tell us to practice "blind faith," but a faith that is rooted in objective reality. No other religion is based on the objective evidence of history—only Christianity.
Truth is a bedrock concept in the Christian faith. Paul tells us that God "wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:4). And Jesus told a group of new followers, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (John 8:31-32). Jesus also claimed to be the very personification of Truth: "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6).
The concept of Truth was as essential to the Old Testament as it is in the New. God, speaking through the prophet Isaiah, said, "I have not spoken in secret, from somewhere in a land of darkness; I have not said to Jacob's descendants, 'Seek me in vain.' I, the LORD, speak the truth; I declare what is right" (Isaiah 45:19).
You might ask, doesn't the Bible tell us not to lean on our own human understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6)? Doesn't the Bible tell us that the just (God's righteous followers) shall live by faith (Galatians 3:11)? Aren't we supposed to simply trust God, regardless of whether or not His Word seems to make logical sense?
The Truth is that all faith comes from God, and God imparts faith to us by many means—through the still small voice of the Holy Spirit within us, through the message of God's Word, through the gracious words of fellow Christians, through the experiences of our daily lives, and, yes, through evidence and reason. God has many ways to draw us to His Truth and many ways to persuade us that we can rely on His Truth.
So we have faith—a faith that is founded on, and grounded in, reason and Truth.
Prayer: Lord, thank You for the gift of faith. Thank You for the evidence and reason found in Your Word, which is Truth. You have given me a sure foundation and a certain hope. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" (Matthew 22:37).
Share the TruthWhile You Can
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 03/04/18
An officer serving in the Salvation Army once went to its founder, General William Booth, for advice: "I've tried everything, and I'm not leading anyone to Christ. Nobody is coming to Christ through my ministry."
This wise soul-winner did not give his officer a formula to share the Truth effectively. He simply said, "Try tears." In these days of apostasy, sometimes only our tears will bring people to Christ.
Read 2 Peter 3. Here Peter exhorts believers to be prepared for Christ's coming even as the world scoffs at the Truth. Within our own nation there are millions of people like those Peter describes who mock Scripture: "Where is this 'coming' he promised? . . . everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation" (v. 4).
These scoffers forget that God created the heavens and the earth. They ignore the stories of Scripture that show the dire consequences of sin—how, at the time of Noah, the world was deluged and destroyed. And they ridicule the promise of Christ's return to judge the world.
But still God's awesome love holds; His compassionate patience endures: "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). But not forever—for "the day of the Lord will come like a thief" (v. 10).
Just as Noah was "a preacher of righteousness" during his life on earth (2 Peter 2:5), God has commissioned us to preach His Truth to every soul who will listen—before it's too late. He wants us to have the same compassion for the lost that brought His Son to earth so that we tearfully plead with Paul: "We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God" (2 Corinthians 5:20).
God has placed you in your neighborhood, on your campus, or within your workplace to be an ambassador of His righteousness. He wants you to invite others to know the Truth and accept His gift of salvation.
I am thankful for every believer living today who is obeying this call—and I pray you and I are among the faithful when Christ returns. Let us each pray for greater love, greater boldness, and greater eagerness to share the Truth of the Gospel while we still can.
Prayer: Lord, thank You for Your compassionate patience. Thank You also for the promise of Your return to judge sin and evil and usher in the new heaven and the new earth. Help me to preach Your Truth in love in my neighborhood and sphere of influence. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God" (2 Corinthians 5:20).
Go to Battle on Your Knees
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 03/03/18
In this age in which emotions hold more weight than facts, God has called His children to take a stand for His Truth. But we cannot fight for Truth in our own strength—or in our own wisdom.
Read Jude 1:20-25. Do you know someone who believes the Truth, preaches the Truth, and defends the Truth, but in doing so comes across as angry, unloving, and unmerciful? If so, please know that this is not how God would have us live for Him. We can contend for the faith without being contentious.
God has called us to keep ourselves in His love and be merciful to those who doubt (see vv. 21-22). In fact, the Bible tells us to always speak the Truth in love—in a mature, Christlike spirit—not out of bitterness, pride, hatred, or anger (see Ephesians 4:15). If a non-believer is offended, let it be because of the Gospel—not because of our demeanor.
Standing for the Truth with a self-righteous spirit is counterproductive.For this reason, we must never raise our prophetic voice out of a sense of being better than others. We can only speak the Truth when we are fully aware that we were once its enemies. "While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).
The greatest threat to our families, our churches, and our culture comes from within ourselves. Pride is our subtle but most deadly enemy—the greatest enemy in the war on Truth—and none of us is safe from its grip. That is why we must pray, "Lord, deliver me from evil—especially from my own pride and self-righteousness."
If I have learned anything from decades of ministry, it's that speaking the Truth in love is one of the hardest—and most important—aspects of the Christian life. It requires real spiritual transformation and true awareness of the unending grace we have received from our Lord. Only growing intimacy with God and His Word can give us what we need.
God alone understands how to balance mercy and kindness with firmness and strength. He alone possesses the wisdom to know when we should speak and when we should listen. Only a closer walk with God can allow us to keep these things in balance. We need His Holy Spirit to lead and guide us, and this is why we must begin with prayer.
Prayer: Lord, You are my righteousness. Help me love others as You have loved me by the power of the Holy Spirit, remembering how I once was lost in darkness. Thank You for Your light, Your Truth. Help me to spread it in a way that glorifies You. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" (1 Peter 3:15).
Be Brave in the War
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 03/02/18
There is a war raging on Truth. Our postmodern, post-Truth world is doing all it can to undermine the very notion of objective Truth—creating the perfect breeding ground for heresy and false religion. As a result, our culture considers it foolish—even hateful—for Christians to contend for basic Biblical beliefs. But we must stand firm in our faith, speaking the Truth that the world needs to hear.
Read Daniel 1. Daniel lived in a culture like ours, but he trusted in and drew courage from Almighty God. When Daniel and his friends were only teenagers, they refused to defile themselves with the royal food and wine, and God granted them favor. Later in life, Daniel was hated, falsely accused, and thrown into a lion's den for once again refusing to compromise his faith. But he never gave in to fear.
In the face of overwhelming opposition, Daniel trusted in the Lord—and we are to do the same. As we depend on Christ, He will give us the strength to exercise our prophetic voice and speak out against the evils in our culture—both bravely and compassionately.
Fallen humanity wants to be God—not submit to His will. Therefore, we should not be surprised when we are reviled for our faith in Christ. If ever you are mocked or criticized, realize you are receiving the blows meant for our Lord. And use this opportunity to share the Good News of Christ's love (see Colossians 1:24).
In the coming years, as hostility toward Jesus Christ increases in the West, it will take great faith to take up our cross and follow Him. Our faith may cost us our livelihood, our reputation, our relationships, and more. Why, then, would we choose to stand for Truth when it is socially, politically, or economically inconvenient to do so?
The only answer is that Christ is worthy—and His Gospel is worth fighting for, even giving our lives for, if necessary. Jesus Christ died on a cross to reconcile us to the Father, and His resurrection was the great turning point in the war against evil. Our Savior has won; He lives! And His victory is the reason we can be brave today. We cannot afford to be idle or passive. We must courageously speak God's Truth. And we can do so knowing that He is with us.
Prayer: Jesus, You are worthy! Your Gospel is life. Help me to walk in Your victory with love and peace toward others. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. 'Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened'" (1 Peter 3:14).
Seek the Truth for Yourself
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 03/01/18
As the assault on Truth intensifies in our nation, each of us must be sure of what we believe and why we believe it. Praise God that He has given us His Word full of Truth from Genesis to Revelation—if only we will study it.
Read Acts 17:1-15. The Berean Jews are described as "of more noble character" than others Paul had encountered (v. 11). They were open-minded but skeptical, setting aside their biases and preconceptions to listen. They fact-checked every claim Paul made, examining the Scriptures every day to see if what he said was true. And as a result, many of them believed.
This is exactly how God wants us to pursue the Truth today. We must follow the example of the Bereans and begin by examining the Word of God for ourselves. If you rely on Sunday sermons or a midweek Bible study alone—as good as they may be—you cannot experience the fullness of what God has for you. Our faith and delight in God cannot grow if we do not spend time consuming Scripture.
When we neglect God's Word, we also risk being deceived by false teachers. The apostle John admonished us to "test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1). In other words, if someone comes to you with a message that is supposedly from God, you need to put that message to the test by searching the Scriptures.
Like the Bereans, be open-minded but skeptical. Verify the message, ensuring that it is godly and Biblical, by being a noble student of the Bible. As Paul told Timothy, "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15). As you do, the Holy Spirit will empower you to obey Christ, embolden you to speak Truth in love, and equip you to stand firm even when the culture calls you to give in. For "all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Let us take Jesus at His Word and commit ourselves to searching the Scriptures and obeying what we find, regardless of the earthly consequences.
Prayer: Lord, help me to seek Your face through Your Word as the Bereans did. May I grow in wisdom by the power of Your Spirit as I consume Scripture. Help me to be disciplined about humbly reading and studying the Bible. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long" (Psalm 25:5).