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 03/23/18
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).
DAILY DEVOTIONAL 03/22/18
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).
DAILY DEVOTIONAL 03/21/18 to 03/20/18
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).
DAILY DEVOTIONAL 03/19/18
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).
DAILY DEVOTIONAL 03/18/18 to 03/17/18
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).
DAILY DEVOTIONAL 03/16/18
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).
DAILY DEVOTIONAL 03/15/18 to 03/01/18
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).
DAILY DEVOTIONAL 02/28/18 to 02/01/18
What Is Truth?
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 02/28/18
Over two thousand years ago, Jesus told a Roman governor named Pontius Pilate, "[T]he reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me," to which Pilate responded, "What is truth?" (John 18:37-38).
Like Pilate, our culture also questions—and outright rejects—the notion of verifiable Truth. This postmodern thinking asserts that any claim to know the Truth is just a product of our social, historical, or political context. Postmodernists contend, "You have your truth, and I have my truth. Who are you to say what is right or wrong for me?" Dismissing the existence of absolute Truth, they do what is right in their own eyes—regardless of whether their "truth" is consistent with reality.
God's Word says, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death" (Proverbs 14:12, ESV). There are consequences to living by only what we feel is right. When we refuse to submit to God's design, we abandon a life of beauty for a life of self-inflicted bondage and desolation. Our attempts to be God and define good and evil for ourselves always end in fig leaves and regret (see Genesis 3:1-13).
But it's not too late to seek Truth and live by it. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding" (Proverbs 9:10). God is the source of reality and thus the source of all Truth, so when we seek Him, we seek Truth. And in His kindness, He has revealed Himself to us through His Son and His Word.
So, when we look to Jesus, who said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me," and believe His testimony with its unparalleled, ancient historical evidence, we find Truth (John 14:6). That is why we must commit ourselves to passionately seeking His face. God has given us all we need to know the Truth—His Son, His Spirit, His Word—so that we can live godly lives in the midst of this post-Truth world.
Are you ready to stand firm on God's Word in a world that echoes the disdain of Pilate when he jeered, "What is truth?" Seek Truth—follow Christ—"and the truth will set you free" (John 8:32).
Prayer: Lord, thank You for the Truth of Your Word. Thank You for freeing me from the bondage of sin and from the snares of worldly thinking through Your Son. Help me share Your Truth with others that they might know the love and freedom found only in You, our loving Creator. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"The reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me" (John 18:37).
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 02/27/18
Do not become discouraged when you feel that the world is hopeless. The world can be changed for good, and God will give you the strength to stand up for His Truth. God will reward you when you speak the Truth to those who are in error. God will reward you when you maintain godly living in an ungodly culture. God will reward you when you fully trust Him and strive for spiritual integrity no matter what circumstances you face.
Trust that God will help you to withstand the forces of evil in any situation. Trust that God will give you the strength to overcome the temptations of the world. "For the grace of God that has appeared 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).
What diet do you feed upon? Are you feasting on unclean spiritual food, as the Babylonians did? Or are you following Daniel's example, keeping your soul healthy by feeding on God's Word? To combat the evil of this world, you need a steady diet of God's Word. "Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil" (Hebrews 5:13-14).
Prayer: God, I pray that Your Spirit would convict and motivate me to seek Your Truth in Scripture every day. Give me the strength to overcome temptation. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted" (Hebrews 2:18).
Discernment from God’s Word
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 02/26/18
Discernment comes from living each day in the Truth. When we surround ourselves with the glory of God's Word, lies appear as empty and lifeless as they really are. If we know what the Bible teaches, we can recognize when a particular teaching doesn't line up.
But recognizing and silencing false teachers is only a defensive move in the fight for godliness. How can we know we are gaining ground in our pursuit of holiness? There is a simple way: Examine your repentance. How long does it take before you are convicted about a sin you have committed?
When we're young in the faith, we may not recognize our sinful choices at first. It may take days before we come under the conviction of the Holy Spirit and we're driven to our knees in repentance. But a godly person recognizes sin and confesses it to God right away. On the journey toward godliness, sin does not belong. The further down the path we travel, the more we are able to recognize our own need for repentance.
Examine your heart. Dive deep into God's Word. Pray for Him to reveal any unknown sin in your life. Ask Him to show you if any of the preachers and teachers you enjoy are actually leading you further away from Him.
Prayer: Lord, thank You for Your Word. Help me to see the sins in my life that are hindering Your work in me. May I submit to Your will and seek only Your Truth. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have departed from the faith" (1 Timothy 6:20-21).
God’s Word Doesn’t Change
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 02/25/18
Bible-believing Christians cannot accept the "many paths" view as a genuine expression of their faith. Yet professing Christians consider this "inclusive" stance to be the enlightened one. Liberal Christianity offers a humanistic reinterpretation of our faith and claims that Bible-believing Christians are mired in rigid, unenlightened, antiquated thinking. They tell us that times have changed, society has progressed, and the church must evolve to keep up.
They even twist the idea of the Bible as the Living Word to make it open to radical reinterpretation—so that its original meaning is turned upside down!—as society and opinions change.
The Bible itself says, "The word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12). And Martin Luther once said, "The Bible is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold of me." But neither the writer of Hebrews nor Martin Luther meant that the Bible is subject to revision or "new revelations" according to shifting public tastes and political moods.
The Bible doesn't change; it changes us. If we disagree with something we read in Scripture, it's not the Bible that needs to change—it's us. We must reexamine our opinions and change them in the light of God's unchanging Word.
As various leaders and authors in the church subtly move away from a Biblical understanding of social issues, the church is being led into apostasy and error, while the nation is being led into secularism, moral relativism, and depravity. The church has sidelined itself and made itself irrelevant at the very time that the world is in desperate need of God's Truth.
God's message to us hasn't changed since the beginning of time. It remains the same: Do not tamper with the Truth of God. Christ taught His disciples the importance of knowing, speaking, and defending the Truth because Jesus Himself is Truth incarnate.
Christian complacency and apostasy are a far greater threat to the life of the church than ISIS or any other terrorist group. The church can only be destroyed from within if we stray from the Scriptures and contaminate God's Truth with worldly ideas. The church must wake up and shake itself from its long stupor.
You and I and everyone who claims to follow Jesus must take an unshakable stand on the unchanging Truth.
Prayer: Lord, thank You that Your Word is Truth, that it is unchanging just as You are steadfast and faithful. By Your Spirit, help me to submit to Your Word and cling to its Truth in all circumstances, sharing its life-giving message with grace and love. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him" (Proverbs 30:5).
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 02/24/18
Have Christians substituted a worldly religion in place of the purity of God's Word? That's the warning the apostle Paul sounded when he wrote to the church in Corinth:
I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough. (2 Corinthians 11:2-4).
When Paul speaks of a "sincere and pure devotion to Christ," the idea behind "sincere devotion" in the Greek is the word haplotēs, which literally means "singleness" and "simplicity." And it's important that Paul uses the image of marriage to suggest the relationship between God and His people. He tells us that if we receive a "different gospel," we are committing spiritual adultery.
The Good News of Jesus Christ is transparently clear—yet we have adulterated it with false ideologies and man-made doctrines. Some would have us believe that the good news of the Bible is "love wins"—that is, Jesus' sacrifice was unnecessary because God will ultimately let everyone into His Kingdom—but I believe that is the kind of "different gospel" Paul warned us against. The clear, pure, unadulterated Gospel that we find in the Bible is simply this: Jesus died, Jesus arose, Jesus is alive, and Jesus saves. These are not only Truths that we must be willing to defend—even die for—they are expressions of God's love toward us that should move us to love and care for everyone around us.
In 1 Corinthians, the apostle Paul lays out the marks of genuine believers: faith, hope, and love. Note that these traits cause us to look outward, not inward; to be active, not passive; and to remain visible, not hidden. Our faith is anchored in the saving work of Christ in the past, and our hope enables us to look to the future as we wait for Christ's return. Love, however, is capable of disarming those who oppose us now as we serve and forgive them—a reflection of the grace and forgiveness God first extended to us.
Prayer: Lord, thank You for giving me a new heart to receive Your Truth. Help me to be singly devoted to You for Your glory and to bless the people You have put into my life with Your hope and love. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"They will be my people, and I will be their God. I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me and that all will go well for them and for their children after them" (Jeremiah 32:38-39).
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 02/23/18
People who are worldly wise often try to disguise this wisdom as God's wisdom in the form of false religions or beliefs, but there is a vast difference. God's wisdom is pure in motive, gentle, and merciful. It is not arrogant, boastful, harsh, or unforgiving. It does not create strife or division; it produces good fruit and blesses us. God's wisdom is always perfectly consistent with Scripture.
Believers should seek God's wisdom in all things: seeking a mate, bringing up children, settling conflicts in their lives, or starting any new venture. This wisdom is the ability to apply the Word of God accurately and correctly, not only in the believer's life but in the lives of others. Those with this spiritual gift can weigh a situation and receive spiritual insight into it. The gift of wisdom does not always go hand in hand with the gift of teaching, but it often does.
The true gift of wisdom brings glory to God. Believers and nonbelievers alike will recognize God as the author of this wisdom when we exercise it according to His will. Pharaoh recognized Yahweh in Joseph's wisdom. Nebuchadnezzar recognized Jehovah through Daniel's wisdom. In Acts 6:10, the wisdom given to the apostle Stephen was striking. We are told that the Jewish leaders "could not stand up against the wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke."
This gift should always be used to draw glory to God and never to bring credit to oneself. Is it time you took authority over worldly wisdom by growing and maturing in God's wisdom for His glory?
Prayer: Father, I pray that You would increase my godly wisdom as You've promised in Your Word. Protect me from relying on any kind of wisdom but Yours. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you" (James 1:5).
Straight and True
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 02/22/18
Proverbs 22:1 says, "A good name is more desirable than great riches." In a thousand little ways, day after day, many of us are faced with this very choice. While the great riches we're offered may not be immediate, it certainly seems that the path to money, power, and prestige are often forged with dishonesty. Having integrity, then, can be costly, but in order to lead like Jesus, we must have higher goals, and we must be submitted to the King. His ways are honest ways.
Though it may seem that carefully placed deceptions, soft truths, and white lies will bring material benefits and make life easier, in the long run, they do great damage to a leader's reputation and influence. Think back to some of the leaders in your own life who, you discovered, were dishonest. Did that not change your perception and your willingness to follow them? That's because there is something deep inside each of us that knows the heart of God beats for Truth and our hearts should as well.
For some leaders, lying holds no temptation. But most of us find it easy to misuse the Truth, to compromise the Truth, to stretch the Truth, or to speak the Truth with the wrong motives and without love. The leadership style of Jesus reminds us that authentic leaders must always speak the Truth, always live the Truth, and always handle the Truth with love.
When Jesus spoke the Truth, some people were attracted, but many people were repelled. Once, when He spoke the Truth, the crowds deserted Him (see John 6:66). He could have made Himself more popular by shading the Truth or stretching the Truth. But Jesus is the Truth. He cannot deny the Truth because He cannot deny Himself.
Are there certain situations where you find yourself bending the Truth to please people? What do you think would happen if you opted for complete honesty instead? Ask God to forgive you where you've compromised and to give you the strength to speak the Truth in love the next time around.
Prayer: Father, I admit that I have sometimes used lies to get ahead and get what I want. Forgive me of this treacherous sin. Guard my lips and my heart that I may not speak untruths. Renew my courage to speak as You lead me to speak. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Do not lie to each another, since you have taken off your old self with its practices" (Colossians 3:9).
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 02/21/18
One formerly evangelical leader complains that orthodox, conservative Christianity has "shown a pervasive disdain for other religions of the world," whose members we should view "not as enemies but as beloved neighbors, and whenever possible, as dialogue partners and even collaborators."
Although Jesus was a master at listening and asking questions to get to people's real needs, He never compromised the Truth.
In a post-Truth world, embracing all belief systems as equal may sound like an open-minded, openhearted idea. But Jesus was intolerant of falsehood. That's why He declared, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6, emphasis added).
When I see speakers and authors working so hard to force God's Word to say what it clearly does not say, I hear the apostle Paul whispering in my ear, "The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits" (1 Timothy 4:1). In Jesus' high priestly prayer before going to the cross, He prayed, "Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth" (John 17:17). All too often, however, we have polluted God's Truth with borrowings from the false religions and philosophies of our culture. No one is sanctified by adulterated "truth."
If we as individuals reject or distort God's Truth, we rob the Truth of its power to set us free. The result: We become morally and spiritually enslaved. And when an entire culture rejects God's Truth? That culture opens itself up to bondage.
Prayer: Lord, thank You for the power of Your Truth to set me free—to set free every soul who calls on the name of Jesus. Help me to proclaim salvation to my community through the unadulterated Gospel—boldly and without fear. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners" (Isaiah 61:1-2).
Is God’s Judgment Inevitable
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 02/20/18
When we speak the Truth to our post-Truth world, we should expect opposition and persecution. We should expect to be treated no better than the prophets in Old Testament times. Before God sent Judah into exile in Babylon, He sent the prophet Jeremiah to remind the people that God had promised judgment if they fell away from Him. When Jeremiah delivered his message to the people, there was still time for them to turn to God for healing and forgiveness.
But the people of Judah didn't believe judgment was coming. They didn't believe God would keep His word. Perhaps they thought that God no longer punished disobedience as in times past. Perhaps they thought that God had evolved, that He had changed with the times. Perhaps they even thought, God won't punish us. After all, we are His people. There is no need for repentance. Love wins!
But the day eventually came when God's patience ended. The vast army of the Babylonians encircled Jerusalem and laid siege to the walls and gates. The people prayed for deliverance, but it was too late. They had passed the point of no return. Many were slaughtered, and the rest were led away in captivity. The city and its temple were laid waste.
For some reason, we in America think that our country is invincible. America will always be wealthy, powerful, and free. In spite of all the immorality, violence, rebelliousness, and sin in our nation, even many Christians think we're immune to God's judgment—just as the people of ancient Israel once thought.
Is God's judgment inevitable? No—there is still time to repent. How much time? I don't know. But I do know this: We can repent right now. Today. This very moment. And we must.
Prayer: Lord, forgive me for the ways I have presumed on Your grace. I know You have called me to die to self and to live a holy life as You are holy. Help me to be a beacon of Your Truth to my nation for our blessing as we turn to You. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land" (2 Chronicles 7:14).
Hang in There
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 02/19/18
In Athens, the Spirit of God empowered Paul to present the Truth of God to an unbelieving audience of Greek philosophers. Standing on Mars Hill—which was viewed as the seat of worldly wisdom—he brilliantly proclaimed God's Word.
However, after his proclamation, he became emotionally shaken. He had prayed that the hearts of those who heard his words would be changed, but his message had received only a lukewarm reception. By the time he sailed for Corinth (see Acts 18), he was struggling with discouragement, and God knew it. Therefore, He spoke words of encouragement to His servant:
Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city. (Acts 18:9-10).
In other words, "Paul, you are not alone. I am aware of your circumstances. I am with you, and others who know Me are with you, too."
Paul realized the key to success was not human strength or ability but faith in an unshakeable God. His responsibility was to do what God had called him to do. God's responsibility was to bring the right results from Paul's ministry at the right time.
Though he may have fought feelings of fear and discouragement, Paul knew God was faithful and the work he had been given to do would be accomplished. The message he had been called to preach would bear fruit at the proper time. Worry, doubt, and fear about the future only lead to sorrow and disappointment. Trust God right where you are, and He will bless you as you praise Him.
Prayer: Lord, I give all that I am to You—all my work and all my talents belong to You. Fill me with Your strength to do the work of Your Kingdom. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it" (1 Thessalonians 5:24).
Truth Will Triumph
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 02/18/18
What do you fear? You may have ongoing fears, such as the fear of abandonment, failure, or rejection. You may have new fears that are tied to current circumstances—the fear of losing your job or a relationship. Jesus told us, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me" (John 14:1).
Read Matthew 10:24-31. Three times in this passage, Jesus calls us to not fear—to not be afraid. While the world around us slips into panic, Jesus says not to live like them. We have no reason to allow fear to intimidate or defeat us. What reasons does Jesus give us for not fearing the people and circumstances of this world?
We ought not to fear because Truth will ultimately triumph: "So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs" (Matthew 10:26-27).
Today we see the Truth silenced for political correctness to avoid criticism, to gain popularity, and even to keep the peace. Yet those of us who have trusting fellowship with God have no reason to fear.
In the end, wickedness will be judged and righteousness will be exalted. We cannot allow the fear of ridicule or rejection to deter us from speaking God's Truth in love to those who need to hear it.
Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. "Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened." But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. 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 3:13-15).
Prayer: Father, thank You that I can rest in the knowledge that, ultimately, Truth will triumph—that Your perfect will cannot be thwarted. Thank You that I have no reason to fear. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me" (Psalm 23:4).
The Best Way to Serve Our Culture
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 02/17/18
By fall 2017, the debate over same-sex marriage was front and center in Australia. Despite the opposition raging against them there, many Christians refused to hide during this cultural storm. These Australian believers can teach us much about how to respond with grace and Truth during a societal storm.
Many churches across Australia got involved in the national conversation over same-sex marriage, including one near Sydney that convened a panel discussion designed to equip members to discuss this issue with friends, family, and coworkers. The panel emphasized the importance of "speaking the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15)—making a firm and uncompromised stand for the Truth, yet doing so not out of anger or stubbornness or hate, but out of genuine Christian love for all people.
This church emphasized Truths we must all take hold of: We must speak the Truth in love—even to those who reject the Truth. We must speak the Truth in love—even at the risk of our lives, our livelihood, and our reputations. We must speak the Truth in love—because that is what it means to be a follower of Jesus.
When we speak the Truth in love, we are serving our culture. Like the Good Samaritan, we are reaching out to our wounded enemy, an enemy who has been beaten and bloodied by sin, an enemy who does not want to be helped, an enemy who does not want our Gospel or our Savior. It's risky business to offer aid to a wounded enemy. But that enemy is our neighbor, and Jesus calls us to serve our enemies, love our enemies, and be salt and light in a decaying and darkened culture.
God's design for families, for marriage, and for salvation leads to healing and hope for anyone who will receive it. Our Gospel may fall on deaf ears. Our love may seem wasted on cold hearts. That's okay. God is responsible for the results—not us. Our only duty is to be faithful.
Prayer: Father, thank You for the example of my Australian brothers and sisters who are standing boldly for Your Truth. Grant me the courage and wisdom to do the same today that I might win souls for Your Kingdom by Your Holy Spirit. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ" (Ephesians 4:15).
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 02/16/18
God expects that those who love Him will also hate sin. He wants us to turn from our wicked ways and to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with others. This Good News includes the fact that we can have power over the things that once held us in bondage. So part of our message should be to proclaim freedom to those who cling to sin and the sorrow that it brings.
Yet while God hates sin, He loves sinners so much that He sent His Son to save us. Paul wrote, "Christ died for the ungodly. . . . God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:6, 8). Likewise, we are to love those who reject the absolutes of God's Word, even if they reject us.
To show our love and His, we must pray for those who are in error. We must speak the Truth and be bold witnesses to the Truth that we know. We must refuse to repay evil for evil. If we are maligned, slandered, or mistreated for standing strong for the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we must continue to stand in peace and refuse to seek retaliation.
Paul wrote, "Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord" (Romans 12:19).
When you are called intolerant for proclaiming Jesus as the only Savior and Lord, smile and refuse to back down, refuse to give in. Speak the Truth lovingly and persistently, and then trust God to move in the hearts of those who are in error.
When you're called 'intolerant' because of your faith, remember that the Gospel is for everyone—regardless of age, gender, nationality, culture, or race. The gift of the Gospel is a treasure of great worth—it is a promise of eternal life for all who believe.
Prayer: Father, help me love those who don't know You, just as You do. Help me pray for them and lovingly speak the Truth to them. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 02/15/18
The church in Corinth lost its first love for Jesus Christ. They maintained their spiritual activities but did them without love.
Many people in today's church face the same problem. They have become so consumed by committees, rules, programs, and personal agendas that they have forgotten about love. So many Christians today have lost their vision and mission because they do not serve in love. This is the same reason Jesus rebuked the church in Ephesus, saying, "Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first" (Revelation 2:4).
What does agape love look like? Paul tells us: "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails" (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).
Paul's description paints a picture of the love of Jesus Christ. He is the one against whom we are to measure ourselves. We are to love others as Christ loves us. Jesus said, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:34-35).
Has your love been met by rejection? By betrayal? Has your love been met by cold indifference or by anger? Has your love been met with hatred? Has your love been met with selfishness, jealousy, and resentment? So has Christ's love. He understands, so go to Him for strength to continue loving the unlovable, remembering the miserable state from which God called you out by His enduring love.
Prayer: God, help me to love others the way You do. Help me to never stop loving. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever" (Psalm 118:1).
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 03/14/18
First Corinthians 13 is one of the most well-known passages in the Bible. It is often quoted, yet seldom comprehended. It is routinely read at weddings, but is soon forgotten.
Hollywood only shows passionate, romantic love. Friends talk about having warm feelings toward each other. Yet the type of love that Paul is describing in this passage is far greater than any emotions-based love.
Agape love is a self-giving and self-sacrificing love. The focus is not on how we feel about the other person, but on how we can give of ourselves in love. Agape love has no room for pride, vanity, arrogance, or selfish desires.
Without this kind of love, any accomplishment, activity, or relationship we have is in vain. Paul describes the futility of loveless action:
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).
Proclaiming the Truth of God is nothing without love. Immense knowledge is worthless without love. Whatever we do—even if it is in the name of God—is meaningless if it is not motivated by agape love. We are told, "Do everything in love" (1 Corinthians 16:14).
Prayer: God, I pray that my motivation for all I do would be agape love. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Do everything in love" (1 Corinthians 16:14).
How to Exemplify Grace and Truth
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 02/13/18
The word grace is widely misunderstood in our culture. In the Bible, grace simply refers to God's gifts of goodness and blessing in our lives that we do not deserve—gifts of salvation, eternal life, forgiveness of sin, mercy, protection, material blessings, family, and so forth. All of these things come from the grace of God.
That is why I first approach others with news about the saving grace of Jesus Christ. I share with them the good news that God loves them and sent His Son to die for them as an atonement for sin. Sinners need grace, but they also need Truth. The world loves grace—but hates Truth. The world wants us to embrace and affirm not only the sinner, but the sin as well. Today the world even says we must take what God forbids and turn it into a sacrament—the unholy "sacrament" of same-sex marriage. But I love God, I love His Word, and I love people too much to compromise God's Truth.
As Christians, we must never diminish God's grace, and we must never compromise God's Truth. Whatever sins you may have committed, I do not hate you for them. I will not condemn you for them. But I will tell you the Truth about your sins from God's Word.
Here is the Truth—the absolute Truth—that you will probably never read in any newspaper or hear on any news broadcast: A genuine Christian who follows the example of the Lord, who speaks God's uncompromised Truth, and who shares the good news of God's lavish grace is the best friend a sinner could have. A genuine Christian is the best friend a drug addict or alcoholic could have, the best friend a workaholic or liar could have, the best friend an adulterer or fornicator could have, and, yes, the best friend a homosexual man or woman could have.
If you are a Christian, I appeal to you in the name of Jesus to be an example of Christ to the people around you. Be an example of grace and Truth to everyone you meet, no matter their sin, no matter how they mock you or hate you, no matter how they revile His name. Pray for them. Love them. Be the grace of Christ and the Truth of Christ in their lives, and someday they may come to love the Lord Jesus too.
Prayer: Lord, help me to be the best friend for those around me who need to hear Your Truth and experience Your love. Grant me Your wisdom and Your words by Your Holy Spirit as I build these relationships. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him" (John 3:17).
The Truth Is Costly
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 02/12/18
Truth always provokes hostility. The Truth can cost you your career. A day is coming when it may cost you your life. Don't let threats or intimidation silence you. Speak the Truth. Provoke a confrontation. Lay out your evidence and demand a verdict.
Don't accept the nonsense that Jesus was a "good moral teacher." C. S. Lewis observed that by claiming to be God, Jesus made it clear that He was either a liar, a lunatic, or the Lord God. Jesus has not left any other option open to us.
I once heard an English bishop say, "When the apostle Paul came into a town, he either incited a riot or triggered a revival. When I go into a town, they give me a high tea. In all truthfulness, I don't want high tea. I would settle for either revival or a riot. At least the riot would prove I had proclaimed God's truth without compromise."
If you compromise the message of Jesus, the world will love you. But if you proclaim Jesus and His Gospel without compromise, the world will hate you. Proclaim it anyway, just as the witnesses in Revelation 11 proclaimed the Gospel. For when we do, we share the saving grace and love of Christ. It is a message everyone needs to hear. It is a message the Holy Spirit will guide us in sharing, and one He will quicken hearts to receive.
Prayer: Father, help me boldly and lovingly proclaim Your Truth both to bring salvation to the lost and to encourage my brothers and sisters in Christ. Holy Spirit, go before me and prepare the way for Your Word to make the spiritually dead alive again and grant me courage to obey Your Great Commission. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"It is written: 'I believed; therefore I have spoken.' Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself" (2 Corinthians 4:13-14).
Defeating Spiritual Terrorism
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 02/11/18
Truth and freedom are inextricably linked. Many Christians are concerned about the systematic loss of religious and political freedom in our times. History has shown that as the church goes, so goes the society. Jesus said it clearly in John 8:32: "Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." We cannot afford to be casual about attacks on Truth, for they are attacks on our freedom as individuals as well as on our nation.
What might be the consequences to our nation if Christians falter in fighting for God's Truth to prevail? Is God's Truth an important factor when you make business, financial, or political decisions? What do you need to do to help guard Truth and freedom? Develop more intimacy with the Lord in prayer? Learn more about the Truth from the Bible?
Spiritual terrorists work the same way military terrorists work—they infiltrate the territory they want to take over and do harm from within. Thankfully, God gives us clear clues for identifying and defeating them in Jude 1:8-16.
The first step in defeating spiritual terrorists is to know one when you see one. Jude 1:8 states that "these dreamers pollute their own bodies, reject authority and slander celestial beings." These dreamers are apostates who preach redemption without the cross, peace without repentance, happiness without holiness, and a God who is not the father of Jesus Christ. These beliefs "reject the authority" of God as well as His very identity and sovereignty. Here are some tips that will aid you in recognizing the apostasy of false teaching.
First, do not fall for the idea that you can have a do-it-yourself religion. Apostates will tell you that there are many roads to God. One popular lie is that you can achieve eternal life through humanitarianism. Christians have been leaders in caring for the sick, hungry, and abandoned; however, the only way to acceptance by the Father is through the shed blood of Christ.
Second, be aware that playing on emotions is a strategy of the enemy. If your basis of believing a half-truth over God's Truth is that the apostasy just feels better, then you do not have a solid basis for your beliefs. Only God's version of the Truth counts.
Prayer: God, help me to be aware of spiritual terrorists. Teach me how to recognize deception and respond with Truth. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God's holy people" (Jude 1:3).
Seeking Truth in a Fake News World
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 02/10/18
The Bible is filled with admonitions and principles about Truth. From Genesis to Revelation, God's Word warns us not to be ignorant, but to seek the Truth. Certainly, the most important Truth we are to pursue is the Truth contained in God's Word. Yet God does not want us to be ignorant or misled in any area of Truth. His Word contains valuable insights into how we are to approach any Truth claims.
We see this principle in a scene from Acts 17. Paul was on his second missionary journey when he met stiff opposition in the city of Thessalonica. Many of the Jews there rose up in anger because he preached that Jesus is the Messiah who was prophesied in the Old Testament. The angry crowd rioted and chased Paul out of the city. The people of Thessalonica had been deceived by their biases. Many refused to listen to the Gospel because it didn't agree with what they already believed. Paul had come to give them the Good News, but they thought that the Gospel was "fake news."
So Paul and his friend Silas moved on to another town, Berea, and there Paul again preached the Good News of Jesus Christ. Acts 17:11-12 tells us, "Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men."
Why were the Bereans of "more noble character" than the people of Thessalonica? It's because they were willing to set aside their biases and preconceptions, and they were willing to listen to Paul's news. Now, they weren't gullible. They weren't going to take Paul's word at face value. The Bereans were open-minded but skeptical. They were willing to listen, but they fact-checked every claim Paul made to see if what he said was true.
People who seek the Truth are noble in God's eyes. The search for Truth is an important quest. The Berean people didn't merely want to have their biases confirmed. They were willing to set aside their biases and prejudices—but only if Paul's message was backed up by evidence from Scripture.
Prayer: Lord, thank You for the example of the Berean people in Scripture. Help me to discipline myself to seek Truth and to understand Your Word so that I can explain clearly the hope that is found in You alone. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"They received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true" (Acts 17:11).
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 02/09/18
If you believe in God, you have probably experienced times of doubt and questioning. You have wondered if He is really wise and perfect, if He really wants the best for you, if He really loves you, or if His commands are truly good and worthy of your obedience. You may have questioned whether God is telling you the Truth or whether He really is God.
Jesus said He is "the way and the truth and the life"—the only path to God the Father (John 14:6). But what if that is a lie? What if there are many paths to God? What if there is no heaven or no hell? What if we are simply reincarnated and keep coming back to live a succession of lives—the quality of which depends on the karma we accumulate?
Such questions tempt, intoxicate, and lure us. These suggestions and questions ultimately come to us from one source: the serpent in the Garden of Eden, Satan himself.
Bowing to alternative views that appeal to us has always been a temptation. We refuse to believe there is only one way of salvation, only one way to the Father. We choose to believe there are many paths to God.
Why? Because if there are many paths to God instead of just one, then we can willfully and selfishly choose the path we want. We can live the way we want and never be held accountable by God. We can choose a religion that appeals to our own pride and vanity.
Have you been tempted to believe that God has lied to you and that there is more than one way of salvation? Recognize that just as the serpent deceived Eve, Satan is trying to deceive anyone who will believe his lies.
You don't have to fall for his deception. You can know the Truth, and God's Truth will set you free (see John 8:32).
Prayer: Father, forgive me for ever doubting that there is only one path to You: Jesus Christ. Help me to recognize the lies and deceptions of Satan and to stand firm on the Truth. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (John 8:32).
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 02/08/18
When Daniel was being trained in the Babylonian palace, he was fed lies about spirituality and the meaning of life. Just as we face lies every day from our society, Daniel was being indoctrinated into the pagan culture in which he was held captive. Yet Daniel held on tightly to God's Truth. God's Word permeated every ounce of Daniel's being, and he refused to let that go. And because God was the center of Daniel's identity, he did not lose focus.
Like Daniel, we must take every message we hear and filter it through God's Word. No matter how appealing a message may sound or how often we hear it, if it does not bring glory to God, we cannot let it in. We must discern the difference between man's "truth" and God's Truth. We must recognize what will provide only temporary happiness and what will bring eternal joy.
If we fail to hold on to God's teachings, we will become vulnerable to worldly messages and lose our effectiveness for Christ. Make a commitment to understand thoroughly what you believe—and why. Spend time in God's Word and learn who you are as a child of God. Standing up for your beliefs will help you become a powerful tool for God.
Prayer: God, help me spend more time in Your Word so that I will be confident in my beliefs and able to easily filter any message through Your Word. Give me the discernment to recognize the difference between man's "truth" and Your Truth. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ" (Philippians 1:9-10).
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 02/07/18
The Old Testament prophet Daniel had plenty of reasons to be afraid. He was captured as a teenager and taken to a foreign land. He was separated from his godly family and forced to live among pagans. He was routinely tested both academically and spiritually. He met face to face with the greatest ruler of his day. Yet Daniel did not allow fear to control him. Daniel focused on God, not on his circumstances. Daniel obeyed God's laws, not the pagan laws. And through Daniel's love, faith, and obedience to God, he thrived in an ungodly land.
We are also living in a foreign land. On a daily basis, we face temptations to conform to the world's standards. God's love for us is called into question every day by the world. We are routinely tested in our faith and character. But like Daniel, we must remember the love of God and put faith above fear in order to survive these obstacles. But how do we overcome our fear with faith in a practical way?
First, we need to prepare for the test by studying God's Word. We learn the Truth by studying what God says in Scripture. And the more we make reading the Bible a part of our daily routine, the more we desire and appreciate it. "How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path" (Psalm 119:103-104).
If you are paralyzed by fear and something is holding you back from stepping out in faith, ask for the Holy Spirit's guidance to help you overcome fear. Commit to studying God's Word and applying it to your life. Ask for God's help as you begin to trust Him more and more.
Prayer: God, help me to follow the example of Daniel and to put faith above fear. Help me to focus on You and to spend time in Your Word. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble" (Psalm 119:165).
Overcoming Obstacles to Obedience
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 02/06/18
One of the most satisfying rewards of obedience is a clear conscience. When we try to hide our sins, when we live an incongruent life, when we routinely fail the test of obedience, we burn all our energy in fighting guilt and shame. Sin has a way of clamping down on our heart and creating a sense of imprisonment and suffocation.
But when we live in obedience to God, our heart and mind are focused and clear. There is great relief and freedom in living a godly life. Without the emotional baggage of sin weighing us down, we are able to pass the tests that come our way.
The benefits of obedience to God are clear. But one of the first obstacles we face is figuring out what to obey. How well do you know the Word of God? Can you name the Ten Commandments? Can you discern the difference between human traditions and Scriptural principles? To follow God, we need to know His Word, and we need to know God personally.
Before Daniel's capture, he not only studied the Scriptures, but he memorized them. When he was tested spiritually, he could make the right decisions because He knew the laws of God. Daniel was prepared for his test. Did you ever try to take an exam in school without knowing the material? It's easy to fail when we're not prepared. Knowing God's Word is crucial for successfully navigating the tests we face.
Remember—to pass the test, you must prepare for the test.
Prayer: Father, help me to study and memorize Your Word. I want to be prepared for every test of my obedience. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you" (Psalm 119:11).
Give God Credit
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 02/05/18
As you pass your tests in life, be careful not to fall into the temptation of giving yourself the credit for your success. God is the one who has prepared our path and provided us with a book full of wisdom. God alone has motivated us through the Holy Spirit to seek Him and to obey Him. God alone has provided godly, encouraging friends. God alone has enabled us to solve our problems through the discernment, experiences, mentors, and Scriptural insights that He has given to us.
In Daniel 2, the king threatened to execute every wise man, including Daniel and his friends, because no one could interpret his troubling dream. As Daniel and his friends prayed through the night, God intervened on their behalf. "During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven and said: 'Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his'" (Daniel 2:19-20).
The very first thing Daniel did when God gave him this vision was to praise Him. Daniel did not claim to have extraordinary knowledge or discernment. He knew that whatever insight he gained into King Nebuchadnezzar's dream came solely from God.
How often do we fall into the trap of thinking our success comes from our own efforts? Yet without God's gifts of health, intelligence, opportunities, and resources, we would never be able to accomplish anything.
As you step out in faith and obey God, praise Him for His strength and guidance in leading you in the right path. As you succeed in helping others, give God the glory for giving you the right words to say. As you overcome your fears with faith, thank God that His love is faithful and enduring.
Prayer: Father, forgive me for the times I fall into the trap of thinking I have accomplished something on my own. I realize that without You, I am nothing. Help me to praise You for the many ways You help me each and every day. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"For the LORD your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory" (Deuteronomy 20:4
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 02/04/18
Sometimes battles come from bullies or situations. But other times, struggles come from within as we face temptations. A temptation is a test of our value system and resolve to serve God. While God may give us tests, He never tempts with sin. "When tempted, no one should say, 'God is tempting me.' For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed" (James 1:13-14).
Temptations are Satan's way of damaging our reputation and witness, leading us away from God and His blessings, and planting seeds of doubt concerning God's love and faithfulness.
Daniel and his friends faced many challenges as they lived out their beliefs and their love for God. But one of their greatest temptations came soon after they became leaders within the kingdom. King Nebuchadnezzar built a giant gold statue of himself, requiring everyone to bow down and worship it. The consequence for refusal was death in a blazing furnace (see Daniel 3:1-6).
No one is immune to temptation. Proverbs 16:18 warns us, "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall." With an attitude that says, "I can handle temptation," we become careless in guarding against it. We may not have golden statues of kings before us, but we have plenty of false idols in our society. An idol is anything we trust for security, provision, or fulfillment. Many times, idols hide in our hearts. Whether it is wealth, relationships, or career, we all face the temptation to give too much power to things.
When Daniel's friends were faced with this idol, they didn't have days to consider the situation. They immediately determined the right course of action because they had spent so many hours of their life in communion with God. Their relationship with Him was key to their decision. They knew that in following God, He would remain with them no matter the consequences.
Prayer: God, I long to have such a close relationship with You that I immediately respond with Your righteousness when faced with temptations. Help me to be aware of the idols around me and to be on guard against them. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!" (1 Corinthians 10:12).
Dealing with Bullies
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 02/03/18
There's a lot we can learn from Daniel's response to King Nebuchadnezzar as we consider how to deal with bullies in our lives. We see that Daniel sought God's help through praying with his godly friends. As we pray for God's help, we also need to pray specifically for the bully. Sometimes it seems that earnestly praying blessings upon someone who torments us is more difficult than confronting the bully. But the power of love will enable us to respond in a godly way. Daniel's prayers with his friends gave him boldness to go before the bullying king.
As you seek boldness, examine your motives before you speak or act. Pure motives and a clear conscience will give you strength. Proverbs tells us that, "the righteous are as bold as a lion" (28:1). When we pray for boldness, our motives must be more about others and less about ourselves. Humility will keep our motives pure: "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves" (Philippians 2:3). Each of you should look not only to your own interests but also to the interests of others.
In his humility and with the right motives, the next thing Daniel did was serve the bully. Through God's insight, Daniel was able to share the detailed interpretation of the dream with Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel helped the very man who threatened his life. Romans 12:14 tells us to "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse."
Daniel's plan produced dramatic results. The king was so grateful and impressed that he "fell prostrate before Daniel and paid him honor" (Daniel 2:46), and Daniel and his friends were given great leadership within Babylon (see vv. 48-49).
Your situation may not end as remarkably, but if you seek to resolve your problems through prayer and loving action, then God will stand with you in your fight.
Prayer: God, help me pray for my enemies and respond to them in love. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (Matthew 5:44).
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 02/02/18
Almost everyone can remember at least one bully from school—especially if they shoved you on the playground, teased people relentlessly, or threatened and manipulated others. But bullies aren't found only in the schoolyard. Bullies exist in our families, in our workplaces, and in our communities.
A bully is someone who desires to control and to abuse others. Bullies seek power by making others feel powerless. They find enjoyment in criticizing and ridiculing others.
In the book of Daniel, we meet a king who was the epitome of a bullying leader. King Nebuchadnezzar ruled the Babylonian Empire when, as a young teen, Daniel and his friends were captured and sent to study at the king's palace. In Daniel 2, we learn that King Nebuchadnezzar was so troubled by a dream that he planned to kill all his wise men—including Daniel and his friends—because they could not interpret it for him.
As Daniel and his three friends faced execution, they prayed together throughout the night and sought God's divine intervention. Because God was on their side, Daniel was given the insight to interpret the dream. Daniel's next action gives us wisdom for dealing with bullies.
Daniel first approached the matter carefully. He didn't confront the king directly until he understood the situation better. Daniel 2:14 tells us, "When Arioch, the commander of the king's guard, had gone out to put to death the wise men of Babylon, Daniel spoke to him with wisdom and tact." Daniel was not quick to fight back. He gathered information from Arioch and then approached the king: "At this, Daniel went in to the king and asked for time, so that he might interpret the dream for him" (Daniel 2:16).
Prayer: God, I pray that when I have to deal with a bully in life, I will come to You for help and not be quick to fight back. Help me to always come to You for discernment. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry" (James 1:19).
In Our Weakness
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 02/01/18
Have you faced an exceedingly tough circumstance that tested every bit of your strength, intelligence, and character? Maybe you are facing a troubling time right now and your whole life is at a turning point.
That is exactly what the prophet Daniel experienced when he was sent as a captive into King Nebuchadnezzar's palace. Daniel did not have the benefit of years of experience, maturity, or education to help him handle the situation. As a young teenager, Daniel had to maintain his faith in a pagan culture and survive the king's rigorous training program intended to mold him into a Babylonian leader.
Not many of us would be able to survive what Daniel did—at any age—but that is exactly what God wants us to realize. We cannot do big things on our own—it is just not possible. But though we are small, God is almighty. Though we are weak, our God is strong. Though we are limited, God is limitless. God promised Paul: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9). It is the same for us. Thus, we can echo Paul when he said, "Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me" (v. 9). We never need to worry about our future because God is on our side.
Prayer: God, sometimes life seems too big for me. Help me to rely on You, especially in those moments, knowing that Your power is made perfect in my weakness. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness'" (2 Corinthians 12:9).