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 05/25/18
Champions Don’t Lose Their Confidence
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 05/25/18
To walk in true confidence, we must realize its source. If we place our full confidence in our human abilities, we will be sorely let down time and again. No matter how accomplished we are, no matter how much intelligence we have acquired, no matter how talented we may be, God alone is our deliverer, and He must be the one upon whom we rely.
Though David was being run ragged through the mountains, fleeing a mad king, he never lost confidence that God was going to deliver him. However, David ventured into new situations with extreme caution, consulting the Lord before acting. "[David] inquired of the Lord, saying, 'Shall I go and attack these Philistines?'" (1 Samuel 23:2).
True champions do not lose their confidence because they know they are not the ultimate source of victory. They understand that their victory rests in a loving, sovereign Father, who has hopes and dreams for their lives far beyond what they could ever imagine.
David knew that while he was fleeing King Saul, he was under the protection of God's wing. During our journey with Christ, we can probably mark with ease the days, months, and years when we were seeking direction from Him. And with the same ease, we can tell when we were not.
When we inquire of the Lord, asking Him to prepare the way for us to walk in His calling, He is faithful to do so. When prayer becomes a discipline in our lives, we will never lose confidence, and we will walk boldly with God into whatever journey He has called us to.
Prayer: Lord, instill in me the discipline to seek Your direction at every decision-making point in my life. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence" (Ephesians 3:12).
DAILY DEVOTIONAL 05/24/18
Hope When You’re Hiding
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 05/24/18
Maybe you have just heard a negative remark that someone said about you, and fear and insecurity is gripping your heart. Waves of panic sweep over you as you wonder what you will do. David would understand your plight.
On the run from Saul, a vicious and relentless ruler, he wrote these words:
The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I called to the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and I have been saved from my enemies. (Psalm 18:2-3).
David, the future king of Israel, was forced to leave his home and the ones he loved. Almost overnight, he became a hunted criminal, though he had done nothing wrong.
Now, he was the commander of a ragtag army made up of bandits, murderers, and social outcasts. Alone and hiding out in a cave of rejection, David wondered how life had turned out so differently from what he had planned.
Today, you also may feel like a cave dweller. Friends have betrayed you, peers scorn your name, and even family members have turned against you. At night, tears stain your pillow as you wonder if God will hear your cry.
God has given you a marvelous promise: If you will seek Him, you will find He is right beside you. No matter how deep your valley may seem, God's love for you is deeper.
He is your faithful Lord and Savior, your best friend, and your eternal source of hope and encouragement. Hang in there. Don't give up. God has a wondrous plan for your life.
Prayer: Lord, I cannot imagine life without You. Today, I turn to You in the midst of my fear. Show me the greatness of Your love, and be my sole encouragement. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 8:38-39).
DAILY DEVOTIONAL 05/23/18 to 05/01/18
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 05/23/18
David experienced victory, but he also experienced failures, just as we do. Some of his failures were monumental. He dealt with defeat. He fumbled through temptations. He allowed his own desires to lead him into huge blunders. He occasionally wallowed in sorrow and fear. But he always recovered from these setbacks.
In 1 Samuel 20, we see David hiding from Saul in self-pity and worry. In his panic, David sought help and comfort from his friend instead of going directly to God. David continued in a downward spiral. The more he took his eyes off the Lord, the more he focused on himself. In his misery, he cried out, "How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?" (Psalm 13:1-2).
In the dark cave in which he was hiding from Saul and his army, David poured out his heart to God. He turned his hiding place into a place of prayer. "I cry aloud to the LORD; I lift up my voice to the LORD for mercy. I pour out before him my complaint; before him I tell my trouble" (Psalm 142:1-2).
By the time we see David in 1 Samuel 23, he has remembered the key to victory: "He inquired of the LORD" (v. 2). David had learned the consequences of leaving God out of his plans, and he gave his brokenness to God. He chose to redirect his focus from his suffering to trusting in the Lord. He no longer allowed others to distract him from obeying the will of God.
The same God who used David's brokenness can use our brokenness to restore us and to glorify Himself.
Prayer: God, help me to stay focused on You and to give You my brokenness. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit" (Psalm 34:18).
The Source of Success
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 05/22/18
As David met his opponents with courage, he always remembered the source of his strength:
Once you spoke in a vision, to your faithful people you said: "I have bestowed strength on a warrior; I have raised up a young man from among the people. I have found David my servant; with my sacred oil I have anointed him. My hand will sustain him; surely my arm will strengthen him. . . . I will crush his foes before him and strike down his adversaries. . . . He will call out to me, You are my Father, my God, the Rock my Savior.'" (Psalm 89:19-21, 23, 26).
David did not take God's aid for granted or allow his successes to turn into arrogance. He remained humble and acknowledged that true victory comes only from the hand of God.
In contrast, Saul's heart was completely self-focused. His dreams and hopes and will were not aligned with God's will. So when Saul witnessed David's growing popularity after the Philistine defeat, Saul became consumed with jealousy.
As [the Israelites] danced, they sang: "Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands." Saul was very angry; this refrain displeased him greatly. "They have credited David with tens of thousands," he thought, "but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?" And from that time on Saul kept a close eye on David. (1 Samuel 18:7-9).
Saul did not praise God for bringing victory through David. Instead, his only thought was how this young man was stealing his personal glory and fame. Instead of feeling gratitude toward David, Saul saw him as a threat to his own power.
When you face triumphs in life, are you quick to give God the glory? When you face an insurmountable foe, do you remember that God is the source of your strength?
Prayer: Father, help me to always recognize that any success I have is from You. Thank You for being the source of my strength. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"But be sure to fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you" (1 Samuel 12:24).
Learning to Slay Giants
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 05/21/18
When David was just a young man, he killed a giant named Goliath. People revel in victories like David's. They like to know that it's not always about who's bigger, meaner, and better armed. That's because we all face giants in our lives.
Read Psalm 8. These giants are usually not of the nine-and-a-half-foot variety. The giants I'm talking about are the giants of fear, anxiety, worry, discouragement, and despondency. Sometimes they take the form of addiction, restlessness, envy, bitterness, or anger. But whatever they may be, these giants have one purpose in mind: to render the children of the living God ineffective. So, the question is: How do we defeat these giants?
In our culture, we often try to understand ourselves and the problems we face without understanding God and His purpose for life. Many churches preach messages that encourage people to solve their problems on their own. They offer principles, methods, and formulas to fix the troubles their listeners encounter. But that's the core of the problem. They leave God out, and He's the only one who can solve our problems.
After his great triumph over Goliath and under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, David penned Psalm 8 as a song of victory. That song of victory begins with a recognition of the surpassing majesty of God: "LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!" (v. 1).
David knew who God is. That's why he could stand with his sling and a few small stones and stare down a mountain of a man, saying, "I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty" (1 Samuel 17:45). David knew there is power in the name of the Lord. David's story tells us that when we're in trouble, we need to call on the name of the God of heaven and trust Him.
Jesus gave His life for us so that the biggest giants in our lives—sin and death—could be defeated once and for all. How much more can we trust Him to give us victory over Satan's everyday attacks? Whatever your Goliath may be today, praise your God who is bigger, stronger, and wiser than any giant—and proclaim as David did, "Lord, how majestic is Your name!"
Prayer: Lord, thank You for securing my victory in Christ. Help me to live as Your champion with unshakable confidence in You that leads me to declare Your goodness to the world. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 15:57).
Champions Have Faith Above Fear
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 05/20/18
Life's furious pace can be overwhelming, and the problems we encounter during those days can seem consuming. We scheme to solve our problems, yet they only grow larger and more complicated. One situation after another arises, and we feel as if we cannot face another trying moment. In fact, we respond by retreating because we are so afraid of another dilemma.
If ever there was a man who had his share of problems, it was David. As a shepherd for his father's flock, David always seemed to be addressing some sort of problem.
There was the problem of wild animals who wanted to kill his family's sheep. So, David killed a lion and a bear. Then there was the problem of King Saul, whose fits of rage would compel him to hurl spears at David while he played the harp.
Courage is not the absence of fear; rather, it is the conquest of fear. Surely, David was afraid—he faced death on a regular basis. We see evidence of deep despair and anguish in some of his psalms (see Psalm 6, 3, 42-43, 142, et al.). However, we also see how he faced his fears by placing his faith in God, knowing there is no circumstance from which God cannot deliver us.
As problems arise, we must learn to face our fears with faith—faith that God is going to deliver us. David writes, "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1). In order to conquer fear, such as the fear of mounting problems, we must lean on God's promises, knowing He will help us overcome any obstacles placed in our paths.
Prayer: Lord, increase my faith as I trust in You to help me face my fears. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies" (Psalm 57:10).
A Champion for the Lord
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 05/19/18
David was a champion for the Lord—but not because he was a gallant warrior who never stumbled. He did not glory in the praises of the people after he defeated Goliath. He knew someone much greater than himself had secured the victory. Though the people saw his might, he understood his weakness. David lived a very difficult life. In many cases it was tragic, lonely, and filled with broken dreams.
After the prophet Samuel anointed him king over Israel, David probably thought he would be going to Jerusalem, but instead, he ended up shivering in a dark and lonely hillside cave. Instead of accolades and praise, David had to settle for a life lived on the run from a king who was bent on killing him.
But here is what is noteworthy about David's life: He never gave up. He never lost his confidence, and he always believed he would experience God's victory. It did not matter to David if he realized the victory here on earth or in heaven. Though he sinned and stumbled in his witness for God, he never entrusted his life to anyone but the Lord.
He writes, "As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God" (Psalm 42:1). What do you do when sorrow comes? When disappointment fills your soul? David responded by being available to God. He never abandoned his devotion to the Lord. He sought humility over bitterness, repentance over resentment.
Prayer: Lord, may I live my life the way David did—in love with You. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked. . . . but whose delight is in the law of the LORD" (Psalm 1:1-2).
Devoted to God
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 05/18/18
Once while visiting President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the White House, Wendell Willkie, who had run against him and lost, steered the conversation to the choice of Harry Hopkins as an intimate advisor to the president. He asked, "Why do you keep Hopkins so close to you? You surely must realize that people distrust him and resent his influence."
Without hesitation, Roosevelt replied, "Someday you may well be sitting here where I am now as president of the United States. And when you are, you'll be looking at that door over there and knowing that practically everybody who walks through it wants something out of you. You'll learn what a lonely job this is and discover the need for somebody like Harry Hopkins who asks for nothing except to serve you."
The same thing can be said of David. When Samuel first saw him, he almost questioned God's judgment. The Lord's choice for Israel's future king was the youngest of Jesse's sons. He was ruddy in appearance and did not look like kingly material. But Samuel wasn't able to see David from God's perspective.
Many times, for us to gain God's perspective, we have to be willing to let go of our limited and often personality-skewed viewpoint. David was a man whose heart was devoted to God. He wanted nothing more than to worship the Lord and be close to Him.
Most of the book of Psalms was penned by David. Many entries were written while he tended his father's sheep. He was a content man because he had learned how to practice the presence of God. It was there in his father's fields that he realized God's hand was on his life.
God has a plan for your life, but to see it unfold, you have to trust Him and rest in Him.
David was loyal and faithful. And God knew that whatever happened in this young man's life, he would never abandon his godly faith.
Prayer: Lord, make me like David—a person with a heart devoted only to You. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty" (Psalm 91:1).
David’s Call to Praise
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 05/17/18
If King David were with us today, no doubt he would sound this clarion call to every believer: "Praise the Lord!" He would encourage us to clap our hands, to make a joyful noise to Almighty God with instruments and voice, and to shout praises to the Most High God. That's right, shout! And David wouldn't quietly stand before us, meekly offering this as a suggestion for us to consider. No, he would be animated; he would implore us to join him and all the saints of God in praise.
So if you were to meet David today, would you gladly heed his call to praise God with your entire being—all that you are, all that you have, and all that you will ever be—every day of your life?
Praise is more than obligation—more than a simple spiritual exercise. It is something more than singing songs in church on Sundays. Praise is the path that brings us near to God and His love, His power, and His grace. It brings us closer to the throne of God, draws us into a more intimate relationship with our Creator, Savior, and Lord, and provides us a more fulfilling life on this earth.
People driven to know their reason for being. We want our lives to make a difference, to produce something of lasting value. One of mankind's great questions is "What is the purpose of my life?" For those who believe in Jesus as their Savior, their purpose is clear: We exist to bring glory to God. To find a life of meaning, we need only dedicate our lives to worshiping God—savoring and declaring His excellencies to the world. As we do, our eyes will be opened to the love and power of God and our desperate need for Him so that our experience of God grows richer, our faith deeper, and our hope firmer. As we pursue our life's purpose in following Christ, our very lives are an expression of praise to God.
Prayer: Father, help me to embrace my purpose in life—to glorify You. May I praise You today with my entire being. Praise the Lord! I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"The LORD lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be God my Savior!" (Psalm 18:46).
A Successful Warrior
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 05/16/18
David was able to go into battle with confidence because he began his battle in prayer. When we call upon God's power instead of fearing our circumstances, we are on the path to victory. The more time we spend in prayer and worship of our Savior, the less we will feel afraid.
The only way to be a successful spiritual warrior is to start as a successful worshiper: "Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the LORD" (Psalm 27:6).
When we forget to seek Him on a daily basis, we become easy prey for the enemy. The enemy is always present, ready to trip us up or lure us down the wrong path. This is why Scripture warns us, "Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8).
We desperately need God's guidance to lead us in the right direction. Yet when we neglect our relationship with God, we become insensitive to His voice. We need to remember David's cry: "My heart says of you, Seek his face!' Your face, LORD, I will seek" (Psalm 27:8).
Prayer: Father, help me always to start my day with prayer and worship. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen."But I cry to you for help, O LORD; in the morning my prayer comes before you" (Psalm 88:13).
Arrows at the Enemy
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 05/1518
The psalmist describes the next generation as arrows: "Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate" (Psalm 127:4-5, ESV).
We should pray that our children will become arrows into the heart of the enemy. When they face spiritual warfare, when they witness the moral decay around them, when they see the enemy's foothold on our society, may they be like arrows in the hand of Almighty God used to penetrate enemy territories and shatter spiritual deceptions.
Even if you do not have children, God wants to hear your prayers for the future of His people. He wants you to model for the next generation how to live a life of faith and devotion to Him. We need to show the next generation that God is not a stranger. He is our Father and our friend, our comforter and our foundation.
Prayer: Father, I pray that my children would become arrows in Your hand that would penetrate the heart of the enemy. Help me to be a role model for the next generation that they would see what You have done in my life and praise You. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light . . . and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness but rather expose them" (Ephesians 5:8, 10-11).
Our Responsibility to the Next Generation
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 05/14/18
We want the best for our children. We work hard to provide them the best opportunities, education, possessions, and quality of life that we possibly can. But this earthly foundation is as weak as sand compared to the solid rock we have in Christ. The psalmist declared, "Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain" (Psalm 127:1). We work and work to provide for the next generation, but how often do we call out to God to form the foundation of their lives and to watch over them?
Today we face forces that are attacking our future generations. These forces are unashamedly seeking to destroy our society, our morality, our faith, and our convictions. Unless we are firmly anchored on the Rock of Ages, unless we trust in the living God, unless we are vigilant in prayer and fellowship with God, the enemy will be able to vanquish our children.
We have a great responsibility to the next generation. They may not yet realize the dangers they are facing or how to pray for protection and guidance. But we know. We can pray big prayers to God for the next generation. We can pray for God to build our homes and our cities on His foundation. We can model for the next generation how to pray selflessly and ceaselessly to God. We can model for our children that our trust and security is in God, not in our material possessions or earthly successes.
Prayer: God, forgive me for the times I have forgotten to pray for my children. Help them to recognize the power of prayer as they watch my life. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just" (Genesis 18:19).
Teach Your Children Well
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 05/13/18
Training children to love and serve the Lord, to be compassionate toward others, and to have consistent walks of faith is the most noble and important work any parent can do. Therefore, we should find great joy in the fact that the Lord has called us and entrusted us to be parents.
Never lose sight of the fact that you are training your child not only to take a role in God's Kingdom on this earth, but also to assume a place and an inheritance in heaven.
Many parents wonder what the most important lesson is that they can teach their children. The answer is simple. Nothing can take the place of teaching your child about the forgiveness and love of God. Telling him or her about the saving grace of Jesus Christ is the most important thing you will ever do.
Too often, mothers and fathers become weary in the process and say, "I am raising children," or, "I am supporting a family." However, we need to view our parental roles as a privilege. We are training heirs to the Kingdom of God—children who will make a difference in this world for God, children who will love others in Christ and lead them to salvation, children who will live together with you in eternity, children who will know the fullness of God's blessings, guidance, and favor.
As you pursue the challenge of being a godly parent, you can be assured that God is on your team. He will provide the wisdom you need for every situation. He also will protect you and bless you as you walk in His ways and bring glory to His name.
Prayer: Lord, I realize that as a parent I have a tremendous task. I know I cannot do it on my own. I need Your wisdom to guide me each day. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain" (Psalm 127:1).
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 05/12/18
Another role of the godly parent is to cultivate compassion for others. Job trained his children to be generous, hospitable, responsible, kind, and considerate and to be leaders in building up others and the community in unity and harmony.
This does not mean Job taught his children to compromise for the sake of agreement, but rather to hold strong principles and demonstrate genuine love.
How do we develop compassion for others? We first must experience God's love and then be challenged to pass on that love. Children first experience God's love by experiencing the love of their own parents. The more their parents express love to them, the quicker they are to show compassion.
Assure your children repeatedly of God's love, even when they disobey. Be affectionate with them, hugging and kissing them and putting your hand on their shoulders as a sign of encouragement.
Also, don't link your love to any behavioral trait in your child. Let your children know you love them just as God loves them—unconditionally. God loves us solely because we are His beloved, uniquely created children. Learn to love your children in the same way.
When you demonstrate love to your children, they gain a proper perspective of God. They learn to view the Lord as a God of love and not wrath.
Prayer: Lord, teach me how to communicate Your love better to my family. I know when I learn to love You better, I can then pass this love on to others. Thank You for Your faithfulness in my life. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children" (Deuteronomy 6:6-7).
Walk the Walk
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 05/11/18
As a godly parent, you will want to cultivate consistency in your family's walk of faith. Job valued spending time with his family and communicating with them, not only speaking to them but listening closely as they voiced their concerns, needs, and opinions.
Being consistent in our faith is not the same thing as perfection, nor does it mean we are always right. Rather, consistency means we make our families a priority when it comes to our time and our schedules.
Consistency also means walking the walk and not just talking the talk of your faith. It means going with your children to church every Sunday, including attendance at Sunday school. It means praying with your family daily, memorizing Scripture together, and talking about the things of the Lord and the principles of the Bible in a natural, ongoing way.
Use every moment of your relationship with your children to establish the reality of both God's love and your love in their lives. Keep His love and the Bible's teachings at the heart of your discussions with your children about what they see on television, learn in school, or hear from other children. Make God your number one resource to consult any time they face problems, are sick, or have specific needs.
It is in this daily walking-and-talking, dawn-to-dusk way that we train our children to have the attitude of Christ and to express His love toward others. It is a daily challenge to teach our children compassion and to lead them into a consistent pattern of godly living.
Prayer: Lord, I know when the focus of my life is set on You, then the focus of my family will be the same. Help me to seek Your face by Your Spirit. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Take hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands, and you will live" (Proverbs 4:4).
Believing God for Your Family
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 05/10/18
The very first step to becoming a godly parent is to accept Christ as your Savior. If you have never asked Him to come into your heart and forgive your sins, then you will not know how to meet your children's needs effectively. The Lord is the one who has given us the privilege of raising children, and in order to tap into His mind for wisdom to successfully fulfill this responsibility, you have to have a personal relationship with Him.
The second step to becoming a godly parent is dependence on God. Children are great imitators. If we have a sincere walk of faith, they will follow our lead. Let your love for your children be rooted in your love for God. It is only to the degree that you love the Lord that you will be able to show your love to your children and other family members.
The third step is one of humility. Your children need to recognize the fact that you are the head of the household. However, they also need to know you can make mistakes, and when you do, you are not slow in seeking God's forgiveness. When your child hears you praying, his or her life is changed. Suddenly, he realizes Mom or Dad's faith is in God and nothing else.
Make sure you find time to praise God for your salvation, His provision for your family, and the wisdom He gives each day. Thank Him for His blessings and protection. Pray for a spirit of gratitude so your children will learn to have grateful hearts instead of being consumed with their personal wants and desires.
Prayer: Lord, I know there are times when I forget to thank You for all You have done. Forgive my ingratitude and teach me to be grateful for the love You have shown to my family and myself. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; . . . Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up" (Deuteronomy 11:18-19).
Parenting Our Children’s Hearts
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 05/09/18
As parents, we have an unbelievable opportunity to focus on parenting our children's hearts and inward beliefs.
Some new parents seek to repeat their experiences from childhood, assuming that is the best practice. Others vow not to repeat their adolescent experiences for their kids, faulting their parents for their unhappy childhood. Still others base their parenting style on the expectations of other parents in their social circles.
But are any of these approaches to parenting reflective of your personal faith in God?
To pass on spiritual and moral values to build up the hearts and characters of our children in righteousness, we must take time with our kids to model a godly lifestyle and show them unconditional love with no favoritism. Family Bible reading and discussion can help instill Biblical Truths in the hearts and minds of our children, along with Scripture memorization and prayer. And you may have other Christ-honoring methods for developing a love of God and His Gospel in your children's lives. That's wonderful. But the key we must remember is to move from ideas to action. It is easy to allow this priority of leading our kids in spiritual growth and Truth to fall to the wayside.
Long hours committed to work schedules, multiple employment commitments because of lifestyle issues, and a myriad of other interests can adversely affect even the best efforts to allocate enough time to parent our children's hearts and inward beliefs.
Begin a concerted effort now to explore opportunities that will contribute to your family heritage.
Prayer: Father, help me to model to my children a life committed to You. Show me if there is anything I need to change in my parenting habits. Help me to spend time in the Word and in prayer with my children. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it" (Proverbs 22:6)
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 05/08/18
Yesterday we looked at two types of soil that Satan targets. Today we will look at the third.
The third type of soil that Satan targets is the spoiled soil. "The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful" (Matthew 13:22).Here the problem isn't so much the soil, but the competing seeds that Satan has tossed into the mix. How can God's seeds grow and flourish when the choking plants of busyness, material ambition, and anxieties overwhelm the crop?
Jesus encourages us: "But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown" (Matthew 13:23). This fertile soil belongs to those who vigilantly protect the seeds of God's Word from hardened hearts, shallow faith, and thorns of distraction.
What type of soil are you? Has your heart been hardened and untilled for so long that the seeds of God's Word just bounce away? Is your soil rocky and shallow because you have never made the disciplined effort to fully develop your spiritual life? Do you allow busyness to distract you from studying God's Word?
Prayer: Father, forgive me for the things in my life that have hindered Your Word from fully developing in me. I pray that You would nurture Your seeds of Truth in my life. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word" (Psalm 119:16)
God’s Word Must Take Root
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 05/07/18
Satan targets both the spiritually strong and the spiritually weak. Whatever the level of our spiritual maturity, the enemy has a plan to make us spiritually stagnant. Jesus warned against this in His parable of the sower (see Matthew 13).
In this analogy, the sower is God and the seeds are God's Word. The devil knows he has no power over the sower or the seed. This is why he focuses on corrupting the soil where the seeds land so that maybe he can prevent God's Word from taking root in our hearts.
Jesus warns against three types of soil where seeds suffer. Today we will look at the first two.
In Matthew 13:19, there is the soil by the wayside: "When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path." When our hearts become hardened due to unconfessed sin or bitterness, we lose our sensitivity to God's voice and our understanding of His Word.
The next type of soil is the shallow soil full of stones: "The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time" (Matthew 13:20-21). Fresh converts who are full of joy and wonder over their new faith can quickly fall into old habits when their friends ridicule them. Even longtime believers could be shallow soil if they have failed to mature beyond spiritual infancy.
Prayer: Father, show me if I am one of these types of soil where the seeds of Your Word are not able to take root. And by Your Spirit, make my heart fertile ground for Your Truth that brings joy and freedom. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it" (Luke 11:28).
Preparing the Soil
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 05/06/18
In Middle Eastern farming, there is a pathway between two fields. It is the boundary. It is the place where hard-packed earth is found. It is the strip in the field were the soil is not prepared for receiving the seed.
The parable of the sower in Matthew 13 tells us that Jesus is the sower and your heart is the soil. Satan seeks to ruin the soil on which the seed of the Word is planted. If he can, he will harden the soil of your life. Many times he does this by getting you to substitute human wisdom for God's Word. Then he succeeds in snatching away the good seed of the Gospel before it can seep into the soil and bring life.
To keep the Word of God from taking root in your life, Satan will use any means to pull you away from growing your relationship with God. Unconfessed sin, unforgiveness, and bitterness are tactics he employs to harden your heart toward God. When you cling tightly to bitterness, anger, resentment, and unforgiveness, elevating them above your relationship with God, they become "idols," displacing the supremacy of God in your life.
When Mahmud of Ghazni invaded India, his conquering forces entered a celebrated Hindu temple to destroy its idols. The temple priests entreated Mahmud to spare a certain idol, but he refused. Instead, he struck such a blow to the image that it burst open and precious stones cascaded from the hollow interior.
Likewise, for each idol you are willing to destroy, you will gain far more than you lose. Each time you surrender something to God, you will remove another hindrance to a productive life of faith and prayer. Every idol that is demolished will bring you new treasures of grace and peace.
Prayer: Lord, my desire is to destroy every idol in my life. Please show me anything I am not surrendering to You and grant me the ability to surrender it to You today. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them" (Mark 4:15).
Generous with God’s Gifts
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 05/05/18
During Jesus' time on earth, He told many parables to help explain what His Kingdom is like and to show what it looks like to withhold nothing from Him.
Read Matthew 25:14-30. In this parable, each of the three servants was given a different amount of money. The first two men immediately invested what God had given them, serving with joy—and the one who had been given less didn't even grumble about it. As a result, these two men doubled their investments, and the master commended them.
On the other hand, the third servant who received the fewest talents spent his time complaining about the unfairness of the master. Believing that the master was a harsh man and fearing that he would lose what he had been given, this man dug a hole in the ground and hid his wealth. The master was angered that this servant did not do anything with the talents he had been given.
Through this parable, Jesus was teaching that God has gifted each of us uniquely, and He wants us to use our gifts well. Not only that, but God is fair. Just as the master did not require the servant with two talents to create ten, God will not necessarily expect from you what He expects of others.
In this parable, God commended the attitudes of the servants, not necessarily their performance. The master told the first two men, "Well done, good and faithful servants." If he had been commending them for their performance, he would have said, "Much done, good and faithful servant. Much done." Rather, he commended the attitudes of their hearts.
As the first two servants demonstrated, if you serve with the gifts, talents, and stewardship God has given you—out of joy and a desire to maximize your stewardship—you will please the Master as you exhibit trust in His grace, mercy, and sovereignty.
Do you trust the Master enough to give Him your all? The degree of risk that you are willing to take is directly related to the level of your trust in the Master. And the risk of faith—investing yourself in the work of God and sowing seeds for His Kingdom—is guaranteed never to fail.
Prayer: Lord, help me to invest my talents rather than bury them out of fear or distrust. Teach me how to give You my all in everything I do. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously" (2 Corinthians 9:6).
God’s Rescue Plan
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 05/04/18
Isaiah 53:6 says, "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way." All we have to do is look around to see the various directions to which people turn, just like sheep. Some people try to find happiness through comfort and pleasure. Others look for peace and security in their wealth. And many look for God—but will never find Him—in a false religion. Left on our own, each and every one of us would continue down one of these paths. Just like a sheep that has wandered off, if a sinner is not rescued soon, the path he takes will eventually lead to destruction.
Read Luke 15:1-7. In this passage, Jesus describes the Father's sheep-rescue plan. It's very simple: God chases after and saves lost sheep. Jesus says He will leave behind the ninety-nine in order to seek and save the one who is lost. This means that no matter how lost a sheep has become, no matter how far he has wandered, there's still hope. God is out looking for him. There's nothing that sheep can do, and no path he can choose to find God; He needs to be rescued. No one truly finds God. Instead, God finds us.
Every other religion exists for the sake of helping people find a particular god or gods. But Christianity declares that God has come looking for us. When Jesus came to earth, that's what He said: "The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost" (Luke 19:10). He is not afraid to get His hands dirty for the sake of a little, lost lamb. God loves sinners so much that He goes to extraordinary lengths to find us and bring us home.
Notice what else Jesus says: "There will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent" (Luke 15:7). Many people are so lost that they no longer recognize how lost they are. They think they are right where they should be. The Pharisees were like this, and there are people with a similar mindset today. And like a sheep that doesn't know it has wandered off, they fail to recognize the Savior's voice (see John 10:27). They miss the rescue they so desperately need.
You may not realize just how lost you have become, but there's good news: Jesus has come to rescue you!
Prayer: God, thank You for Your amazing love. Thank You for finding me and calling me out of darkness. Help me to follow You all the days of my life. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost" (Luke 19:10).
The Pearl of Great Price
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 05/03/18
In Matthew 13:45-46, Jesus said, "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it."
In this parable, Jesus shares that the Kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. There are two things you must know about pearls to understand this illustration. First of all, back then, pearls were the most precious commodity; not one of, but the most precious commodity, more highly valued than diamonds are today.
Pearls were greatly valued because diving for the oysters that contained the pearls was an extremely hazardous exercise. There were many people who lost their lives diving for these oysters. Both the beauty and the scarcity of the pearl made it extremely valuable, and people often gave all of their money and belongings to possess just one priceless pearl.
Pearls are also the only gems that are produced within living organisms. A pearl is precious because of the suffering and injury that takes place inside the oyster. First, a grain of sand gets inside the oyster, and then that grain of sand grinds within the oyster until the pearl is formed.
In this illustration, the pearl of great worth represents none other than the Lord Jesus Christ.
It was on the cruel Roman cross that the only perfect God-man who ever lived suffered, bled, and died. It is only through His grinding death on the cross and ultimate resurrection from the dead that the priceless pearl of salvation is available.
Nothing can be compared with this pearl. Only through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ can we be assured of heaven. Only through Him can we find forgiveness of sins. He is the only one who provides true peace of mind, security, identity, and rest for our souls.
Prayer: Father, thank You for Jesus Christ, the pearl of great price. May my life be a reflection of Christ to this world. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings" (Psalm 36:7).
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 05/02/18
While the parable of the lost coin is about God's love for people, it also shows us how we should seek first God's Kingdom and treasure the Lord. We should seek to be in His presence zealously because we know He rejoices over us, His children. The parable of the lost coin encourages us to get up, light a candle, and begin the treasure hunt. To find a spiritual treasure, we must begin with the light that comes from the Word of God. It is a lamp for our feet and a light on our path (see Psalm 119:105).
Through the Word, the Lord will purify our heart, sweeping it clean of sin. His Word has power to heal past hurts, remove resentments, and give us a fresh love for God and His people—a true cause for rejoicing.
When we find our treasure, namely Christ, and allow His Spirit to transform us into His likeness from day to day, we will be compelled to invite our friends and neighbors to rejoice with us and experience for themselves the love of Christ!
Luke 15:10 tells us that God shares in this joy, too: "There is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents." He longs for sinners to repent, and He rejoices when they do.
Have you entered into the light of His Word so that He may lead you to your worthiest treasure?
Prayer: Father, I pray that You would show me that You are my worthiest treasure through Your Word. Help me know and honor You. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Luke 12:34).
The Lengths of His Love
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 05/01/18
Anyone who has studied the Bible for any length of time knows that while the central message of Scripture is simple to comprehend, there are many passages that require patience and hard work to unlock. Oftentimes, this is because we are now separated from the original context in which these books were written by time and culture. What was once plain to a passage's original hearers can seem foreign to us.
Read Luke 15:8-10. Here, Jesus offers us a parable about a woman who has lost one of her ten coins. On the surface, it seems this story is easily understood. Who hasn't lost a coin before? But when we see the lengths to which this woman goes to secure her missing change, we begin to see there must be more going on.
In Jesus' day, a woman who was engaged to be married would wear a semdi, a headdress that contained ten valuable coins. It was a way of telling the whole world she was off the market. To lose one of the ten coins that made up her special engagement headdress was not at all like you or me losing a quarter. How embarrassing it would have been for her if her betrothed had shown up and her semdi were missing one of the coins! It would be like an engaged woman today losing the valuable center-stone diamond in the ring her fiancé gave her as a sign of his love and his intention to marry her. She would do anything to find it.
Jesus told this story to illustrate just how valuable we are to God the Father—and to what lengths He will go to seek out every one of us. But there is a detail in this parable that many people overlook. Unlike the lost sheep Jesus described moments before (15:4-7), this coin is missing right at home.
There are many people sitting in the pews of churches around the world who think that just because they're in church, they're not lost. The Truth is being a part of a small group Bible study won't save you and going to church won't save you. Without Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you will be just as lost "at home" in the church as others are out in the world.
Once again, Jesus ends His parable with a celebration: "I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents" (v. 10). It's not too late to be part of the celebration.
Prayer: Father, thank You for the extraordinary lengths to which You went to rescue me. Help me to cherish You and to dwell in Your presence. May I not lose sight of You. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents" (Luke 15:10).
DAILY DEVOTIONAL 04/30/18 to 04/01/18
He Welcomes Us Home
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 04/30/118
Have you ever considered that your true home is heaven, in the presence of our Holy Father? It is not God who is distant. Instead, it is you and I. And that is why Christ came: to bring us home.
Read Luke 15:11-24. In the parable of the prodigal son, Jesus makes this plain. It is the younger son who leaves for a distant country, while the father remains at home. The distance between them is caused by the son's selfishness; the father has not moved. The son made the mistake of wanting the father's blessings more than a relationship with his father. When he asked for his share of the inheritance, he was essentially telling his father, "I don't want you. I only want what you can give me." Can you think of a more hurtful thing to say? But this is what many of us say to our heavenly Father. We want His blessings, but we don't want to take the time to really get to know His heart.
And so, like that prodigal son, we find ourselves in a far country. God seems so distant, and the blessings without the Father do not bring the lasting happiness we had hoped for. When the prodigal in Jesus' parable was at his lowest point, the Bible says, "[H]e came to his senses" (15:17). In other words, he had a moment of clarity. He remembered his true home—and how good his father was to him.
This is why we can never give up hope, no matter how lost someone may be. We never know when God will cause someone to long for their true home in a way that leads to repentance and a relationship with Jesus Christ. The prodigal son wasn't wrong about his father's kindness. Though he planned to return home as a mere servant, the father wouldn't hear of it. He loved his son too much for that and restored all his rights and privileges as a son in good standing.
This is the miracle of the Gospel: Though we deserve death, God welcomes us home. And though we come as servants, He makes us sons and daughters. To all those wandering in the far country, God reaches out and says, "It's time to come home."
Prayer: Father, thank You for making me Your child. Help me to share about the wonders of Your love and lead more prodigals to come home to You as You call. 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
A Glorious Inheritance
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 04/29/18
What is the ultimate purpose of being adopted as a child of God? Is it salvation? Is it forgiveness? Is it justification? Is it cleansing? All are part of it, but the ultimate purpose of your adoption is the inheritance of the glory of God for the glory of God. Romans 8:17 says, "Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ."
Each adopted child of the Lord is going to receive His full inheritance. Everything that Jesus Christ received by divine right, believers in the Lord Jesus Christ are going to receive by divine grace.
It is when you die that you inherit your heavenly Daddy's estate. That is why the apostle Paul could say "to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21). For the believer, physical death is not an enemy; it is a friend because it takes the child of God into the presence of God.
It is also important to know that the Spirit of God turns your groans into glory, "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us" (Romans 8:18). Whatever problem you are facing today that is making you groan, He is turning your groaning into glory. All the pain and all the hurt and all the suffering and all the agony, all the disappointment and all the dashed hopes and shattered dreams, all the insults and all the rejection, all are nothing when it comes to the Father's glory that you will one day inherit. You can't even begin to compare them.
Rest and rejoice in the Truth that the Spirit of God is giving you the ultimate victory. He is guaranteeing and sealing your adoption and turning your groaning into glory.
Prayer: God, thank You for the glorious inheritance that You've promised Your children. Thank You that all the trials that I face today pale in comparison to the glory You have in store for me. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession—to the praise of his glory" (Ephesians 1:13-14).
The Value of Godly Wisdom
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 04/28/18
When we have godly wisdom, we see things from an eternal perspective—not from a worldly, temporal perspective. And when we see things from an eternal perspective, we accept the challenges and unexpected turns of life. We are able to face obstacles, turning them from hindrances into stepping stones.
In Ecclesiastes, we read, "Wisdom, like an inheritance, is a good thing and benefits those who see the sun. Wisdom is a shelter as money is a shelter, but the advantage of knowledge is this: Wisdom preserves those who have it" (Ecclesiastes 7:11-12).
Solomon is saying that when we face challenging situations in life, wisdom will be far more precious than even a very rich inheritance. Godly wisdom keeps its value; godly wisdom will never be lost. The person who has godly wisdom will be able to use wealth wisely. The person who has godly wisdom will be able to bless others—but a foolish person with a billion dollars can blow it in a few days.
Godly wisdom gives us perspective, vision, and a purpose for living. If we have godly wisdom, then we will have balance in life. When we have godly wisdom, we are going to walk by faith—both on the familiar roads of life and the unfamiliar ones. When we face difficult circumstances, most of us forget all the blessings that God has given us, and we focus on our problems. But when we think of all the blessings that God has given us, we will be overwhelmed with thanksgiving.
Prayer: God, thank You for the wisdom You offer us. Thank You for the many benefits of godly wisdom in my life. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better" (Ephesians 1:17).
Rely on God’s Wisdom
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 04/27/18
The Israelites wanted Aaron to build an idol for them to worship. They were impatient, restless, and tired of waiting for Moses to come down from the mountain where he was receiving God's commandments.
Aaron thought he had a clever way out—to demand something the people would not be willing to give. So he asked the Israelites to give up their gold and jewelry. Surely, they would not agree to this and would retreat from their insatiable desire to worship idols.
Not a chance! Relying on his wisdom instead of God's, Aaron attempted to appeal to the people's materialism instead of directing them to fear the Lord and worship Him only. Be careful not to rely on your own wisdom when you are faced with pressure from other people or are tempted to take the easy way out. Don't trust your own cleverness to deal with trials. Your wisdom, strength, and ability will always backfire.
Aaron did not think the people would part with their possessions. He did not understand that people by nature are willing to spend their fortunes, whether large or small, on their pleasures. He did not understand that human behavior generally gives up everything to support an addiction, whatever it may be.
When the Israelites put their jewels at his feet, Aaron was caught in his own clever snare. Now he was compelled to make them a golden calf, and when they saw it, they were delighted—even though God forbade what they were doing.
Aaron knew, like many compromising Christians, that his decision and actions were wrong. We are all accountable for what we do. Remember, no matter how hard we try, human cleverness can lead to compromise and sin.
Prayer: Lord, help me not to lean on my own understanding, but in all my ways to acknowledge You (Proverbs 3:5). I want to rely on Your wisdom and seek Your will for my life. Thank You for Your Word that lights my way. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding" (Proverbs 3:5).
Accept God’s Counsel
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 04/26/18
Moses was tired. He was trying to do it all—be the leader of Israel along with countless other duties. One of his responsibilities was to be the nation's judge over personal disputes.
When Jethro, Moses's father-in-law, caught up with him at Mount Sinai, he could not believe what he was seeing. To say that Moses's time was spread thin is a gross understatement. In fact, he was one step away from mental and emotional burnout. We read that Jethro wasted no time in talking to Moses about this:
When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, "What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?" Moses answered him, "Because the people come to me to seek God's will. Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God's decrees and instructions." (Exodus 18:14-16).
Jethro quickly discerned the Truth—Moses had taken on more than God intended. Therefore, he encouraged Moses to appoint judges to handle lesser disputes. He also admonished Moses to teach God's people the Lord's decrees and laws and show them the way to live (see Exodus 18:20). In other words, Moses needed to teach the people what God desired and how to take responsibility for their own actions before the Lord.
Are you willing to accept godly counsel? The moment Moses heard Jethro's words, he knew his father-in-law was right, and he was not too proud to accept his advice. Always be sure that what you hear from others is in line with the Word of God. Listen, pray, and ask God to confirm what has been suggested. The Lord will guide you when you seek His wisdom.
Prayer: Thank You, Lord, for the humble example of Moses as he received godly counsel. Help me to grow in faith so that I can respond with wisdom, gentleness, and teachability to words that flow from Your Truth. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said" (Exodus 18:24).
Give Your Life to God
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 04/25/18
The wisdom of God usually confounds man's intellect. In fact, some of the greatest Truths in the Bible are paradoxical. Giving away things does not seem like the best way to receive blessing. And it does not seem right to show mercy and kindness toward those who do wrong to us. But these are actions believers are encouraged to take, and God promises blessings to those who do them.
However, one of the most difficult Biblical Truths to understand is this: To truly take back your life, you must surrender it to God. In order for us to live in freedom, free from bondage to sin and Satan, we must make ourselves subject to Christ.
Jesus' moment of victory came when He surrendered His life on the cross. When Jesus committed His Spirit into God's hands, He relinquished control and let God work the most amazing triumph in the history of mankind. No longer would people have to pay the just penalty for their sins. Suddenly, there was forgiveness for all who would receive it through Jesus' death and resurrection.
Likewise, our moment of victory comes when we decide to give away our lives. When we make the conscious decision to quit trying to run our own lives and allow God to have control, we win. Our cry of weakness is actually our greatest moment of strength. It is the point when we stop trying to be good Christians and rather internalize the Gospel—understanding our need for a Savior—our utter inability to save ourselves. It is the point when we accept the grace of God to work in our lives so that the Holy Spirit transforms us day by day into the likeness of Christ as we submit to God.
Surrendering to God does not mean you are weak. On the contrary, it means you are a person who knows where your greatest strength lies.
Prayer: Lord, make Your Truth real in my life today, and help me to understand the power that comes when I surrender fully to You. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life" (John 12:25).
To Be First, We Must Be Last
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 04/24/18
Throughout the Bible, we learn how the wisdom of God confounds the wisdom of man. And when we look at some of the teachings of Christ, the principles He taught can seem contradictory to conventional knowledge. To be first, we must be last? How much sense does that make, especially today in our ego-driven society?
But Biblical principles contain tremendous Truth. For example, David personally discovered that brokenness leads to godly wholeness. Brokenness can come to the life of the believer in many ways, such as through disappointment, sorrow, and sin.
Sometimes God instructs us to go one way, but we are determined to go another, leading to frustration and brokenness. Sometimes, brokenness comes not because we have done anything wrong but because God wants to test and strengthen our faith. This was true in David's life before he became king.
He had not sinned against the Lord. Instead, God used the fires of affliction in David's life to shape and mold him for greater service. The Lord also knew that when future difficulty came or disappointment struck, David would be prepared, and his faith would not waver or fail.
Brokenness has a way of revealing our level of faith better than anything else. When it continues over months and even years, we truly learn where the focus of our faith lies. When we begin to identify with the words of David as he fled from a jealous and enraged King Saul (see Psalm 57, 59, 142), then we will know that brokenness is accomplishing its greatest work in our lives.
Remember, if God has chosen you to face a time of brokenness, it will be followed by a season of tremendous blessing.
Prayer: Lord, give me deep faith as I pass through trials and brokenness. Help me to echo the words of David, saying, "I love you, LORD, my strength" (Psalm 18:1). I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Those who know your name trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you" (Psalm 9:10).
The Spirit of Wisdom
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 04/23/18
Solomon says that wisdom will give us power for living. "Wisdom makes one wise person more powerful than ten rulers in a city" (Ecclesiastes 7:19). We are going to face temptation, manipulation, seduction and deception—from Satan as well as from others. We can expect to face all of that in life. But godly wisdom will give us power to discern Satan's traps. It will give us power to overcome temptations and defeat the devil. It will give us power to avoid the entrapments of this world. And it will give us power to walk in His righteousness alone.
Solomon determined that wisdom is valuable, something worth seeking: "All this I tested by wisdom and I said, I am determined to be wise'—but this was beyond me. Whatever exists is far off and most profound—who can discover it?" (Ecclesiastes 7:23-24).
How do we get godly wisdom? We receive it when the Holy Spirit of God indwells us. (The Holy Spirit has many names, and the Spirit of Wisdom is foremost among them.) And after that, we must continually, daily, be filled with the Spirit of God. How? By setting our hearts on the things that are above (see Colossians 3:1-2), by seeking the Kingdom of God (see Matthew 6:33), and by tasting the goodness of the Lord (see Psalm 34:8). We do these things by reading and studying Scripture, praying and worshiping our Mighty God, and receiving counsel from godly teachers.
And, ultimately, the beginning of godly wisdom is your declaration that Jesus is Lord of your life and the Savior of your soul.
Prayer: God, You are the Lord of my life. Fill me with Your Spirit that I might instill my life with Your wisdom. 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).
Natural and Worldly Wisdom
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 04/22/18
Knowledge and wisdom are closely related, but there is a difference. Knowledge is the storing up of information, and wisdom is the ability to apply the right information in a given situation. From a worldly perspective, knowledge helps you make a living, but wisdom makes a life. Our world is overflowing with knowledge, but we are bankrupt of wisdom. The need for wisdom today makes this gift valuable to the body of Christ.
In Colossians 1:9, Paul prays, "For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives." Clearly, this desirable gift is an area where all believers should be filled and continue to grow.
To fully understand this gift of God's wisdom for living, Christians need to compare it to natural wisdom and worldly wisdom. Natural wisdom is comprised of our intellectual capacity and experience and is the fruit of earthly reasoning. It is technical in nature. Natural wisdom offers man's best answer to a question or problem.
Worldly wisdom is what deceived Adam and Eve in the Garden. This type of wisdom rationalizes sin and separates us from God. It can even make people feel they are godlike themselves. When a person is so convinced of the superiority of his own wisdom and knowledge, he may deny God and be kept from salvation. God has declared war on this type of wisdom.
1 Corinthians 1:19 states, "For it is written: I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.'" God has been removed from public life in our nation due to this prideful, worldly form of wisdom.
Prayer: God, help me to recognize the different types of wisdom. Forgive me for the times I have pursued prideful, worldly wisdom rather than Your perfect, wise will. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the w
Knowledge vs. Wisdom
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 04/21/18
When Satan came to tempt Christ in the wilderness, our Lord was ready. With each Scripture that the devil twisted and hurled His way, Jesus responded with the wisdom of God's Word. "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for surely the angels will lift you up," Satan said, quoting Psalm 91. Jesus responded, "It is also written: Do not put the Lord your God to the test'" (see Matthew 4:1-11).
Satan had enough knowledge of the Scriptures to twist them, but Jesus knew their true meaning and application, and He was not deceived.
Many people today have lots of knowledge, but live frustrated lives. Why? Because knowledge enables us to understand the Truth, but wisdom is what helps us apply it to our lives. Knowledge tells us what to do, but wisdom tells us when, where, why, and how.
The more intimately we know the Word of God, the more quickly we will be able to call upon it in times of need. Reading a verse here and there will not be enough to ready us for the battles ahead, but the more we immerse ourselves in God's Word through study and prayer, the more Christlike our responses will be to each day's challenges.
Prayer: Lord, help me to not just read the Bible, but apply it so that I may lead a godly life. Thank You for giving me Your Word to equip me for the days ahead. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise" (Psalm 111:10).
Standing for Truth
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 04/20/18
Even though we are called to stand firm for the Gospel, we should not be surprised when the world rejects our stance on Truth.
You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood. (1 John 4:4-6).
We can praise God that He does not expect us to make this stand on our own. He will be right there with us, no matter what persecutions we face. He has given us every tool and weapon we need for our spiritual fight. "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes . . . so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand" (Ephesians 6:10-11, 13).
If we continue on the road of compromise, eventually we will face serious consequences. Jesus appeals to each of us to change our lifestyles before it is too late. He knows the pressures and temptations we face, and He wants to give us the strength we need to stand against these attacks. He wants to give us courage to denounce sins, errors, and false teachings. He wants us to speak up when we see people twist the Gospel message.
Prayer: Father, You are worthy. In the face of opposition, give me Your strength to stand up for Truth. Give me wisdom to know what to say and when to say it, and comfort and protect me when I face the enemy. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong" (1 Corinthians 16:13).
The Lord Our Righteousness
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 04/19/18
Today, we tend to define righteousness as that which is morally acceptable or which conforms to rules of conduct. But the Biblical usage has a far deeper meaning and implies a covenant relationship with God.
Righteousness is more than a character trait of God. The people of the Old Testament saw God's righteousness as His actions done in fulfillment of His covenant for His glory. God tells us, "I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight" (Jeremiah 9:24). We are not simply to know that God is righteous, but we are meant to experience His righteousness.
One of the first examples we see of God's righteousness is in the book of Jeremiah, a time when God's people were living in sin and idolatry and their land was oppressed on all sides by violence and crime. The spiritual leaders were confused and scattered. The prophets were lying to the people rather than proclaiming God's Truth. Righteousness was a distant concept.
But to one prophet, Jeremiah, God promised a day to come when a righteous King would reign wisely and "do justice and righteousness in the land"; He would be called Jehovah-Tsidkenu, "The LORD Our Righteousness" (Jeremiah 23:5-6, NASB).
The word Tsidkenu, the Hebrew word used for righteousness in "The LORD Our Righteousness," means upright, straight, and narrow. The righteousness of God is the root of all integrity. It is the definition of all that is genuinely good in this life.
We cannot earn righteousness, but because Jesus Christ became our righteousness, it is ours through Him (see 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Once we receive righteousness through our commitment to Christ, God continues to work His righteousness in us. We are not alone in the struggle between our flesh and spirit. In our daily lives, the Holy Spirit will guide us and convict us of what is right and wrong (see John 16:7-15). And God promises us the strength to turn from temptation if we seek His help (see 1 Corinthians 10:13).
God has also blessed us with a manual on righteousness—the Word of God (see 2 Timothy 3:16). By the power of the Holy Spirit, we must allow God's Word to guide us in righteousness every day, that we might grow in Christlikeness.
Prayer: Jehovah-Tsidkenu, I ask for a heart that submits to the guidance of the Holy Spirit to live a righteous life. Give me wisdom to apply Your Holy Word to my life. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"It is because of [God] that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption" (1 Corinthians 1:30).
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 04/18/18
Until you develop a strong sense of conviction, you will not have the sure-footedness that is needed to be a follower of Christ. When faced with a crucial decision, you will be tempted to waver between right and wrong—what you know is godly and ungodly.
Those who are soft in their convictions often experience disappointment, doubt, and fear. When we allow temptations to lure us away from what we know is right, we miss God's blessing. But when we are fully committed to Christ, we have a sure hope.
The rich young ruler wanted to follow Jesus, yet his emotional attachment to earthly treasures kept him paralyzed. He was not free to join those who were a part of Christ's band of followers (see Mark 10:17-23).
The apostle Paul did not have a problem with commitment or conviction. He gave his life to the Lord and in doing so left behind the very things this world deems as both impressive and valuable.
Paul had been a Pharisee—a man of social influence and position. He had been trained by one of the most eminent scholars of his day—Gamaliel, a member and former president of the Sanhedrin, the high council of Jews in Jerusalem. It was said that Gamaliel's influence was so great that he was one of only seven Jewish scholars who have been honored by the title "Rabban."
None of this mattered to Paul. He had formed a strong conviction: "I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things" (Philippians 3:8).
Prayer: Lord, I want to be able to say with Paul that the only thing I hold dear is Christ Jesus who lives inside of me. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"I consider everything a loss . . . that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith" (Philippians 3:8-9).
At Odds with God
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 04/17/18
The tragedy of the church today is that we have identified with our dying culture instead of being distinct from it. Like the Israelites in the time of the judges, we have mingled false religion with our worship of the one true God.
If we are not at odds with our culture, then we are at odds with God. In Deuteronomy, God speaks affectionately of finding the people of Israel, caring for them, and keeping them as "the apple of his eye" (Deuteronomy 32:10). But in Judges we sense the wounded heart of God as He grieves over His people for squeezing Him out of the center of their lives. We see that God's most difficult battle is not with the pagans; it is with His own people.
God grieves for His children who rationalize sin, redefine marriage, make excuses for the slaughter of innocent children, and call themselves Christians but live for lust, greed, and selfish ambition. He aches for those who identify with the name of Christ, but who live lives that are indistinguishable from the lives of the Canaanites.
If you think you are grieved by the decline of your culture, by the sin and immorality that surrounds you, by the suffering and sadness that pervades this fallen world, how much more must our loving Father grieve over us and our nation? Don't let your children, your grandchildren, or the children you teach and influence become another generation who did not know the Lord.
Even though the story of the book of Judges is heartbreaking, its message is encouraging. The book records the history of Israel's failure. But it also records the message of God's grace. The book of Judges tells us that if we cry to God, if we repent and turn to Him, He will extend grace to us—and not just to us, but to the next generation.
Prayer: God, forgive me for the ways I have not been faithful to You. Thank You for Your grace and mercy. Give me Your strength to contend for the next generation for Your glory. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Don't you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God" (James 4:4).
Doing What’s Right in God’s Eyes
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 04/16/18
The last few chapters of Judges do not tell the story of a particular judge. Instead they show the depths of depravity to which Israel had sunk through disobedience to God's commandments. The people of Israel had fallen to such a spiritual and moral low point that they saw no problem whatsoever in worshiping the Lord and pagan idols side by side.
Life in that society was not so different from life in our own postmodern, post-Christian, anything-goes society. These days, people avoid words like sin or disobedience. They prefer to justify their actions with phrases like, "Everybody does it," or, "The old rules don't apply anymore," or, "Times have changed." It's true that times have changed, and not for the better. But God hasn't changed. He still says to us, "You cannot receive blessings from Me while you live in disobedience. You can't have it both ways."
There is nothing in the world as futile as being religious yet lost, maintaining a form of religion but lacking in faith. If you think you can be a discerning believer without spending time with God—think again. If you think you can be a woman of God or a man of God without studying His Word—think again. If you think you can experience God's blessings without living in faithful obedience to Him—think again.
We seem to have lost the key to salvation, the key to the Good News of Jesus Christ, the key to healing from guilt, shame, and inadequacy. We seem to have lost our faith. By faith, we give our lives to God. By faith, we surrender control of our lives to Him. We do this not to impress God or to buy His favor but as an expression of gratitude to God for the salvation He freely gives us through Jesus Christ.
If you find yourself caught in the downward spiral of disobedience, if you are doing what is right in your own eyes rather than in God's, it's time to come home. God anguishes over His people and longs for them to love Him and trust Him. He longs for us to manifest a strong, obedient faith in Him. Come home. The one who loves you is waiting.
Prayer: Lord, forgive me for going through the motions and not surrendering control of my life to You, for not living in faithful obedience. I want to come home to You. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith" (1 John 5:3-4).
Is God Inclusive?
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 04/15/18
In the last few decades our culture has made several dangerous shifts in direction. One of the most dangerous shifts has been a move from an emphasis on thinking to an emphasis on feeling. We have shifted from absolutes to relativism.
Many do not want to speak or even admit the Truth for fear that it may hurt people's feelings. Inclusivity has not only become a buzzword in our society—it is now a virtue that is preached. In fact, vast numbers of preachers today have abandoned the Truth of the Scripture in favor of inclusivity.
And yet the Bible declares that while the invitation God has issued is an inclusive invitation, God is an exclusive God. The invitation is for everyone in every nation and every tribe.
But the reward is for those who have accepted the invitation; the reward for obeying the Word of God is very exclusive. In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus gives us a picture of what it will be like on the Day of Judgment when He returns.
In this passage, Jesus talks about the separation of the sheep and the goats—true believers and those who might look like believers but do not live like believers.
How do you know if you are a sheep or a goat? First, you must confess faith in Jesus as the one and only risen Messiah (see Romans 10:9). Second, in 1 John 2:3-6, John says that those who know Christ obey His commands. The apostle adds that those who love God's people—their brothers and sisters in Christ—are living in the light of God's Truth (v. 10).
Sheep and goats look very similar. If you are driving in the countryside and you see them, they look alike from a distance, but in Truth, they are very different creatures. Scripture tells us that on the last day, Christ will separate true believers (sheep) from unbelievers (goats) based upon whether they followed His example—whether they understood their need for a Savior and allowed this humility to transform them into gentle and sacrificially loving people.
We must all examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith. Will you do so today?
Prayer: Father, I confess faith in Jesus Christ as the way, the Truth, and the life. Empower me by Your Spirit to demonstrate my love for You through my obedience to Your will, and grant me love for my brothers and sisters in Christ. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats" (Matthew 25:32).
Confronting the Culture
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 04/14/18
The Truth of Christ has not changed since before time began. God is constant and true; He does not change. Yet throughout history, humanity has tried to transform God into its own image. When people do not like something in God's Word, they try to twist it to fit their own needs and agendas. When people try to understand God through their worldly views instead of through the Holy Spirit's discernment, they are easily fooled by Satan's lies.
All around us we see the consequences of our deceitful hearts and judgment errors. We see the Gospel watered down for the sake of appeasing the culture. We see Christians allow the name of Christ to be trampled and ridiculed. We allow false teaching into our churches and homes. But how many of us stand up for God's Truth? How many of us confront those lies and false doctrines? How many of us defend Christ's name when we hear it mocked?
We may follow Christ in our hearts. We may boldly profess His name in the company of other believers. We may worship Christ in the security of our church pews. But how do we react when confronted by our worldly culture?
Prayer: God, give me the courage to stand up for You and Your Truth. Help me not to ignore the lies I hear, but to boldly confront them with the Truth in love. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15).
Living in Opposition to God
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 04/13/18
Throughout the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, Babylon is a symbol for what it means to live at enmity with God. This dubious reputation was born when the inhabitants of Babylon said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens" (Genesis 11:4). With that statement, a well-organized human opposition to God began.
The implication of the Babylonians' figure of speech, "reaches to the heavens," is that the top of their tower would be dedicated to the worship of the heavenly bodies. It was from Babylon that astrology, the belief that the stars and planets influence human affairs and events on earth, was passed on to the entire world.
After four hundred years of slavery in Egypt, even the Hebrews had begun to practice astrology. When the Lord brought them out of Egypt, He warned them against worshiping the stars (see Deuteronomy 18:9-13). In reality, those who look to the stars for the key to their destinies are worshiping Satan and his demonic forces.
Notice Satan's modus operandi. After he was thrown out of heaven, Satan deceived Adam and Eve into doubting God and managed to get them thrown out of the Garden of Eden. Then Satan deceived Cain into worshiping in his own way rather than God's way, which led to Abel's murder and ultimately to the massive destruction of life by the flood. Then Satan deceived Ham's descendants into worshiping the zodiac—actually the worship of demons—thereby causing their destruction.
Satan always sows deception and confusion. He convinces people to take a gift and turn it into an idol. When people don't worship God, they embrace false gods, intentionally or not.
Prayer: Lord, You have warned us against worshiping false gods. Help me to avoid the temptation of looking to the world's deceptive practices for advice and counsel. Instead, turn my heart toward the Truth of Your Word. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"And when you look up to the sky and see the sun, the moon and the stars—all the heavenly array—do not be enticed into bowing down to them and worshiping things the LORD your God has apportioned to all the nations under heaven" (Deuteronomy 4:19).
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 04/12/18
Faithfulness stands at the heart of who God is and what He wants to do in and through us. It is rooted in commitment and trust. Trust is produced when we make a promise and then keep it, when we make a commitment and then honor it, and when we say something and mean it. Consistency, reliability, and proven track records are all aspects of faithfulness. Faithfulness means giving your best to any effort you undertake, whether it is a task or a relationship.
We must be faithful in all areas of life—whether they are little things or big things. In being faithful, we keep appointments and promises. We remain faithful to our spouse, not only through fidelity but also by making decisions with their good in mind. At the office, it means doing your best work even when no one is watching.
As you develop this fruit, you may discover a few foes to faithfulness. You will find that your faithfulness decreases as you diminish your relationship with God. If you find yourself spending less time in prayer, becoming sporadic in your church attendance or negligent in your giving of tithe or time, your faithfulness will suffer. But God calls us to be faithful to Him, just as He is faithful to us.
The compromise of God's Truth is another foe to faithfulness. When we begin to interpret Scripture to fit our own desires, we diminish both our ability to rely upon the faithfulness of God and our ability to be faithful. If we see God as someone who changes His mind or who is capricious in His judgments, we will have little desire to follow Him. So, it is paramount that we ask the Lord for His wisdom to understand Scripture and seek His Truth faithfully, allowing it to transform and renew our minds (see Romans 12:2).
Prayer: Father, help me to be faithful in every area of my life and especially in my relationship with You. Help me to spend time in Your Word and never compromise Your Truth. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful" (1 Corinthians 4:2).
Loving Jesus in Spite of Obstacles
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 04/11/18
If we want to grow in intimacy with Jesus, we will encounter distractions, temptations, and difficulties along the way. That is sure. What is not sure is whether we will allow these obstacles to be hindrances to our love for Jesus or whether we will see them as stepping stones for growing deeper in Christ.
In pursuing a deeper love and intimacy with Jesus, there are three things that stifle our relationship with Him: the inability to accept correction, the unwillingness to change, and the temptation of confusing the journey for the destination.
Let's look at the first obstacle: the inability to accept correction. When a godly person points out some of the blind spots in our lives, how do we react? Our willingness to accept correction from a loving Christian brother or sister is one of the greatest indications that we are growing in our love for Jesus.
Secondly, to love the Lord Jesus with all our hearts, we have to be willing to grow and change. Some people are afraid of change and want to cling to the past. They would rather live comfortably than obey Jesus no matter the cost. As believers, our middle names should be change and growth because that is the nature of sanctification. In our efforts to love Jesus more intimately every day, we must realize that whatever heights we've attained, there is more. Whatever level of growth we have reached, there is always further to go in our love for Christ. The day we stop changing and growing is a day of immense spiritual danger.
Finally, the third obstacle to loving Jesus more intimately every day is confusing the journey for the destination. We either see ourselves as a citizen of this world with a passing interest in heaven or as a citizen of heaven passing through this strange land on our way to our final destination. Loving Jesus intimately means that we keep our eyes on our destination and yet serve Him here and now as we await the call of our Redeemer (see Philippians 3:20-21).
Prayer: Lord, protect me from the complacency, apathy, and pride that would keep me from seeking You wholeheartedly. When I encounter an obstacle in my faith, let it become a stepping stone to growth instead of a source of discouragement. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way" (Colossians 1:9-10).
Don’t Settle for Disobedience
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 04/10/18
How often do you find yourself negatively influenced by another person? How many times have you realized that you've compromised your convictions and have fallen short of God's plan for your life?
Don't settle for sin and disobedience. Don't let fear, or even fatigue, keep you from faithfulness. And don't let the temptations of the world lead you astray.
Sin—the product of disobedience—is deceitful. We can even be mired in sin and yet unaware of our disobedience because of our cultural blindness. It is a consequence of the fall that we struggle against daily—a brokenness that we could never cure—a failing with an ultimate cost. Romans 6:23 tells us that "the wages of sin is death"—a debt too high for any of us to pay. That's why our God of grace ransomed us, just as Romans 6:23 concludes, "but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Our disobedience is painful; it stunts our growth, and it hurts those around us. But thank God that His promises are never affected by our disobedience. He is faithful, and His mercy is new every morning (see Lamentations 3:22-23). So let us run to our God of grace, repenting of sin, and pursue righteousness by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Prayer: Father, help me to never settle for disobedience. Remind me of the price that You paid for my salvation. Thank You, God, that Your promises are not affected by my disobedience. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh" (Galatians 5:16).
The Comparison Trap
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 04/09/18
Do you fall into the comparison trap? It's a common ploy of Satan to get us to become dissatisfied with what God has given us. We suddenly become aware of what other people around us have. Maybe they have a bigger home, a better job, or a larger paycheck. Or maybe they just seem to have more talent or intelligence or skill than we do. Then once we begin comparing ourselves to others, envy and jealousy set in, which are soon followed by bitterness and misery.
If you are constantly comparing yourself to others, you will feel that you never quite measure up, that something is lacking in your life, or that life is just unfair. You begin to feel that your own self-worth is somehow insignificant. Comparisons rob you of the joy that comes from seeing yourself as a unique, beloved, and one-of-a-kind person. They rob you of the joy that comes from delighting in the way God has made you and His promises for your good.
Real joy does not come from favorable economic conditions, being accepted by society, or by owning a luxury car. These bring only temporary happiness at best. Joy comes from one thing alone: a sure knowledge that you are saved through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Real joy comes from knowing that your sins are forgiven, that you are in a right standing with God, and that He is working all things together for your eternal good—preparing an eternal home for you.
Prayer: God, forgive me for the times I fall into the comparison trap. Thank You for being the source of my real joy! I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit" (Romans 15:13).
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 04/08/18
The world tempts us with fickle and fleeting power—rooted in selfish desires for wealth and fame. But the power of the Holy Spirit is completely other than the power the world offers and values.
The power of the Holy Spirit gives God's children the ability to serve His purpose for our lives, giving us joy abundant and readying us for everlasting life unhampered by sin. The Holy Spirit's power is unlike any other in the world. Only the power of the Holy Spirit can transform us, relieve our guilt, and heal our souls. The Bible tells us:
And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you. . . . those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. (Romans 8:11, 14-16).
God wants us to use His power for His Kingdom. Jesus said, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8). Whatever tasks God calls us to do, we can remain confident that He will equip us with His Holy Spirit to guide our steps.
As Christians we have an amazing power source available to us. But as long as we cling to the unfulfilling temptations of worldly power, we cannot experience the true power of the Holy Spirit. As long as we are deceived and mesmerized by worldly power, God's power will remain elusive to us.
Where do you seek power? Is it in a solid portfolio or a corner office or a prestigious degree? Or do you seek the power of the Holy Spirit to guide your steps and direct your purpose in life?
Prayer: God, help me to use Your power for the furthering of Your Kingdom. I pray that Your Spirit would guide and direct my steps each and every day. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth" (John 16:13).
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 04/07/18
There is no doubt about it: Power is enticing. It also can be intoxicating. But it is the one thing people want more of today. In the 1990s, the trend was not just to have lunch with a colleague—it was to have a "power" lunch.
Even today, this trend continues at a feverish pace. Instead of asking how a person is doing and listening to him or her talk over lunch, laptop computers are opened, cell phones are turned on, and handheld devices are readied to record important data. We don't just talk; we "power" talk!
Sadly, those who get caught up in this whirlwind usually want those around them to take notice. They want others to think they are powerful. But the Truth is that if they are not living lives submitted to Jesus Christ, then they are powerless.
A large number of people were drawn to the early church thinking that they would receive a certain degree of power. However, they quickly realized that if they wanted to experience God's power, then they would have to change by leaving their quest for control and personal gain behind.
God's power is something He gives to those whose lives are submitted to Him. The power we experience as believers is not a power that takes advantage of others, rules over individuals, or seeks to be well-known. It is a power born of humility and sacrifice.
Are you living life with the goal of gaining more power, money, or influence? Remember, the resurrection was the single most powerful event in history. Yet, it could not have taken place apart from the crucifixion. If you want to experience true power, begin your quest at the foot of the cross.
Prayer: Father, help me to rest in Your power, trusting Your Holy Spirit to work through me daily. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Our Only Hope, Now and Forever
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 04/06/18
Read 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, 20-26. Think about what it must have been like to arrive at Jesus' tomb Easter morning, full of sorrow, only to discover the large stone in front of the tomb had been rolled away. Imagine being greeted by an angel with the incredible news that your Lord was no longer dead but alive!
To witness the resurrection and experience it as a close friend of Jesus must have been something. But here's the amazing thing: The Bible says we haven't missed out. Though we are two thousand years late to the party, we can still experience the resurrection of Jesus Christ and bear witness to its power.
How? you might ask. In his letter to the Ephesians, the apostle Paul says that when Christ comes into your life, when you truly surrender to Him, repent of your sins, and receive Him as your only Savior and Lord, the risen Christ comes into your life.
This resurrection power dwells inside of you to give you victory over sin and temptation, joy in the midst of sorrow, peace in the midst of trouble, hope in the midst of hopelessness, and confidence in the midst of discouragement. The power of Jesus' resurrection working in you is far greater than all the challenges that this life can throw your way.
You and I may not have had the privilege of seeing Jesus' empty tomb with our own eyes on that first Easter Sunday, but we can experience the reality of the empty tomb every day that we walk with Jesus. And, one day, should Christ return after our life on earth has ended, we will all gaze upon another empty tomb—our own. For, at His coming, He will call us from the grave to meet Him in the air (see 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). The Bible tells us Christ's resurrection power is this same power that will transform our earthly bodies into heavenly ones, no longer subject to death or disease. We, like Jesus, will live forever (see 1 Corinthians 15:50-54).
Through the power of the resurrection we have hope for today and hope for the future, for He is risen—and so are we, now and forever.
Prayer: Lord, Your sacrifice and resurrection power are everything—they give me power for living and unparalleled hope for the future. Thank You for Your love and salvation. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Defeating Death Once and for All
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 04/05/18
Death is our great, inescapable enemy, for we are all destined to die and then face judgment (see Ecclesiastes 7:2; Hebrews 9:27). And we were without hope, that is, until Easter morning.
Read John 11:21-27. Since Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden, men and women have stood helplessly before death, not knowing what to do. We are powerless before it. Death comes. Death takes. There's no stopping it.
Throughout history, different cultures have tried to cope with death in a variety of ways. For example, my ancestors, the ancient Egyptians, tried to preserve their bodies by mummifying them. They placed gold and other prized possessions in their tombs, hoping that one day the soul of the deceased would come back to their body. But the only people who came back were the robbers who stole the gold and sold the artifacts.
Others in Asia came up with a theory called reincarnation. If you live a good life, you can come back as a higher being. But if you don't live a good life, you come back as a cockroach. It's a great deterrent, but it's a hoax.
All of this hocus pocus is mankind's attempt to deal with death. But their efforts are ineffective and, ultimately, irrelevant. God has already provided a way to overcome death and the grave, and His name is Jesus.
When Jesus healed the sick and the lame, He was giving people a glimpse of His Kingdom, a Kingdom with no brokenness, pain, or suffering. When He raised people from the dead, He was demonstrating His divine authority over all creation, even death. And when He died on the cross and rose again, He ushered in the new covenant of His blood by which we can enter the Most Holy Place as children of God (see Hebrews 10:19-21). It is just as Jesus revealed to Martha before raising Lazarus, "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?" (John 11:25-26).
If you trust in Jesus as your Lord and Savior, the Bible says that "you have been raised with Christ" (Colossians 3:1), meaning you have been given new life, here and now. But it also means that, just like Christ, you will rise from the grave, never to die again (see 1 Corinthians 15:20-23).
Prayer: Jesus, thank You for the promise of eternal life in glory with You. Help me to face death with great faith so that I too can say, "Death, where is your sting?" I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?" (John 11:26).
Inseparable from the Cross
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 04/04/18
Many people today, even professing Christians, wake up Easter morning and think, "Well, if Jesus did rise from the dead, so what?"
Read 1 Corinthians 15:12-22. People who have this kind of response have not understood the power of Jesus' resurrection and what it means for our lives here and eternally. Without the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, His crucifixion is nothing but martyrdom. Without the resurrection, the death of Jesus leaves us helpless, hopeless, and trapped in despair. But that is not the true Christian faith.
Our God is full of grace, mercy, and love. He sent His Son to die to pay the price for our sin—to make an offering once for all to secure our salvation by the shedding of His blood (see Hebrews 9:12-15). At the same time, the apostle Paul wrote, "If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. . . . you are still in your sins" (1 Corinthians 15:14, 17).
We can come near to the throne of God because Jesus opened His eyes on Easter morning and walked out of the grave, His heart beating, His lungs breathing. He defeated the power of sin and death, finally and forever. And through Him, we have the victory: "in Christ all will be made alive" (v. 22).
The cross and the empty tomb go together. They cannot be separated. For it was by His crucifixion that Jesus paid for the sin of every person who would come to Him, believe in Him, surrender to Him, live under His lordship, and receive Him as Savior. But it is by His resurrection that He gives us power to defeat sin, guilt, and the grave.
The crucifixion and the resurrection are two sides of a coin. If you split that coin, it is no longer legal tender. It doesn't work. If you try to take the resurrection away from the cross, it doesn't work either. Good Friday is only good because of Easter Sunday, and Easter is only a celebration because of the price paid on Good Friday. For, through Christ's atoning sacrifice and resurrection power, we will be changed: "When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: Death has been swallowed up in victory'" (1 Corinthians 15:54).
Prayer: Lord, thank You for the power of the resurrection to give me true and everlasting life. I praise You for Your mercy and love displayed on that first Easter. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead" (1 Corinthians 15:19-20).
A Truth to Wrestle With
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 04/03/18
"Because I live, you will also live" (John 14:19). Jesus said these words on the night He was betrayed by one of His friends, just hours before the Roman governor Pilate would sentence Him to death on a cross. Jesus was preparing to die for all those who would believe in Him, yet He spoke to His friends about life. That's because Jesus was focused on the other side of Easter.
Read 1 Corinthians 15:1-7. Today, there are people who deny the resurrection. They ignore the historical evidence and balk at the claims of the Bible. Even worse, some respond to the resurrection with indifference, saying, "Even if He rose from the dead, so what?"
Friends, I want you to know that there is no more important fact of history than the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In fact, your eternal destination depends on how you respond to the Gospel, for no one will enter heaven without believing wholeheartedly that God the Father raised God the Son after three days in the tomb.
On another occasion, Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die" (John 11:25). He said this at the grave of Lazarus, who had been dead four days. Unless you are alive on the day that Jesus returns, you will someday find yourself dead and buried, like Lazarus. But the Good News of Jesus Christ is this: Because Jesus rose from the grave, so will you—if you put your trust in Him. You too will live, even though you die.
Jesus paid for our sins on the cross, but He didn't stop there. He conquered the grave so that we could have eternal life with Him. That's why we celebrate Easter. "Because He lives, I can face tomorrow," the old hymn tells us. And it's true! We have nothing to fear in this life or in death because, in the end, we will rise like Jesus if we know Him and love Him. And that is good news indeed.
If you've never really considered whether or not you believe Jesus rose from the dead, don't waste another moment! Read the Gospel accounts of Christ's death and resurrection; ask God to open your heart to the Truth; and place your full trust in Jesus today. It will make all the difference in your life—and in the life to come.
Prayer: Lord, help me to grasp the awesome impact of Your resurrection on my life. Help me live with joy and peace, trusting in what glorious promises You have lovingly secured for me through Your death and resurrection. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day" (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
His Power in Us
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 04/0218
On Easter Sunday, we enjoy the good news of the resurrection. We sing songs about the empty tomb. We listen to the pastor tell us how Christ conquered death. But then something happens. For too many of us, Monday rolls around, and nothing has changed.
Yet the resurrection of Jesus Christ changes everything. The reality of the resurrection demands a change. We cannot be the same if we truly understand its power.
Read John 20:1-8. Simon Peter had been part of Jesus' inner circle of disciples. Yet when Christ was arrested, Peter was so scared that he denied even knowing Jesus—three times! Peter saw what was happening on that dark night: Jesus would be killed, and he might be next. Out of doubt and a desire for self-preservation, Peter abandoned Jesus when he should have been by His side.
Like Peter, we are often guilty of living on the wrong side of Easter. How often do we live our lives as if Jesus died on the cross but never rose again? How often do we doubt His promises in the midst of the tests and trials of life?
When Peter came to the tomb on Sunday morning, he made a life-changing discovery: "He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus' head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen" (John 20:6-7). This was the moment when his doubts gave way to hope and soon to resurrection power.
In Acts 2, we see a transformed, emboldened Peter. No longer denying Christ for fear of death, now Peter is declaring Christ boldly and publicly: "God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him" (Acts 2:24).
What happened to this fearful fisherman? He experienced the power of Christ's resurrection. He discovered there was no stopping Jesus.
Are you living on the wrong side of Easter—or do you truly believe that "the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you" (Romans 8:11)?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, I confess I have often lived on the wrong side of Easter, doubting Your promises or questioning Your power. Like Peter, help me to know the reality of Your resurrection in such a way that I am forever changed. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8).
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 04/01/18
The supernatural events of that first Easter morning declare to us the power of God.
The Grave Clothes Remained
"Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus' head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed" (John 20:6-8). They didn't find evidence of a hasty retreat or disturbance by humans, but the linens lying neatly and in order revealing the miracle of the resurrection.
The Power of the Resurrection
The miracles that occurred during the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ were not random. These miracles declare the supernatural significance of that first Easter and work together to make it clear that the death of Christ was not ordinary, but a sacrifice of immeasurable, eternal consequence. These miracles demonstrate that the crucifixion and the resurrection are two sides of the same coin. That the death and resurrection must go together.
Why is that? Because, by His crucifixion, holy, sinless Jesus ransomed sinners—all who will come to Him—from the just wrath of God toward sin and evil. And by His resurrection, He has freed believers from the bondage of sin and the sting of death. Through His death, Jesus redeemed all those who would believe in Him from hell and eternal judgment. But through His resurrection, He assured them of their own eternal resurrection.
At the cross Jesus became the victim of sin, but three days later, He became the victor over death and the grave. The crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus Christ are inseparable. You cannot have one without the other. As you celebrate the resurrection this Easter, remember that God's greatest miracle was not a one-time event. Christ is still alive, and He walks with us daily. And His resurrection is the prelude of our own to come.
Prayer: Thank You, God, for the sacrifice of Your Son and for the power of the resurrection! I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him" (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10).