Spring is come, plant your feet on solid ground!
Come to Jesus while there is still time!
DAILY DEVOTIONAL 02/21/19
A Place for You
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 02/21/19
It’s shocking how many Bible-believing Christians are afraid of the life to come. If you are concerned about being bored in heaven, then I have good news: you are about to discover how exciting and wonderful heaven will be.
In the book of Revelation, the Lord Jesus gives John a vision of heaven. It’s a vision of comfort and encouragement for everyone who is burdened by the sufferings of this life. You won’t be floating on the clouds, strumming a harp. You won’t be a robot. You won’t be bored for all eternity. You won’t be a disembodied spirit floating around in some strange dimension. Heaven will be filled with all the excitement you could ever want.
Jesus said, "I go to prepare a place for you." Not a cloud. Not a dimension. A place. Heaven is a real place, and we will live there in our glorified resurrection bodies. The place Jesus is preparing for us is the new heaven and the new earth, the domain of God, the dwelling place of His people. The vision of heaven we find in Revelation is designed to fill us with anticipation for the life to come and to comfort us in our trials. The promise of heaven should motivate us to live each day for the Lord. Peter reminds us that we ought to live lives of holiness and godliness because "we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells" ) 2 Peter 3:13).
The more we focus our attention on this life, the more meaningless this life becomes. But the more we focus on the wonders of heaven, the more wonderful this life becomes. When I hear someone talking excitedly about heaven, I know that person is truly saved. One of the surest indicators of genuine salvation is a sense of excitement and expectation about heaven. Jesus said, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:21). So if your treasure is in heaven, then your heart is in heaven as well.
Today, you may be carrying the weight of a Steinway piano on your back. It might be a load of guilt. It might be a load of suffering and pain. It might be a load of worry about the future or heartbreak over a painful loss. Whatever the weight that drags you down today, a vision of heaven will lift your burden.
Prayer: Lord, thank You for the promise of heaven. I pray that You would help me to live in light of eternity—in light of the glory that is mine through Jesus Christ—so that my joy is complete even in difficult circumstances. 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).
DAILY DEVOTIONAL 02/20/19
The Satisfaction of Completion
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 02/20/19
When we take time to look at the world around us, we become aware of all the work we have to do as believers. The dying world in which we live is desperate for the Gospel. It needs to hear the Truth of God’s Word. Truly, we have our work cut out for us.
However, in all our striving to advance the Kingdom of God, we sometimes forget one of the biggest Truths of God’s Word. On the cross Jesus said, "It is finished" (John 19:30). The work that He came to do, to fulfill God’s promise to mankind by making the ultimate sacrifice for the sin of the world, is finished.
In our hearts, the work of the Holy Spirit to bring us to completion is still taking place. Once we submit our lives to Jesus, the process begins and does not end until we get to heaven. Yet, we are not called to finish Jesus' work because His work is done. We are called merely to allow the Holy Spirit to complete His work in us as we share with others the Good News through both our words and actions.
It is not up to us to finish the work that only God can do in our lives. We cannot live a holy life without Him. His gift of salvation can only be received through faith in His Son. Strive as we may, eventually we will stumble. But God has promised to do what we cannot do for ourselves. He has sent His Son to save us.
While we can look forward to the day when God looks at us and pronounces a completion of His work in our hearts, we must remain faithful and allow the Holy Spirit to continue His transforming work in our lives.
Seek the Lord above all things. Desire to be a person He uses to draw others to Himself.
Prayer: Lord, thank You for the work You have started in me. Please continue shaping me into the person You want me to be. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"By wisdom the LORD laid the earth’s foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place" (Proverbs 3:19).
DAILY DEVOTIONAL 02/19/19
Honor with Love
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 02/19/19
subject of roles within a marriage can be a topic for strong debate. However,
God has a clear design for us to follow. There are specific roles for a husband
and a wife.
Many couples struggle with their marriage because they fail to apply God’s principles to their lives and to their relationships. And thus, they miss a blessing.
The word submission has become a very emotional word for many people. Often we resist submitting our lives to one another because we fear we will be hurt. However, when we follow God’s plan for submission, the result is not a low self-esteem, as some would have us believe. Instead, it is an increased sense of love for our partner and for the Lord.
Without a doubt, Jesus Christ is our model for godly submission. He submitted His life to God’s plan to the point of enduring death on the cross. He trusted the Father and brought glory to God and salvation to the world.
When we obey God’s commands and base our plan for marriage on His Word, our lives are transformed, and our marriages are strengthened. We learn to love one another the way Jesus loves us. Submission no longer is an issue to be debated; it is the natural thing to do. Paul writes:
As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:12-13).
you honor your spouse above yourself? Is your desire to give love and support
rather than to tear down? When you honor one another with your love, you really
are honoring the Lord.
Prayer: Jesus, thank You for modeling submission and trust in the Father. May I submit to His will for my life and my marriage, remembering both God’s love for me and my spouse and rejoicing in His perfect wisdom. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love" (Ephesians 4:2).
DAILY DEVOTIONAL 02/18/19
Communication in Marriage
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 02/18/19
Problems of selfishness and unforgiveness can be obvious problems in a relationship. But there are also enemies that stealthily creep into a marriage like a choking vine. Busy schedules, apathy, and even exhaustion can lead to a breakdown of communication.
communication breaks down between husband and wife, Satan is always waiting in
the wings. Then what often takes place is a power struggle, the silent
treatment, or deception.
How many hours—or minutes—did you spend this week engaged in conversation or activity with your spouse that did not revolve around working on the family budget, talking about the children, or watching TV?
Many of the larger problems in marriage stem from poor conversations. And poor conversations stem from not making the time for our spouse, letting the children come before the marriage relationship, and from a fear of conflict. But good conversations will involve a positive exchange, allowing for growth in a relationship.
Maintaining the components of the three-legged stool of marriage is not easy. We will always be competing against our sinful, selfish nature. We will always be seeking God"s strength to forgive. And we will often struggle to find balance between our calendars and our marriage. But if you keep Christ at the center of your marriage and strive to maintain the three-legged stool, you will discover the blessings of marriage.
Prayer: God, show me how I can improve communication in my marriage. I need Your help to be the godly spouse I should be. Help me to keep You at the center of my marriage and to be on guard against selfishness, quick to forgive, and vigilant to communicate. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry" (James 1:19).
DAILY DEVOTIONAL 02/17/19 to 02/16/19
Forgiveness in Marriage
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 02/17/19
Today we are going to look at the second component of a healthy marriage—forgiveness.
Sometimes forgiveness is hard, especially when we allow little annoyances to build up over time. But the Bible tells us, "Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you" (Ephesians 4:31-32).
In Matthew 18:21-22, Jesus told Peter that we are to forgive each other not merely seven times, but seven times seventy. In other words, we are to forgive so often that we lose count. ##So how can we forgive that readily? First, begin by forgiving the things that seem insignificant but that build up over time—the irritating habits and annoying characteristics. This will require a daily discipline.
Second, "take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5). You will find it harder to forgive others if your own mind is waging a battle against old hurts. Focus on Christ in your relationship, not on keeping score.
Third, maintain your identity in Christ. Our old sinful nature is filled with resentment, bitterness, and unforgiveness. But through Christ, we are able to offer mercy and forgiveness to the one who has wronged us.
Prayer: Father, help me to never forget the forgiveness that You extended to me. Help me likewise extend forgiveness to my spouse. May I not keep score in my marriage. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you" (Colossians 3:13).
The Three Legs of a Healthy Marriage
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 02/16/19
Martin Luther said that God established three essential institutions: marriage, the ministry of the Word, and the state. Luther went on to say that "both in chronological order and in significance, the home precedes both the ministry of the Word of God and the state." And yet, many people today try to demote marriage to a human invention. But the Scripture tells us that marriage was created by God.
Let’s take a moment to look at the components of a stable, healthy marriage. Imagine your marriage as a three-legged stool, and the three legs are selflessness, forgiveness, and communication. Without one of the legs, the stool will fall down. A good marriage needs all three components to be well-balanced and strong. Today we will look at the first leg—selflessness.
We live in a self-centered world, and this focus on self is destroying marriages. The concept of "looking out for number one" is creating divisions between husband and wife. But Paul tells us, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves" (Philippians 2:3).
Immaturity and selfishness tell us to focus on our own desires, comfort, and self-protection, but maturity leads us to focus on our spouse’s needs. Maturity is a key to selflessness.
Selfless love manifests itself in graciousness. It focuses on the other person’s thoughts, feelings, and needs. A selfless love makes sacrifices without keeping a running tally of who has contributed the most in the marriage. It puts aside selfish stubbornness for a willingness to yield to each other.
While selflessness goes against many of the world’s teachings about personal ambition, self-importance, and self-protection, selfless love is a critical component to a healthy marriage.
Prayer: Father, help me to be mature in my marriage, exhibiting selfless love toward my spouse each and every day. Help me put the needs, feelings, and thoughts of my spouse above my own. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others" (Philippians 2:3-4).
DAILY DEVOTIONAL 02/15/19
Marriage and Families Under Attach
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 02/15/19
Today we are surrounded by a culture that is constantly attacking
God’s plan for marriage and family life. The Lord Jesus Christ addressed this
crisis in Matthew 19.
Some Pharisees came to Jesus and said, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?" (v. 3). Instead of giving them the grounds for divorce, Jesus gave them the grounds for marriage:
“Haven’t you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate." (Matthew 19:4-6).
When we consider the crisis in our families and marriages today,
what should be the response of a Bible-believing church? I believe our response
is to trumpet loudly and without fear or hesitation what Jesus said in Matthew
19 and what God the Father said in Genesis 2: Marriage belongs to God’s created
order. From the beginning the Creator made them male and female. It is not up
to us to mess around with this holy union
Prayer: Father, I pray that You would forgive our nation for what we have done to the institution of marriage. Help me to stand up for what You have put in place and to be a powerful picture of what a Christ-centered family should look like. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"For Adam no suitable helper was found. . . . Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man" (Genesis 2:20, 22).
DAILY DEVOTIONAL 02/14/19
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 02/14/19
God’s love is amazing and powerful. It binds up all our emotional, mental, and spiritual wounds. Are you feeling weak today? God’s love says, "You are valuable. I treasure you more than anything. Whatever is wrong in you, I can heal it." Do you think you are unworthy? God’s love is telling you, "I made you; I redeemed you; and I want you with me forever!" God’s everlasting, perfect love has the ability to rebuild you from the inside out—if you will let Him.
Love can become the compelling, motivating, energizing force for what we say and do. As you face choices today, ask yourself if love is the motivating force behind your decisions. Pray for the Holy Spirit’s help so that you will reflect God’s selfless love to people around you. When your friend offends you today, love will help you forgive them. When a stranger needs help, love will compel you to assist them. If your neighbor is hurting, love will drive you to comfort them. If you allow the Holy Spirit to work through you, love will transform the way you live your entire life.
Prayer: God, I pray that Your Spirit will help me today to be compelled by love in all I say and do. May my life be transformed as Your Spirit works in me, teaching me to love the way You do. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love" (1 Corinthians 16:13-14).
DAILY DEVOTIONAL 02/13/19
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 02/13/19
In society today, we are taught that love is a feeling, measured in extremes. Love is understood as affection or romance—and in order to be worth the investment, it should be maintained at an emotionally high level. In contrast, the Bible teaches that love is self-giving.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus says: "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:34-35). To love Biblically is to give of ourselves. Biblical love is centered more in the will than in our feelings, and it is more concerned about giving than receiving.
However, Biblical love cannot be self-manufactured. It is something that is poured out from what God has poured in. As Paul wrote in Romans, "God’s love has been poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us" (Romans 5:5).
This love is from God Himself, and it is something we are to be unified and fervent about (see 1 Thessalonians 4:9, Philippians 2:2, and 1 Peter 4:8).
Biblical love is not easy to understand or to express faithfully, but it is always easy to identify. As we pray for self-sacrificing expressions of love, we will see transformation in our lives and in the lives of those we encounter. Love will then become something we seek to give—not something we merely seek to have. This will give us new opportunities to express love and a willingness to engage with others.
Prayer: God, I pray that You would help me pour out the love that You have so generously poured in me, a love that is self-giving and unconditional, even when I feel it is undeserved. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another" (John 13:34).
DAILY DEVOTIONAL 02/12/19
Freedom from Pessimism
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 02/12/19
Over the past couple of days, we've been learning about overcoming pessimism. The doubting we've read about in the apostle Thomas' life culminated in his doubting the resurrected Christ, but when Christ appeared to him, he received the ultimate freedom from pessimism.
The effect freedom from pessimism brings is clearly seen in Thomas's life following that experience. Thomas's transformation was not just intellectual. His transformation changed every area of his life and moved him to do something great for God in response. Thomas took the Gospel into some of the toughest parts of the world in his day, areas such as Nineveh and India.
Freedom from pessimism begins when we understand what our calling teaches us about how loved by God we are. Our understanding is enhanced by remembering what God, in His power and awesome grace, has done on our behalf. When we experience, by faith, the resurrection power of our Lord Jesus Christ on a deep and personal level like Thomas did, Jesus will transform us from being pessimistic to visionary, suspicious to victorious, uncertain to confident, and hopeless to joyful as we trust in the promises of God to make all things new in His perfect time.
Prayer: Father, thank You that I can have hope because I have experienced the power of the resurrected Christ in my life. Thank You for setting me free from pessimism. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:36).
DAILY DEVOTIONAL 02/11/19
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 02/11/19
Yesterday we read that the first step in overcoming pessimism is understanding who you are in Christ Jesus.
The second step in overcoming pessimism is knowing how to handle setbacks—those moments when we lose our confidence. We all have hot buttons and weaknesses that cause us to doubt and falter in faith. Thomas had those buttons, too.
learn about one of his buttons in John 11. He was afraid of the growing
opposition from the Jews. When Jesus told the disciples that they were going to
Bethany because Lazarus had died, Thomas was sure they would die too (see v.
16). But then Jesus overwhelmed Thomas’ pessimism with His matchless
power—power even over death—by raising Lazarus from the grave.
Our hope also lies in witnessing and receiving Jesus’ life-giving power over sin and death. How can we be pessimistic when Jesus has the power to redeem any situation?
The final step in overcoming pessimism is believing in the power of the resurrected Christ. Following Jesus’ crucifixion, the disciples were confused about what would happen next, and they gathered together for support—everyone but Thomas.
He expected nothing to happen, and when he was told by the other disciples that the resurrected Christ had appeared to them, he still refused to believe, saying, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe" (John 20:25).
When Jesus appeared again to them a week later, Thomas was given the chance to do just that, and when he had experienced the resurrected Christ, he exclaimed, "My Lord and my God!" (John 20:28). His ultimate liberation from pessimism had come!
Prayer: God, thank You for the reminder that You have the power to redeem any situation and that I can have confidence in the power of my Lord, the resurrected Christ. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Come and see what God has done, his awesome deeds for mankind!" (Psalm 66:5).
DAILY DEVOTIONAL 02/10/19
The Problem with Pessimism
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 02/10/19
Pessimism is a cunning enemy of a growing faith in Christ. One of the reasons it is so sneaky is that there are times when it masquerades as a virtue. We call it discernment, cautious wisdom, and sometimes even a realistic worldview. At its core, pessimism is unbelief. It is a lack of faith in God and His ability or desire to keep His promises.
A great example of pessimism rightly labeled is found in Mark 9. A father brings his possessed son to Jesus and says, "If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us" (v. 22). Jesus responds by saying, "'If you can'? . . . Everything is possible for one who believes" (v. 23). In a moment of clarity, the father cries out, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" (v. 24). Face to face with Christ, the father had to admit that the issue was with his faith and not with Jesus’ power.
Deliverance from pessimism is possible. We see it in the apostle Thomas’s life. Thomas had a history of unbelief, so much so that he is often referred to as "doubting Thomas." Jesus defeated pessimism in Thomas’s life, giving us insight into how Christ can defeat it in our own lives.
The first step in defeating pessimism is understanding who you are in Christ. Thomas was specifically called by Jesus to be one of His disciples. Knowing that he was chosen by the Lord Jesus Christ and that he was loved unconditionally by Him was the first step in Thomas’s transformation
It can be the beginning for us, as well. God called us to be His own because of His great love for us and His unique design for each of our lives. We are loved specially and unconditionally by His grace, and the God of the universe holds each one of us forever in His hand. There is nothing we can do to affect God's calling. He freely called us because we are special to Him.
Prayer: Lord, I admit that at times I struggle with unbelief like the father with the possessed son, but today I cry out, "Help my unbelief!" Thank You for Your love for me and for the calling You’ve placed on my life. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!" (1 John 3:1)..
DAILY DEVOTIONAL 02/09/19
The Power of Christ
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 02/09/19
Only Christ’s resurrection power can satisfy our empty hearts. Only His power can defeat our temptations and turn our trials into triumphs. Only His power can exchange our weaknesses for His strength. Any earthly assets that we draw on are rubbish compared to Christ’s power.
As imperfect humans, it is easy for us to revert back to our independent ways, especially when things seem to go well for us. We quickly forget about Christ’s strength and joy when we find comfort and happiness in our circumstances.
But we must be on guard against spiritual stagnation. We must place our relationship with Christ first in our lives. We often shy away from spiritual growth because we know that growth is often accompanied by pain. We want to run from our troubles rather than press forward. But the Bible tells us, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus" (Hebrews 12:1-2).
Paul encouraged the Philippians, "But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:13-14). While we may have to strain our spiritual muscles in order to grow, we will find joy in the midst of our struggles if we focus on Christ, applying the power of His grace to our lives.
Prayer: Father, thank You for using Your infinite power to save me and satisfy my heart. Help me not to run from spiritual growth, but to press forward to win the prize of Your nearness for eternity. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit" (Psalm 147:5).
DAILY DEVOTIONAL 02/08/19
The Detour of Legalism
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 02/08/19
Do you find yourself constantly troubled by your sin? Have you created lines in the sand, rules that you feel you must follow to be "good enough"? When we strive to earn God’s acceptance, we are depriving ourselves of the freedom and contentment that Christ has won for us. We are depriving ourselves of the true Gospel of grace, shackling ourselves with legalism and elevating our rules to the same importance as God’s commandments—whether our rules involve moralistic guidelines, worship etiquette, or additional conditions to salvation.
No matter how well-intentioned our man-made rules may be, they are inferior to God’s commandments. When we follow our faulty human thinking instead of God’s perfect ways, we will find ourselves headed for discontentment.
can never live up to our own harsh standards. Every time we fail, and when we
do, we lose another piece of our joy. Only God’s grace gives us the peace of
salvation—not God’s grace plus our church attendance or our charitable
activities or our social status, family, or friends.
Jesus did it all on the cross. "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Has a legalistic mindset shifted your focus from God’s grace to man-made rituals and rules?
Prayer: Father, I realize how easy it is for me to fall into the trap of legalism. Thank You for Your grace. Help me to be on guard against legalism in my life, allowing You to sanctify me from the inside out instead of trying to change myself from the outside in. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace" (Romans 6:14).
DAILY DEVOTIONAL 02/07/19 to 02/01/19
More Contentment Detours
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 02/07/19
Today we will consider two more detours to contentment.
The first is the pitfall of pride. Pride lurks at the core of our weaknesses. Pride deceptively presents itself as righteousness when in reality it is self-serving. Pride hinders our prayers because we focus on glorifying ourselves instead of glorifying God in all things. It fosters arrogance as we shift our confidence in God to confidence in ourselves.
Our focus on ourselves will only lead to discontentment. But if we set our hope in Christ, we have abounding joy and godly purpose:
For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say 'No' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. (Titus 2:11-14).
Another detour from contentment is a lack of generosity. Even when life grows financially difficult, a generous person can remain joyful. God wants us to give out of love and gratitude to Him, not out of obligation or for the sake of appearances. God is concerned with the heart of our giving.
Mark 12:41-44 gives us an example of generous and wholehearted giving:
Jesus . . . watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, . . . Jesus said, "Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”
Have you experienced a detour in your Christian walk? Are you allowing pride to determine your own path? Has your generosity crumbled?
Prayer: Father, forgive me for allowing roadblocks in my life that have sent me on detours. Help me identify and overcome these obstacles so that I might find my contentment in You alone. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"But godliness with contentment is great gain" (1 Timothy 6:6).
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 02/06/19
There are four primary detours that throw us off course in our Christian walk. They are designed by the enemy to keep us restless and to steal our peace and joy. Today we will look at the first detour: an unwillingness to confront our weaknesses.
We all have weaknesses that cause us pain. We may have a physical weakness that has led us to depression. We may have a moral weakness that leads us into sin. We may have a character flaw or a lack of spiritual discipline. Whatever our weaknesses are—whether physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual—they can lead to discontentment if we do not apply God's grace to those areas.
wrote, "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power
is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about
my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me" (2 Corinthians 12:9).
If we find that God's grace is not sufficient for us, then that insufficiency is signaling a problem. Either we are focusing too much on the problem itself and not on God's grace, or we are ignoring our weaknesses altogether. As Paul explains, the secret to dealing with weaknesses is to trust in God's grace, allowing Him to give us victory in those areas.
Prayer: Father, I recognize that I have weaknesses and that I am in need of Your grace. I know that Your grace is sufficient and that You will give me victory as I trust You. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin" (Hebrews 4:15).
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 02/05/19
Without a doubt, no matter what storms you face in life, God will pull you to safety if you call on Him. He is the one that can save you from certain defeat and give you the hope you need. When you pray to Him, He will deliver you from the sin that threatens your fellowship with Him.
An eternal sense of peace and security is readily available to us through prayer. Panic and anxiety are no match for God's grace. He goes before us into life's battles. The victory is ours, though it does not come through our efforts or strength. It comes from His hands and His grace. No one is more committed to our success than Christ.
No matter what you face, God's grace is sufficient. His power is revealed and made perfect through your weakness. Never be ashamed to cry out to the Lord. He listens for you and will come to you, fulfilling the promise of His matchless, perfect grace.
Prayer: Lord, my Savior, thank You for coming to my rescue. I know that Your grace is sufficient for me. Thank You for being my peace and security. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God" (Psalm 20:7).
Lessons on Faith
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 02/04/19
We have a culture that talks about faith all the time. Have faith in your government; have faith in your community; have faith in yourself. There are two things you need to know about faith.
First, there is no power in simply having faith. A lot of people talk about the power of having faith, but the reality is there is no power in faith itself. Power is only found in the object of faith, and if the object of your faith is the Lord Jesus Christ and Him alone, then you are a powerful, victorious Christian. Your faith is dynamic; your faith is powerful; your faith will move mountains if the object of your faith is the Lord Jesus.
Second, faith has nothing to do with feelings. "Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see" (Hebrews 11:1). Faith says, "God said it. I believe it. And that settles it.”
And lest we boast in our faith, rather than the object of our faith, our Redeemer, let us remember:
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:6-9).
Prayer: Father, You are the object of my faith. I rejoice knowing that my faith is not in vain because my faith is in You alone and not based on how I feel. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you" (Matthew 17:20).
Our Power Source
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 02/03/18
Paul knew the source of his power: "For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: 'The righteous will live by faith'" (Romans 1:17). From beginning to end, from Old Testament to New Testament, it is always the same—the righteous will live by faith. The word faith here is past, present, and future.
the past, you exercised faith the moment you put your trust in the Lord Jesus
Christ. And today, you are putting your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, knowing
that He is providing for your needs, strengthening you against sin, empowering
you to have victory, and giving you wisdom for each day. Your faith also
focuses on the future. You know that the moment you check out of this earth,
you are going to check in with Jesus.
Are you ashamed of the Gospel? Do you get quiet when someone tells you it is bigoted to say Jesus is the only way to heaven? Do you get intimidated when someone tells you that it is narrow-minded to believe that there is no salvation from hell other than Jesus Christ? Remember your power source— and move ahead in obedience and faith, trusting God to see you through.
Prayer: God, help me remember that You are the source of my power. Give me courage and boldness to lovingly stand for Gospel Truth. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: 'The righteous will live by faith'" (Romans 1:17).
God’s Grace Throughout Our Lives
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 02/02/19
As God pursues us with His wonderful grace, something magnificent takes place in our lives. Before God’s grace was extended to us, we were dead in our sins and powerless to overcome them. We were in bondage to the enemy, and the future never looked so grim. Then, God entered the scene, delighting to demonstrate the power of His grace.
Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, the Bible begins to tell the unfolding tale
of God’s pursuit of the human heart through the goodness of His grace. And it
is through this Gospel of the grace of God that our once-dead souls become
alive! Instead of being unable to fight sin’s strongholds, God’s grace gives us
power to overcome them through the Holy Spirit.
As children of the living God, we come to the battle equipped to win—not just to survive another round. God’s grace empowers us to be conquerors through Christ.
God entered our lives to save us, not just to show up and to impress us with His omnipotence. He came to deliver us from all the bondage of the past and to bring us ultimate redemption as we follow after Him. We now can say no to sin, find deepest fulfillment in obedience to God, and experience incomparable joy in a personal relationship with the Father.
Through salvation, we receive God’s grace, and then His transformation begins in our hearts. All along, He pursues us with His grace. When He captures us, the parts of our hearts that were cold toward Him suddenly warm and come to life.
Though at times we may stray, God is faithful and steadfast. He is the "hound of heaven." Just as He pursued us to bring us to salvation, He sustains us today with His grace to bring us peace in His presence and hope for eternity.
Prayer: Lord, thank You for the way You pursued me and called me into relationship with You! I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given" (John 1:16).
A Move of the Spirit
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 02/01/19
As we continue looking at the Spirit’s movement to spread the Gospel in Acts 10, we see that not only had the hearts of Cornelius and Peter been prepared, "the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message" (v.44), and many were saved as a result.
move of the Spirit was so great that Peter said, "I now realize how true
it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one
who fears him and does what is right" (Acts 10:34-35). This was a
world-changing, history-making statement. The Jewish believers were astonished
and began to baptize the believing, formerly untouchable Gentiles.
And that is how God took Christianity from being a narrow sect within the Jewish religion to a worldwide religion that breaks down prejudice and unites people in Christ. Christians do not just show tolerance to others; they love all people because God created them and loves them Himself.
You can have confidence that if God has a calling for you, even if it is to go into territory that is unfamiliar to you, He will go ahead of you. Not only will He prepare your heart for your mission, He will prepare others to receive what you offer.
Prayer: God, I realize that You have the power to do more than I could ever imagine. I pray that You would give me the courage to do my part in spreading the Gospel. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"I will go before you and will level the mountains; I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron" (Isaiah 45:2).
DAILY DEVOTIONAL 01/31/19
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 01/31/19
Yesterday we read about the Spirit’s movement in the life of Cornelius. Today we will continue looking at what the Spirit did in Acts 10 as part of God’s mission to spread the Gospel to every corner of the world.
God was moving in Cornelius’ life, He was preparing Peter’s heart to witness to
Cornelius. God had to change Peter’s view of Romans and all Gentiles, a belief
system developed over a lifetime of teaching from his parents, his church, and
his community. God effectively transformed Peter’s thinking through a vision.
God portrayed food that the Jews had always considered as unclean as an analogy to the Gentiles, who were considered even more unclean. No Jew would have ever invited a Gentile into his house nor entered a Gentile home.
Yet, in Acts 10:15, we learn that the voice in the vision said to Peter, "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean."
At the Spirit’s direction, Peter soon finds himself traveling to Cornelius’ home.
Are there barriers in your life that are keeping you from sharing the Gospel with someone? Perhaps God wants to use you to witness to someone you’ve always kept at a distance.
Prayer: God, forgive me for putting up barriers in my life that have kept me from being completely available to You. Help me to be willing to go to whomever you call me to serve so Your Gospel can spread to every corner of the world. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, 'Simon, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them'" (Acts 10:19-20).
DAILY DEVOTIONAL 01/30/19
An Obedient Response
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 01/30/19
Many Christians desire to see a great harvest of souls, but the work may seem daunting. So many sin barriers, cultural barriers, and faith barriers would need to be torn down. Acts 10 is a reminder of how God can break through these barriers to spread the Gospel to every corner of the world. What He did then, He can do today.
this story, we see the Holy Spirit accomplishing things man never could. God
brings about a memorable conversion by preparing the hearts of an unbeliever
and a witness. What happens next is spectacular.
It started with Cornelius, and today we will look at how the Holy Spirit moved in his life.
As a Roman centurion, Cornelius had 100 men reporting to him. He had heard of Yahweh, God of the Jews, and respected Him enough to donate to the church. Still, Cornelius was not a committed believer.
That changed one afternoon when an angel of the Lord appeared to Cornelius. Acts 10:4-5 states, "The angel answered, 'Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter.'"
The angel in shining clothes appearing inside his house had Cornelius' attention, and he obeyed. God was preparing Cornelius' heart for a life-changing message.
Prayer: God, thank You for the power of Your Spirit that can change lives. Help me to respond in obedience to Your promptings. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands" (1 John 2:3).
DAILY DEVOTIONAL 01/29/19 to 01/01/19
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 01/29/19
There are billions of people who have never heard the saving message of the Gospel. For the multitudes living in the least evangelized areas of the world, it is possible to live one's entire life without ever meeting a follower of Jesus.
In Matthew 28:19, Jesus told His disciples to go and make disciples of all nations, orethnē—not the current geopolitical nations that exist today, but rather groups of people who possess a distinct culture, ethnicity, and language. The term "people group" has been coined to describe the Biblical concept of the nation. Thinking in these terms has allowed the church to be more aware of the vast Great Commission task that remains ahead of us.
The reality is that thousands of people groups have yet to be disciples.
to the Joshua Project, there are 16,300 people groups in the world today—and
more than 6,900 are still considered unreached by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The word "unreached" describes the alarming reality that 2 percent or
less of the souls within each of these groups are born-again Christians.
Can you sense the heartbreak of God for the multitudes of lost people who have yet to know of His grace? Can you feel the urgency when God says in His Word, "The harvest is ready! The day of salvation is here! Lift up your voice!"
Christ's love compels us to ask ourselves, "How can I help reach the lost with the Good News of Jesus?" For every Christian, this journey must always begin with prayer. And whether God calls us to send out missionaries, go ourselves, or support 'sending' ministries like Leading The Way—we can rest in the fact that He alone will bring the fruit.
There will come a day when God’s great global task will be accomplished. In fact, the Lord has revealed its completion in Revelation 7:9: "After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation [ethnous], tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb."
In the meantime, Jesus Christ has left us, His disciples, with specific marching orders: Make disciples of all nations. Each of us must ponder in our own hearts how God is calling us to be globally-minded Christian—God’s faithful messengers to those who are still waiting to hear the Gospel.
Prayer: Lord, may I be burdened for the lost around the world so that I faithfully carry out Your Great Commission. Show me how You would have me serve in Your mission where You have placed me here and now. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb" (Revelation 7:9).
Raised Up to Run to the Lost
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 01/28/19
In ancient times, "runners" were often used to carry messages between an army and its king, such as the good news of a victory in battle. In a similar way, God is calling believers to run and declare the Good News of Christ’s victory—the ultimate victory announcement of all time.
Isaiah 52:1-12, Isaiah was announcing good news to the people of Israel in the
midst of their terrible exile in Babylon. Through Isaiah, God was declaring
that He would answer His people’s cry for freedom and release them from their
captivity. However, while Isaiah was directly speaking to God’s people during
that particular historical time, he was also speaking indirectly to us, inspired
by the Holy Spirit, about our deliverance from sin through Jesus Christ.
Today, many people are looking for deliverance that only Jesus can provide. Billions of people around the world remain unreached by the Gospel. They are oppressed by the burden of sin, in need of freedom offered through Christ alone, and seeking to worship the one true God. Some of them may be your own friends, family, or neighbors.
The masses are waiting to hear, and God is calling His people to run and tell them. All of us are called to be a part of this global mission—to heed the final task given to the church by Christ Himself (see Matthew 28:19-20).
When we fulfill this calling, we are embodying the message of the prophet from Isaiah 52:7: "How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation." When we share the Good News with a dying world, when we pray for the spread of the Gospel, when we support any work that is advancing God’s Kingdom, He is pleased. Each time we step out in obedience to fulfill His call, God says that this is beautiful.
Even now, God is preparing hearts to receive His Truth. He has promised that a great multitude among the nations is His (see Revelation 7:9). At the same time, He has raised us up to run to our soon-to-be brothers and sisters in Christ with the message of His love so that they can become a part of His family forever. So then, let us go the Lord in prayer and ask Him, "What is my part to play in this great drama of redemption?"
Prayer: Father, may I not shy away from the glorious work of sharing Your Gospel with the nations even if I should feel uncomfortable. I pray that I would become less, and You, more for the furthering of Your Kingdom. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, 'Your God reigns!'" (Isaiah 52:7).
Our Top Priority
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 01/27/19
all have a role in spreading the Gospel message until the day of Christ’s
return. Yet many of us routinely fail to follow through on this commandment. We
shy away from it; we forget about it. We procrastinate. We become so involved
in our earthly concerns and priorities that we neglect the Kingdom of God.
As we make the Great Commission our top priority, we will discover that our concerns and excuses are taken care of: "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well" (Matthew 6:33).
Throughout history, God’s people have disappointed Him in His commissions. In the days of the Old Testament, God gave His children great victories and blessings to make Himself known to the world. Instead of sharing about God, His people became self-focused and kept the message to themselves. Even the prophet Jonah tried to run away from his responsibility to share God’s Word.
What will we do with the opportunities God has given us? Will we completely lose our focus and allow the Christian church to drift aimlessly? Will we obey the Great Commission and share the Gospel message while we still have the freedom to do so? Or will we allow ourselves to be silenced while countless souls are in danger of eternal hell?
Prayer: God, forgive me for getting caught up in the things of this world and not making the Great Commission my top priority. Help me to stay focused on what You've called me to do. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (Matthew 28:19-20).
When the World Rejects You
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 01/26/19
beside Me; I won’t leave you." These words were God’s encouragement to
Maria when, after a lifetime of searching for Truth, she surrendered her life
As her new faith became more evident, Maria faced heartbreaking and terrifying rejection from her Muslim family. Sensing her life was in danger, Maria fled to another country. "Because of Jesus, I have lost my mother," Maria says. "Because of my love for Jesus, I have been separated from my family."
Where do you turn when the world rejects you? You turn to God’s Word—and remember His promises.
Read 2 Timothy 1:7-14, 3:12-17. As Paul contemplated his own departure from this world, sitting chained in a Roman dungeon, he wrote to encourage Timothy never to give up.
Probably the same devil that was discouraging Timothy is discouraging you today. But what Paul wanted Timothy to know is that a life enslaved to fear is not God’s desire for his sons and daughters: "For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline" (2 Timothy 1:7). Paul directed Timothy to continue in the Holy Scriptures that prepare the servant of God for every good work (see 2 Timothy 3:14-17). How does God’s Word do this? It leads us to Jesus Christ.
Life is full of troubles, and godly people will always arouse the antagonism of the worldly. But when we are tempted to fear in the face of rejection, we must turn to the Word of God. It gives us comfort and strength. It is a light that keeps us walking with God until we get to the other side of glory.
"Stay beside Me; I won’t leave you." These words that provided comfort to Maria are for you, too. They are found all over the pages of Scripture (see Deuteronomy 31:6, Joshua 1:5, Matthew 28:20, Hebrews 13:5).
Are you broken today? The Word of God will bind your broken heart. Are you lonely and hurting? The Word of God will comfort and soothe your wounds. Are you carrying a load of guilt? The Word of God will tell you exactly how to be released and forgiven. Are you sad? The Word of God will give you joy. Are you lost and can’t find the way? The Word of God is a lamp to guide you to the Lord.
Prayer: Lord, thank You that You will never leave nor forsake me. You have adopted me and made me Your own. May I seek comfort from Your very Word in every trial. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Sheep Among Wolves
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 01/25/19
June 2009, the Long family woke up to their worst nightmare. Their 23-year-old
son, a private in the U.S. army, had been gunned down by an Islamic terrorist
on American soil. They were shocked, grieved, and angry. Yet in the midst of
their mourning, this family did the unthinkable.
After receiving the money left to them by their son, the Longs dedicated a portion of it to help reach Muslims for Christ. They said: "We can think of no better way to honor God than to use part of the money he left us to reach the unsaved Muslim people."
From an earthly perspective, the Longs would have been justified in seeking revenge. Yet they chose to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, loving the very people who had killed their son.
Read Matthew 5:43-48 and 10:16-20. Jesus has called all of us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. As Christ faced opposition and persecution from this world, so will we, which is why Jesus warned us that He was sending us out "like sheep among wolves" (Matthew 10:16). Yet Jesus did not say, "I’m going to protect you from the wolves." Instead, he said, "I am commissioning you to go to the wolves."
Jesus sends us out into this hostile world knowing exactly what we are made of—He knows our weakness and vulnerability. Yet He does not send us out alone. Our Lord promises to be with us always (see Matthew 28:20). He promises that nothing can separate us from His love and that, even if we do pay the ultimate price for our faith, it is better to be with Him (see Romans 8:35; Philippians 1:23). And as He sends us to the enemies of the cross with the Good News of the Gospel, His power transforms ravenous wolves into obedient sheep—terrorists into saints.
Jesus knows that the eternal destiny of the terrorist is more important than the earthly comfort of His people. He calls all of us to love our enemies, even those who persecute us. In this worthy but risky task, we must be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Our response to persecution must not be cowering fear or bitter retaliation, but rather prudent proclamation—the discerning declaration of the Good News.
Prayer: Father, help me to see people as You do, remembering that I, too, was at enmity with You, but by Your grace have received salvation and redemption. May those opposed to Your Gospel also receive the gift of Your mercy and forgiveness in Christ. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (Matthew 5:43-44).
Hold Fast to Your Security
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 01/24/19
Read Romans 2:17 — 3:18.
people the world over, no matter how rich, famous, or powerful they may be,
long for security. This is why we have alarm systems in our homes and why
nations have a police force and an army. But despite this deep longing, the
secret to feeling secure eludes most people.
When it comes to your life, you cannot count on anyone or anything to save you other than the blood of Jesus Christ. Baptism will not save you; mission work will not save you; going to confession will not save you; going to church once a month or even ten times a day will not save you. No one is made righteous through these things. Only faith and surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ will give you security, both now and in heaven.
Beloved, there are so many professing Christians today who think that they can live any way they want and that, as long as they go to church once a week, they will go to heaven. They are gravely mistaken, and "there is no fear of God before their eyes" (Romans 3:18). As for you and me, let us live in obedience to Christ. He is our only hope in the never-ending troubles of this life. Let us acknowledge that we are helpless without His power, asking Him to circumcise our hearts (see Romans 2:29). In this way, we will have an unshakeable sense of security that holds fast no matter what tomorrow brings.
Have you been looking for security in something or someone other than Jesus Christ? Rest now in the fact that He is enough.
Prayer: Lord, You are my righteousness, my salvation, and my reward. I know You love me and will never leave me—You are steadfast and true. May I live my life in praise and adoration of You. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. . . . there is no one who does good, not even one" (Romans 3:10-11, 12b).
The Final Reckoning
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 01/23/19
Read Romans 2:6-16.
In Romans 2:6, Paul reminds us, "God will repay each person according to what they have done." Here, it may seem that this epistle, famous for extoling salvation by grace alone, is preaching a works-based gospel. But the actual point Paul is making is this: The Day of Judgment will be a day of reckoning. Those of us who have received Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord will escape the judgment of hell, but we will not escape being held accountable to God.
we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may
receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or
bad" (2 Corinthians 5:10). We must each give an account of how we
stewarded our lives—if we walked with Jesus unashamedly or if we lived for
ourselves. For believers, the Day of Judgment will be like an awards ceremony.
Some believers will receive little, while others will be given spiritual
rewards beyond what the human mind can imagine.
My friend, you have a unique calling on your life, and your obedience to this call is what you will be held accountable for when you stand before Jesus Christ at the last day. So, live today with this day in mind, doing the good work that God has planned for you to do (see Ephesians 2:10). There is truly no better way to spend your life; King Jesus alone is worthy of your all!
Who or what have you been living for? Is there any area of your life that you need to give back to God? Surrender it all to Him today.
Prayer: God, help me to obediently follow Your calling on my life and to trust that You are at work for my good to the glory of Your name. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile." (Romans 2:9-10).
Ashamed of Hypocrisy
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 01/22/19
Read Romans 2:1-5.
Many Jewish people in Paul’s day believed that if they kept certain rituals, going to the temple and observing important holy days, they were righteous before God—even though their hearts were far from Him. But Paul in Romans 2 challenges this thought and makes one thing crystal clear: Both Jews and Gentles are under the judgment of God and in equal need of salvation in Christ.
Because the Jews
possessed the Scriptures, God’s judgment against them for failing to live by
them was stricter than His judgment against the Scripture-less Gentiles.
Beloved, this principle applies now to any self-righteous Christian. We have
the Scriptures; therefore, we are going to be held to a stricter standard for
failing to live by grace than those who have never heard the Gospel.
The self-righteous or legalistic Christian has committed two great errors. First, he underestimates the standards of the righteousness of God. Second, he misjudges the depths of his sin—minimizing his own sins and exaggerating the sins of others.
When we judge one another, we are often hard on others but easy on ourselves. My friends, such hypocrisy is rampant in our churches today. Let it not be true of you and me! Here, Paul reminds us all—by the very standards that we judge others, we ourselves are going to be judged (see Matthew 7:2). May God grant us the grace to be examples of humility and goodness in our backbiting culture.
Have you been harboring resentment in your heart toward anyone? How can you show them the same grace God has shown you?
Prayer: Father, forgive me for underestimating the standards of Your righteousness. I know I only stand before You because of Your grace and mercy through Jesus Christ. May I spend my life pointing others to the wonders of Your love displayed at the cross, humbly proclaiming how You have been so good to me. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?" (Romans 2:3).
Unashamed of God’s Wrath
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 01/21/19
Read Romans 1:18-32.
In Romans 1, Paul
diagnoses the problem with every culture and society throughout the ages: sin.
He knows he cannot share the healing possible in Jesus Christ without first
revealing humanity’s terminal illness. We are, every one of us, desperately
sin-sick and under the wrath of God (see Jeremiah 17:9).
Today more than 60% of professing Christians deny the wrath of God altogether. They say there is no wrath of God; only love. They don’t understand that without the wrath of God, the love of God cannot exist; His wrath toward sin is actually His love for us in action. And His love rescues us from the wrath we deserve.
Beloved, God’s wrath is not a capricious, uncontrollable fury. It is an utter hatred of all that is evil. God is just, and His justice demands a payment for our sin. Yet, out of His love, He did not spare even His own Son; He sent Jesus to die in our place, ransoming anyone who believes in Him from the just wages of sin: death (see Romans 8:32).
As Christians, we must live unashamed of God’s utter holiness and justice—for if our lost loved ones are to come to Christ, they must first confess their need for His forgiveness. We must be honest about sin and point them to Christ, the only hope for the hopeless.
Do you have a lost friend or family member who needs to be convicted of their sin? Pray for them right now.
Prayer: Lord, I know Your wrath is just—sin and evil cannot go unpunished. Thank You for leading me to repentance and providing the perfect, eternal atoning sacrifice for my sin. May Your Spirit work in the lives of my family and friends, my neighbors and acquaintances, so that they might see their sin and find life in the only one who saves—Jesus Christ. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse" (Romans 1:20).
Unashamed of Our Faith
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 01/20/19
Read Romans 1:16-17
The third and final
reason the apostle Paul lived unashamed of the Gospel was because he knew the
source of his real power. He knew that grit and
resilience came not from physical, emotional, or mental strength—but by faith
in the one "who is, and who was, and who is to come" (Revelation
In Romans 1:17, Paul reminds us, "The righteous will live by faith." Jesus Christ is the only solid ground for our feet amidst the sinking sands of economic, cultural, and political change, and the Bible speaks about our faith in Him in three different tenses: past, present, and future.
Past faith is the moment you came to Christ, confessing your sins and saying, "Only Your blood can save me." Then there’s present faith. At this moment, I am exercising faith in the living God to strengthen me, empower me, and push me forward so that I might continue faithfully serving Him. But then there’s future faith, the trust I have that the moment after I close my eyes in death, I will open them looking into the loving face of Jesus Christ.
Past, present, and future—your entire life must be unashamedly lived by faith in God. The power of God led you to Himself in the past. The power of God strengthens you each day. And the power of God will bring you personally to the presence of Jesus in heaven. I cannot wait!
How do you need to shore up your faith today: remembering how He’s saved you, trusting Him to help you, or rejoicing in eternity?
Prayer: Lord, I know You are my strength, my fortress, my Redeemer. Thank You for bringing me to saving faith in You. Thank You for Your sure promises. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: 'The righteous will live by faith'" (Romans 1:17).
Unashamed of God’s Vision
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 01/19/19
Read Romans 1:8-15.
The second reason Paul
could live unashamed of the Gospel was because he knew God’s vision for his
life. Today, the average person
simply exists, living a shallow life that is focused only on his own day-to-day
needs. In contrast, Paul had a clear purpose from God, and he knew it would
lead him to preach the Gospel in Rome (v. 15).
Paul trusted that this was God’s vision for him, even though it took much longer than he expected to see this calling fulfilled. He was forced to make many detours—imprisonment, shipwrecks, beatings—yet he trusted God. And we know that he did see this vision fulfilled (see Acts 28:11-30).
Jesus Christ did not give us salvation so that we could simply sit in a pew for the rest of our lives. He wants us to pass on the gift of salvation to others—spending our lives in service to Him in unique ways. One thing remains true for us all: God calls us to make it possible for others to hear and respond to the Gospel.
What is God’s vision for your life? If you ask Him, He will show you how you can make a difference for His Kingdom. Get away to a quiet place and be still in His presence long enough for Him to communicate with you. Then, like Paul, trust God to bring His vision to life. Do not despair when detours come; be encouraged. Any true calling must endure intense opposition.
What is one way you can take a step of obedience toward God’s vision for your life?
Prayer: Lord, will You show me Your vision for my life? Grant me an obedient heart to follow Your will. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are in Rome" (Romans 1:14-15).
Unashamed of Our Identity
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 01/18/19
Read Romans 1:1-7.
The call to live loud for Christ, unashamed of the Gospel, is clear in Scripture. But how do we live with such boldness? The answer is threefold, and it comes from a close look at Romans 1 and the life of the apostle Paul.
The first reason Paul
could live unashamed of the Gospel was because he knew who he was and to whom
he belonged. He knew that Jesus Christ
was Lord, and He knew that he had been set apart by Him to be His apostle (vv.
1, 4). Paul knew that his identity was in Christ, and nothing could take that
away from him.
In a day when so many people are mixed up about who they are, when it is fashionable to question your gender or define yourself by your political party, it is refreshing to see the apostle Paul hold so tightly to his blood-bought identity. He was not confused about what his purpose on earth was supposed to be. He knew his identity—he was a servant of Jesus Christ.
My beloved friends, this is the healthiest self-perception you can have. Remember, "You also are among those Gentiles who are called to belong to Jesus Christ" (v. 6). Firmly root yourself in this glorious identity today, and you will be anchored regardless of what opposition comes your way. Don’t miss out on the peace that comes from knowing who and whose you are!
How do you define yourself? Does this align with who the Lord Jesus Christ says you are?
Prayer: God, thank You for making me Your child through Jesus Christ. Help me to rest my identity in this Truth and live a life that reflects Your transformational work in my heart. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God" (Romans 1:1).
The Call to Be Unashamed
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 01/17/19
key verse to understanding the entire epistle of Romans is found in Romans
1:16. Here, Paul declares that he is not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the
power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes.
Today, the reason so many churches are blessing same-sex marriage, neglecting the call to evangelism, approving other "paths" to God, and preaching self-help instead of the doctrines of sin and salvation is because they have not taken this verse to heart. They are ashamed of the Gospel, so they change it and redefine it—blunting the two-edged sword of God’s Word and deactivating its power. And our society is reaping the consequences.
My friend, the call on your life and mine is to remain unashamed of the Gospel, to lovingly lift high the Truth of our Savior, and to trust Him with our lives. All of us will, at one time or another, be tempted to hide our light under a basket. In fact, as you seek to serve and witness for Christ more and more, this temptation may become even stronger.
Satan will try to convince you that it’s not worth the effort. Beloved, stand firm in that evil day! Remember that it is the Gospel that breaks the iron yoke of sin, shatters the chains of addictions, and flings open the heavy gates of darkness. May God grant us each the grace and understanding to remain unashamed.
Have you had moments when you wanted to hide your light before others? Ask God for courage to be a faithful witness.
Prayer: Father, forgive me for the times when I have been afraid to speak Your Truth. Help me to exercise faith and lovingly and boldly share the Gospel. Let me be unashamed of Your Good News. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile" (Romans 1:16).
Responding to Rejection
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 01/16/19
more we depend on being liked and desired by others, the more unsettled and
disturbed we will feel when people reject the Gospel. The closer a person is to
us, the more we will feel their rejection. We are far more troubled over a
loved one’s rejection of the Gospel than that of an acquaintance. This
rejection can lead to discord in the home, as Scripture explains: "For I
have come to turn 'a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a
daughter-in-law against her mother- in-law—a man’s enemies will be the members
of his own household'" (Matthew 10:35-36).
Jesus is not sowing the seeds of discord, but He is warning us that we will experience a temporary loss of outward peace because of those who reject His Gospel. However, Jesus does not tell us to avoid these people who disrupt our outer peace. He does not tell us to pretend that everything is fine though people around us are going to hell. Instead, we are to continue witnessing and sharing about Christ, even if the results are stressful for us. Even if our countenance is shaken, we are to continue loving, ministering, serving, and reaching out.
In humility we are to love everyone, even those who criticize us. We are to pray for those who hate us. We are to reach out to those who reject us. Even when our outer peace has crumbled, we are to lovingly speak the Truth of the Gospel.
Prayer: God, I struggle when people close to me reject the Gospel. In those moments, help me to remember to continue to pray for them and to lovingly speak the Gospel of peace into their lives. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man" (Luke 6:22).
Call Upon the Lord
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 01/15/19
our children see us clinging to the promises of God, they will grow up trusting
in His goodness. If we fail as adults to pray for and with the next generation,
then they will become spiritually unsure.
When a generation begins to feel defeated and uncertain, its people begin to lose their spiritual balance. They may half (heartedly attend church, but inwardly they have lost their Biblical moorings. Only God can build a home and guard a city, and that is why we need to call upon the Lord on behalf of the next generation. We need to call upon the Lord for our homes, for our cities, and for our nation.
When we call upon the Lord for the next generation, we can trust that the Lord will work in their lives to cultivate their relationship with Him, to bring them wisdom, to develop their spiritual and intellectual powers, to firm their resolve to walk with Him, to nurture their love of God, and to become powerhouses for Him.
Prayer: Father, I pray that my children would trust You as they see me cling to Your promises. I pray that You would work in their lives and that they would have a deep, growing relationship with You. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you" (Jeremiah 29:12).
Praying and Obeying God’s Will
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 01/14/19
order for our prayers to be effective, it is important that we know God’s Word
and consistently respond to it in obedience. That way we can pray the will of
God and hear His call to us to be His hands and feet in every situation. Why?
When we read Scripture, it prepares us to pray the will of God. How can you be assured that you are praying for God’s will and not your own to be done? Jesus said that we are to seek first the things of God and that God would respond by taking care of our needs (see Matthew 6:31-33). Immerse yourself in the Word of God. The more you know the mind of God, the more you will begin to understand what He wants for your life. As you pray for specific requests, always check them against Scripture. You can be sure God’s desires for you will never go against His Word. As you read God’s Word and study it, ask the Lord to give you a greater awareness of specific promises that He wants you to pray about and believe.
When we know the mind of God and align our will with His, our prayers become effective. We must pray with praise on our lips, a confession of our own faults, and a petition that God will act in the way that accomplishes His purposes and brings Him glory. Then we must listen very closely to what God may lead us to say or do.
God uses individual people to accomplish His purposes. Be willing to be used. As you pray, never lose sight of this Truth: "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up" (Galatians 6:9). Continue to pray, knowing that at God’s appointed time, your harvest will come.
Prayer: Father, help me to spend more time in Your Word so that I will be better equipped to pray Your will. Help me to respond in obedience when I sense You leading me to do something. And help me not to give up! I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"I will hasten and not delay to obey your commands" (Psalm 119:60).
What Praise Does
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 01/13/19
praising God, what do you say? Your words are important because they reveal
what is in your heart (see Matthew 12:34). Your praise reveals the places in
your life where God is working and how much you really believe in Him. Through
praise, God opens your heart so that you will know Him more deeply.
Praise refocuses our heart so we can see God’s plan for the future. In this life, you will face trials and troubles of many kinds. If you focus solely on your problems, eventually you will believe that disappointment is your destiny. It is not. Jesus has overcome every evil obstacle. If you focus on God’s power, love, and glory, you realize that great things are possible.
Praise re-establishes God’s reign over our hearts. Praise is often difficult because it invites God to have authority in our life, meaning we must submit. But turning the authority of your life over to Him means not having to worry about your future. With God as your loving King, you will be able to claim all His promise for your life (see Jeremiah 29:11; Isaiah 41:10; John 8:36; Philippians 4:19; Romans 8:28; Ephesians 3:16-19).
Praise fortifies our relationship with God. Praise reminds you that God loves you with an everlasting love. It also helps you recall that you are not alone. God is like an eternal flame of hope burning at your side. By expressing your adoration and thanksgiving to Him, you not only accept His love, you also learn how to reciprocate the love He gives to you (see 1 John 4:15-19).
Through praise, God prepares us to worship Him completely—mind, body and soul—so that we can experience the depths of His love. That is why Paul admonishes us to "rejoice in the Lord always" (Philippians 4:4). Let nothing hold you back; praise Him for His faithfulness and His care for you.
Prayer: God, help me to make praise a regular part of my life of worship. Thank You for the many blessings that come when I praise You. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"I will give thanks to the LORD because of his righteousness; I will sing the praises of the name of the LORD Most High" (Psalm 7:17).
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 01/12/19
wants a daily relationship with us. How it must grieve Him when we run to Him
only in times of trouble and need! We beg and plead for God’s help, but when
help arrives, we forget to thank our rescuer. We bargain with God for His blessings,
but once we have received them, we go back to our old habits. It seems to be
human nature that we seek out God when we need or want something, then forget
Him the rest of the time.
Instead of focusing on our needs, God wants our focus to be on Him. He wants our thankfulness to be sincere. He wants our gratitude to be constant. He wants to see as much intensity and fervor in our thanks and praise as He saw in our requests and petitions.
God is glorified by a thankful heart, and we should be motivated by gratitude to God in all that we do. So let the song of our hearts be, "I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving" (Psalm 69:30).
Prayer: God, forgive me for the times I’ve run to You for something, only to forget You as soon as You answered my prayer. Teach me to praise You in the good times and in the bad. May I always have a word of praise on my lips for my Savior. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him" (Colossians 3:17).
A Sacred Song
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 01/11/19
faced extreme highs and lows throughout his life. He experienced times of
closeness with God that led to victories, and at times he stumbled, going his
own way. Yet one constant in his life was his sacred song for God. Even in his
psalms of brokenness, he had praise in his heart for God: "The righteous
person may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all"
Read 2 Samuel 22. This psalm of praise is often referred to as the Song of David. In this banner song for a true champion, David reflects on the power and goodness of Almighty God. David begins his praise with, "The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer" (v. 2). We can visualize David reflecting on the numerous times he sought refuge and shelter in the loving arms of his heavenly Father. He faced countless life-threatening and life-altering storms in his life, yet God was always there for him.
When you face valleys in your life, never forget that God is infinitely mightier than your problems and that He is watching over you. No matter how desperate your circumstances may seem, God is sheltering you and protecting you. He is upholding you and empowering you.
Prayer: God, help me to always have a sacred song of praise for You, no matter what circumstances I find myself in. Thank You for Your faithfulness. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"The LORD lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be my God, the Rock, my Savior!" (2 Samuel 22:47).
Praying the Word
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 01/10/19
When we study the book of Jonah, we often focus on the miraculous journey he experienced inside a giant fish: "Now the LORD provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights" (Jonah 1:17). Yet the greater story is the transformation we see within Jonah through his model prayer during that underwater voyage.
is nothing that will bring us closer to the Lord than being in the belly of a
fish. When we experience intense suffering, the best thing we can do is to pour
out our hearts to God.
Read Jonah 2. Why is Jonah’s prayer an example for us? Because Jonah is praying the Scripture. Many of the words he uses come from the Book of Psalms. Jonah 2:9 says, "But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, 'Salvation comes from the LORD.'" Compare this with Psalm 96:1-2: "Sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth. Sing to the LORD, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day."
Psalm 30:3 also echoes throughout Jonah’s prayer as he says, "From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry. . . . But you, LORD my God, brought my life up from the pit" (Jonah 2:2, 6). Psalm 30:3 says, "You, LORD, brought me up from the realm of the dead; you spared me from going down to the pit."
If you’re having trouble finding the words, do as Jonah did and rely on the very Word of God to direct your tongue.
Prayer: Father, when I go through times of suffering, help me to turn to You and Your Word. Teach me to pray the Scripture like Jonah did. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"LORD, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy; in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief" (Psalm 143:1).
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 01/09/19
is important that we are able to recognize sin in our lives. When we sin, not
only do we feel the conviction of having sinned, but we also have been given
the mirror of God’s Word. The Scriptures make clear what God approves and
disapproves, what God commands, what God requires, what God blesses. We need to
read the Word, study it, apply it, and ask the Holy Spirit daily to reveal to
us the Truth of God so we might live in it.
Among Christians, a frequent mistake made when embracing the Spirit-filled life is seeking the power of the Spirit as a substitute for faithfully practicing the spiritual disciplines.
These believers sit quietly and wait for God’s power to overtake them so they won’t have to bother studying God’s Word, spending hours with the Lord in prayer, or getting involved in service to others. They see the power of the Spirit as an easy route to spiritual maturity, which is not what God promised.
Too many people say such things as: "I’m just waiting for God to carry me along. I don’t have to do a thing; I’ll let God do it all. I will just sit and wait for God’s power to motivate me." When people do this, they are looking for magic. In the end, they are attempting to use God as an excuse for their own lack of faith and discipline.
Prayer: God, help me not to be lazy in my walk. Help me to practice the spiritual disciplines of spending time in Your Word, in prayer, and in service. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised" (Hebrews 6:12).
Leaning on the Word
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 01/08/19
With so many people and influences trying to mold us into their version of "truth," how are we to withstand their pressures and continue to reflect the light of Christ? We need to lean on the Word of God. Paul said, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Whatever encounters we face with the ungodly, we can find wisdom and guidance and comfort in the Bible. When we share the Good News, the Bible will equip us with the Truth. When we experience rejection, the Word of God will comfort and soothe our wounds. When we fear persecution, God’s promises will give us the strength to overcome our anxieties. When we begin to succumb to the world’s influence, the Word of God will transform and renew our minds.
Through God’s Word we will find the encouragement we need to continue following Him in faith and obedience, even when the world pressures us to conform.
Prayer: God, thank You for Your Word, which provides the comfort and encouragement I need when faced with trials and persecution. Help me to spend more time in Your Word so that I will be able to withstand the pressures of this world. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"As for God, his way is perfect: The LORD’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him" (Psalm 18:30).
Our Spiritual Operations Manual
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 01/07/19
How often do you read instruction manuals for new appliances, toys, or gadgets? Most of us are guilty of either not following the directions closely or tossing out the booklet completely. But there is one instruction manual we cannot afford to ignore—the Bible. It is our spiritual operations manual. And when we ignore it, the consequences can be eternal.
Scanning through the Scriptures for the main points won’t stretch us. Randomly flipping through the pages won’t develop our spiritual maturity. We can’t skim the surface and expect to find the pearls. We need to dive deep under the surface to find the treasure. To truly grow spiritually, we need to devote time, effort, and focused attention to learning from God's Word.
Before we begin reading God’s Word, we need to prepare our hearts. Our first step is to ask the Holy Spirit to guide us in learning, to give us discernment, and to help us to recognize our own distorted viewpoints. We should come to the Bible seeking the Truth—not our own hidden desires.
Prayer: Father, forgive me for the times I’ve merely skimmed Your Word for my own agenda. I pray that You would help me to devote time, effort, and attention to truly studying Your Word. Guide me, give me discernment, and show me areas where I need to grow. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Blessed is the one . . . whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night" (Psalm 1:1-2).
Steps for Discerning the Mind of God
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 01/06/19
When I am seeking to discern the mind of God, the first thing I do is examine my life to be certain that every area of my life comes under His lordship.
The second thing I do is try to put my desires in neutral so the Holy Spirit can work His will in me.
And the third thing is that I expect God to speak to me. I expect to hear from Him through His Word. I expect the Lord to speak to me through open and shut doors, through godly, praying friends, and through circumstances.
The fourth thing I do to discern the mind of God is test the spirits. Ask the question: Is what I am doing or what I am about to do going to bring glory to the Lord? Is it going to glorify His name? Is it consistent with the Word of God, or is it contrary to the Word of God?
fifth thing that I would urge people to do is wait upon the Lord. Wait for His
timing. Read the Scripture. Who is the one who is always hurrying people to do
things? The devil. Who is always saying, "Wait, wait, wait"? The
Lord. It’s in His Word.
Prayer: God, help me to seek Your will for my life. I pray that I would filter all of my decisions through You and Your Word. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us" (1 Corinthians 2:12).
Asking for Wisdom
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 01/05/19
James 1:5 says, "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." What a relief! God will not only give us wisdom in our moments of need; He will give it generously.
Many ask for wisdom and direction with the assumption that God is a reluctant giver, but He, more than anyone, wants us to walk in righteousness. The problem is that many who ask for God’s wisdom are not willing to obey it. Often we ask God for the answer to our problem or situation, only to ignore Him when He actually responds. But we cannot pick and choose when to obey God and when to go our own way. Having a divided heart—or double-mindedness—is something for which Scripture offers a solution: "Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded" (James 4:8).
A man can go his whole life living by worldly wisdom only to become a sudden prayer warrior when he gets cornered. However, God’s wisdom is not like a bolt of lightning—it’s the kind of wisdom that grows in your spirit on a daily basis as you feed yourself on the Word of God, drawing near to Him. The wisdom of God is not something we can take from God and then leave. It is cultivated through a living relationship with Christ.
Receiving wisdom is simple: You ask for it; God gives it to you; and then you practice it. You ask for it. He gives it to you. You practice it. And before you know it, you are living by God’s wisdom, not the world’s wisdom. Instead of waiting to seek God’s wisdom when the next crisis comes, commit to seeking His wisdom every day.
Prayer: Lord, give me Your wisdom. I know You are a generous God, and here I am, ready to obey. May Your Spirit make my heart willing to follow You at all times so that I might practice Your wisdom throughout 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).
Prepare for Your Vision
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 01/04/19
God has a unique vision and purpose for each of His children. God wants to bring glory to Himself through our lives. We must remember that God does not reveal His vision for our lives all at once. God reveals His vision to us when He knows we are ready and able to receive it. How then do we prepare ourselves to receive God’s vision?
First, to understand and embrace God’s vision, we must ask Him for it. The Bible tells us we have not because we ask not—and sometimes when we do ask, we ask with selfish rather than God-honoring motives. But God promises us, "Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know" (Jeremiah 33:3). God wishes to reveal Himself to us, but we must first ask with pure motives and persistence.
Second, God gives His vision to those who are good stewards. God is looking for stewards who will manage His plans well, even in the face of opposition, frustration, impatience, and spiritual attack. As we follow God’s timeline, we may be tempted to become anxious or frustrated while we wait for God’s plan to unfold. Satan will entice us to bypass God’s timeline and question God’s direction. Yet God entrusts His vision to those He knows will persevere through criticism, seasons of waiting, and spiritual warfare.
Third, God gives His vision to those who are faithful in small things. He will give greater vision to those who are being faithful with what is already in their charge. The Bible teaches us that this is how God rewards His faithful servants: "You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things" (Matthew 25:21).
The good news is that it is never too late to start seeking God’s vision. It is always the right time to decide to honor God and delight in Him.
Prayer: Lord, I am calling out to You. Will you please show me Your vision for my life? I ask to be faithful in the small things and to be a blessing to You. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know" (Jeremiah 33:3).
His Vision Revealed
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 01/03/19
Facing a new year can elicit a variety of responses. Some feel a sense of excitement and renewal in looking forward to the coming year. A few feel like life is spinning out of control, wondering where the year went. Others feel lost without a clear purpose in life—something to be or do that makes sense of everything. Regardless of how you feel about the new year, you can be assured that God has a plan for you in it.
God has a unique vision and purpose for each of His children. God wants to bring glory to Himself through our lives. Understanding God’s vision, however, is different from casting our own vision.
When we make plans, we want everything laid out. Think about the last time you traveled. When you mapped out the trip, you wanted to know where it started, where it ended, where you would stop along the way, and exactly how long it would take. Many of us approach our life in the same way—we try to plan out all the details in advance; we want to know all the answers before we begin the journey.
However, God does not reveal His vision for our lives all at once. He reveals it step by step.
In John 16, there is an interesting exchange between Jesus and the disciples just before His betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion. Jesus is telling the disciples what to expect when He goes away, and He says, "I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear" (John 16:12). God reveals His vision to us when He knows we are ready and able to receive it.
Prayer: God, help me to trust that You will reveal Your vision for me at just the right time. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the LORD" (Isaiah 55:8).
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 01/02/19
In Luke 9:62, Jesus said, "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God." Jesus is saying that half-hearted commitments do not count. To give a full commitment to God, we must intentionally look ahead.
Worldly goals and ambitions have a way of disappointing us. If we have a life goal that is our ultimate focus, what happens when we meet that goal? After the initial exhilaration of accomplishment, we feel dejected that we no longer have anything to chase after. There is no room left for ambition because we have fulfilled our desire.
But godly goals do not disappoint because the work of the Kingdom is never done. When we commit to fully serving Christ, we soon realize that our goals on this earth are enduring. Our service, prayer, and witnessing are never complete. There is always more to do for the glory of God, a deeper relationship to be had with God, and infinite wonders to be proclaimed about God to a world that desperately needs Him (see Psalm 40:5; Job 9:10). We have a mission that lasts for our entire lives—to glorify God and make Him known. We have the race set before us, and God wants us to stay focused on finishing well for our good and for the good He has planned for us to do in His name.
What is in your past that is holding you back from pressing forward? What is distracting you from running the race with all of your energy? "You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth?" (Galatians 5:7) As you consider your goals in this new year, do not get bogged down in your past failures or successes. Instead, pray for a God-given desire to work toward the future.
Prayer: Father, as I look forward in this new year, I pray that I would have godly goals that will keep me focused on the future, not on my past. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"'Men of Galilee,' they said, 'why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven'" (Acts 1:11).
The Resolution of All Resolutions
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 01/01/19
Many people see the new year as an opportunity to turn over a new leaf, and so the first of the year becomes a time to set goals and make resolutions.
Most resolutions focus on the here and now; few address eternal matters. While it is beneficial to give some focus to strengthening our physical bodies, it should not come at the cost of neglecting our eternal souls. We must not create a to-do list of projects to improve our houses, while failing to consider how we will sow into our heavenly dwelling places.
It is easy to become distracted by earthly concerns. It is easy to focus on the daily details of life—what to wear, what to eat, and what to drink. However, Jesus reassures us, "Your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well" (Matthew 6:32-33). When we focus on the eternal, God provides for the temporal.
It is a teaching that is very counter-cultural today as many believers focus on building a successful life and legacy here on earth. Yet Jesus tells us, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:19-21).
When we commit our resolutions and resources now to the ministry of the Gospel, we impact lives for eternity.
Are there earthly concerns distracting you from eternal matters? This New Year's Day is an excellent time to make a commitment to pray each day for God's help to stay focused on the Kingdom of God and His righteousness—the resolution of all resolutions.
Prayer: Father, as I enter this new year, please help me to fix my eyes upon You and Your Kingdom. Thank You for taking care of all I need. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life" (1 Timothy 6:18-19).
DAILY DEVOTIONAL 12/31/18 to 12/01/18
The Cutting Edge
By Michael Youssef, Ph.D. 12/31/18
Today’s story, found in 2 Kings 6:1-7, is an example of a Christian busy bee who lost his effectiveness, who lost his cutting edge, while he was busy working. "As one of them was cutting down a tree, the iron axhead fell into the water. 'Oh no, my lord!' he cried out. 'It was borrowed!'" (v. 5).
The axhead here represents the cutting edge of life, a life that is being equipped with an anointing by God’s Holy Spirit.
It is possible to lose your effectiveness for the Kingdom of God while you are busy working, while you are busy going through the motions. The evidence of God’s blessing upon your life is not how busy you are doing things, going to meetings, and attending committees. The evidence of God’s blessing is your effectiveness for Him.
This man was diligent, but he failed to see that the axhead was slackening and slipping from the shaft. When he became blind to what was happening at the cutting edge, the axhead fell in the water.
This is why Jesus told His disciples more than once: "Watch and pray. Watch and pray. Watch and pray." Why? "So that you will not fall into temptation" (Matthew 26:41). The moment you neglect time with God in a personal, intimate way is the moment you begin to lose the axhead of your life. That is when you begin to lose the cutting edge of your effectiveness for God.
Is there evidence of God’s blessing on your life, or have you lost the cutting edge?
Prayer: Father, I have been busy doing a lot of good things, but I realize that I need to be spending more time with You. Help me to get back that cutting edge. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Matthew 26:41).
The Solution to Control
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 12/30/18
There are ministries and churches that are lifeless and spiritless because they are controlled by men and women, rather than the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a serious matter to serve the Living God in the energy of the flesh. It is dangerous. Its inevitable result is death. It is a dangerous thing to inject your opinion and to take people in a different direction than where God is leading. It is disastrous to operate by consensus. To work for the Kingdom of God, we must ask, "God, what do you want?" and obey blindly.
So what is the solution to the misery of control? Continuing where we left off yesterday in 2 Kings 4, "Elisha said, 'Get some flour.' He put it into the pot and said, 'Serve it to the people to eat.' And there was nothing harmful in the pot" (v. 41).
What was the flour? In Scripture, flour is a type or symbol of the resurrected Christ. Christ’s resurrection power was a result of the crushing and the grinding of the grain of wheat, and Jesus Himself said, "Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds" (John 12:24). The grain of wheat had to be crushed in the mill of the cross before it could become the Bread of Life. Jesus is the flour who is thrown into the pot of death and sin. This is a picture of Calvary—through his perfect life, death, and resurrection, Jesus has absorbed sin unto himself and brought life. The poison in the pot, which was brought by man’s intervention, by man’s effort, had to be absorbed out of the pot. Death that was brought by man’s intrusion on God’s provision had to be neutralized.
The power of the resurrected Christ can deliver us from the spirit of control. It can help us out of our stubbornness and sin.
Prayer: God, thank You for the power of the resurrection! Thank You that I can be free from the sin of control. Help me to follow where You lead and to keep my hands out of the pot! I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live" (Romans 8:13).
A Spirit of Control
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 12/29/18
In 2 Kings 4, another encounter with Elisha brings a lesson for those of us who like to be in control.
Elisha was in Gilgal with the company of the prophets, and he had just instructed his servant to put on a large pot of stew. "One of [the prophets] went out into the fields to gather herbs and found a wild vine and picked as many of its gourds as his garment could hold. When he returned, he cut them up into the pot of stew, though no one knew what they were" (4:39).
It only took one, one with the spirit of control, one whose ego is constantly tripping them, one who could not stand the way God was using Elisha, one who wanted to feel just as important as the prophet of God, and he went out and brought these gourds and put them in the pot because he wanted to improve on God’s recipe. It wasn’t good enough. This man did not know what the plant was. If it had been good, the animals would have eaten it because this was during a famine. But he felt duty-bound to do something. He had to help God out.
So as they began to eat, they cried out, "Man of God, there is death in the pot!" (v. 40) That’s another way of saying, "It’s poisoned!" We don’t know the name of this person, just as well, but I think every home has one of these. Every church has a few. I pray to God that if you are a person with a spirit of control, you would surrender it today because God will not be able to bless you until you do.
Prayer: God, forgive me for the times when I try to take matters into my own hands and control things. I know that Your ways are perfect and I can’t possibly improve on Your plans, even though sometimes I try. I surrender this spirit of control to You. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:9).
Shut Doors and Yielded Spirits
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 12/28/18
Yesterday we looked at the first condition for the widow’s jar of oil to become her miracle. Today we will look at two more conditions.
The second condition that Elisha gave this woman is found in his instruction: "Shut the door behind you" (2 Kings 4:4). The door must be shut for God to bless you. Go into your prayer closet and shut the door. Shut the door on anxiety and fear. Shut the door on cynicism and worldliness. Shut the door behind you, whether it is a legitimate or illegitimate disturbance. He wants to give to you more generously than you have ever experienced before, but you must give Him your attention.
Elisha’s third condition for blessing was a yielded spirit. The woman must have thought, "Surely this is just a drop of oil. Surely I shouldn’t even mention it. I really have nothing." Nevertheless, the prophet replied, "Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few" (v. 2). Get your jars. Big jars. Small jars. Do not stop with just a few small ones because God is not a chintzy God. When God blesses, He wants to bless to the fullest.
The only limit to God’s blessing is our unbelief, our unwillingness to yield to Him. Because the woman yielded and surrendered, God granted her a miracle.
Prayer: Father, help me to shut the door on anything that is a disturbance to my walk with You. Help me to be totally willing to yield to You and to trust that You have great blessings in store for me. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"'Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,' says the LORD Almighty, 'and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it'" (Malachi 3:10).
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 12/27/18
When Elisha looked into the widow’s situation, he immediately told the woman about three conditions under which her jar of oil could become her miracle. Today we will look at the first condition.
The first condition was this: Get lots of empty jars. "Go around and ask your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few" (2 Kings 4:3).
What are these borrowed vessels? These borrowed vessels represent her capacity to receive from God. The more vessels she had, the more she was going to receive. For, every jar she gathered in faith would be filled—the oil would continue to pour. The moment the widow ran out of empty vessels, the oil stopped flowing.
God blesses you to the capacity that you make yourself available for Him to bless. If you close off areas to Him, your capacity to receive His blessing is stunted. But if you open your life to Him, His blessing can flow freely into every area of your life.
If your heart is filled with a spirit of bitterness and anger, God’s Holy Spirit cannot pour into it. When you are filled with the spirit of control, God’s Spirit cannot fill you. When you are filled with the spirit of greed and covetousness or lust and sexual immorality, there is no room for the Spirit of God to swell in you and bless you with His fruit.
When you fill your vessel with things that are not glorifying to God, you become spiritually as dry as a bone. You must offer God an empty jar, an empty vessel, to receive His spiritual blessings. If you want to experience the work of the Holy Spirit in your life, empty yourself of those things that are not from Him.
Prayer: God, help me to empty myself of anything that is not of You. I want to be an empty vessel that You can freely pour into. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me" (Matthew 16:24).
Hold Nothing Back
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 12/26/18
The key to your blessing is your willingness to surrender whatever you have at the feet of Christ. ##3In 2 Kings 4 we read about the testimony of a woman who had reached the place of bankruptcy in her life. Her husband had died and left her with tremendous debt so that her only recourse was to throw herself upon the mercy of Elisha, the man of God.
When this widow came to the prophet Elisha, he asked her a question, "What do you have in your house?" (2 Kings 4:2a).
The woman replied, "Your servant has nothing there at all . . . except a little oil" (v. 2b). She could easily have answered, "Oh, I have nothing. All I have is a bunch of bills," not bothering to mention the oil because a drop of oil in a little jar couldn’t make a difference, could it? She could have dismissed that small supply; we do that all the time. However, had she done that, she would have missed out on the blessing.
Elisha’s question wasn’t really about what the widow had. It wasn’t even about what she would give. It was about surrender; it was about not holding back. Likewise, if we would experience the blessings of God, we must surrender whatever we have—whatever we are tempted to hold back or dismiss as worthless.
When Elisha heard that the woman had a little oil, he thought, "Lady, you have everything." That’s all you need. A drop of oil. A drop of oil plus God equals untold blessings.
If you have turned your life over to Jesus Christ and the Spirit of God is within you, whatever you have is enough. When you surrender whatever you are holding back from Him, the Holy Spirit of God will use it to bless your life.
Prayer: Father, even though it may not seem like much, help me to surrender the things I’ve been holding back from You. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you" (Matthew 17:20).
Receiving the Son
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 12/25/18
A wealthy man and his son travelled the world together collecting priceless paintings by Van Gogh, Monet, and many other masters. Tragically, the son died at war while rescuing others. Distraught and lonely, the old man dreaded the upcoming Christmas day.
Christmas morning, a young soldier knocked on his door and said, "I’m a friend of your son. I’m one of the ones he rescued." Then the soldier presented a picture he had painted of the son. Though the picture lacked genius, the brokenhearted father saw the features of his precious son and immediately valued this painting above all the masterpieces in his home. Every day, the father gazed at the portrait and told his housekeeper of his great love for it.
When the father died, the art world buzzed with excitement over the sale of his extraordinary art collection. The first item offered was the painting of the son, but no one in the self-important crowd would bid on the amateurish portrait. The auctioneer insisted that the terms of the will required the portrait must be sold before any other paintings could be offered. Finally, the housekeeper, tears streaming down her cheeks, said to the auctioneer, "May I pay ten dollars for it? That is all the money I have. I knew the son, and I knew how much the father treasured that portrait." The auctioneer said, "The bid is ten dollars. Going once, going twice, gone," and the gavel fell.
The auctioneer then announced that the auction was over. "What do you mean?" said the stunned audience. "There must be hundreds of millions of dollars of art here." The auctioneer replied, "It is very simple. According to the will of the father, whoever takes the son, gets it all.” Like the art collectors, not everyone can see the real value of a relationship with Jesus. John 1:11 tells us that Jesus came to His own but His own received Him not. They did not accept the gift of God’s Son, a gift that brings with it all the blessings and love of God.
If you are not intentional about recognizing and receiving the Son, you have nothing, and there will be no negotiation of God’s terms. God’s Son may have been born in the humblest of circumstances in a manger in Bethlehem, but He is coming back in power and glory.
Prayer: Father, thank You for sending Your Son. I humbly receive Him as my Savior, my righteousness, my peace. Thank You for the promise that He is coming back one day. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am" (John 14:3).
Responding to His Call
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 12/24/18
Like the star that pointed the wise men to baby Jesus, there may be a star in your life that has been trying to point you to the King of kings. Perhaps your star is your spouse, parent, neighbor, or friend. They have prayed for you, and they have pointed the way. They have tried to lead you to the only one who can save you from eternal destruction. Be wise; follow the star that will lead you to the only true God. Out of His great love for us, God sent His Son to rescue us.
You may have hesitated to come to the Lord because you feel you have defied or simply ignored God in the past and may not be welcome. God stands with outstretched arms to embrace you, fulfill you, and love you. Jesus became flesh and was born in Bethlehem so that you could call Him Father, live a life of fulfillment, and spend eternity with Him. Jesus said clearly that He was the only means of salvation from sin and the only way to reach God the Father. He is the only source of real peace that can fulfill all your dreams and calm the storms in your life.
Just as God called the wise men to come and meet the newborn King, He is calling us today. Have you bowed down before Him? Have you been willing to leave behind luxury and safety to seek Him at all costs?
Recognize in prayer today your gratitude for the stars in your life—people or circumstances that are pointing you to Him. Tell Him how you need Him to calm the troubled waters in your life and that you need His hand to lead you home. Be wise and respond to God’s call today.
Prayer: Father, thank You for the people You put in my life who have pointed me to You. Help me to seek Your face and to find true peace in You. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation" (2 Corinthians 6:2).
Long Lay he World
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 12/23/18
At Christmas, we celebrate something so astonishing that it’s nearly mind-boggling. We celebrate the most powerful, most incredible, most joyous event in all of history: the moment when the Creator of the universe stepped into the womb of one of His creations and was born as one of them.
But why was it even necessary? Why did Jesus come from heaven?
Read Romans 3:23.
Through Paul, God makes it clear that each of us is born with a terrible, incurable disease—sin. Sin, at its very core, is doing things our own way instead of God’s way. It is being dishonest rather than telling the Truth. It is not forgiving someone because you do not want to let them off the hook. It is living a life of worry and anxiety when God says He has everything under control. It is spewing words in anger because something in you wants to hurt the person you’re arguing with.
Every one of us is born with sin. It is in our DNA. We inherited this disease from our first parents, Adam and Eve, and it is incurable. Reforming cannot help; containing it cannot help; ignoring it cannot help; and avoiding it cannot help. We are born sick with sin, and we can do nothing about it.
But thankfully, God loves us too much to leave us in sin. He is well aware that our powerful disease requires a powerful antidote. He knew that the only one who could cure the disease of sin was a sinless person. So God sent His sinless Son, the second member of the Trinity, to come from heaven in human form—God in the flesh.
Jesus lived a sinless life, and yet, while He was on the cross, He became sin for us: "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us" (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus, sinless Jesus, became our sin-bearer. He took our sin on His sinless body, and He died the death that we deserved to die, paying the price for our sins.
Do you know that your sins have been paid for? What you were powerless to do, Jesus did for you. Jesus is the antidote for your sickness, and He gave His life to heal you completely.
Take some time to praise God for the gift of His Son. Whatever you’re doing right now, give Him your undivided attention as you reflect on His sacrifice and love for you.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for the great gift of salvation through Your Son. Help me to never forget the true meaning of this celebration and my deep need for a Savior. May all the glory of this season be given to You. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus" (Romans 3:23-24).
Why Did Jesus Come from Heaven?
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 12/22/18
The much-loved Christmas song "O Holy Night" paints the scene of the world welcoming the long-awaited Savior.
O holy night! The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth!
It recounts that powerful moment when the Messiah appeared, the hope of the world coming to earth as a baby. But what caused Christ to step down from heaven and live among us, God in human form?
Long lay the world, in sin and error pining
'Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
Did Jesus come to make us happy? Did He come to make us good people? No, His mission was much deeper than that. Jesus sacrificed His life to save us from the death we deserved so that we could know Him and live eternally. His mission was salvation from sin; His motivation was love.
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!
Fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices
O night divine, O night when Christ was born.
This Christmas, how will you live in response to the greatest act of love the world has ever known? As you come before the Lord this week, ask Him to reveal more to you about His precious Son, His costly sacrifice, and His great gift of salvation.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, open my eyes to the magnificence of Jesus’ birth. Teach me about the power of Your sacrifice and show me the depths of Your love this Christmas season. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14).
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 12/21/18
It was the moment that all of creation had been waiting for with great anticipation. Prophets predicted it. Men and women of God prayed to see it. Still, the world was completely unprepared for how this moment would unfold.
Bethlehem was bustling with congestion and busyness created by the mandatory census issued by Caesar Augustus. No one was exempt from the census that required families to return to their town of origin. Despite being very close to her delivery date, Mary and Joseph braved the long and tiring journey home to the City of David. Without the hotels and restaurants that populate large cities today, hospitality was a precious commodity under normal circumstances, but the crowds for the census had exceeded Bethlehem’s capacity for this type of hospitality.
Into this hectic scene rides an expecting Mary led by her betrothed, Joseph. With the fulfillment of prophetic promises coming in mere hours, the couple found no housing in their time of need. They were surrounded by a town overcrowded with people who were too busy to make room for them.
It isn’t unlike today when we gather together to celebrate Christmas. For some, the season is filled with the chaos of making plans or scrambling for gifts and decorations. For others, the Christmas season is filled with loneliness and regret. In the midst of these moments, do we make room?
The wonder of the Christmas story is this: God’s power makes regular intrusions even when we make no room. No room in the inn? God still took on flesh. No room in your holiday traditions? God still calls to your heart. No room in your isolation? The Savior still invites you to intimacy with Him.
God’s plan continues even if we make no room for it. The awesome and the miraculous occur every day as He calls men and women from death to eternal life in Christ and He wants us to experience these miracles. Do not crowd God out at Christmas. Open your heart, mind, soul, home, family, and traditions to God. Make room for Him—not just at Christmas but every day.
Prayer: Lord, show me where I am not making room for You. I want to respond to Your call without hesitation so that You can have Your way in my life. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me" (Revelation 3:20).
The Definition of His Name
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 12/20/18
From Genesis to Revelation, we find that a person’s character and future are intimately connected with his or her name. In fact, throughout redemptive history, we find the Lord giving His servants new names that more fully reveal His purpose for their lives.
But when we survey the life of the most important servant of all time, the very Son of God, we see that His name did not need to be changed at any point. For God had determined His name from the beginning to inform the world of His ultimate purpose for the life of His Son.
Read Matthew 1:18-25
The angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream to tell him the name God had chosen for the child in Mary’s womb. With a powerful statement of Christ’s ultimate purpose, the angel said, "You are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins" (v. 21).
The definition of the name Jesus Christ is literally "God saves" or "He saves." Christ’s name defines His mission to His people: to offer salvation from sin and peace with God. Jesus’ name should mean everything to the Christian, for without it each one of us would be eternally lost.
Although it is clear what Christ was born to accomplish, the commercialization of Christmas continues every year. In the midst of this deluge of materialism and spiritual blindness, it’s not uncommon to hear a non-believer complain about Christians making the season too much about religion. God knew that many would ignore the true message and mission of Jesus. This is why God the Father, over 2,000 years ago, made sure to declare Jesus’ purpose and identity through His name, defining Christmas for all time.
This Christmas season, may we make it our goal to not let any good thing—food, family, or presents—distract us from the great redemptive reality that the Father has exalted Jesus, giving Him a name that is above every other name (see Philippians 2:9).
Prayer: Father, thank You for the mission of Jesus. When I reflect on His name, may I remember the joy of my salvation and the true meaning of Christmas. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21).
Receiving Divine Peace
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 12/19/18
In 1970, I worked for the telephone company in Sydney, Australia. I had only been in the country for a few months, and I had arrived with only one hundred dollars of borrowed money in my pocket. My boss at the phone company knew my impoverished state. One day, he came to me and said, "Michael, may I ask you a personal question? Tell me—why do you seem so peaceful and contented? You have almost nothing. You’re just scraping by. Yet, you never complain; you never seem worried; you seem to be at peace."
"I am at peace," I said. "I know that God is in charge of all the circumstances of my life. When I received Jesus as Lord of my life, I surrendered everything to Him—my plans and goals, my finances, my circumstances, even my worries and anxiety. I surrendered it all to Him, and in exchange for that, He has given me peace."
My boss thought for a moment, then he said something that saddens me to this day: "I couldn’t do that, Michael. I could never surrender my will to anyone." I had a number of talks with this man while I worked at the phone company. I found out that he knew the Christian Gospel, and he occasionally went to church—but he had never surrendered his life to the Lord. He was unwilling to put God in charge of his life.
He saw with his own eyes that surrendering to Christ had brought peace to my life—a peace that passes understanding, a peace that he himself could not understand. Though he wanted that peace, he refused to pay the price of surrendering himself to God.
Only Jesus can give you that peace, and it’s a paradoxical peace because it’s free—you can’t earn it or buy it. But to obtain this free gift, you have to surrender. You have to give up and let Jesus take over control of your life. You have to surrender your weapons.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, I know the only way to divine peace is to surrender to You, the God of peace. Help me to never resist Your call to give everything to You. Thank You for the free gift of Your peace. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you" (Isaiah 26:3).
The Prince of Peace
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 12/18/18
Before Jesus’ birth, Isaiah foretold that the Messiah would be the Prince of Peace—a Savior whose authority would bring release from the burden of sin. Although we often search for peace in the wrong things—in financial security, relationships, or recreation—God is the only one who can bring us true peace.
The Hebrew word shalom is often translated "peace," but its full meaning has a deeper richness to it. Shalom is a sense of completeness and soundness and living well. It implies safety, good health, prosperity, tranquility, and contentment. Shalom means favor, fulfillment, restoration, harmony, and reconciliation. God is Jehovah Shalom, the God of peace.
Shalom meets the human heart’s deepest longings and is the greatest measure of contentment. True shalom cannot exist in a heart that is void of Jesus Christ. Shalom cannot exist in a heart that is divided between a love of God and a love of the world. There is no room for peace in a heart that is harboring anxiety, distrust, greed, anger, or bitterness.
The Messiah is referred to as the Prince of Peace in Isaiah 9:6. Although the text translates to "prince," the original meaning of the word embodies the power of the king. The prince here has the full authority, delegation, and dignity of the king. Only when the Prince of Peace rules in our hearts and minds can we have peace. Until we submit to His authority and power, our peace will be incomplete.
We can know eternal peace because Jesus Himself became our peace through His sacrifice (see Ephesians 2:14-18). When we allow Him to reign, peace begins to fill our homes, our workplaces, and our relationships. An inner assurance fills our hearts and our minds as we begin to trust in Him.
Are you experiencing shalom in your life? Or is there an area where you have not let Jesus reign? Confess to God the roadblocks you have placed that are preventing God’s all-encompassing peace from filling your heart. If you are unsure of what is creating discord in your heart, seek the Holy Spirit’s discernment to show you. Submit to the leadership of the Prince of Peace today.
Prayer: Jesus, You are my Prince of Peace, and I give up control to You today. Show me the areas where I have not allowed You to reign. Thank You for lifting my burdens and giving me rest in You. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6).#
The Might of Jesus
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 12/17/18
Jesus’ might and divine power set Him apart from any other human who has ever lived. Jesus Christ is the only perfect man who died to give eternal life to those who believe in Him. Jesus Christ is the only man who owned a whole universe but lived in poverty for the benefit of others.
Jesus Christ is the only man who owns all of the iron ore of the world, but He allowed His hands and feet to be pierced with iron nails in order that He may save others. Jesus Christ is the only man who made all of the trees of the forest, and yet He allowed Himself to hang on one of those trees for the redemption of others. His name shall be called Mighty God.
How amazing is our all-powerful God! But what’s more amazing is that the supernatural power that resurrected Jesus from the dead is the same power that can transform our lives on a daily basis. His power can perform miracles in our hearts and in our circumstances. But when we try to solve our problems using our own strength, we will fail.
Prayer: Mighty God, thank You for all that You did as the perfect man. Thank You for suffering at the hands of men so that I might be saved. Help me to remember who You are and that You are powerful enough to handle all of my problems. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also" (1 Corinthians 6:14).
The Same God
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 12/16/18
Sometimes we become so focused on the humanity of Jesus that we forget His all-powerful divinity. Yet, Jesus is the very God through whom all creation was made. Jesus, the babe of Bethlehem, was the very God whose power created the moon and the stars. Jesus of Nazareth is the very God whose power hung the sun in its orbit. Jesus is our Mighty God.
In Isaiah 9:6, the prophet described the future Messiah as the Mighty God. The Hebrew word El for God in this verse is used throughout the Old Testament, and its context is often used to describe His might and power. During this Christmas season, we may look upon the Christ-child as a helpless babe. But even as a babe, He was the Mighty God. Throughout His earthly life, Jesus demonstrated the power of God just as He did from heaven.
The Mighty God who hung the stars in the sky is the same Mighty God who calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee. The Mighty God who formed the oceans is the same Mighty God who walked on water. The Mighty God who said, "Let there be light," is the same Mighty God who preached, "I am the light of the world." The Mighty God who parted the Red Sea to free the Israelites from slavery in Egypt is the same Mighty God who hung on the cross to deliver us from the slavery of sin.
Prayer: Mighty God, thank You for being both human and divine! When I reflect on Your birth this Christmas season, help me to reflect on Your power as well. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Proclaim the power of God, whose majesty is over Israel, whose power is in the heavens" (Psalm 68:34).
No Other Way
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 12/15/18
People suggest, even demand, that Jesus is only one of many possible ways to God. The uniqueness of Jesus’ birth disallows such conclusions. In the Christ-child, God was declaring to us that there is no other way. There is no amount of good work and no degree of managing our evil desires that will provide the forgiveness of sins we so desperately need.
3Our hearts long and cry out for the forgiveness we need. Still, we want to believe that we can provide our own forgiveness. We want to forge our own path based on our personal belief systems that are dictated by our own rules.
Sin prevents us from wanting to embrace the Truth that Jesus is the only plan for humanity’s salvation. Christmas points to the unique Truth that our redemption can only come through Christ’s sinless birth, life, death, and resurrection. If there were another way, there would be no Christmas. Jesus would not have had to leave His Father’s side in glory for the womb of a virgin if there had been any other way.
When you read the Christmas story this year, ask God to give you a fresh perspective on this miraculous expression of God’s love and provision to the world. God’s redemptive purposes are revealed in every detail, down to the young girl that carried our Savior in her womb. ##3Prayer: Father, thank You for the salvation we have that is only through Your Son. Thank You for making a way for our redemption. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me'" (John 14:6).
The Reason We Say “Merry Christmas”
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 12/14/18
Today, there are professing Christians who believe that being a good person is the path to salvation. They do not feel like they need someone to save them because their sins are nominal. It is enough that they attend church and have never committed "major" sins. They are perishing as they believe a lie.
The Bible says that every one of the 7.7 billion people living today was born with sin. This sin was passed along to us genetically from Adam and Eve—the root of a sin system that exists in every person. Like Adam and Eve, we want to do things our way. We want to stay in charge of our lives while paying God lip service. We justify our sin and minimize its consequences. We hide from God and others in our shame. Instead of confessing our sin and turning to a loving God for deliverance, we cling to the bitter roots of the poisonous fruit of sin, and we perish in that sin.
God sent His Son Jesus to deliver us from all our sins. God knows we cannot do this through our own works or devices. We can only be made perfect and whole through faith in the finished work of our sinless Savior, Jesus Christ.
At Christmas, we celebrate the Savior’s birth. The perfect, sinless Son of God came from heaven, lived the most difficult of lives, and died on the cross. He shed His blood and rose again on the third day to prove His power over death and sin.
We say, "Merry Christmas," because we know that our sins—past, present, and future—are all forgiven when we come to Jesus Christ. His birth, death, and resurrection have brought us peace with God. His plan of redemption has shown goodwill toward men. It is a gift we celebrate, not just at Christmas, but every day of our lives.
Prayer: Father, thank You that every time I say the words, "Merry Christmas," I am reminded of what You did for me and for Your gift to the world. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!" (Luke 2:14, NKJV).
The Purpose of His Birth
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 12/13/18
In Western culture, you may occasionally hear someone say, "I’m not a sinner. I’ve never killed anyone or robbed a bank. I’m a good person, so I don’t need to be saved." But, Romans 5:12-17 and Luke 1:30-35 teach us that "sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned" (Romans 5:12). Every person is born with a sinful nature because of the sin of our first parents, Adam and Eve. Each of us is born with our backs to God, wanting to decide for ourselves what is right and what is wrong. Not one of us has escaped this struggle with sin. No one, that is, except the Son of Man.
It is this sin-producing gene, inherited from Adam, that Jesus came to save us from. In order to save us, Christ had to first be born without sin. After all, how can someone who is also in debt redeem us from our burden? So Jesus was born of a virgin, free from the sin of Adam, that He might deliver us from our debt of sin.
Not only was our Savior born free from sin, but He lived His entire life without sin. If any sin had been found in Him, His sacrifice on the cross could not have accomplished our salvation—for only a sinless sacrifice could satisfy God’s perfect justice. When He died on that criminal’s cross, He accomplished the work necessary to free all who believe in Him from their bondage to sin. When He rose again with all power on the third day, God’s grace overflowed too many (see Romans 5:15). Now, all who repent and trust in Him receive forgiveness of sin, freedom from guilt, and fellowship with God.
Our freedom from the bondage of sin, now and forever, was the very purpose of the virgin birth. Indwelling sin can only be eradicated by our sinless Savior, for sin’s root system is so deep within our hearts that only a perfect Savior could possibly uproot it. This is what Christmas, the celebration of the birth of Christ, is all about. Ultimately, it’s not about jingle bells, presents, trees, food, or even family. It’s about the glorious uprooting of sin from our lives through Christ’s sinless life, selfless death, and triumphant resurrection.
Prayer: Lord, what a glorious gift is Christmas, the moment when Your Son took on flesh to redeem me, to redeem the world. May I remember the purpose of Christmas and go forth remembering my joyful purpose as a part of Your mission to save the lost. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin" (1 John 3:5).
The Salvation of His People
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 12/12/18
Up until Christ’s birth in redemptive history, enjoying the privilege of being one of God’s people had been limited to the Jewish nation of Israel. In fact, Israel had been exclusively known as God’s people for thousands of years, ever since the time of Moses. But through Jesus, God opened the door for anyone to know the blessing of being one of God’s own through salvation in His Son.
Read John 1:1-11.
In these verses, John says that Jesus "came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him" (John 1:11). Throughout history, Israel had been waiting for the coming of the Messiah, anticipating and praying for His arrival. But when the time came for Jesus to set aside His glory and be born into this world, the very people who had been waiting for Him rejected Him.
God knew Jesus would be rejected by His own—but He had a bigger family in mind. In His mercy and grace, God purposed this rejection of His Son to welcome believing Gentiles into the family of God (see Romans 11:11-15). Although Israel’s rejection of the Messiah was tragic, the joyous news could now be fully proclaimed through Christ: The way was open for anyone of any nation, language, ethnic group, or race to receive Jesus as the only Savior and become one of His people. Now anyone, anywhere, who repents of his sin and says, "Father, I cannot save myself. Jesus, save me," Jesus will save.
This time of year, many people say, "Merry Christmas," but they don’t really know what they are saying. They are not yet one of God’s people. The actual reason they say it is circumstantial—due to the bonus check they just received, time off with their family, or the superficial feeling that accompanies the season. But having a merry Christmas means much, much more than this.
To have a merry Christmas is to know the salvation that the Christ of Christmas has accomplished on your behalf. Have you accepted that priceless gift?
Prayer: Father, I praise You for the Good News of Christmas! I look forward to the day when I will be united with Your people from every tribe, nation, and tongue in Your presence, worshiping Your holy name. Thank You for my gift of salvation. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"For if [the Jews’] rejection brought reconciliation to the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?" (Romans 11:15).
Inviting Others into Joy
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 12/11/18
This Christmas, let us not be consumed in our pursuit of the perfect gift. Instead, let us be consumed with the joy of inviting others to behold the wonder of God’s love.
Read 2 Corinthians 5:18-21.
Since Christ’s ascension almost 2,000 years ago, God has chosen to touch hearts through us, His obedient children. Today, it is our great privilege and responsibility to tell others of the greatness of Christ’s love.
To be a tool in our Redeemer’s hand, we must be willing to get outside of our comfort zones and take up the ministry of reconciliation. We must make it our aim to be His ambassadors—speaking the Truth to a culture that is blind to the Good News of Christ.
Not so long ago, we too were blind—at enmity with God and burdened by the heavy yoke of sin—until somebody told us about Jesus. Now is the time for us to do the same for others. What a tragedy it would be if our loved ones never heard us speak of Christ and all that He has done for us. Let us joyfully proclaim the wonderful news that God came to transform us—His enemies!—into beloved sons and daughters.
Though sharing our faith can be daunting, Scripture exhorts us: It is by losing our lives that we find them, and by giving that we receive. With Jesus’ help, let us pour out our lives in the service of God and others as we celebrate Jesus coming to us.
Prayer: Lord, give me boldness to speak about Your salvation when You bring opportunities for evangelism my way. I know You will give me the words to say if I will just be faithful to speak. Give me love for the lost and wisdom for my conversations. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God" (2 Corinthians 5:20).
What Our Eyes Cannot See
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 12/10/18
Jesus came to open our spiritual eyes. When we walk by faith and not by sight, we’ll have the strength to weather any storm.
Read 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.
Recently, I had a conversation with my neighbor who is not doing well physically. I asked him, "How are you?" and He answered, "Well, I’m just trying to prolong my life—one day at a time.”
I wanted to weep for him, because I have already shared Christ with him, and he has not responded. He is just barely scraping by, living without real hope. I pray regularly that God opens his spiritual eyes.
Each day, we must trust in realities that are unseen—looking not to our bank accounts or our health or our earthly relationships for assurance, but fixing our eyes on Jesus and remembering who we are in Him. Only by trusting in Christ can we have the hope, peace, and joy we need to face whatever this broken world throws our way. Only by trusting in Christ can we have peace knowing that our present troubles are truly "light and momentary" compared to the eternal glory that awaits us (2 Corinthians 4:17).
Are you trusting in the seen or in the unseen? Our lives are not measured by the physical, but by faith. Only those who understand this can live with joy, whether they have little or much, sorrow or happiness, sickness or health, rejection or acceptance, hatred or love.
Prayer: Father, help me trust in You. You are sovereign; You are good; You are love. Thank You for giving me peace, hope, and joy in Jesus Christ. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal" (2 Corinthians 4:18).
Magnified in Weakness
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 12/09/18
In the Christian life, admission of weakness leads us to true strength because we rely not on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.
Read 2 Corinthians 12:6-10.
Jesus, God of very God, had an earthly mother so that we might have a heavenly Father. He made Himself human so that we might know everlasting life. And if we are to live for Him now, we must follow Him on the path of finding strength in weakness.
On this side of heaven, before Christ returns, it is only by learning to trust in what we cannot see that we can be truly strong. For when we trust in our own abilities, we are trusting in our flesh—which will ultimately fail us and can bear no lasting fruit.
Paul’s own weakness—his thorn in his flesh—tormented him, and he pleaded with the Lord three times to have it removed. But God was teaching Paul not to rely on himself but on God (see 2 Corinthians 1:9). Through it all, Paul realized that only by boasting in his weaknesses could Christ’s power rest upon him.
Christ came to save people who have come to the end of themselves—who are weary of trusting in their own strength. Where in your life do you currently feel weak? It is in this very area that He wants to magnify Himself. God is a good Father who is ready and willing to come to your aid. His grace is sufficient for you!
Prayer: Lord, every moment of the day I need You. And You are there. You will never leave me or forsake me. You are faithful and true. May I glorify You with every breath You give me. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Corinthians 12:10).
The Indescribable Gift
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 12/08/18
It is only with spiritual hearts and minds that we can begin to comprehend what Christ’s birth began.
Read Romans 5:15 and 2 Corinthians 9:15.
This Christmas, every gift you receive will pale in comparison to the ultimate gift—salvation in Christ Jesus. This gift from God to the world, begun in human history at the birth of Jesus Christ, is truly incomprehensible.
I’ve read through the Bible every year for decades, but I still find myself speechless when it comes to trying to describe how wonderful salvation truly is. How can I do justice to the reality that a sinner like me can be forgiven? "As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us" (Psalm 103:12). This promise, the message the angels declared to poor shepherds (see Luke 2:10-11), is enough to make me shout.
Christ Jesus came to earth to remove our filthy rags of self-righteousness, shame, and guilt. In their place, He clothes us in His perfect righteousness. And, as if that weren’t enough, He made it possible for all who believe in Him to be adopted into the family of God—enjoying all the privileges of being His sons and daughters.
Most startling of all, this great gift is granted not to God’s friends, but to His enemies (see Romans 5:8). This Christmas and every day, may we exclaim with the apostle Paul, "Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!" (2 Corinthians 9:15).
Prayer: Lord, what a wondrous love You displayed on that cross. Though I deserve Your wrath, You called me out of darkness and shower me with grace upon grace. May I live a life that honors You. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many!" (Romans 5:15).
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 12/07/18
As Christ’s followers, we will face hardship—but we can do so knowing that we are victorious in Him.
Read 2 Corinthians 6:4-10.
At the end of time, every eye will behold the fearful beauty of Christ. Every knee will bow before Him; every tongue will confess that He is Lord. But you would never expect this if you only judged Jesus by His beginnings in Bethlehem.
For believers on this side of heaven, this same principle holds true. In the eyes of the world, we may be regarded as "imposters; . . . unknown; . . . poor; . . . having nothing" (vv. 8-10). But in Truth, we are known by God, alive in Christ, always rejoicing, rich in spiritual blessings, and possessing everything.
Some of you may be puzzled by your current circumstances—just as it was bewildering for the King of kings to be born in squalor. You may be disappointed with what’s happening in your life, feeling perplexed, fearful, or despondent. But don’t make the mistake of judging the end by the beginning. Remember all that is yours in Christ.
Beloved, God is not finished with you yet. He is still in the business of using "the weak things of the world to shame the strong" (1 Corinthians 1:27). So today, trust God with the trajectory of your life. Even now, He is working all things together for your good. Even now, He is transforming you "into his image with ever-increasing glory" (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Prayer: Thank You that I am truly alive in You, Lord. I know You are at work in my life, renewing me day by day. May I submit to Your will and grow in godliness by the power of Your Spirit. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything" (2 Corinthians 6:9-10).
Only for a Time
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 12/06/18
As we celebrate Christ's first coming, we must remember that He is our conquering King who will soon return to place all things under His feet.
Read 2 Corinthians 5:16-18.
Jesus was born a man so that we who love Him could become citizens of heaven. Though He was God, He laid aside the manifestation of His glory to come and identify with us—humbling Himself so that He could set us free from sin and make us new by the power of His Spirit.
This is what we celebrate at Christmas. Jesus was born as one of us to reconcile us to God and raise us to new life in Him (see 2 Corinthians 5:17-18). The King of kings was welcomed to earth by poor and humble shepherds, so that we who believe in Him might be received by our infinite and matchless Father in heaven.
But as we celebrate the joyous occasion of Christ’s birth, we shouldn’t view Him today as the baby in a manger. Even now, Christ is reigning at the right hand of God. His time on earth as a suffering servant is complete—and He will soon return as a conquering King.
One day, Christ will come to finish His work and make all of creation fully and completely new—free from sin, death, and shame forever. From His humble birth to His obedient death, He won this for us. So, as we celebrate what He has done, let us fix our eyes on the hope of what He will soon do.
Prayer: Thank You, Jesus, for making me new and giving me the promise of eternal life with You. I rejoice in the hope of Your return. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer" (2 Corinthians 5:16).
True Power Through Trusting God
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 12/05/18
Jesus took on human weakness so that He could conquer the sin of the world. By doing so, He shows us that true power comes in trusting in and submitting to the Lord of all.
Read 2 Corinthians 8:9.
At the time of the birth of Jesus Christ, Caesar Augustus reigned supreme over the Roman Empire (see Luke 2:1-7). The lives of Caesar and Jesus at this point in history could not have been more different. Caesar was at the height of his power; Jesus was in the depths of helplessness. Caesar slept in a golden bed on fine linen sheets; Jesus lay in an animal’s feeding trough wrapped in rags.
Yet, even then, who was the one with the greater power? As a baby, Jesus was fully divine, "sustaining all things by his powerful word" (Hebrews 1:3). Jesus had willingly chosen to descend from heaven and take on humanity so that He might die on a cross for our sin. He—who was infinitely richer than Caesar—became poor so that we, through His poverty, might become rich (see 2 Corinthians 8:9).
In the days of His earthly ministry, Jesus had nowhere to sleep so that sinners like us might become heirs with Him of the entire universe. Therefore, do not be so easily impressed by people who now enjoy earthly power, fame, money, and beauty, and do not be consumed with longing for these things. Remember: The road to greatness is through humility—and trusting your Lord will bring the greatest reward.
Prayer: Lord, help me to humble myself before You. By Your Spirit may I trust in Your promises and experience even today the majestic reward of a relationship with You, whatever my earthly circumstances. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich" (2 Corinthians 8:9).
A Seeming Contradiction
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 12/04/18
Christmas teaches us the paradoxical nature of the Christian faith. By accepting what we cannot fully comprehend, we declare that God is God and we are not.
Read 2 Corinthians 4:8-12.
As believers, we are given over to death so that Jesus’ perfect life might be revealed in our mortal bodies (see vv. 10-11). This seeming contradiction, or paradox, is just one we embrace to live in Christ.
Christianity is unlike any other religion because it is full of paradoxes like this, and each one takes faith to believe. To be a Christian in our scientific world, we must submit to the beautiful reality that God’s ways are above our own.
The Christian faith teaches us that we can see the unseen; that we conquer by yielding; that we find rest under a yoke; that we become great by humbling ourselves; that we are wise by being fools; that we are free by becoming servants; that we possess all things by having nothing; that we get by giving; that we are strong by being weak; that we triumph through surrender; that we fully live by dying to self.
God is God, and His ways are not our ways (see Isaiah 55:8-9). Each year, we celebrate this at Christmas. For what greater paradox could there be than the eternally divine taking on finite humanity? There is nothing more incomprehensible than the Creator taking on created form. The glorious, surprising, upside-down nature of the Kingdom of God is best expressed by a baby in a manger.
Prayer: Father, Your ways are not my ways, and I rejoice in that. Your ways are perfectly loving, all-wise, supremely just, and infinitely beautiful. Thank You for the wonderful, surprising gift of salvation—the gift of Yourself. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body" (2 Corinthians 4:11).
The Paradoxes of Christmas
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 12/03/18
A paradox is an apparent contradiction that conceals a profound Truth—and the Bible is filled with paradoxes. We triumph by first surrendering to God. We find freedom in becoming Christ’s bondservants. We are made great by becoming little. We become wise by becoming fools for Christ’s sake. We can only truly live if we die to self.
Yet the greatest paradox in the entire Bible is found in the birth of Jesus Christ. During the time of Jesus’ birth, Caesar Augustus was the greatest ruler of the world. Yet even with all of his earthly authority and riches, Caesar was just a man. When God Himself came to earth, He was not the leader of the largest empire. He was born as a poor and obscure child in Bethlehem. The pagan man Caesar was at the height of power; the God-infant, Jesus, was in the depths of helplessness. Caesar was the wealthiest man on earth; Jesus was one of the poorest. Caesar slept in a Roman palace on a golden bed covered with fine linens; Jesus slept in a manger, bundled in swaddling clothes.
But none of the wealth or power that Caesar possessed compared to the glory and splendor that Jesus had left in heaven. Jesus endured a human, earthly birth so that everyone who follows Him can undergo a spiritual, heavenly birth. Jesus became a member of a human family so that those who love Him can become members of His heavenly family.
The infant Jesus was pursued by the ruthless and evil King Herod who ordered the slaughter of all the boys two years old and younger in the Bethlehem area, hoping to end the threat of the one "born king of the Jews" (see Matthew 2:1-18). Yet the very baby Herod hunted was born to destroy the root of all such evil: Satan.
We can learn from the paradoxes of Christmas: We should not judge things by appearances because God hid His greatest gift in a humble package.
Prayer: Father, I thank You for the paradoxes of the Christmas story. Thank You for all that You teach us through Your unusual ways. Thank You for the humble package that changed my life. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel" (Isaiah 7:14).
The Humble Are Chosen
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 12/02/18
Our world promotes an unhealthy elevation of self. Yet the Bible tells us, "The LORD sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground" (Psalm 147:6). A healthy concept of self is rooted in who we are in Jesus Christ, not in our own accomplishments or successes. God wants us to acknowledge Him, not ourselves, in all things.
When God sent His Son to earth, He did not choose someone of wealth or power to become Christ’s mother. He did not search out the most beautiful or the most intelligent or the most charming woman. God chose Mary based on her character and humility.
Just like in Mary’s time, people today seek wealth and power, yet God honors the humble. People may cower before the strong and the mighty, but God uses the weak and the desperate. People may be impressed by culture and class, but God blesses those who are broken in spirit. People may be eager to bow to celebrities, but God despises the haughty and the proud. People may worship at the shrine of materialism, but God is looking for the faithful and the contrite.
"My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise" (Psalm 51:17). If you want to be used mightily by God, humble yourself before Him.
Prayer: God, help me remember that all that I have and all that I am is because of You. Help me to have a humble heart. 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 world?" (1 Corinthians 1:20).
By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 12/01/18
For hundreds of years, artists have portrayed Mary the mother of Jesus as a beautiful woman. But the Bible never mentions her physical appearance. However Mary may have looked on the outside, her true beauty came from within: from her holiness, her humility, and her desire to serve God at any cost.
Likewise, we are truly beautiful when we respond in humility and awe to the fact that we are treasured and loved by the God who created the entire universe. He loves us so much that He sent His Son to die for us, and He has adopted us into His family to be co-heirs with Christ. That is the amazing news of the Gospel that defines our worth and inspires quiet confidence in us—we belong to God.
In today’s culture, people want to emulate the successful. They are intimidated by the powerful and awestruck by the famous. Yet, God despises the proud and uplifts the humble. Scripture tells us that "He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble" and "He mocks proud mockers but shows favor to the humble and oppressed" (Luke 1:52 and Proverbs 3:34). God uses the pure in heart, the unknown, the meek. God uses people like Mary for His work in the world because they know to whom all the glory and honor belong: Almighty God.
Despite what the world tells us, it is not outward appearances—our circumstances, surroundings, achievements, or material blessings—that grant us worth. Our worth is found in God. The deeper and richer our relationship with Him, the more beautiful we become, for then we become more like our Savior Jesus Christ.
Are you seeking physical beauty or spiritual beauty? Are you seeking success and self-worth based on the world’s standards or God’s standards? What worldly lies have tricked you into seeking worth outside of God?
Prayer: Father, thank You for loving me and for reminding me that my true beauty comes from within through Your Spirit, that my worth is found in You. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day" (2 Corinthians 4:16).