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Christ is the reason for the Season! 

Keep Christ in Christmas!


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).

DAILY DEVOTIONAL 12/11/18  to  12/10/18

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).

DAILY DEVOTIONAL 12/09/18 to 12/01/18

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).

Humble Beginnings

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).

Inward Beauty

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).


Glorious Present, Stupendous Future

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 11/30/18

God’s grace gives us a glorious present. Life without Christ is a dreadful condition, but when grace comes in and we repent and turn to Christ, everything changes.

"It is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:5-6). By grace we are saved and set free from sin and are seated in the heavenly places. If you are seated in the heavenly realm, you are no longer enslaved to sin.

When grace flows into a life, power accompanies that grace. This power not only delivers us from the consequences of sin, it frees us from the power of sin right now. When you came to Christ, you were set free. You are no longer a captive to sin.

Grace also leads us into stupendous futures. Our immediate future consists of the wonderful occupation of being an ambassador, a representative of the King of Glory. You have already changed position. You are no longer a slave; you are an ambassador.

In Ephesians 2:7, Paul talks about a distant future—"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." God has given us grace now, but His grace will be even more magnified when we see Him face to face.

Prayer: God, thank You for the glorious present I enjoy because of grace. Thank You for setting me free from sin. Thank You for the stupendous future that awaits me! I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"As it is written: ’What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived’—the things God has prepared for those who love him" (1 Corinthians 2:9).


Our Treasure House

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 11/29/18

Today there are countless ways to address self-image, self-esteem, self-acceptance, and self-fulfillment. While these themes are pervasive in our culture, pursuing them is a little like drinking salt water—the more we drink, the thirstier we become.

True contentment does not come from self-fulfillment, but through discovering the treasure house that Jesus Christ makes available when we surrender our lives to Him. The apostle Paul reminded us of this treasure house when he wrote, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ" (Ephesians 1:3). We must know Jesus as Lord if we are to receive the spiritual blessings He has provided in the heavenly realms. He is the only source of authentic worth, lasting contentment, deep joy, and fulfillment.

God’s treasure house—with all its contents—is made available so that we can appropriate God’s riches each day. Are you fully aware of your treasure house in Christ? It is His desire for you to embrace it and to receive it to the full.

Prayer: God, thank You for blessing me with every spiritual blessing in Christ. When I find myself seeking self-fulfillment, help me to remember that I already have a treasure house full of blessings and all I could ever need for fulfillment is found in You. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ" (Ephesians 1:3).

DAILY DEVOTIONAL 11/28/18 to 11/01/18

Remembering His Blessings

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 11/28/18

Throughout Scripture, we see the heart of God and the depth of His disappointment when His people forget about Him and His past mercies, blessings, and grace. In fact, the reason God established all the festivals and celebrations, such as Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah, Passover, and others, was to empower the Israelites to constantly remember God’s gracious hand that delivered them out of slavery in Egypt and brought them into the Promised Land. He provided a visible, tangible reminder of His work. Similarly, in the New Testament, Jesus established the Lord’s Supper and baptism to point us to His indescribable love toward us with physical reminders.

Why does God want us to remember? God’s desire for us to recall His past mercies has nothing to do with His own personal insecurities (He has none) and everything to do with empowering us to worship Him rightly. Every time you recall the depth of God’s love for you, He is inviting you to love Him back more deeply and more fully. Every time you remember His matchless love, it brings healing and wholeness, challenging you to respond with praise and surrender. Every time you recall His immense sacrifice, it brings hope and trust that He will do it again. Remembering Him is for His glory and for our good.

If you are feeling defeated and discouraged, you have forgotten something vitally important. Go back to the point where your trouble began and ask, "How did I get here?" Re-evaluate your thinking. Are you focused on your failures or God’s faithfulness? Look back and instead remember those moments of God’s faithfulness.

Our past memories are linked to our future hope. Therefore, loving Jesus with your memory is of vital importance. Many people are held back from greater growth in Christ because they act as though they are bound by their past. But Christ has broken the chains of our sins—past, present, and future. Let those chains fall and see new growth in Christ as you focus on His faithfulness rather than your failures.

Psalm 42 is a great example of how loving the Lord with your memory can fill you with hope, pull you out of the pit of discouragement, and propel you into more fervent faith. Here David presents a problem and a solution: "My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you" (Psalm 42:6). Whether you’re in the valley or on the mountaintop, let David’s cry be your prayer.

Prayer: God, thank You for the many ways You have delivered me, helped me, healed me, and provided for me. Today I choose to dwell on Your faithfulness rather than my own disappointments. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm" (Deuteronomy 5:15).

Restoring Our Fragments

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 11/27/18

Over the past few years, many people have asked whether God is really in control. Trials, tragedies, and feelings of insecurity have altered the way we live. But there is no need to fear.

Tragedy and triumph frequently work as partners. As we trust God, we can experience restoration and resurrection as God brings a dying dream to life, heals our broken bodies, and mends our shattered lives.

In a beautiful cathedral in Europe, a magnificent stained-glass window towered above the altar. One day a violent storm shattered the resplendent window into a thousand pieces. The church’s custodian hesitated to discard the multicolored fragments of glass. Instead, he put them in boxes and stored them in the church basement.

A well-known artist petitioned the trustees of the cathedral for the stained-glass fragments. They gave the boxes to him, not knowing his purpose. Two years later, the artist invited the church trustees to his studio where he unveiled his work. To their astonishment, he had re-created the stained-glass window—and the restored window looked even more beautiful than the original.

Most of us have experienced a blessing in the midst of a blasting storm. If you have been in this situation—or if you are there now—then you may not yet have experienced God’s restoration work. But you will. God specializes in restoring our fragments into something more beautiful and more meaningful. God brings forth beauty from ashes (see Isaiah 61:1-3).

Prayer: God, I trust that You will make something beautiful out of the brokenness I am experiencing. Help me to remember that You specialize in restoration. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives . . . to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair" (Isaiah 61:1, 3).

Hope for the Future

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 11/26/18

The world is filled with people who are struggling. Many feel as though they never will realize their full potential. Some believe they have no potential. Others are deeply entangled in sin. Millions of lives are bound by Satan’s lies and deception. At the root of their distress is a deep need to experience the eternal forgiveness of God.

Most of us have heard someone say something like, "I just feel empty, restless, and unhappy. I have tried to motivate myself, but it seems as though there is no hope for the future." However, there is hope because there is eternal life through Jesus Christ.

The power to overcome sin and feelings of hopelessness is ours when we turn to Christ through prayer. He meets us at the point of our greatest need. He does not come to us as a scolding parent, but as a loving heavenly Father who hears our prayers.

Sin prevents us from experiencing the fullness of God’s blessing. Unconfessed sin will leave us feeling spiritually out of balance and, many times, frightened. This is because our spiritual armor has been penetrated and we are vulnerable to attack. People who have not placed their trust in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord will feel empty and void of joy and eternal hope.

Once a person turns to Christ and seeks His forgiveness, this all changes. He or she receives eternal life and victorious hope for each new day. If you have never prayed and asked God to forgive your sins, you can do that right now.

If you have drifted in your devotion to the Lord, turn to Him, be willing to confess any sin, and recommit your life to the Savior.

Prayer: Father, I repent of my sin, and I put my full faith in the sacrifice of the perfect, sinless Lamb, Jesus Christ. I confess He is my Savior and Lord. Thank You for forgiving me and cleansing me of all unrighteousness. Strengthen me by Your power. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).

A Biblical Perspective

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 11/25/18

How you view your life will make a world of difference in how you live your life. If you live your life viewing it from a Biblical perspective, it will have deeper meaning than if you see it through a pessimistic looking glass. In Ecclesiastes 11-12, we find Solomon’s ultimate conclusion to his view on life and the lessons he learned. Today we will look at two key points from those chapters:

Life is a stewardship; invest it wisely. (See Ecclesiastes 11:1-6.) Everything in life—not only possessions, but also family, friends, relationships, everything you have—is a gift from God. He entrusted you to manage all of His bounties on His behalf. You don’t own it, but He’s giving it to you to manage it for Him. You see, the whole of life, Solomon said, is a stewardship, and so we must invest it wisely.

Life is a celebration; delight in it. (See Ecclesiastes 11:7-12:8.) For us to enjoy life and to see it as a celebration, there are three things that we must do—rejoice (11:7-9), remove (11:10-11), and remember (12:1-8).

Rejoice in each day. Anticipate every new day as a wrapped gift from the hand of God, and look forward to waking up and unwrapping that wonderful gift. Start your day with gratitude.

Remove bitterness, false beliefs, bad habits, and unwholesome relationships from your life now before they endanger your future.

Remember the constant presence of God. Wherever you go, He is with you and watching over you. Remember to obey His Word and to seek His righteousness and His Kingdom first, for that is the secret to your success. Remember to place Him first in every decision you make.

Prayer: Father, help me to see life as a stewardship to be invested wisely and a celebration to be delighted in. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"You who are young, be happy while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth" (Ecclesiastes 11:9).

Spiritually Open

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 11/24/18

Praise opens our eyes and ears to God. When we focus on the Lord in praise, we are much more likely to hear what He has to say to us. Praise opens us up spiritually to hear God’s commands. In fact, that Truth helps explain why praise is often so difficult for us: Praise demands that we make changes in our lives, and most of us do not welcome the prospect of change. It takes courage to reexamine what we believe to be true about ourselves and about God and to realize what we need to change about our lives.

Sometimes the change God commands will require us to confess and repent of a sin and to make adjustments in how we live, especially in how we think of others and relate to others. We cannot harbor anger, resentment, or hatred toward others and at the same time genuinely praise God. A negative spirit toward others and positive praise to God simply cannot coexist.

Oh, you may begin your praise out of a sense of duty. You may come to God only out of obedience and begin praising Him without having a completely thankful heart. But once you start praising God, you cannot continue for long without that negative spirit breaking. I have seen this happen over and over again in my own life. No matter how bleak or sad my circumstances, I am uplifted as I praise the Lord. As I honor God for who He is and for the glorious things He has done, my eyes are opened to God’s abundant provision and blessing.

Sometimes God’s command compels us to move to a deeper level of commitment or to move out in a closer walk of faith. Whatever He wants to tell us, it will be easier to hear Him clearly when we are praising Him.

Prayer: Father, I set my circumstances aside and embrace the Truth of who You are. I fix my eyes on You, that my heart may be fully open to Your voice and Your will. You are faithful, Lord! Have Your way in me so that worship flows not only from my lips but also from my heart. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

The earth is filled with your love, LORD; teach me your decrees" (Psalm 119:64).

A Heat of Thanksgiving

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 11/23/18

When the enemy lures us subtly away from God’s best plan for our lives, we begin to compromise in many areas, so we must be alert to his schemes. A tried-and-true trick that the enemy has used since the beginning of time is to convince us that we are getting a bad deal.

Human nature does not like to get taken by anybody or anything—and the enemy knows this. Once Satan convinces us that God is robbing us of some of life’s greatest pleasures, we plan and plot how to get what we think we deserve. It is dangerous to venture down such a path.

However, there is a way to combat such tempting thoughts. To have a heart of gratitude means that we appreciate what God has given us. In fact, each day is a gift from God to rejoice in whatever the circumstances.

Paul and Silas knew this full well. When they were tossed into prison, they sang praises and hymns to God. These grateful hearts prepared the way for God to do something incredible in that Philippian jail. Had they been murmuring and grumbling about how a loving God could let them land in such a place, they would have missed an opportunity to lead a man and his entire family to the Lord.

As we seek God more and more, we discover that for every temptation the enemy presents, there is a greater blessing God wants to give. We must remain faithful to the Lord in those trying moments, pressing ahead with the knowledge that God will not withhold His best plan for our lives as long as we are putting Him first.

Prayer: Lord, please help me realize when I have an ungrateful heart and give me a heart of thanksgiving. When I am tempted, show me how much greater Your plans are. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him" (Psalm 28:7).

Worthy of Thanksgiving

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 11/22/18

What does God think of thanksgiving? He is blessed and honored by it because a life of thanksgiving is the mark of a saint who knows God’s character, His uniqueness, and His majesty. The Lord is the giver of all good gifts, and He is worthy of thanksgiving.

Since God’s qualities are not hidden, thanksgiving is not optional.

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. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Romans 1:20-21).

When people neglect to glorify and thank God, their hearts become darkened, and their thinking, futile. But, God’s people receive wisdom as they glorify His eternal power and divine nature with praise and thanksgiving!

It is both right and for our good that we worship and adore the one, true God. So let us praise our God—Jehovah, the great I AM. He is El-Shaddai, the Almighty God. He is Jehovah-Jireh, God our Provider.

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows" (James 1:17). Everything we enjoy in the present and coming age is a gift from God worthy of thanksgiving. Let Him receive all honor and praise from your lips today.

Prayer: Jehovah God, thank You for who You are and all that You’ve done. You are good, and You alone are worthy of praise. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom" (Psalm 145:3).

The Secret to Peace

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 11/21/18

Circumstances may deceive us, but God’s Word tells us: "We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28). God is at work for our good and His glory.

Biblical thanksgiving does not focus on our circumstances, but on the character of God. Circumstances change; God does not. In Psalm 73, David was perplexed at the prosperity of the wicked while the godly faced difficulties and trials. However, he reminded himself that God alone was His provision, counsel, strength, desire, and portion. He knew from God’s Word the fate of those who are far from God, and he remembered that it was good and right for him to be near God, his refuge—offering thanksgiving for all God had done.

Those who have the salvation of God through faith in Jesus Christ know the secret to peace is found in thanksgiving. The apostle Paul, writing to the Philippians, said, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6-7).

By submitting our requests to God with a thankful heart, we receive peace that transcends all understanding. Thanksgiving is integral to a right relationship with God. It is the hallmark of a true follower of Jesus Christ because thanksgiving honors God, bringing glory to His name and blessings beyond measure.

Prayer: Father God, I thank You for Your faithfulness. I thank You that I can come to You with my burdens. Thank You for the peace You bring as I lay my burdens at Your feet. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful" (Colossians 3:15).

Praising God Through Generosity

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 11/20/18

Andrew Carnegie’s wife was so fond of classical music that at the end of every year, she insisted that Andrew pay any outstanding debts incurred by the New York Philharmonic Symphony. Finally, Andrew became weary and faced the symphony’s board of directors with this challenge: "I can’t keep doing this year in and year out. You need to go out and raise half of the money needed, and I will give the other half.”

Within a few days the board members called him with good news. "Mr. Carnegie, we have met your request. We have half of the money we need.”

Carnegie was pleased, applauded their efforts, and said he would fulfill his end of the agreement. Before he hung up the telephone, he asked, "Where did you get the other half?”

There was a pause and then the answer: "Mrs. Carnegie!”

Some people have a spirit of generosity, and that generosity is the fuel that keeps them going each day. In Luke, Jesus reminds us of a simple, yet basic Truth: "Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you" (Luke 6:38). If we are stingy and withhold our tithes meant to fuel God’s work in the world, then we can expect the same in return. When you do give, make sure that you are motivated by God and not guilt or a desire to somehow repay God for your salvation—a self-righteous, foolish, and impossible endeavor. Rather, let your motivation be to praise, worship, and honor God, for no price tag can be placed on Christ’s death on the cross. It was there God gave us His greatest gift—salvation through His Son. Therefore, ask God to teach you how to give generously, as it was given to you.

Prayer: Lord, You are my example of generosity; show me how to be a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7). May my giving honor You and bless others! I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed" (Proverbs 11:25).

Cheerful Givers

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 11/19/18

God loves it when, out of an overflow of our love for Him, we give generously. His Word is filled with examples of those who gave generously and sacrificially—like the Macedonians.

Read 2 Corinthians 8:1-9. The recipients of Paul’s letter, the Corinthians, were rich in spiritual gifts, but they were very short on sacrificial giving. So Paul used the generosity of another group of believers, the Macedonians, to inspire them to do the same.

Paul was taking up an offering for the believers suffering through a famine in Jerusalem, and even though the Macedonians were poor and enduring a severe trial themselves, they were delighted to give. They actually pleaded with Paul for the opportunity to give, and they gave "even beyond their ability" (2 Corinthians 8:3).

Paul explained that the trials of the Macedonians made them more generous, more sensitive to the needs of God’s work, and more compassionate. Their most severe trials did not produce bitterness, but overflowing joy.

The believers in Macedonia were so overwhelmed by the kindness of God that they longed to give. The Macedonians realized that their greatest joy, the gift of eternal life that God had given them, eclipsed every problem they faced.

Paul went on to share that God wasn’t just honored by their sacrificial giving; they were actually imitating His own Son, who "though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich" (2 Corinthians 8:9).

Before Jesus’ incarnation, He was in the Father’s presence in heaven, robed with splendor. Everything in the universe answered to Him. Yet He willingly, deliberately, joyfully, lovingly laid it all aside to come to earth, to live like a vagabond and to die a criminal’s death on a cross. He gave His life so that we could be partakers in the wealth of Jesus for eternity.

When we live generously, we do not merely honor God; we imitate Him.

Is a generous giver someone you long to be? Ask God to give you a heart like the Macedonians—a heart like Christ’s. Ask Him to show you the greatness of His grace, and ask Him to let the joy you experience overflow into cheerful giving.

Prayer: Lord, mold my heart so that it becomes more like Christ’s. Help me to find opportunities to be generous as You have been so generous to me. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity" (2 Corinthians 8:2).

A Heart Commitment

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 11/18/18

Giving was a major emphasis of Paul’s ministry, especially during his third missionary journey. He understood that generosity naturally leads to praise and worship of God. Unfortunately, when Paul thought of the Corinthian believers, he had to acknowledge that they had failed to keep their promises in the area of giving.

The Corinthian believers had made a commitment to God. They had promised to support the poor through their gifts and offerings. However, when it came time to follow through, they did not fulfill their promise (see 2 Corinthians 8).

Praise always requires a heart commitment. Giving requires the same action. If we fail to complete the promises we have made to God, our hearts will be saddened, and we won’t feel like praising Him.

Therefore, before you make a commitment to give, ask God to show you what He wants you to do, along with how much He wants you to give. Paul appealed to the Corinthians to fulfill their promise by reminding them of the grace that had been given to them by Jesus Christ.

God’s mercy, love, and forgiveness had been poured out on their lives, so Paul admonished them to "finish the work" (2 Corinthians 8:11)!

Like us, these believers had been given much, and it should not have been a burden for them to give back a portion of what God had given to them. Every occasion we have to give to God needs to be viewed as an opportunity to praise Him for all that He has done for us.

Prayer: Lord, how are You asking me to give in this season? I pray that I would not just have good intentions but would act on what You are asking me to do. May Your love compel me. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously" (2 Corinthians 9:6).

Giving from the Heart

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 11/17/18

Yesterday, we looked at the first two characteristics of heart giving: First, it is what matters to God, and second, it is sacrificial.

Third, heart giving accomplishes much. Think of all the people throughout history who have been liberated to give because of the account of the widow’s offering in Luke 21. Over time, Jesus has used those two small coins to save, feed, heal, and encourage many souls.

Fourth, heart giving has its own reward. God will not neglect to eternally reward those who give from their heart. First Corinthians 3:11-14 says that on the last day, all of what we’ve done for Christ will be lit with a match. If what we’ve done on earth has been sacrificial, it will be like gold and burn brighter in the fire. If no sacrifices have been made, it’ll be like hay set alight, leaving nothing but ashes.

Fifth, heart giving is a great equalizer. There is no virtue in being poor and no virtue in being rich. Ultimately, God will hold us all accountable for where we have invested our time, our resources, and ourselves. Is my giving of myself done willingly, joyfully, and sacrificially, or begrudgingly and regretfully?

In Christ, we see the perfect picture of generous living. At risk of his reputation, He spent His days ministering to sinners and tax collectors rather than making friends in high places (see Matthew 9:10-12). When the sick came to Him, He healed them (see Matthew 9:35, 14:13-14). As He was mocked, tortured, and betrayed, He forgave (see Luke 23:34). And while we were still sinners, completely undeserving of his grace and love, He died for us (see Romans 5:8).

Jesus' life demonstrated the heart of generous living. He sacrificed His life so that we could have life to the full—and now He sits at the right hand of the Father, receiving eternal worship for what He did on the cross.

God does not need or want our money; He already owns everything. What He wants is us—our wholehearted devotion and trust in Him. He wants us to love Him and to love others with the same kind of love that Jesus demonstrated during His earthly life. That is the kind of worship He desires—generous living in response to His generous love.

Prayer: Lord, I pray that my life would be a picture of generous living in response to Your generous love. Let my attitude be like that of Christ’s. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you" (Matthew 6:3-4).

Giving That Pleases God

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 11/16/18

When we think of generosity, we often think of giving money freely, randomly, exuberantly, and at no real cost to our livelihood. Many are paralyzed by this definition, using it as an excuse to hold tightly to their finances until they can "afford" to give. Yet, living generously is not solely about money. First and foremost, it is about the heart.

In Luke 21:1-4, Jesus highlights the beauty of a poor widow’s offering. The woman’s gift encapsulates what it means to live generously, for she did not give out of her abundance; she sacrificed and gave all she had to live on—two copper coins—and in her poverty, lived generously.

There are many people today who give lots of money, yet do not live generously. They are stingy with their time, their resources, and even their gratitude. However, those who live generously are preoccupied with questions like, "How does God want to use me?" and, "Where is God leading me?”

The widow in Luke 21 didn’t just give her part—she gave her "only." Her beauty of soul led her to sacrifice and give the smallest yet greatest offering that day. Through her story, we see the definition of "heart giving"—giving not just based on quantity, but on quality.

First, heart giving is what matters to God. Tax collectors do not care if you are angry or happy about paying taxes; they only care that you pay your dues. Unlike the tax collector, God is more interested in the attitude of our hearts as we give (see 2 Corinthians 9:7).

Second, heart giving is sacrificial. When giving to God, we must challenge ourselves with the question, "What have I given up in my giving? What have I gone without in my giving?" God is not impressed with all our evangelical talk if we remain unwilling to sacrifice anything for Him. He is searching for the heart that is completely committed to Him.

Giving that pleases God costs us something. It is not the sacrifice itself that pleases God, but the position of surrender and trust we demonstrate that pleases Him.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me to give sacrificially, not just out of the abundance of what I have. If there is anything I am withholding from You, help me to surrender it today. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship" (Romans 12:1).

Quiet Devotion

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 11/15/18

In Mark, Jesus makes note of the actions of a simple widow:

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and 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, worth only a few cents.

Calling his disciples to him, 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." (Mark 12:41-44).

While many people came to the temple, hoping to be seen and to make an offering that would bring awe and approval, this humble widow gave all she had to the Lord—seeking only to worship Him and to be found faithful in His eyes. She was not caught up in the trappings of her society. Nor did she wonder what others thought of her. Her only thought was to obey the Lord and to demonstrate her love for Him.

In fact, this woman probably knew that if the temple leaders saw her meager offering, they would scowl, but she knew God would bless her obedience and quiet devotion.

Is the attitude of your heart set on the Savior, or do you compare yourself to others and strive to do what appears right from a worldly perspective? God has a different grading scale. It is one of grace and infinite love. When the motivation of your heart is right, you will sense His good pleasure and blessing. All that you do will glorify Him, and He will guard your heart and mind with His mercy and grace.

Prayer: Lord, my purpose in this world is to love You with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength. You are worthy of my devotion. Continue to search my heart so that I will be only Yours. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things" (Colossians 3:1-2).

Faithful Forever

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 11/14/18

God has been dependable in the past, providing for us in every twist and turn of life. He is trustworthy—and He holds our future in the palm of His hand.

There are incredible examples of the faithfulness of God in my life and in the life of this ministry. But, I still believe with all my heart that we haven’t seen anything yet.

In the life of the Christian, the best is always yet to come. After all, eternity in the new heaven and the new earth awaits us. Just imagine—a restored world, never-ending joy, perfect fellowship with God Himself! As Revelation 21:3-4 promises, "Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. . . . 'There will be no more death' or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Our Lord is not going to bring us this far just to let us fall. He can be trusted to bring us safely to our eternal home, the place where all our hearts’ deepest longings will finally find their satisfaction.

Thus far the Lord has helped us. Say it out loud to yourself right now. Thus far the Lord has been faithful—even dying for us. Therefore, we know that He will bring us through our present trouble to everlasting joy. He will never forget His people. So, my friends, "Be strong and courageous. . . . for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you" (Deuteronomy 31:6).

Prayer: Lord, thus far You have helped me. You are faithful, and I know You will bring me through my present trouble to everlasting joy in Your presence. Thank You for making me Your child. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life" (Titus 3:5-7).

Faithful to the Church

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 11/13/18

Jesus set up another Ebenezer for us when He established communion. At the Lord’s table, we remember Christ’s sacrifice—His body broken for us, His blood poured out for the remission of our sins.

Jesus Christ wants us to always remember His amazing love displayed on the cross. So, He established communion as a perpetual reminder of His eternal victory over death, sin, and shame for all who believe.

In our corporate, sacramental celebration of Christ’s sacrifice, we publicly declare, "Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again." When we eat the bread and drink from the cup, we proclaim our faith in the saving power of Christ’s death and the hope of the resurrection. We declare the mystery hidden for ages but now revealed to His saints that Christ indwells all who confess Him as Lord and believe in His resurrection (see Colossians 1:26-27 and Romans 10:9). Communion is the Ebenezer that points us to the hope of the glory of God through the blood of Jesus Christ.

When we remember, "Thus far the Lord has helped us," we experience inward revival, restoration, and renewal. As an Ebenezer, the physical act of communion reminds us of the spiritual reality that, through His faithfulness to the point of death, Christ has secured our salvation. So, the next time you come to the Lord’s table, let the physical symbol of feasting on Christ lead you to deeper faith in and a stronger relationship with your Savior.

Prayer: Lord, help me to enjoy the wonder of Your grace and faithfulness each time I come to Your table to receive communion. Thank You for the physical reminder of a spiritual reality, that by Your death, I am made alive. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, 'This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me'" (Luke 22:19).

Faithful in the Cross

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 11/12/18

If we ever doubt the faithfulness of God, we should look to the cross. There, Christ paid it all so that we could find all we need in Him.

"Then Samuel took a suckling lamb and sacrificed it as a whole burnt offering to the LORD. He cried out to the LORD on Israel’s behalf, and the LORD answered him" (1 Samuel 7:9). When the prophet Samuel took his knife and shed the blood of a lamb on the altar of sacrifice, God gave the Israelites victory over the Philistines (vv. 10-11). This event foreshadowed our ultimate victory through Jesus Christ.

The pure, spotless Lamb of God hung on a cross and shed His blood for all who would believe. When He cried, "It is finished!" and yielded His life as a sacrifice for sin, He secured our victory over Satan, sin, and death. He ransomed us from the righteous wrath we deserve and paved the way for our resurrection.

Every time we look at the cross, we should remember: God is for me; He sent His son to die for me; I am loved. The cross is our ultimate Ebenezer.

When Israel turned back to God, He was faithful and merciful. He sent their enemies packing. In the same way, when we rest in the power of the cross, we will experience His saving grace and faithfulness that set Satan trembling. Therefore, think on the greatness of the cross! Let it be your ultimate Ebenezer, giving you hope that does not disappoint and joy forevermore.

Prayer: Father, thank You for the cross—that You did not spare even Your own Son to save me. Your love and faithfulness are astounding. You alone are worthy of all praise and adoration. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).

Faithful in Battle

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 11/11/18

We face an increasingly hostile enemy, dead-set on destroying our lives. Praise God that He is ready and willing to help us overcome!

Just as the Israelites faced the Philistines in battle thousands of years ago, we are facing our own enemies today. But for us, our enemies are not physical or visible. Instead, we face a threefold spiritual enemy: the world, the flesh, and the devil.

Today’s culture inundates us with temptations and worldly thinking that encourage us to be puffed up, to lust, to covet, and more. Our flesh relishes these sins, working to convince us that we don’t need God. And Satan conspires to use both the world and our flesh to thwart the work of God in our lives.

We must fight against our threefold enemy by remembering the faithfulness of God—filling our minds with the Truth of who God is and praying His great promises to us. At the same time, we must "take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5).

As sin, pride, and self-sufficiency seek to pull us down, we must remember that confession, repentance, and humility toward God will bring victory every time. We cannot win this spiritual battle on our own—but "thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 15:57). If we press into God amidst the fight, He will ready our hearts, and a heart that is totally dedicated to Jesus Christ will always win the battle.

Prayer: Jesus, I praise You! You are my Savior. Through You, I can overcome. Give me strength by Your Spirit to persevere and to set my heart on You that I may have victory over my threefold enemy. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (Ephesians 6:12).

Faithful in Our Wandering

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 11/10/18

As human beings, we are prone to forgetfulness—taking credit for the victory that God alone has won for us. But He is faithful to remind us anew of His work in our lives.

Here I raise my Ebenezer, hither by Thy help I’ve come." How many of us have sung this line from the hymn Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing without knowing what an Ebenezer was, let alone how you could raise one?

In the Hebrew language, Ebenezer is a beautiful word made up of two individual words eben and hezer. Eben means "stone" and hezer means "help." Put them together, and Ebenezer means "stone of help." In 1 Samuel 7:12, this was an actual stone set up by Israel, but for us today an Ebenezer can be anything that serves to remind us of God’s faithfulness.

Later in the same hymn, we go on to sing: "Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love." The reason we each need to raise our Ebenezer is because we—just like Israel—are susceptible to spiritual amnesia. We easily forget the source of our past victories, taking credit for what only God could have done. And that is why we need to do everything we can to help ourselves remember. We must raise our Ebenezer, or we will wander.

What is your Ebenezer? Even as you read this, God may be gently reminding you of His work in your life, forgotten long ago. Today is the day to remember His faithfulness to you.

Prayer: Father, forgive me for forgetting Your faithfulness to me. Help me raise my Ebenezer so that I remember Your love and care for me and that You are my fortress and my great reward. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands" (Psalm 119:10).

Faithful in Your Story

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 11/09/18

Your personal testimony is the story of God’s faithfulness to you. This is your Ebenezer—and you must keep it ever before you.

As I look back on three decades of ministry, I see the Lord’s hand in so many ways. It would take me hours to tell you each testimony of His faithfulness. Therefore, I say with a grateful heart, "Thus far the Lord has helped us.”

If we each took the time to tell our stories, tracing God’s hand in our lives and in the lives of our families, churches, and marriages, we would all invariably say, "Thus far the Lord has helped us." One after another, we could each testify to God’s faithfulness. We could tell of finding purpose when we were rudderless, having relationships restored, experiencing healing amidst our brokenness, and receiving second chances.

My friend, your personal testimony of God’s faithfulness to you is your Ebenezer stone. Like the Israelites, God has called you to keep it ever before you and hold it high for the world to see. In every present crisis you may be facing, it is the Lord, and the Lord alone, who can help you overcome. He has done it before, and He will do it again.

How has God been faithful in your life? Take a moment now to remember all the ways He has personally helped you. Then, praise Him, allowing your soul to cry, "Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.”

Prayer: Lord, there is no question You have been faithful to me—most of all in leading me to Your Truth and saving me through Jesus Christ. Thank You. Help me to set up my own Ebenezer to remember what You have done and to declare to the world: You are love. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds" (Psalm 9:1).

Faithful in History

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 11/08/18

The Lord has always led His forgetful people to repentance and victory. We are called today to remember His faithfulness.

Throughout the Old Testament, we see the people of Israel repeatedly wander from God. Though they are God’s chosen people, they forget all He has done for them. As a result, their affections turn to their idol of choice.

In 1 Samuel 4, the people of Israel are once again far from God—worshipping idols and suffering defeat by the Philistines. But God, in His faithfulness, raises up a godly leader to call them to return to their first love.

Samuel leads the people in corporate repentance, and the Lord delivers them from the hands of their enemies and makes them victorious (see 1 Samuel 7:2-12). Because of all God had done to save them, Samuel sets up an Ebenezer—a visible landmark that would forever remind Israel of the intervening power of God.

This stone was meant to remind all who looked upon it, "Thus far the Lord has helped us" (v. 12)—just as Israel’s story, written and preserved in Scripture, teaches and encourages us today (see Romans 15:4). Like the Israelites, we too must remember: Thus far the Lord has helped us. Thus far He has been faithful. Therefore, we must look to Him—not to our idol of choice—in our present trouble.

Prayer: Father, thank You for Your steadfast love and faithfulness. Help me to remember and rejoice in the ways You have worked in my life for my good. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, 'Thus far the LORD has helped us'" (1 Samuel 7:12).

The Ultimate City

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 11/07/18

For now, our minds are earthbound. We do not have the ability to imagine fully what heaven will be like. If we could, it would drastically change the way we live each day.

In heaven, we will not be concerned about the gold beneath our feet because our hearts and minds will be completely set on the one who has perfectly provided for our every need. We will be devoted solely to Him and His desires and not our own selfish ambitions.

Whether we know it or not, God is in the process of preparing us to live with Him for eternity. He is getting us ready for the day when we will inhabit His city. The trials and disappointments we face here are being used by Him to shape our character so that we reflect more of Him and less of ourselves.

The joys and the victories we experience on earth also teach us more about God’s faithfulness. When we celebrate His goodness, we are doing what we will do on an even grander scale in heaven.

You may love your city home. Perhaps you live on the socially positioned "right" side of town. Or you may despise where you live, feeling as though the poverty of your area confines and prevents you from reaching your goals and dreams.

God has a word for both situations: "Get ready—I am coming again. I have prepared a place—a city—where you will be with Me for eternity."

You can get ready for His return by letting go of the things that bind your heart with a sense of pride or ideas that prevent you from seeing His future provision.

Prayer: Lord, right now I cannot imagine what it will be like to see You face to face. But I know it will be the greatest blessing—beyond anything this world has seen. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen

"Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you" (Psalm 73:25).

Our Eternal Destination

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 11/06/18

Someday, we who belong to Christ will experience firsthand the splendor and magnificence of heaven. Although we know that our earthly lives are temporal, it is easy to forget what is most important—our eternal destination.

In heaven, we will finally be free from Satan’s assaults of temptation, deception, and division. There will be no separation or dissatisfaction. All our restlessness and discontentment will be over.

If this were not reason enough to praise God, there is more! We will be made complete in God’s presence. There will be no tears or anguish in heaven. There will be no more death because we will be home forever. There will be no sorrow or remorse.

How often do we find ourselves regretful because we have said unkind words, harbored selfish motives, or had wrong attitudes? In heaven, there are no painful memories—no nightmares, flashbacks, emotional baggage, or broken hearts. Anger and pain will not exist.

As believers, we have a daily challenge to live this life to the fullest as we share the good news of the Gospel, obey the call of God on our lives, and grow in our walk with the Lord. Everything we do impacts eternity.

The apostle Paul told Timothy:

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).

As you go about your day, ask God to help you look beyond the trials of this life. No matter what pain you are experiencing, it will not exist in heaven. Remember, God is your hope and your strength!

Prayer: Lord, help me to see past this moment and into eternity. May I never lose sight of Your eternal purposes and promises. By Your grace, I fix my eyes on You today. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"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).

Set Down Your Bundle

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 11/05/18

If you are like most people, you do not board an airplane or train without knowing where it is headed. When you get in your car, you have a good idea of where you are going. Are you as aware of your eternal destination? Jesus Christ is the way, the Truth, and the life (see John 14:6). There is no other way to heaven.

Are you traveling and striving without a clear destination? Are you lost as you walk through life? Perhaps you are seeking God, but in all the wrong places. As you read this anonymous poem, ask yourself, "Am I burdened with a bundle like this man?"

He carried a bundle of false beliefs,

Musty and heavy as lawyer’s briefs;

Prejudice, jealousy, bitterness, strife—

These were the wares of his troubled life.

He carried the bundle wherever he went—

Anger, suspicion, and selfish intent;

He saw what he sought, injustice and sin.

Life was a tempest without and within.

He mumbled and stumbled;

The world was all wrong,

His bundle grew heavy as he shuffled along.

Worry, impatience, discord, and doubt—

These were the things,

He dragged all about.

Tired of his bundle, he set the load down,

He prayed long to God; his face lost its frown.

In his eyes dawned a light by which he could see.

He forsook his old bundle and walked away free.

The harder you try in your own strength to find peace, the further you will find yourself from God. He doesn’t move away; you do. He is waiting for you. Come to Jesus today. He will lead you to Truth and to eternal life with Him.

Prayer: Jesus, I come to You, and I set my bundle down. Thank You for Your finished work on the cross and the forgiveness of my sins. I repent and turn to You for eternal life today. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths" (Psalm 25:4).

Seeking Refuge

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 11/04/18

Cain was given a chance to repent, but he chose instead to reject God’s mercy. He tried to run from God and he built his own city—and each generation of his descendants living in that city achieved a new level of wickedness. The city was filled with lonely, hard, arrogant, self-seeking people. This is because choosing a self-directed life instead of obedience to God always leads to loneliness and isolation.

In a large city you find masses of people, of course. Yet a significant number of them, perhaps the majority, feel a deep sense of loneliness. Uncomfortable being alone, people tend to gather in groups, harboring the illusion that they are connected to others. But most of them share no more connection than a passing acquaintance. They concentrate on their own concerns, hardly thinking of others and failing at intimacy.

Even husbands and wives can feel like strangers. We are often too afraid to look in our own hearts, let alone share our thoughts and feelings with another person. Being intimate requires us to open up to one another and be vulnerable, and that’s a risk many of us are not willing to take.

This is not the way God meant us to live. He designed us to need each other. In the garden, Adam and Eve fellowshipped with God—enjoying each other’s company and their environment together.

Cain did just the opposite, deliberately putting distance between himself and God. If we follow Cain’s example, seeking refuge apart from the presence of God, we will never find peace. The peace we yearn for can be found only in the garden of God’s grace.

Prayer: There is no place of refuge apart from You, Lord; please satisfy my restless heart in You. There is no other person, relationship, or situation that will bring lasting peace into my life. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight" (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Cain’s Discontentment

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 11/03/18

We often try to find contentment by making surface changes in our lives—switching jobs, moving to a new city, beginning a new relationship—but nothing seems to work. We fail because we try to apply human solutions to a spiritual problem.

In the Bible, we see an example of discontentment in the life of Cain. Cain’s restlessness began with jealousy toward his brother Abel.

In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. But Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. (Genesis 4:3-5).

Abel remembered his parents’ teaching about the cost of sin. He remembered that God required an animal sacrifice. Cain wanted to please God in his own way and gave God a grain sacrifice. Perhaps Cain’s sacrifice was just as costly as Abel’s, but the price was not what was important. What mattered was obedience to God’s commands, and Cain did not follow God’s requirements.

When God rebuked Cain for his inadequate sacrifice, Cain responded with a renewed fury and hatred toward his brother. Cain could have used his failure to turn his pride and willfulness into submission to God; instead, he further rebelled and killed his brother. God let Cain remain in his discontentment and said, "You will be a restless wanderer on the earth" (Genesis 4:12).

Prayer: God, help me to remember that contentment is found in You alone. Help me to submit to You and find joy and peace eternal. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"Then the LORD said to Cain, 'Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it'" (Genesis 4:6-7).

Deception Enters the Garden

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 11/02/118

Just as pollution despoils the environment today, sin devastated the Garden of Eden. Through man’s disobedience, sin gained a foothold in God’s garden and turned it into a spiritual garbage dump.

While Adam and Eve had always enjoyed complete protection in the garden, they fell for the serpent’s deception and exposed themselves to danger. In the middle of the garden, God had placed a special tree called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and He had instructed Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit of this tree (see Genesis 2:16-17).

Temptation always brings a choice. It is an opportunity either to come under God’s authority and have victory or to go our own way and suffer defeat. Alone we are helpless victims, but with the Lord we are conquerors.

When Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, their disobedience infected all of humanity with the virus of sin. But Jesus’ perfect obedience led Him to the cross, making it possible for His followers to receive forgiveness of sin.

In the Garden of Eden, the first man rebelled against God. But in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus, the perfect God-man, obeyed the Father fully. Satan got the upper hand in the first garden. But in the second garden, Jesus submitted to His Father’s will, guaranteeing Satan’s defeat and giving us victory over sin.

If you are not walking in the power of the one who defeated sin, then sin is defeating you. But just as one tree of temptation held sway over Adam, through the tree of Calvary, Jesus defeated death and gave all who call on His name the hope of heaven.

Prayer: Father God, help me recognize and resist the enemy’s schemes. Give me strength to emerge victorious from times of temptation. Teach me to resist the devil so that he may flee from me (James 4:7). I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"The Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment" (2 Peter 2:9).

Lessons from the Garden

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 11/01/18

When God created humanity, there was perfect contentment. Adam and Eve lived in paradise, a place of complete peace and protection. When we consider the nature of the Garden of Eden, we gain three insights into the contentment that God desires for His people.

Exquisite beauty. As God created every part of the universe, He pronounced it "good." But He unleashed the full extent of His creative power when He designed a garden home for Adam and Eve. For their enjoyment, He poured out beauty beyond comprehension.

Abundant provision. The beauty of the Garden of Eden was also functional. The trees were pleasing to the eye but also good for food. As part of God’s plan of provision, He assigned Adam the job of maintaining the garden.

Before the Fall, Adam and Eve didn’t just lounge around all day. "The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it" (Genesis 2:15). They had important work to do, but they were working inside the garden, in God’s presence, and that made all the difference. They found fulfillment in the satisfying work that God gave them.

Complete protection. The garden’s ability to protect its occupants demonstrates a third element of contentment. God sheltered Adam and Eve, guarding them from all danger. Within the garden’s walls, Adam and Eve lived in an atmosphere of sweet harmony with each other and with God.

This same God longs to provide for you, protect you, and fellowship with you today. When you take time to talk with God, He will talk with you. You can know God’s heart by reading His Word. And when you fellowship with Him, you have His divine protection.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for Your everlasting love and protection. I know that You want me to rest in You, to develop an ever-deepening relationship with You. Show me how I can draw closer to You through Your Word. I long for Your fellowship, and I ask for Your protection. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings" (Psalm 17:8).

DAILY DEVOTIONAL 10/31/18 to 10/01/18

His Might for the Mission

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 10/31/18

Many Christians desire to see a great harvest of souls, but the idea of doing the hard work of evangelism can seem daunting. So many sin barriers, cultural barriers, and faith barriers stand in the way, and we can be at a loss for how to act. But in Acts 10, we are reminded that God is the one who breaks through these barriers to spread the Gospel to every corner of the world. And what He did then, recorded in Acts, He can do today. In fact, He’s doing it right now.

Cornelius was a Roman centurion; he 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 saying, "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" (Acts 10:4-5). God was preparing Cornelius’ heart for a life-changing message, and Cornelius obeyed.

While God was moving in Cornelius’ life, He was also 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 and his community. God effectively transformed Peter’s thinking through a vision.

In this vision, God showed Peter food that Jews had always considered as unclean in order to make an analogy to the Gentiles, people who were considered even more unclean. No Jew would ever have invited a Gentile into his house nor entered a Gentile home. Yet, in Acts 10:15, the voice in the vision said to Peter, "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean." So, at the direction of the Holy Spirit, Peter soon found himself traveling to Cornelius’ home—a Gentile’s home.

And as Peter shared the Gospel message with those Cornelius had gathered at his house, Acts tells us "the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message" (Acts 10:44), and many were saved and baptized.

When we consider the harvest, we often think, "If only I had the key to unlock people’s spiritual blindness. If only I had the right words or knowledge or experience, I could bring them to Christ." But Acts teaches us that God is the one who converts people to Christ. All that is required of us is faithfulness to the mission—willingness to serve, speak, be available, and obey. God provides the might for the mission. God will do the rest.

Prayer: Father, thank You for reminding me that You are the one who saves. Please help me to trust in You as I share Your love and Truth with others. 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).

Interceding for the Lost

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 10/30/18

We all have a role in spreading the Gospel message until the day of His return. Yet many of us routinely neglect the Kingdom of God as we become so involved in our earthly concerns and priorities. But as we make the Great Commission our top priority, we will discover that our concerns and excuses are taken care of (see 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.

It is our calling to reach others for Christ. When it comes to sharing Christ with others, we cannot underestimate the power of coming to God in prayer—asking Him to lead us and to prepare the hearts of those to whom we are ministering. We must ask, "God, what is Your will so that I can pray Your will and align my will with Yours?" That’s the right way to pray. We will only see the fruit of answering His call when our will is aligned with His.

When Moses aligned his will with God’s will, God brought water out of the rock. When Joshua aligned his will with the will of God, the sun stood still in its orbit. When David aligned his will with the will of God, Goliath fell. When Elijah aligned his will with the will of God, fire came from heaven on Mount Carmel and licked up everything, including the water. And when Daniel aligned his will with the will of God, mouths of lions were zipped.

That’s what happens when we align our will with the will of God—in our prayers and in our daily lives. The one who loves us wants us to tell others about Him, to intercede for others, and to live in such a way that people are drawn to His goodness and love.

Acts 1:11 says, "This same Jesus, . . . will come back." What a motivation! The one who loves us is coming back. Perhaps He will look you in the face and ask, "How did you use the opportunities I gave you to witness for Me? Did you keep quiet with your coworkers, neighbors, and friends, or did you tell them about My salvation for you—for all people?”

While we wait for the Lord, we are to work diligently and wholeheartedly for the Great Commission, the mission of God, and our very purpose. God will bring the harvest as we are faithful.

Prayer: Lord, thank You for the honor of being Your ambassador. Help me to pray fervently for those who are lost and to be attentive to opportunities to share the Gospel. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have" (1 Peter 3:15).

Let All Men Know

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 10/29/18

In the eleventh century King Canute had an empire stretching from England to Norway. Though born a pagan, he later became a devout Christian. He built many churches in England and Denmark, and he sent missionaries to evangelize the Scandinavian lands.

Because of the king’s success in battle, his people practically worshipped him. Their praise made him uncomfortable, and he wanted to demonstrate once and for all who the true King is. So one day he ordered his servants to take his throne to the seashore. His servants followed his orders and set his throne on the beach. Then Canute sat on the throne and waited for the tide to come in.

All around King Canute, his attendants and courtiers watched and waited and wondered whether the king had lost his mind. The tide rose, and the waves lapped at the king’s feet. Canute raised his hands and commanded the waters to depart. Still the tide rose, and the waters came up to the king’s waist, then his chest, and finally his neck. At this point, the king’s attendants, fearing he would drown, waded in and pulled the king and his throne back to the shore.

Then King Canute scanned the faces of those who had rescued him. "Let all men know," he said, "how empty and worthless is the power of kings. For there is none worthy of the name, but He whom heaven, earth, and sea obey.”

Returning to his castle, Canute went to the crucifix on the wall and hung his own crown on the brow of the crucified Christ. The crown remained there until the king’s death—a reminder of the glory that belongs to Christ alone.

This man from the Middle Ages understood true majesty, and he wouldn’t allow anyone to miss out on this Truth. Do you think his subjects ever forgot this astonishing example of humility and surrender to Christ? How might you point the people in your life to the King of kings?

Prayer: Lord, You alone are worthy of all honor and praise. I pray that, as I submit my will to Yours, those around me would see Your glory and join me in worship of the only true King. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:9-10).

Bring Them to Jesus

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 10/28/18

You may have made sacrifices in your life to help others have life’s necessities, an education, or better opportunities. They are all worthy sacrifices, but the ultimate sacrifice is made when one steps out in faith to bring another to Jesus.

In Mark 2:1-12, we see four friends who did not allow seemingly insurmountable obstacles to prevent them from bringing their friend to Jesus. They watched as their quadriplegic friend lay immobile, destined to a life of physical infirmity. The men developed an irrepressible commitment to bring him to Jesus for healing.

The day they did, the crowds were alarmingly large and aggressive. No one would give up his place near Jesus. This did not dissuade these men. They did not stop in the face of impossible circumstances. They climbed onto the roof of the building where Jesus spoke, dug a hole, and lowered their friend down to Jesus.

What struck Jesus first was not the man’s paralysis but rather his friends’ faith. They could not heal the man physically or convert him spiritually, but they had an undaunted faith that Jesus could. The men believed that if they could just bring him into the presence of Jesus that He would do the rest—and Jesus honored that faith.

Jesus’ first move was not to heal the man’s paralysis. Instead, He addressed the man’s spiritual condition. Jesus saved him from eternal death and gave him eternal life. His friends could not have given him a greater gift.

Like these men, when God brings people into our lives and places their unsaved condition on our hearts, we can trust Him to honor our faith. Our only task is to bring them to Him. They may have no faith at all, but God will honor our faith.

Prayer: God, give me an undaunted faith that my unbelieving friends will come to know You. Help me to do my part to bring them to You. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, 'Son, your sins are forgiven'" (Mark 2:5).

God’s Ambassador

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 10/27/18

In most cases, our citizenship to the country in which we live is bestowed upon us for simply being born into that country. Receiving citizenship into God’s Kingdom requires us to surrender our "citizenship" to this world and devote our lives to following Christ. Becoming a citizen of God’s Kingdom results in some incredible benefits.

However, we must remember that wherever we go in the world, we are ambassadors for Christ. Just as your behavior in a foreign country gives others an idea of what people from your country are like, so our behavior as believers tells the world what it means to be a Christian.

Citizens from God’s Kingdom carry with them the answers to some of life’s most difficult questions. The dying world in which we live is desperately seeking to do something with its existence.

As believers, we are infiltrating enemy territory, armed with the Truth of God’s Word, which will defeat the enemy’s tired, empty propaganda. Those people who are desperate for answers cannot afford for believers to live passively in their faith.

We must be wise in our approach, yet gentle in our speech. Threats of eternal condemnation will not change many lives, but the Truth about how God’s love washes away our sin will transform the hardest of hearts when the Holy Spirit is at work.

To live in a world that is far from our home certainly presents a number of challenges. But our citizenship in God’s Kingdom empowers us to live in such a manner that God will use us to radically change the world around us.

Prayer: Lord, use me to make an impact in the world around me as I passionately seek You. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us" (1 Peter 2:12).

A Powerful Perspective

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 10/26/18

In the 1800s, there was an ordinary Christian man teaching a small Sunday school class of boys in Chicago. After a conversation with one of those teenagers, the young man prayed and received Christ.

That young man was D. L. Moody. On one of Moody’s trips to England, he spoke at the stately church pastored by F. B. Meyer. They became great friends, and Moody invited F. B. Meyer to come to the United States to speak to a large group of young men. In that service, J. Wilbur Chapman made a commitment to Christ, and he became a great evangelist, leading tens of thousands of people to Christ. One of them became his traveling companion.

His name was Billy Sunday. Billy Sunday preached in many places, and, after preaching in Charlotte, North Carolina, a group of farmers began to cry out to the Lord, "Do something great for Charlotte." Then they said, "No, no, no. Let’s pray, 'God, do something great for the world, beginning in Charlotte.'" And they invited an evangelist by the name of Mordecai Hamm to preach in Charlotte.

During one of the services, some teenagers came forward. Among those boys were Billy Graham, Grady Wilson, and T. W. Wilson. The Wilson brothers became administrators of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

We will never understand the power of a godly perspective on this side of heaven. Only in heaven will we understand what God is doing through our ministry, regardless of what it is.

An obedient Sunday school teacher, named Edward Kimball, impacted countless generations for Christ by embracing a godly perspective.

No matter what your ministry or gift may be, you can be used mightily by God today. Look at the world with a godly perspective and watch how God impacts the world through you.

Prayer: Father, thank You for those who have embraced a godly perspective and made an eternal impact on my life. Help me to do the same. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward" (Mark 9:41).

Reflecting the Light

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 10/25/18

In Matthew 5:14, Jesus tells His disciples, "You are the light of the world." As "light" we are to illuminate or make visible. Our lives are to be an ongoing witness to the reality of Christ’s presence in our lives. When we worship God with pure hearts, when we love others as ourselves, and when we do good without growing weary, we are lights shining.

It is important, however to know that it is not our light, but the reflection of the light of the world, Jesus Christ Himself, that people will see in us.

In Philippians 2:15, the apostle Paul admonishes believers to shine as stars in the sky. The Greek word used here is very similar to the word for the beacon that a lighthouse emits. That beacon warns of danger. It directs to safe harbor. It provides hope for those who are lost.

Every day we are surrounded by people groping around in the darkness, separated from the God who loves them. God uses us, like beacons from a lighthouse, to show the way to Him.

Prayer: Father, help me to be a reflection of You in this dark world. Use me to direct the lost to You. Help me to be a bright light wherever I go. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:16).

When You’d Rather Be Comfortable

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 10/24/18

"I looked up at the driver and felt the need to share Christ with him," says Jordan, a Leading The Way partner. While traveling for business, Jordan sensed God was giving him an opportunity to strike up a conversation with his taxi driver, a Muslim from Syria. It would have been much easier, and much more comfortable, for Jordan to disregard these promptings. But God was up to something.

"I asked him what he thought of Christ," Jordan says, "and then it happened. A total traffic jam. The city had been crushed with rain and there were flash floods everywhere." Only 10 minutes away from his destination, Jordan would remain stuck in traffic for another hour, in which time he and his taxi driver would engage in a powerful conversation about the Gospel.

It’s easy to get caught up in the busyness of everyday life and miss the opportunities God is giving us to be His messengers. But, if we ask Him and purpose to see the world with an eternal perspective, God will bring people and situations to our awareness, opening doors for the ministry of the Gospel and for obedience to His plan.

Throughout the Bible, we encounter faithful individuals who recognized and seized the divine appointments God was placing before them. In Acts 8, we read an account of God leading His disciple Philip on a journey to share the Gospel with an Ethiopian man.

Philip didn’t seem to have plans to take the desert road from Jerusalem to Gaza that day. The journey was probably inconvenient. But step by step, the Lord guided Philip. When he finally came across the Ethiopian on the path, the man was puzzling over a passage of Scripture that spoke of the Messiah. "How can I [understand it], unless someone explains it to me?" the Ethiopian asked (Acts 8:31). Prepared for this moment, Philip shared the Good News of Jesus.

Today, Jesus presents open doors of opportunity for His faithful saints to walk through. No matter how tired, weak, or overwhelmed we may be, we must walk through them. Just like Jordan’s taxi driver, and just like the Ethiopian man, God has strategically placed people in your path who are hungry to know the Truth. He has already prepared the way. Will you be a willing Jordan or a faithful Philip? Will you follow God’s leading, whatever the cost to your time and comfort?

Prayer: Lord, help me to be alert to the promptings of Your Spirit to share the Gospel—the hope that every soul needs. May I step out of my comfort zone and trust in Your faithfulness to draw people to You as I humble myself and obey Your leading. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?" (Romans 10:14).

Open Doors

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 10/23/18

We are, by nature, creatures of habit, easily lulled into complacency. However, God wants more from us, so He nudges us forward, compelling us to change and to see the world through His eyes.

As He does this, He reveals new opportunities to grow in Jesus Christ and share Him with others. He brings people and situations to our awareness, opening doors for the ministry of the Gospel. As we walk through these doors, we serve as ministers of God’s reconciliation, obeying His commission and participating in His redemptive plan.

In the first three chapters of Revelation, Jesus, speaking through the apostle John, exhorts and rebukes the seven churches in Asia. Of these, the church in Philadelphia receives a commendation: "I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name" (Revelation 3:8).

Jesus knew that this church was weakened by continual attacks from unbelieving and hostile Jews. Even so, they were faithful to God. Jesus could have said, "Take a breather. Strengthen yourselves for the fight." Instead, He pointed them to an open door of opportunity that only He could open and shut. He challenged them to stand firm and to seize opportunities provided by the open door.

Today, Jesus presents open doors of opportunity for His faithful saints to walk through. No matter how tired, weak, or overwhelmed we may be, we must walk through them. Jesus could have said that the sufferings of the Philadelphian church were enough. Instead, He indicated that His grace was sufficient to meet the opportunity He had given to them.

Each of us has been given an open door. How faithful are we to do the work that God has entrusted to us?

Prayer: God, I pray that You would give me the grace and strength to walk through the open doors You place in my life, no matter how challenging that may be. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut" (Revelation 3:8).

How to Be a Fruitful Witness

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 10/22/18

A 2017 study conducted by American Culture and Faith Institute revealed that only 39 percent of born again Christians believe they have a personal responsibility to share their faith. This isn’t surprising when we consider that only 3 out of 10 born again adults have a Biblical worldview. No wonder Christians aren’t witnessing to the lost in their midst!

It’s all the more paramount that born again believers with a Biblical understanding not give up sharing Christ. Many Christians believe they must take a stand for Christ in their own strength—and so they become discouraged. Others are crippled by their fear of rejection. As followers of Christ, we must overcome these hindrances, trusting that Christ within us will give us the words to say. What’s the key to being a fruitful witness? Obedience. When we obey God’s leading, our work will bear fruit—even if we don’t see it—because we are doing His work.

In Haggai 1:1-14, because of opposition and discouragement, the Israelites had halted their mission to rebuild God’s temple for 16 years. Through the prophet Haggai, God revealed something that was holding them back: "These people say, ' The time has not yet come to rebuild the LORD’s house'" (Haggai 1:2).

How many of us have used the same age-old excuse? "It’s not the right time." God’s convicting response in Haggai 1:4 would probably sound like this to us today: "You have time for entertainment, and you have time for your career. But do you have time for My service?"

In Haggai 1:12-14, after God revealed the state of their hearts, the Israelites did not want to remain apathetic any longer. By God’s mercy and grace, they returned to the Lord. God can always redirect us when we have forgotten our purpose.

Prayer: Lord, forgive me for forgetting the urgency and beauty of the call to share Your Gospel. Redirect my heart to be centered on You and to do the work You have called me to do. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel" (Ephesians 6:19).

Our Calling

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 10/21/18

Since the very beginning of history, God has chosen to commission His people to testify to His name. Today, He is still calling His children to share His Gospel with the world.

After His resurrection, Jesus said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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 28:18-20).

The Great Commission is not only for preachers, evangelists, and missionaries. The Great Commission is for every believer and follower of Jesus Christ. We do not need seminary degrees or a library full of commentaries to tell others about Christ. Once we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we receive all the qualification we need. His Holy Spirit will guide our words and actions. He will equip us to speak with whomever He leads us to, no matter how intimidated or nervous we may feel. He will prepare the way for us; we only need to follow obediently.

Prayer: Father, thank You for giving me all the qualification I need to share Your Gospel with the world. In those moments when I feel nervous about speaking out, help me to remember that You will give me the words to say. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"The Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say" (Luke 12:12).

Fight the Good Fight

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 10/20/18

With the stroke of a pen, Emperor Constantine issued the edict of Milan in 313 A.D., and Christianity became fashionable instead of an offense deserving persecution. Suddenly, church membership rolls grew as thousands joined churches after professing faith in Christ. However, many were not sincere. Only God, the searcher of hearts, knows how many remained pagan at heart. However, their harmful influence in the church soon became apparent.

A life lived for Jesus Christ is not usually outlined with popularity or ease. But churches in the West today are steeped in comfort, espousing self-help rather than sacrifice, and they are growing in number.

Perhaps, like Asaph in Psalm 73, you are frustrated by the prosperity of those who do not seek the Lord nor honor His Word. Maybe you feel as though you are the only one suffering and sacrificing for the cause of Christ. Be patient. Don’t give up. God will reward your faithfulness and honor your perseverance. Just as Paul proclaimed:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

Trust God for your deliverance. Trust Him to keep you safe in the palm of His hand. Take a moment to consider these words written by a martyr: "I won’t give up, shut up, let up till I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up for the cause of Jesus Christ.

Prayer: Lord, I trust You for justice. I know I am not deserving of Your love—my only boast is You. Protect me from envy. Give me compassion for the lost. You are my very great reward. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain" (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Achieve God’s Goal

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 10/19/18

Have you ever wondered how Moses handled discouragement? Or how Paul maintained a positive attitude when he faced the criticism and threats of others?

Surely Paul fought with discouragement when he faced the threat of death. However, he kept his focus set on Christ, his source of infinite strength and eternal hope. We can do the same.

Life may have many challenges—especially when you are doing what God has given you to do. But you don’t have to be overwhelmed by disappointment. We should long to be heroes of the faith—people who seek to win the race set before us and to achieve the goal that God has given.

When trouble comes, don’t give up. Don’t lose heart, and don’t listen to harassment. God has a plan for your life. When you feel like quitting, think about Paul’s life and all he did for the Lord. He was not called to be famous or to have a vast sum of money. He was called by God to preach His Word to the lost. Paul did exactly what he was called to do. He obeyed God and surrendered his life to Christ. He went from being a man of position in the Jewish faith to an outcast and traitor. What may have appeared to be failure from a human standpoint was actually the mark of true victory.

God does not ask you to cross a finish line with the goal of reaching worldly success. He does not hand out trophies that look good in a case or sitting on a shelf. Our reward is eternal and kept in heaven for us—the crown of life promised to those who love the Lord, who delight in Him and follow and obey Him because of that delight (see James 1:12; 1 Peter 1:4; John 14:15, 21, 23). Forsaking all else because Christ alone is worthy, will you follow Jesus and proclaim His love and forgiveness to a dying world?

Prayer: Father, help me look to You—my utmost treasure—when I am facing discouragement and disappointment. You are my very great reward, and I know I have nothing to fear because You have overcome the world. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him" (James 1:12).

God’s Success Formula

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 10/18/18

Our society tells us that the key to success is to acquire as much as we can—money, possessions, assets, friends, promotions. But this is the opposite of God’s formula for success: giving our all.

When we fully comprehend the price of our salvation, we want to give back to God out of gratitude and thanksgiving. When we fully realize the mercies of God, we want to worship Him with our every breath. God’s love and sacrifice for us should motivate us to love and to sacrifice ourselves in return. "For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again" (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).

In the book of Romans, Paul urges us to offer ourselves as living sacrifices. When we dedicate our whole beings to God, we give Him all we have—our hearts, our minds, our time, our resources, and our personal comforts—even when it costs us everything.

Prayer: God, You have done so much for me. I want to give You all of me as a living sacrifice. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship" (Romans 12:1).

Messengers of Reconciliation

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 10/17/18

Paul dedicated himself to telling people about the cure for the plague of sin. He never allowed their relentless attacks, false accusations, or assaults on his integrity to stop him. He maintained his focus on positive living by remembering the costly price Jesus paid for the cure, as well as his own calling as God’s ambassador.

"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).

No matter how difficult our circumstances, how severe our pain, or how unbearable our life seems, we can find release from these burdens. How? By remembering that we are ambassadors of the Lord of glory and by sharing His message of reconciliation with others.

When we focus on others, sharing the Good News of God’s deliverance with people tormented by fear and anxiety, our own burdens will lighten. Nothing is more uplifting. "All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation" (2 Corinthians 5:18-19).

As long as we live on this earth, we have a purpose: to be God’s messenger and to serve on His behalf. When we begin to understand this role, then nothing can keep us down for very long.

Prayer: God, thank You for giving me the purpose of being Your messenger. I pray that You would give me a desire to see those around me reconciled to You. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!" (Romans 5:10).

God’s Grace Is Sufficient

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 10/16/18

How often do we feel like we have run out of steam? We feel like we cannot make it over the next hill as its shadow looms large over us weary travelers. Even as we trudge in the direction of the hill—which we know we must climb—we begin to wonder if the weight of the burden we are bearing is too much.

Will we make it?

If there are two things God makes clear in His Word, they are the facts that we cannot make it on our own and that He will help us if we call out to Him. Countless times in Scripture, we read of men and women who felt as though they had reached the end. They could not go on unless God gave them hope, strength, and courage. And when they called upon the Lord, He heard and answered their prayers.

While God does not promise us a life free from pain and suffering, He does promise to be our strength in our moments of greatest weakness (see 2 Corinthians 12:9). The apostle Paul suffered many afflictions while spreading the Gospel around the world. He was tortured, jailed, shipwrecked, and diseased. Yet he persevered—not because he was determined to get the Gospel out, but because God gave Paul the grace to do so.

Paul writes, "Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me" (2 Corinthians 12:9). As we face hardships in life, we must remember that God is not a casual observer. He is an active participant—walking with us every step of the way. He catches us when we stumble, and He cheers us on as we pursue Him. He is the one who gives us the grace to walk through life’s darkest hours.

Prayer: Lord, help me to remember that Your grace is sufficient for my struggles in life. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen. "And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work" (2 Corinthians 9:8).

Grace Equals Power

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 10/15/18

There is one thing you must understand about grace. Grace equals power. There is nothing like this power in the entire world. This power is so unique that it can raise a dead soul to life. It is a supernatural power. It’s a unique power. And it is that same power that sustains us through the difficulties of life.

No matter what your hurt may be, whatever your suffering is, whatever grief is crushing you, God’s promise for the apostle Paul is yours today: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9). No matter what you are facing, God’s grace is sufficient.

How could we experience and explain the sufficiency of the grace of God if there were no thorns in our lives? How could we testify about it? God’s grace cannot be manifested when we are strong in our own eyes, when we think we don’t need it.

God’s grace shines the brightest against the darkness of our circumstances. God’s grace is manifested most clearly when we are weak. That is why Paul was glad to boast about his weakness. Why? So that Christ’s power would rest upon him even more.

"My grace is sufficient for you." Is God’s grace sufficient for you? If you don’t think that God’s grace is sufficient for you, maybe you are focusing so much on the thorn that you cannot see the rose of His grace blossoming in your life. Look up and remember His grace, Truth, and promises—and rejoice.

Prayer: Lord, help me to take my eyes off my thorn. May my gaze instead be fixed upon Your throne. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power" (Ephesians 3:7).

Paul’s Thorn

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 10/14/18

After the apostle Paul pleaded with God to take away his thorn, God responded, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9).

What was Paul’s thorn? We don’t know. Whatever it was, we can be sure that this was no minor irritation. Paul’s thorn in the flesh was a torment day-in and day-out. He was in severe pain.

In 2 Corinthians 11, the apostle Paul talks about the horrendous things he endured—he was shipwrecked, stoned, flogged, imprisoned, and more. He experienced hunger, thirst, sleeplessness, and nakedness, and yet, through all of this, he never prayed to God, "God, take these things away from me." Not once do we see him praying that these things would go away. Meanwhile, he persists in prayer over this thorn, whatever it was.

It is no accident that the Bible did not tell us what his specific problem was. The Holy Spirit left this out deliberately so that all who go through suffering could identify with Paul. This godly man quietly asked the Lord to intervene and deliver him quickly, just like we often do—and there is nothing wrong with that request. However, God’s response was, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." And that answer is true for every one of His children.

Prayer: God, thank You for Paul’s example of trusting Your grace in his life as he struggled with his thorn in the flesh. 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 Truth About God’s Nature

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 10/13/18

Tragedy is unavoidable. Not only will we have to face personal tragedies in our lives, but each generation faces gut-wrenching communal tragedies. In tragic moments, it seems evil has prevailed and we are reminded of the undeniable presence of sin in this world. In these moments, the question quickly arises: "Where is God?"

The Truth is God is not afraid of our questions. He is not surprised, offended, or threatened by our inability to comprehend every spiritual working of the universe. He has nothing to hide from us because He is blameless in character. In the face of what we do not know, we can cling to what we do know about Christ’s character.

In John 10:10-11, Jesus likens His leadership to that of a trustworthy shepherd. In stark contrast, He describes Satan’s role as that of a thief who comes to steal, kill, and destroy. Many live in terror of their gods, offering sacrifices with the hope that their god will withhold sickness, death, and destruction from their families and cities. But our God is not like these false gods.

Jesus specifically came "to destroy the devil’s work" (1 John 3:8). Our God became like us, entering into our suffering so that He could bring us life. Our God does not deceive, but abhors evil, delights in the Truth, and brings justice. Our God does not add to our misery or demand the impossible from us, but He paid our penalty on the cross. He is not passive; He is at work in us and around us. When we pray, He responds, breaking spiritual strongholds and delivering us from snares we aren’t even aware of.

So where is God? He is with us, in us, and ahead of us. In the midst of tragedy, He is working behind the scenes with a plan to glorify Himself and bless those who follow Him. What is God’s response to evil? He overcomes it.

Are you confident that the light of Christ is more powerful than evil? Are you searching for perfect answers, or are you willing to trust that God is good, God is in control, and He loves you? Whether you are hurting or looking for answers, bring them before the Lord today. He is not the antagonist in the story—He is the one ready to comfort us and lead us into all Truth.

Prayer: Lord, even when my circumstances are hopeless, I know that You are still good. Help me to trust in You and depend on You in every circumstance. Help me to be ready to share Your love and Your Truth when tragedy strikes. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work" (1 John 3:8).

Transforming Power

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 10/12/18

When we fully understand the transforming power of God’s Truth, we begin to realize how far the world is from God. Paul warns, "The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness" (Romans 1:18).

While we worship a loving God, our God is also just and righteous and will not allow the sinfulness of humanity to go unnoticed. We cannot satisfy God’s requirement for righteousness, yet, as Scripture tells us, "This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe" (Romans 3:22). In God’s mercy, even the most undeserving sinner can find forgiveness and salvation through Christ.

The Gospel is a powerful message. But as long as Christians feel ashamed of the Gospel, as long as we cower in fear instead of speaking boldly, as long as we live like those in darkness, we will never make an impact for God.

Have you been hiding God’s Truth? Confess to God if you have been ashamed of the Gospel. Confess to Him the times you’ve kept quiet, the times you chose not to witness, the times you compromised your beliefs in order to fit in. Receive His forgiveness and, from the joy of His mercy and grace, proclaim His goodness to you through your words and actions.

Prayer: God, I pray today that the transforming power of the Gospel message would manifest itself in my life so that I may be a light in the darkness. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:6).

The Reality of Hell

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 10/11/18

There was once a preacher by the name of Peter Cartwright. One morning before Cartwright was to preach, he was told that General Andrew Jackson was going to be in the service and was asked not to say anything to offend him.

When Cartwright got up to preach, he said: "I am told that General Andrew Jackson is in the congregation. Andrew Jackson will go to hell if he does not commit his life to Jesus Christ."

People were aghast. But after the service was over, Jackson approached Cartwright and shook his hand, saying, "If I had 100 men like you in my regiment, I could take on the world."

Satan does not want to hear preachers talking about the lake of fire. He does not want people to be told that unless they repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, they will spend eternity in hell with Satan.

In Matthew 25:41, Jesus teaches about the reality of hell. He warns that hell is an eternal separation from God. It is a place of impenetrable darkness, uninterrupted pain, and unquenchable fire. He also warns that those who reject Him will spend eternity there.

The lake of fire was created by God to be the eternal destination of Satan and his fallen angels. When Adam sinned against God, his destiny changed, along with the destiny of mankind. However, in His infinite grace, the Lord provided a sacrifice for Adam’s sin.

Today, through Christ, God has provided a way for our sins to be eradicated. When you confess your sin and accept Him as your Lord and Savior, your eternal destination changes from hell to heaven. Rejoice in the Lord, for He has been good to you.

Prayer: Lord, give me the courage to be bold on Your behalf, that I may speak of Your saving grace that has brought me out of the depths of sin. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them" (John 3:36).

The Ultimate Truth

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 10/10/18

Truth is objective, not subjective. Truth is absolute and not a sliding scale. The Truth is not open to redefinition to make it more winsome for new believers. The Truth does not seek to be politically correct because it refuses to tell people that they are safe believing lies. Truth is not trendy. As a Christian, it is not your job to make the Truth easier or more attractive. It is your job to love people by remaining faithful to the Truth. We can trust the Holy Spirit to take care of the rest, drawing people into God’s Kingdom.

The ultimate Truth that cannot be compromised is that Jesus is our eternal hope. There are not many paths to God. There is only one, and that is through Jesus Christ, God’s son, who died for us. Jesus Himself told us in John 14:6: "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." This Truth is unequivocal, unambiguous, and unavoidable.

Have you ever been made to feel intolerant or unloving because you held fast to this Truth? You are not alone. If you contend for the faith by lovingly telling others the undiluted Truth they need, you may face criticism.

What are you willing to endure in order to share Truth with others in your workplace or neighborhood? Have you ever experienced rejection when you have tried to share the Truth with someone?

Prayer: Father, I pray that You would give me the ability to understand and defend the Truth. Give me discernment and wisdom to live by Your Truth in this secular world. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long" (Psalm 25:4-5).

The Only Savior

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 10/09/18

Since the very beginning, God’s Truth has been under attack. Many have sought to modify the message of Christ and water down the Gospel to appeal to the masses.

The same attack against God’s Truth continues today. Many of these lies are disguised in modern dress, but they are proclaiming old heresies—even in many evangelical churches. But despite how these lies are dressed, they all have one common source. And God is calling us as His church to stand against them.

Read 2 Corinthians 4:4-5. In this passage, Paul tells us that "The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers." This god, this spirit of the age, sneakily permeates our culture and even our churches with its lies and deceptions. This spirit’s intention is simple: to blind people’s spiritual eyes to Christ—because if they cannot see Christ, they will miss the only way to salvation.

This is a crucial battle. And it is one that we, as God’s church, must fight.

God has a strategy to combat the spirit of the age, and we are a part of it. In 2 Corinthians 4:5, Paul shares our role: "What we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.".

While many seek to modify the true Gospel, we must preach Christ, who loves us so much He chose to die a criminal’s death on the cross in order to pay for our sin and set us free. Christ’s payment for our sin is the only salvation. We must preach Christ, who healed the sick, raised the dead, made the lame to walk, and set the captives free. There is no higher knowledge that can help us connect with God—we come to God through Christ and Christ alone.

As believers, it is crucial for us to know the Truth, to be firmly grounded in it, and to stand for Christ in a world of compromise. The Truth is immovable, immutable, and unchangeable. And we are to build our lives on it.

Begin asking God to help you recognize when you encounter heresies that the god of this age has spread. God loves every person in the world, but He will not bend His Truth to make people more comfortable in their sin. No, He wants to rescue them from their sin! Ask God to impress His Truth in your heart and to help you lovingly proclaim it so we can stand with Paul and others throughout history and say, "We preach Christ!”

Prayer: God, strengthen me in Your Word, that I would not be fooled by the deceptions of this world. Give me the courage to boldly testify to Your Truth and all that You have done for me, that others may know the freedom You freely give through Christ. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord" (2 Corinthians 4:5).

The Truth About Sin

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 10/08/18

The spirit of the age that Paul warns us about also comes dressed in the form of moral tolerance. Today, this spirit declares that Jesus is ambiguous about sin and so must we be. This movement proclaims that Christ does not care how people behave morally. It declares that Christ is apathetic toward our decisions and lifestyles, but God loves us too much to let us live a life of sin. He wants us to follow Him on the only path to fullness of life.

Read Romans 6:23. Paul tells us that sin has a price, and that price is death. Any sin we commit ushers decay into our lives. Sexual immorality kills intimacy. Lying damages integrity. Gossip destroys relationships. Every sin brings something corrupt and evil into our lives.

The spirit of the age wants to keep people from experiencing life to the full (see John 10:10), but more than that, it wants to keep them from the God who is life. Sin doesn’t only cause death in our lives—it costs death. Paul tells us in Romans 6:23 that because of our sin, we were all destined to pay sin’s cost with our very lives, living forever apart from the God who loves us. But God made a better way for us. He sent His Son Jesus to pay the cost for our sin and to set us free from death. He offers this freedom to everyone who will come to Him.

The spirit of the age declares that Christ is soft on sin, ambiguous about sin—but sin is costly. Sin is deadly. God hates sin because He is holy, He is just, and He loves us. God knows that sin destroys us, and this is why He sent Jesus to set us free from it.

This is the God we preach—the God of power and might who breaks the chains of sin. His power can set the captives free. His power can liberate anyone from the tyranny of sin, shame, and addiction. He is the only one who can heal and restore.

When you encounter someone who believes that sin isn’t serious, pray for them to see the Truth about sin. Ask God to use you to communicate the only solution: Christ’s forgiveness. And despite how the conversation goes, continue to pray for that person because sometimes seeing Truth is a process. But God is tenacious. He wants everyone to come home to Him.

Prayer: Lord, forgive me for the times I have treated sin lightly. Use me to free others from the chains of sin that they may know Your love, freedom, and forgiveness. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23).

The Spirit of Truth

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 10/07/18

Paul warned us about the spirit of the age that permeates our culture and seeks to modify the message of Christ. Whether dressed in the form of relative truth, moral tolerance, self-improvement, or otherwise, its goal is the same: to keep people away from Jesus, the only way to salvation.

Nevertheless, we must stand with Paul and the believers throughout the ages and preach Christ. We can tell people about Christ’s free offer of salvation—how He longs for everyone to be set free from sin, so much so that He gave His own life to pay our ransom. We can tell people how God hates sin and how He is the only one who has the power to restore our lives.

We have such good news to share with our seeking world. And we don’t do it alone. Christ Himself helps us share His message of love and forgiveness—through His Spirit, through His Word, and with His heart.

Read John 14:16-18. Before Jesus gave His life, rose from the dead, and went back to sit at the Father’s right hand, He promised that He would not leave His disciples to walk through this world alone. He promised to ask the Father to send His Spirit—the Spirit of Truth. And He did. God’s Spirit now lives in His disciples—He lives in us. He is our advocate and will be with us forever.

The Spirit of Truth who lives in us will give us everything we need to combat the spirit of the age.

As we walk closely with God, He will lead us and guide us. As we read His Word and live by His Spirit, He will illuminate Truths that speak into our situations and our relationships. As we have conversations with people, He will give us words to speak that will penetrate their hearts. And as we spend time with Him on a regular basis, He will mold our hearts to His. Because God is out to silence the spirit of the age, He will give us the words, the insights, and the right opportunities to co-labor with Him in doing so.

When Christ returns in glory, the spirit of the age will be silenced once and for all. At that time, every knee will bow before Jesus, and there will be no doubt about what is true—He is the King of kings and Lord of lords. As we preach Christ, we can help make that day even more joyous, with even more hearts celebrating and rejoicing before His throne.

Prayer: Lord, thank You for sending Your Holy Spirit to lead me into all Truth. Remove the hindrances that keep me from obeying You. Open my eyes to all the opportunities You have given me to share Christ with others. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth" (John 14:16-17).

Crumbling Foundations

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 10/06/18

Satan is working overtime, trying to destroy the church from the inside out. The very foundational beliefs of the church are crumbling today, and the first casualty has been the Truth.

First Timothy 4:1 warns, "The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons." Similarly, Jude’s epistle sounds an alarm, warning the church of the consequences to those who allow themselves to disregard God’s Truth to please themselves.

Read Jude 1:3-7. Verse 5 tells how the Israelites forfeited great blessings when they did not trust God’s promise to deliver them safely to the Promised Land. Caleb and Joshua, however, stood on God’s promises and were allowed to enter. Jude also tells of the fallen angels who lost their lofty positions when they believed Lucifer’s enticing lies (v. 6).

Finally, Jude shows the grief and destruction that came to Sodom and Gomorrah when they winked at sin, carelessly disregarding Scriptural Truth (v. 7). Matthew 7:15 tells us that false prophets are really wolves in sheep’s clothing sent by Satan to trip up the faithful. Naturally, believers who have confessed, repented, and accepted Jesus Christ as the only means of atoning for sin will not lose their salvation. Still, Satan can fill their lives with pain, confusion, and grief if he is allowed to infiltrate the church.

What sins has our culture become casual about? Is there an area of temptation in your life that you have not energetically addressed as sin? In addition to knowing God’s Word, Christians must fight against apathy. The commitment to learn God’s Word and live by it cannot be taken lightly by a believer. Caring about what God cares about is a crucial step toward rebuilding and strengthening God’s church.

Prayer: Father, show me any areas of my life where I have become apathetic and allowed falsehood to creep in. Help me to be committed to learning and living by Your Word. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth" (Revelation 3:16).

An Invasion of Lies

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 10/05/18

In the book of Jude, Jesus’ half-brother writes to believers to urge them to fight against an invasion of lies that were seeping into the church. Jude knew that Christians had to be ready to do battle against unbiblical teaching in order to keep the church pure.

This warning is just as relevant today as mainline churches dilute Biblical Truth to make it more appealing, user friendly, and comfortable. Sinful actions get a pass as "lifestyle choices," and those who cling to God’s Truth are labeled intolerant. However, only God’s Truth is valid, offering eternal life and granting the power to live life victoriously now.

To be effective against false teaching, you must first know and believe the Truth. Stop and take a moment to read Jude 1:1-24.

God is the author and source of all Truth. Some churches, however, are flying the banner of man-made theology, and it is attracting hordes of people by blurring the lines of Truth. The message is intentionally kept ambiguous in order not to alienate anyone who might find Biblical teachings challenging or contrary to their lifestyle. This new version of the church is adapting the Christian faith to culture instead of calling the culture to repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. God does not tolerate creative tampering with His Truth. There is no Truth but His Truth.

There are no small exceptions to Biblical Truth. The consequence of tolerating "small exceptions" to the Truth is eventual and complete departure from the Truth. A half-truth is a lie. Downplaying God’s Truth to appeal to unbelievers has eternal consequences.

Prayer: God, I pray that You would help me to be on guard for false teaching. Help me to never downplay Your Truth. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"I hate and detest falsehood but I love your law" (Psalm 119:163).

The Importance of the Truth

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 10/04/18

Historical revisionists and liberal Bible scholars are trying to apply modern-day values to the Word of God and to historical facts. They remove the pieces they don’t like. May we be warned: If we continue on this path, we will end up with a pack of lies, and our children will not learn the Truth about the Word of God. Scripture is clear. In 2 Timothy 4:2-4, Paul warns his young friend to not be ashamed to preach the Gospel, saying:

Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

It is politically incorrect to say that Jesus Christ is the way, the Truth, and the life—but it is the Truth. Only His Truth changes lives and unlocks the beauty of our full worth as men and women who are made in His image. Only He can change our heart so we are able to love our neighbors.

We must remember, "The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love" (Galatians 5:6).

Prayer: God, help me to be on guard against those who are removing pieces of the Truth from Your Word. Thank You for being the only way, the Truth, and the life. Help me to proclaim this Good News lovingly and unashamedly. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen. # "Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks" (John 4:23).

The Power of the Word

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 10/03/18

The Bible gives us strength and power like no other book. It has the power to change people’s lives, the power to help us overcome temptation, and the power to overcome our circumstances.

Perhaps one of the reasons so many people avoid the Bible is because it is like a mirror. Often, we do not want to be confronted with the Truth about ourselves. The Scripture tells us, "Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like" (James 1:23-24).

The Bible doesn’t merely show us our sins; it also cleanses us. It shows us the problem, and then gives us the solution, just as Ephesians declares: "Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless" (5:26-27). If we look in the mirror and see resentment and bitterness, the cleansing power of the Bible will pour love into our hearts. If the mirror reflects envy or discontentment, the Bible can give us joy and peace. Where we find immorality, the Bible will wash us with purity.

But only by reading the Bible daily will we reap its benefits as it was intended. We cannot simply skim through our favorite passages whenever we need a pick-me-up. We must devour every page and glean every Truth we can. We need to understand the Bible and its history. We need to look at the background and context of each passage we read and meditate on the passage in prayer. We need to ask the Holy Spirit’s guidance each time we pick up God’s Book.

Prayer: Father, forgive me for not spending enough time in Your Word. Help me to grow in this area of my walk with You. I pray that Your Spirit would guide me as I read Your Word and that the power of the Word would change me. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away" (Mark 13:31).

Deliver Us from Evil

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 10/02/18

There was an elderly woman who was known for always having something good to say about others. One day, two young men thought they would trap her. Surely, she would not have anything good to say about Satan. They walked up to her and said, "Tell us: What do you think about the devil?"

The woman paused and then said, "Well, there is only one thing that I can think of—he is always on the job!".

The woman was right. There is nothing good about Satan. However, we can say that he never wearies of tempting believers.

This is why Jesus taught His disciples to pray, "Deliver us from evil," which really means, "Deliver us from the evil one." Jesus did just that on the cross. He shattered the power of sin and death. The resurrection is evidence of His victory.

One of Satan’s greatest deceptions is convincing us that pride is not a problem. Ironically, pride was Satan’s own downfall. It was his desire to become like God. In his pride, Satan wanted to take God’s place.

Similarly, though most of us would say that David’s greatest sin was adultery and the murder tied to it, the root to David’s sin goes much deeper. In pride, David considered himself above the law of God.

While other kings were off fighting in battles, David stayed home, becoming lazy and self-serving—the perfect posture for pride to make its mark. Satan waited for the right opportunity, and then he tempted David by appealing to his flesh.

If you have been drawn away from God through pride, believing you know better than God and can live without Him, stop what you are doing and turn back to the Lord. Be sure you are following Christ closely and that all you desire begins and ends with Him.

Prayer: Lord, thank You for delivering me from evil on the cross. Thank You for shattering the power of sin and death. Please hold me close to You. Strengthen me and guide me away from laziness and self-service. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him" (2 Chronicles 16:9).

Tempting Ourselves

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 10/01/18

If you’re a genuine believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, Satan and his demons will tempt you. But we also know from the Word of God that God has given us the power to have victory over Satan’s temptation (see James 4:7 and 1 Corinthians 10:13).

The problem is that we tempt ourselves. We know Satan tempts us, but we can also tempt ourselves when we put ourselves into situations that cause our sinful flesh to rise up and crave what is ungodly. In those moments, we become our own worst enemies.

When Jesus taught us to pray, "Lead us not into temptation," He meant us to ask God to empower us not to tempt ourselves nor to tempt God.

But, how do we tempt God? When we place ourselves in situations where we force God to intervene to rescue us, we are tempting God.

The Bible is very clear: God never tempts us, but we tempt God (see James 1:13-15). For example, Samson tempted God repeatedly. He kept forcing God to intervene to save him from different situations that he got himself into. Finally, after delivering him again and again, God gave him up to the consequences of his foolishness.

Many committed Christians subconsciously fall into temptation like Samson. Every time you are blessed by God, you must be on guard. You may begin to think, "God has blessed me in all these physical ways, so what I do secretly, my morals and the attitude of my heart, must not be important to God. After all, God must be pleased with me. I must be favored by God. I can do no wrong.”

That’s exactly what got Samson into trouble. He kept using God’s strength for his own; he kept using God’s blessings to serve his own purposes. May we learn from his mistakes and humble ourselves before the Lord, trusting God’s purposes for our lives for His glory and our good.

Prayer: Father, lead me not into temptation. Help me never to use Your blessings for my own purposes but to enjoy them as I pour them out in service to You and others. 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 body is weak" (Matthew 26:41).

DAILY DEVOTIONAL 09/30/18 to 09/01/18

Offering Forgiveness

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 09/30/18

The line in the Lord’s Prayer that reads, "Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors," does not mean that we earn God’s forgiveness by forgiving other people (Matthew 6:12). If that were true, then salvation would rest on good works, and faith would be unnecessary. Paul says, "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 2:8-9).

Our eternal debt was paid on the cross once and for all. Nothing is outstanding. Forgiving others is not a payment toward our own forgiveness: It’s a sign of spiritual life. Once we have received God’s forgiveness in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit lives in our hearts, it follows that we should become more forgiving of people.

There are two sides to forgiving. The first is transforming your attitude toward the person who has offended you, and the second is transforming your relationship with the person who has offended you. Both take courage.

These two aspects to forgiveness take courage because we much prefer to go on clinging to our resentment. That way, we have a scapegoat. When things go wrong, we can say, "Well, that’s because of so-and-so and the awful thing he did to me." It’s childish, yet we find the habit incredibly hard to break. Most of the time the best we manage is to "forgive but not forget"—which is not really forgiveness at all because refusing to forget means we are reserving the right to bring the matter up again whenever we please. Holding a grudge—keeping that weapon in reserve—stifles the relationship.

Real forgiveness has no memory. It does not shut other people into the locker of their past mistakes. It makes room for a genuine fresh start. Often, this transformation of attitude is all we need to transform the relationship.

Prayer: Father, help me transform my attitude toward those who have offended me and give me the courage to transform my relationship with them as well. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors" (Matthew 6:12).

Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 09/29/18

There are people living in some of the most influential countries in the world who do not have enough to eat. They don’t know where they will get enough money to buy their next meals. Maybe they have been laid off from their jobs, or, due to some serious illness, they cannot work.

Perhaps you know the sinking feeling that comes from hearing the news that you will no longer be employed. When setbacks occur, we must immediately turn to God to renew our hearts with His hope and encouragement. Never be ashamed of crying out to God through prayer. He knows what you are facing even before you drop to your knees to pray.

Being laid-off from our jobs does not mean we are without hope. God provides for us each day. We may not know how His provision will come, but, if our lives are submitted to Him, we can be sure we will receive His blessings.

In Luke 11, Jesus taught His disciples to pray, "Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread" (vv. 2-3). During the Exodus, God did just that. Daily He provided a fresh stock of manna, a bread-like food that also was called "the grain of heaven" (Psalm 78:24).

Through Jesus Christ, God has provided all that we need for this life. We do, however, have a responsibility to fulfill. We must sincerely seek Him each day and be willing to let go of past hurts.

Let go; trust God to provide daily bread—His manna—for you. When you do, you will see Him at work on your behalf.

Prayer: Lord, I pray for my daily bread today—physically and spiritually. As I wait, may I abide in You. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"They asked, and he brought them quail; he fed them well with the bread of heaven" (Psalm 105:40).

Thy Will Be Done

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 09/28/18

Every day, millions of people pray The Lord’s Prayer without understanding what it means to pray, "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10, KJV). When you pray this to the Lord, you are saying, "You rule supreme over my life." As followers of Christ, we are pledging our allegiance to Him by saying, "King Jesus, may Your priorities be my preoccupation.”

You cannot say that you are a member of the Kingdom of God without Jesus being the King of your life—because the King and the Kingdom are inseparable. If you pray for the Kingdom to come and for God’s will to be done, then you are saying, "King Jesus, take over.”

When most people pray, they focus on their plans, needs, and agendas. God cares about our lives and wants us to ask Him for our needs in prayer. However, if our perceived needs become the focus of our lives, they can become our god—and that’s a problem. When our needs become the focus of our lives, it is not long before we cease to pray, "Thy will be done," and instead begin to pray for our own will to be done.

As we pray for our own will to be done, our focus moves away from loving God and others toward personal fulfillment and pleasure. Soon, our reasoning becomes darkened by our feelings rather than enlightened by God’s Truth, and we are no longer able to perceive the Lord’s will.

Prayer: Father, forgive me for allowing my needs and wants to become the focus of my life. May Your priorities become my priority. Rule over my life so that I can sincerely pray, "Thy will be done." I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"Do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and 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 6:31-33).

God’s Kingdom

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 09/27/18

There are two kingdoms—the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of this world. When we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, we are adopted into the Kingdom of God. So we pray to our Father, "Your kingdom come" (Matthew 6:10). For, we long for God to rule over every part of our lives, here and now. We long for God’s Kingdom to break through in fullness when Christ makes all things new.

Being a citizen of a country means you have special privileges. These vary from country to country. However, as a citizen of God’s Kingdom, we become members of the royal family. We are joint heirs with Christ. We have access to the throne of God. We have personal fellowship with the King of kings. We are His beloved children.

In order to become a citizen of a country other than the one in which you are born, you must meet certain requirements. The Kingdom of God requires its citizens to accept the reign of a wise and loving King. It means acknowledging Christ as our Lord and Savior. It means being obedient to the Word of God. It requires our saying, "Lord, not my will, but Yours be done.”

Human nature is selfish. What we think we need is foremost in our actions and prayers. Prayer that revolves around our own plans, desires, and needs, however, can be contrary to God’s Word.

When we surrender our lives to Christ and submit ourselves to Him, we are placing our will in submission to the Lord’s. Thus we begin to pray, "Lord, reign in my life, dominate my thoughts, show me Your will.”

Within each of us rages the war between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of this world. With Christ we have the victory. Knowing this, press on, armed with the confidence that God hears us and will answer our prayers.

Prayer: Lord, I thank You for making a way for me to pass from the kingdom of this world into the Kingdom of God. Thank You for Your promise to make all things new. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

“The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil" (1 Peter 3:12).”

Hallowed Is His Name

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 09/26/18

Imagine that you have been granted an audience with the king. This is the moment you’ve been waiting for—the chance to bring your requests before his majesty. The great doors open, and you are standing before the throne. In awe and reverence, you first address the king. It would be improper to just begin asking for your needs.

Jesus instructed His disciples, "This, then, is how you should pray: 'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name'" (Matthew 6:9).

The dictionary defines hallow as "to make or set apart as holy." God is holy. He is sovereign and omniscient. He is the King of kings, the Creator of the universe. When we place our faith in His Son, Jesus Christ, He becomes our heavenly Father. As such, we have the honor and the privilege of being able to come to Him in prayer.

It is important that we know the character of God, and honor and revere Him in our prayers, actions, and thoughts. God’s character is pure, holy, flawless, loving, compassionate, righteous, just, merciful, kind, long-suffering, honest, true, dependable, faithful, and understanding.

The more we know about God, the more we grow in fellowship with Him. This carries over into our prayers. Placing Him first and foremost in our minds keeps our focus on Him instead of on our needs and desires.

However, Jesus did not intend for our prayers to become ritualistic. Rather, Jesus gave us this prayer guide to show us the elements that are important in prayer as we fellowship with God. And, by beginning with God’s name, we are reminded that we are coming before Almighty God. As children of God, we have been given free access to the throne room of the King of kings. We can address the King as "Our Father." There is no greater honor!

Prayer: Lord, thank You for inviting me into Your presence. I praise You as King of kings and Lord of lords and also thank You for being my Father. There is no one like You. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"Who is like you, LORD God Almighty? You, LORD, are mighty, and your faithfulness surrounds you" (Psalm 89:8).

The Honor of Prayer

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 09/25/18

Do you think of God as your loving, heavenly Father? Many people find this hard to do. The notion of calling God—who is holy and righteous—"Father" can be overwhelming. But it’s true. We can call Him, "Father," because of the shed blood of Christ.

The Bible tells us that without the sacrificial death of Jesus, there can be no forgiveness. Because of Christ’s death and resurrection, we are redeemed and restored into right fellowship with God. When we place our faith in Christ, we can call God, "Our Father."

Biblical repentance means accepting Christ’s free gift of salvation. When we repent, we have the power to overcome. He gives us new life—freedom from our past, strength to change our ways, and the right to come to God in prayer.

Charles Spurgeon explains the honor of prayer this way: "What a privilege is intimate communion with the Father of our spirits! It is a secret hidden from the world, a joy with which even the nearest friend intermeddleth not."

Have you been crying out to God, feeling that He is not responding? Don’t give up. He hears you and will answer.

Prayer: Father, thank You for having compassion on me and for the joy of intimate communion with You. I pray I will be a blessing to You. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need" (Hebrews 4:16).

More Than a Wish List

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 09/24/18

In his book The Power of Prayer, Dr. R. A. Torrey wrote:

Prayer is the key that unlocks all the storehouses of God’s infinite grace and power. All that God is, and all that God has, is at the disposal of prayer.

If this is true, why do we spend so little time in prayer? There are several answers. First, some people simply do not know how to pray. They struggle in prayer and wonder if the Lord hears their words.

Second, many have the wrong idea about prayer. They believe there is a specific formula to prayer—something they can repeat in order to have their prayers answered.

For three years, the disciples were with Jesus—morning, noon, and night. It was not long before they asked Him to teach them how to pray. They saw the benefits of prayer displayed in His life, and they quickly realized that prayer was a tremendous source of power.

Prayer is also our greatest form of communication with our heavenly Father. It is meant to be a place where we can bare our souls and be refreshed by His unconditional love and grace.

Well-phrased words or eloquently stated sentences will not usher you into the throne room of God. However, a humble heart and a deep desire to worship the Savior are the very keys that will open heaven’s door to God’s inner chamber.

Prayer: Lord, teach me how to pray. I desire intimacy with You. Fashion within me a heart like Yours. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, 'Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples'" (Luke 11:1).

For His Renown

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 09/23/18

God wants to hear big prayers that seek to bring Him "renown, joy, praise and honor before all nations" (Jeremiah 33:9). Yes, God does want to hear our small prayers. He wants us to reveal our hearts to Him and share our concerns and hopes. Yet the prayers that seek to glorify God, to honor Him, to further the work of His Kingdom, to transform the hearts of nonbelievers, to demonstrate the love of Jesus Christ, and to reveal His majesty—those are the prayers that are most powerful.

God responds to a heart that is truly devoted to Him and in awe of Him. God knows every inner corner of our hearts. We do not fool Him by saying we want something for His glory when secretly our motivations are selfish. We do not fool Him by saying we believe He can work miracles when inwardly we doubt He will follow through.

When we seek to truly know and understand God and develop a daily relationship with Him, we begin to understand just how big and capable and trustworthy our God is. When we know that God follows through on His promises and He is ready and willing to do big things, we can pray in faith that He will act in big ways. When we understand just how amazing and loving our Creator God is, we will genuinely seek to please Him by praying for things that honor Him. "Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him" (1 John 3:21-22).

Prayer: God, help me to come to You with a heart that is in the right place. Help me pray big prayers that seek to glorify You and reveal Your majesty. May I seek You first and foremost. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you" (Matthew 7:7).

Persistent Prayer

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 09/22/18

We can be optimistic in this life when Christ lives within us. We can find joyful hope when we put our relationship with Christ first and spend regular time fellowshipping with Him in prayer. A close relationship with God will give us joy in the midst of trouble, victory in times of temptation, fruitfulness and blessing in times of uncertainty. A solid prayer life will give us confidence when everything else is crumbling around us.

How persistent is your prayer life? Is prayer the first activity to be cut when your life becomes overscheduled? Do you skip prayer time on the days when you feel tired or ill or apathetic? Are your prayers half-hearted attempts to fulfill a ritual or appease your guilt?

If your prayer life has been lacking, confess to God today how you have neglected this important aspect of your relationship with Him. Pray for the Holy Spirit’s help to guide you in your prayers, to motivate you to spend time with Him, to give you the self-discipline to stay focused in prayer, and to prepare your heart for the presence of God.

Prayer: Father, forgive me for neglecting my prayer life. I pray that You would guide me as I pray and help me make prayer a priority in my life. Thank You for the privilege of prayer. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed" (Mark 1:35).

Guiding Our Prayer Lives

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 09/21/18

Have you ever noticed that when you are ready to pray, the phone rings or somebody knocks on your door? How often is your prayer time distracted with things on your to-do list, daydreams, or sleepiness?

Prayer is the most important thing we can do as believers. Through prayer, we communicate with our heavenly Father. We also learn more about Him when we pray. We grow in our faith through prayer. When we pray, we find the encouragement, the strength, and the power we need to face life.

Satan, however, seeks to interfere with the sacred intimacy of prayer. He did not want Adam and Eve to communicate with God in the Garden, nor does Satan want us to communicate with God. Rather, he seeks to find ways of making us spiritually weak. He knows that prayer is our vital source of power and strength.

When you receive good news or something wonderful happens in your life, do you immediately thank the Lord? Many of us pray only when we are facing a problem. We cry out to the Lord in our pain, but we often fail to praise Him in times of joy. This is when we realize that we have not made prayer part of our daily lives.

Prayer is not to inform, to persuade, to manipulate, or to cajole God. It is the evidence of our love, surrender, obedience, and sincerity before God. He wants to commune with us. When you understand prayer is joyous, intimate fellowship with the Lord, you will want to make prayer a consistent part of your life.

Prayer: Lord, please forgive me for neglecting prayer and time with You. Thank You for blessing me with an intimate relationship with You. Help me to never neglect my time with You. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer" (Romans 12:12).

Taking Prayer Seriously

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 09/20/18

Most evangelical Christians today pray the way sailors use their pumps—only when their ship is leaking. When that happens, they work at prayer furiously. The rest of the time they don’t want to know about the discipline of prayer. This type of prayer is called need-driven prayer.

We must take prayer seriously. Here are a few simple directions on the "how" of praying.

Give prayer adequate time. Can you imagine two people in love with each other but who talk only if they need something? No relationship will grow if you get on the phone, give the person a list of requests, then hang up. Yet five minutes is—on average—how long most evangelical Christians spend in daily prayer. Five minutes! Be warned: you will reap exactly what you sow.

Give prayer adequate space. To pray properly, we need to go into a place where we can concentrate without being disturbed. You may think you are the kind of person who can pray at the ironing board, with the television and stereo going, and with a telephone jammed against one ear, but that’s not likely true. When Jesus advised, "When you pray, go into your room" (Matthew 6:6), He meant for us to find a place where we can focus on God and not be distracted.

Give prayer adequate attention. To pray effectively, you will have to prioritize your prayer time. This does not tend to be welcome news to people with demanding jobs and small children, but there is no way around it. Prayer should be marked on your calendar.

Consider following Jesus’ example of rising early in the morning for prayer. There is no Scriptural command for this, but it will allow you to offer the firstfruits of your day to God. Of course, early morning prayer does not allow us to switch off afterward. We should pray in every situation because prayer is both a discipline and a lifestyle. It is the most important part of every day.

Prayer: Father, help me to take prayer seriously and to give You the time, space, and attention You deserve. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you" (Matthew 6:6).

A One Sided Relationship

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 09/19/18

Do you have people in your life who only talk to you when they want something? Conversations that revolve around the other person’s needs or demands make it hard to develop true fellowship. These one-sided relationships can make us feel used and manipulated.

Often, that is exactly what many of us do to God when we only approach Him in prayer with a need or desire. We give Him our laundry lists of prayer requests without spending any time praising Him, thanking Him for our past blessings, or seeking a relationship with Him. We pray for future events without acknowledging His help in the past. Our forgetfulness is an indication of our ingratitude toward God, and it renders our prayers ineffective.

Yet, none of this shocks God. God knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows we are a forgetful people. He knows our capacity for ingratitude. He knows our capacity for reinventing the Truth. He knows our capacity for taking credit for His provision.

Throughout the Scriptures we see God reminding His people of His blessings. He often urged them to set up visible memorials of His past provision that would lead them to rejoice in and worship their Almighty God. Without these reminders, the people would forget God’s faithfulness.

What kind of memorials is God calling you to set up today? Ask for God’s help to remain focused on Him throughout the day, that you may abide in Him and pray without ceasing.

Prayer: Father, forgive me for forgetting to take the time to praise and adore You. You have been so faithful to me. Thank You for loving me and for saving me. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds" (Psalm 77:11-12).

A Confident Prayer

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 09/18/18

Have you noticed that the higher our expectations, the greater our disappointment when they are not met? Whether our unrealistic expectations are placed in other people, in our own strength, or in specific situations, we will always experience discouragement when things do not go as planned. But when our expectations are placed in the promises of God, we will never be disappointed. His timing may not always be as quick as we would like, and His methods may be different from what we expected, but God will always follow through on His promises.

In Luke 2:25-35, we read about Simeon, who placed his expectations on God’s faithfulness. He had spent his lifetime anticipating the arrival of the Messiah. And because God had told him he would personally see the Christ, Simeon knew that Jesus would be born in his lifetime. After years of waiting and watching, Simeon was ready to be relieved of his post.

When he held the Christ child in his arms, he prayed, "Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel" (Luke 2:29-32).

Simeon’s prayer was a confident prayer. He was not surprised that God had fulfilled His promise. He knew God would remain faithful. Simeon’s expectations were met because they were rooted in the promises of God. God had promised to send the Messiah, so He sent Jesus Christ to earth. Simeon never gave up on God, and God did not disappoint him.

What a contrast to the expectations we place on this world! We place high expectations in the wrong things and the wrong people and are surprised when we end up bitterly disappointed. We forget that the only one who will never disappoint us is God.

Prayer: God, help me to place my expectations in You, not in this world. I know that You will never disappoint me. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God" (Psalm 42:11).

Two Views on Prayer

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 09/17/18

When we miss God’s purpose in prayer, we miss God’s best. It is important to know that the purpose of prayer is for God to be glorified.

God is the focus of prayer because, through prayer, God reveals His goodness and power. Jesus said, "I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son" (John 14:13). Indeed, prayer is for God’s glory—not just for our needs. However, when God meets our needs, He is glorified.

There are some who see prayer simply as an action that aligns us with what God has already foreordained. They say there is nothing we can do other than conform to His will. On the other hand, some think that prayer is asking God to do what He would not and could not do without our requests.

Actually, the Scripture teaches both views—and we are under obligation before God to hold both views in tension. The Bible teaches that God is, without a doubt, sovereign. The Bible also teaches that God, within His sovereignty, responds to His people when they pray with a right focus.

Likewise, there are people who are terrified of asking God for anything, but this is not consistent with His will for our relationship with Him or our prayers to Him. Then, others treat God like a bellhop who moves only at their command. Both approaches to prayer are extreme, and both are wrong.

Remember that we are God’s children through Jesus Christ. When children are young—and even sometimes when they are older—they ask for all kinds of things. Do we give them everything they want? Of course, we don’t. We give them what we believe is best for them. If we, as fallen men and women, know how to give good gifts to our children, how much more does our heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask Him (see Matthew 7:11)? May we grow in faith to bring mature requests to God with hearts that say, "Not my will, but Yours be done, Lord.”

Prayer: Father, thank You that, while You are sovereign, You still want to hear from Your children and that You glorify Yourself as You meet our needs. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6-7).

The Prayer of Praise

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 09/16/18

Read Luke 1:46-55.

I wish I could step into a time machine and journey back to that day when young Mary, a girl probably no older than fourteen years old, walked the dusty road into the hills of Judea to the home of her cousin Elizabeth. I wish I could be there to see Elizabeth and Mary embrace and to hear the words of the Magnificat from Mary’s own lips, to see the joy of the Magnificat shining in her eyes. What a privilege for Elizabeth to hear this prayer, which would be recited millions of times down through the ages.

Mary faced a crisis that you and I can’t fully understand. But because of her belief in the Word of God, because of her trust in the promises of God, because of her deep and abiding relationship with God, she faced this crisis with confidence and faith.

Mary composed these words out of a heart full of gratitude. God had chosen to bless her among all women by placing in her womb the baby who would become the Savior of the world. The long-promised Messiah would soon be born—and she would be His mother! How could she not praise God for the honor He had given her?

Mary’s prayer exemplifies the lasting power of authentic, biblical self-esteem and the perfect balance of confidence and humility. The personality of this young teenager was not warped by materialism, corrupted by possessions, or distorted by peer pressure. Her spirit was formed and shaped by a lifetime of immersion in the Word of God. She was committed to trusting in the promises of God and to allowing God to use her life for His glory as He would sovereignly see fit. Her faith is an example to us all.

Mary, who embodied and personified God’s fulfilled promise to the human race, was saying through the Magnificat, "God always keeps His promises."

Are you willing to trust God to keep His promises to you? Are you willing to magnify and glorify His name above all else? Are you willing to bear witness to His grace, His mercy, and His faithfulness?

Glorify God in all circumstances. Magnify His name at all times. That is the essence of the prayer of Mary, the mother of our Savior.

That is the key to power in prayer.

Prayer: Lord, You are the matchless, sovereign God. You alone are worthy of my praise. You are constant, faithful, holy, and unchanging. I praise You for Your promises to me—particularly the promise of eternity with You, the only one who satisfies my soul. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name" (Luke 1:48-49).

The Unanswered Prayer

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 09/15/18

Read Habakkuk 3

We see a great Old Testament example of persisting in prayer in the three chapters of the book of Habakkuk. Historical clues within the book of Habakkuk suggest that he lived during the reign of Israel’s King Jehoiakim, when the Babylonian Empire was on the rise but before the Babylonians came to lay siege to Jerusalem. The central theme of Habakkuk focuses on the prophet’s effort to grow from a place of doubt and impatience with God to a place of trust in Him, despite God’s apparent delay in answering prayer.

Three features of Habakkuk’s prayer in chapter 3 are particularly worth noting for our own prayer life

  1. Habakkuk’s humility before God. The first feature of effective prayer is humility. In chapter 1, Habakkuk seems to be lecturing the Lord: "How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen?" (1:2). But by the end of Habakkuk, even in the midst of 2.
  2. Habakkuk’s adoration of God. When you pray, ask God to teach you more about Himself because He is worthy of your adoration and obedience. That’s a prayer that will always be honored.
  3. Habakkuk’s focus on God’s work. Habakkuk prayed that God in His mercy would send a great awakening to Israel. The people of Israel didn’t deserve it; they deserved only the destruction that God had repeatedly warned them was coming. But Habakkuk desired that God would bring revival so that His name would be glorified.

In those times when our prayers seem to go unanswered, we might sink into depression, become angry with God, or give up praying altogether. In the prayer of Habakkuk, we see a very different response to unanswered prayer. We see him ask God, in effect, "What do You want me to learn from this? How can I learn to pray in greater alignment with Your will? Lord, teach me to trust You more." We see Habakkuk take the trial of unanswered prayer and turn it into an opportunity to grow in intimacy with God.

In the prayer of Habakkuk, we find a model of prayer that will protect us from the disillusionment and discouragement that so often accompany God’s delays in answering our prayers.

Prayer: Father, thank You for the example of tremendous faith found in Habakkuk. May I, too, set my heart on You, the God of grace, wisdom, and sovereign power. I trust in You, my Savior and my God; I believe Your promises and will wait on You. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior" (Habakkuk 3:17-18).

The Prayer of Scripture

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 09/14/18

Read Jonah 2:1-6.

In the book of Jonah, we meet an ordinary man from Bible times, a plain old Joe named Jonah. He was hardly a hero of the Bible. He was, in fact, more of an antihero.

When God told him to go to Nineveh, Jonah instead headed in the other direction as fast as he could go. Reaching the coast city of Jaffa (or Joppa), Jonah boarded a ship bound for Tarshish. He did not reach his destination. Instead, he ended up in the last place he ever thought he would be: the belly of a great fish.

Was there ever a more reluctant and disobedient prophet in the Bible than Jonah? But Jonah had one thing going for him. When he was in the belly of the fish, Jonah got serious with God and prayed for all he was worth.

If you have been through a storm in your life, if you have found yourself in the belly of the beast, if you are suffering as a consequence of disobedience or even through no fault of your own, then the prayer of Jonah is for you.

It’s important to notice something about Jonah’s prayer: Out of his watery grave, Jonah prayed the Scriptures back to God. Again and again in this passage, Jonah prays the promises of God as they have been given throughout the Old Testament Scriptures, especially in the book of Psalms.

Jonah didn’t know how God would deliver him or when God would deliver him or even if God would deliver him alive. He simply trusted that God, by His own sovereign choice, would deliver him from the belly of that fish.

Whenever you are in the belly of the beast, and you don’t know how you should pray, pray the Scriptures. Pray His promises: "Lord, You promised that I can cast all my cares on You, for You care for me. You promised that You would carry my grief and sorrows. You told me not to fear, because You are with me."

Jonah’s prayer is for any of us going through a stormy trial. It doesn’t matter whether our actions caused the storm or whether we are innocent victims. Jonah’s prayer is a powerful reminder that, even if we forsake God, He never forsakes us.

Prayer: Lord, thank You for Your steadfast love and forgiveness. Because of Your grace and mercy, I can face any storm, for I know You are with me. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you, LORD my God, brought my life up from the pit" (Jonah 2:6).

Seeking God’s Will

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 09/13/18

As we close out our study on the effective prayers of Daniel, we learn about the importance of knowing God’s Word and consistently responding in obedience.

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 6:25-33). 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.

Effective prayers. We must pray with praise on our lips, a confession of our own faults, and with a petition that God will act in the way that accomplishes His purposes and brings Him glory. And then, we must listen very closely to what God may lead us to say or do and step out in faith to obey. 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 spend more time in Your Word so that I will be better equipped to pray Your will. Help me respond in obedience when I sense You leading me to do something. And help me not give up! I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"I will hasten and not delay to obey your commands" (Psalm 119:60).

Praying for Mercy and Action

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 09/12/18

As we continue to learn from the prayers of Daniel, we’re reminded of how reliant we are on God’s love and forgiveness.

Appeal for mercy. Daniel appealed to God’s mercy, saying, "Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath from Jerusalem, . . . For your sake, Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. . . . We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy" (Daniel 9:16-18). Acknowledge to God that you do not deserve His blessings, but you receive them because He is a merciful and loving God. Humble yourself before God, realizing that your strength and success come from Him alone.

Petition for God to act. Daniel very specifically asked the Lord to take action: "Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name" (Daniel 9:19). Daniel’s prayer was not selfish in nature, but he prayed for the Lord to show Himself strong so that the Lord might receive glory on this earth. We are to pray that God will act in a way that brings Him the greatest glory and in a way that most profoundly demonstrates that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

Prayer: God, as I humble myself before You, I realize that I don’t deserve Your blessings, but I am grateful that You are a merciful God. Apart from You, I am nothing. God, I pray that You would take action, showing Yourself strong, so that You would receive all praise and glory. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"Turn to me and have mercy on me, as you always do to those who love your name" (Psalm 119:132).

Daniel’s Prayer

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 09/11/18

We can see the effectiveness of prayer by a righteous person through the Old Testament prophet Daniel. His prayers provide a model for us to follow. Read his powerful plea to God in Daniel 9:4-19. Now, let’s take a look at the key components of his prayer.

Start with praise. Daniel began his prayer by praising God. His focus was not on himself, but on God’s greatness. He prayed to "the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments" (Daniel 9:4). He acknowledged God as absolutely righteous, but also merciful and forgiving. Begin your own prayers with praise and thanksgiving to God.

Praise Him for His glory, His power, and His love. Thank Him for your salvation, your many blessings and glorious promises, and His daily provision in your life. Spend time just adoring God. We must remember that prayer is not just a means of getting what we ask for—it is fellowship with God. When we pray, we are investing in an intimate, personal relationship with Him.

Confess your sins. Daniel confessed that Israel had sinned. He didn’t try to dismiss, justify, or sidestep the fact that Israel had made a grave error. He didn’t make excuses to God but took responsibility. Daniel stated up front in his prayer, "We have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws" (Daniel 9:5). When you go to God in prayer, don’t play the blame game when it comes to your sin. Acknowledge any element of sin or wrongdoing—intentional or unintentional—related to the situation or circumstance. When God reveals sin in our hearts, His ultimate desire is to reconcile us to the fullness of a right relationship with Him.

Prayer: God, I want to praise You today for Your love and for the gift of salvation. Thank You for giving us Your Word to provide examples like Daniel for us to follow. Forgive me of any sin in my life. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"The LORD lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be God my Savior!" (Psalm 18:46).

The Prayer of Faithfulness

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 09/10/18

Read Daniel 9:1-19

The Old Testament prophet Daniel became an advisor to kings because of who he was in secret on his knees before God.

Daniel was born in the land of Judah during a time when much of the nation had fallen away from God. He was a teenager when God permitted the forces of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon to lay siege to Jerusalem.

Along with much of the population of Jerusalem, Daniel and his friends were shackled and led away in chains to Babylon, where they became servants in the royal court of Nebuchadnezzar. Exiled to a foreign land, Daniel stood his moral and spiritual ground, as we see in the story of Daniel being willing to die in the lion’s den rather than stop praying.

Whenever you see a person standing firm for God, you’ll find that they first bent the knee to God in prayer. When God’s people refuse to compromise their faith, when God’s people persistently, consistently, and obstinately go to their knees in prayer, big things happen. Future history changes. Everything that was notable about Daniel flowed from his daily time with God. People who spend time with God every day can’t help but be changed.

We see this in Daniel’s remarkable prayer in Daniel 9, when the Jewish people had been in exile in Babylon for nearly seventy years. Daniel pleads with God through confession, intercession, and petition.

When you pray, remember Daniel’s prayer. Remember that the same God who answered Daniel’s prayers has promised to answer your prayers. Remember that the same God who foretold the outline of future history to Jeremiah and Daniel is in control of your future as well. You can trust Him with your future because He is the One who announced the return of His people to Israel after seventy years of exile, then moved the king of Persia to send them home—precisely on schedule. And He is the One who announced the coming of the Messiah, then sent Him into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday—precisely on schedule.

History never catches God by surprise. When we pray, we become partners in the fulfillment of His eternal plan. So pray like Daniel, rely on God’s promises, and prepare to be amazed.

Prayer: Thank You, Father, for the honor of serving Your Kingdom through prayer and obedience. Help me to be faithful in these callings so that by my witness of trust in You, many might see Your goodness and Truth and be saved. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

”Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name" (Daniel 9:19).

The Greatest Fortress

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 09/09/18

Deep in the Arabian Desert is a small fortress. It stands silently on the vast expanse of the ageless desert. Thomas Edward Lawrence, known as Lawrence of Arabia, often used it. Though unpretentious, it was most efficient. Its main commendation was its security. When under attack, often by superior forces, Lawrence would retreat there for safety.

While staying there, the resources of the fortress became his—the food and the water stored there were life-supporting. The strength of the fortress became the strength of its occupants. Old-time desert dwellers talked about how confident and secure Lawrence always felt when he was within the walls of the fortress.

Prayer is the believer’s greatest fortress. It is a place we can run to any time of the day or night. The strength and protection we receive in God’s presence are unmatched by this world. The name of Jesus and His atoning blood are even more assuring than walls made of stone, iron, or concrete. Just as Jesus promised:

Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them. (Matthew 18:18-20).

He has provided a supreme place of safety for you. Whenever confusion, fear, or feelings of doubt assail your mind, turn to Him. Pray for His protection to surround you and ask Him to provide the strength you need to stand firm against any and all deception.

Prayer: Lord, thank You for providing me with the safety of Your strength, power, and salvation. Because You’ve set up your Kingdom in my heart, I call on Your power to defeat feelings of fear, doubt, and confusion. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"Call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me" (Psalm 50:15).

The Prayer of Trust

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 09/08/18

David’s family was torn apart by rape, murder, rebellion, and revolution. He’d failed as a father, in part because of his polygamous marriages and in part because he was too busy with matters of government and war. He was powerful, he was successful, he was the king—but he was eventually on the run, fleeing a son who sought to take his life.

Exiled from his family and his people, hiding from his son Absalom, a grief-stricken King David penned a heartfelt prayer, a plea for mercy and justice.

David’s world was falling apart—but God was his Rock.

David’s family was collapsing—but God was his Rock.

David’s government was crumbling—but God was his Rock.

David’s throne had been stolen from him—but God was his Rock.

David’s subjects had turned against him—but God was his Rock.

The prayer of Psalm 28 expresses the heart’s cry of everyone who has found themselves in a desperate situation. It is a comforting passage to meditate on when you have been slandered, mistreated, and misunderstood by others. It’s a plea for God to be your protector, vindicator, and righteous judge.

When your world is falling apart all around you, how do you respond? Do you run to God, or do you blame Him? When you find yourself facing the consequences of your own wrong choices, do you cry out to the Rock of ages, or do you blame God for not protecting you from the results of your actions?

David understood God. He prayed, "Hear my cry for mercy as I call to you for help." A cry for mercy is the farthest thing imaginable from the demand, "You owe me."

David prayed with his arms raised, putting his mind, spirit, and body into his prayer. He was not just saying a prayer; he was struggling in prayer. Hard work, struggle, suffering, wrestling with God—these difficult experiences are often the prerequisites to victory.

No matter how people may fail you or mistreat you, God is your fortress. His power never diminishes. His love for you never changes. His support for you never wavers. His mercy toward you never fades. He is your Rock.

Prayer: Lord, You are my Rock. I will trust in You when circumstances threaten to overwhelm me, remembering Your promises are sure and everlasting. I will rest in Your mercy toward me and hope in Your coming Kingdom. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him" (Psalm 28:7).

Blessing Out of Brokeness

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 09/07/18

God responded to Hannah’s cry for a son, and she gave birth to Samuel. In keeping with the vow she had made to God, she gave the Lord her only child. Although Samuel grew up serving God at the temple, Hannah was not bitter over releasing her son to God. Instead, she gave a heartfelt prayer of thanksgiving: "There is no one holy like the LORD; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God" (1 Samuel 2:2).

God continued to bless Hannah with children. After years of what looked like a hopeless situation, she received her prayer request not just once but several times:

Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife, saying, "May the LORD give you children by this woman to take the place of the one she prayed for and gave to the LORD." Then they would go home. And the LORD was gracious to Hannah; she conceived and gave birth to three sons and two daughters. Meanwhile, the boy Samuel grew up in the presence of the LORD. (1 Samuel 2:20-21).

God wants to bring blessings out of our brokenness. He is a loving provider whose power is limitless. People and things will fail us, but God’s security and strength abide forever. His compassion is inexhaustible. His peace is unexplainable.

In your hour of desperation, where do you turn? Do you tell your troubles to anyone who will listen, or do you seek the throne of grace?

Prayer: God, help me to come to You in my hour of desperation. Thank You for Your love. I pray that You would bring blessings out of my brokenness. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds" (Psalm 147:3).

The Prayer of Brokenness

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 09/06/18

Read 1 Samuel 1:1-20.

If you want to be whole in God’s kingdom, you must be willing to be broken. God blesses the broken spirit.

In the first chapter of 1 Samuel, we come to a prayer of brokenness from a woman named Hannah. Out of her prayer will come a man who will influence the course of history in a mighty way—a man who will anoint the king from whose lineage the Savior of the world will be born.

The name Hannah means "favored," but Hannah didn’t feel favored at all. She felt broken due to her inability to conceive a child. We read in 1 Samuel 1:10, "In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly..."

We should pay close attention to several aspects of Hannah’s prayer. First, we should note that this is the first prayer of a woman ever recorded in the Bible. I’m sure that there were many faithful women who prayed before Hannah, women whose prayers are not recorded in Scripture. And I’m sure we would be astonished at the incredible works God has done in answer to their prayers. In fact, I can tell you that I am a follower of Christ and a servant of Christ because God answered the prayers of my mother. And I can tell you that her prayers were anguished prayers, prayers of brokenness, because I, as a young man, was far from God and was breaking her heart.

A second aspect of Hannah’s prayer to note is that it was silent. Her lips moved, but she made no sound. She wasn’t praying to be eloquent. She was praying out of her deep anguish and brokenness.

Third, as Hannah prays, she makes no attempt to draw attention to herself. Hannah was not trying to impress anyone or manipulate emotions or gain sympathy. She knew there was only One who could meet her desperate need. There was only One who could do the impossible. And He is the One who hears all prayers—even prayers prayed in silence.

God hears our prayers, expressed in groaning too deep for words. These are the prayers of brokenness, and He delights in answering these prayers. God is going to use Hannah’s brokenness to bless her—and to bless the entire world in all generations.

Prayer: Thank You that You are close to the brokenhearted. Thank You that You know my deepest longings and that Your love gives me comfort—Your Gospel, hope. I bring my brokenness to You today, knowing that in You alone am I made whole. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit" (Psalm 34:18).

The Prayer of Obedience

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 09/05/18

Read Genesis 24:1-50.

Over the years, I have prayed with countless people a simple prayer for decision-making wisdom: "Lord, which way should Your servant take?" That prayer is based on a prayer found in Genesis 24, the first prayer ever recorded in the Bible. (There are earlier conversations recorded between Adam and God and Abraham and God, but this is the first instance of an individual praying to God in the same way you and I pray to Him.) It was offered by a man so ordinary that his name doesn’t even appear in the chapter. We only know his name because he was briefly mentioned in Genesis 15:2: Eliezer of Damascus, the senior servant in Abraham’s household.

When Abraham is very old, he commissions Eliezer to go to the city of Nahor in Mesopotamia where Abraham’s relatives live. There Eliezer is to find a bride for Abraham’s son, Isaac.

In Genesis 24:12-14, we read that this servant stops on his travels to pray for God to guide him. The fact that Eliezer is not named in this passage suggests that he is a genuinely humble servant who does not seek to glorify himself. And God answers his prayer even "before he had finished praying" (v. 15).

Some people say you should never pray specifically because you may be praying outside of the will of God. But the Bible contains many examples of people praying very specific prayers, like this one, and God honors those prayers. Of course, we need to be flexible when God gives us His answer. He may answer our prayer in a different way than we expect. But we should not fear to be specific when we pray.

Eliezer also understood that prayer is no substitute for action. He prayed—but he kept traveling. He prayed—but he kept his eye on the destination. He prayed—but he kept following the map.

The prayer of Abraham’s faithful servant Eliezer was a prayer for guidance in a decision that would impact the lineage of Jesus the Messiah. The example of Eliezer teaches us this all-important principle: faithful prayer + unconditional obedience = answered prayer.

When you need God’s guidance, when you need answered prayer, pray with a heart of unconditional obedience. Then watch faithfully to see His answer.

Prayer: Lord, thank You that I can bring my specific requests to You and trust that You hear and answer them in Your perfect wisdom and timing. Thank You for Eliezer’s example of obedient faith. May I, too, pray and live confidently in the knowledge of Your provision and love. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"Those who know your name trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you" (Psalm 9:10).

The Power of Prayer

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 09/04/18

There is no power over temptation nor victory over sin without spending time with God in prayer. James Montgomery, who was a great man of prayer, wrote these lyrics in his hymn Prayer Is the Soul’s Sincere Desire: "Prayer is the Christian’s vital breath. The Christian’s native air; His watchword at the gates of death; He enters Heav’n with prayer."

Prayer should be our first option rather than the final effort. When trouble approaches, we need to run to God in prayer. If you are weary and feel heavy-laden, take time to pray. When life is joyful, take time to praise God for His goodness through prayer. Moses prayed, and water flowed from a rock. Joshua prayed, and the sun stood still. Hannah prayed, and God gave her a son. David prayed, and Goliath fell. Elijah prayed, and fire rained down from heaven. Daniel prayed, and God closed the lions' mouths. Jesus prayed, and 5,000 people were fed and satisfied with a little boy’s lunch.

When Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, the demons shook with terror. Heaven’s boundless power and strength are ours when we pray and align our will with His perfect plan.

Are you discouraged and despondent? Pray. Do you feel defeated by sin? Pray. Does it seem as if your life and personal relationships are falling apart? Your greatest needs can be met through prayer. God is not challenged by your sin or difficult circumstances. Prayer is the avenue He uses to restore your soul and to prepare you to live the life He has given you. Therefore, pray, knowing that when you draw near to Him, He will draw near to you.

Prayer: Lord, I am drawing near to You, please draw near to me. I pray You will restore my soul and prepare me for the life You have planned for me. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"Come near to God and he will come near to you. . . . Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up" (James 4:8, 10).

The Weapon of Victory

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 09/03/18

In Jeremiah, the Lord promises Israel restoration of relationship with Him, saying, "Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart" (Jeremiah 29:12-13).

Through Christ we have this promise—a special relationship with God, if only we will seek Him and meet with Him in prayer. For, if we fail to pray, we will never fully experience the power of God in our lives.

Prayer is our declaration of faith in a mighty God. When we pray, we acknowledge our need of Him and our dependence on Him alone. Calling out to God also declares our desire for His wisdom, guidance, and protection.

We have the awesome privilege of entering God’s presence through prayer. It is here that we discover the will of God for our lives and receive His power so we can victoriously face the enemy of our souls.

In this life, there will be times when we struggle with feelings of disappointment. In those times, we may be tempted to give up and forget the goodness and love of God. If we are not careful, our spiritual focus will shift, and we will wonder, "Why pray?”

Never allow this attitude to rest within your heart. Prayer is our mighty weapon of victory. It is a matter of the will rather than emotion or intellect. When the bottom drops out of life, we must become more determined than ever to pray.

In Scripture, Paul reminds us that a spiritual battle rages around us (see Ephesians 6:12). However, we are not defenseless. Prayer is a powerful and sure weapon (see 2 Corinthians 10:3-4). Therefore, we can pray and, by faith, know that God hears us when we call to Him.

Prayer: Father, You are Mighty God, and I acknowledge my utter dependence on You. I pray for Your will for my life. May I receive it with joy and thanksgiving knowing You love me. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds" (2 Corinthians 10:3-4).

Not Limiting God

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 09/02/18

It’s ’s natural to look out for number one. But this focus on self takes us off course in our walk of faith. We may profess devotion and obedience to God, yet we seldom are willing to give up anything for Him. In Genesis 22, we see that Abraham was told to give up not just a little something—he was told to give up his long-awaited and treasured son, Isaac.

"Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, 'Abraham!' 'Here I am,' he replied. Then God said, ' Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you'" (Genesis 22:1-2).

Can you imagine the pain of hearing those words? After years of waiting for his promised son, God then calls Abraham to sacrifice him. Most of us would claim that we had misheard God. We would try to bargain with Him or to run and hide our beloved treasure from Him. Yet, the Bible gives no indication that Abraham put up a fight.

How could he go along with such a plan? Abraham’s faith was bigger than his fear of losing his son forever. After a lifetime of lessons in his walk of faith, Abraham had finally learned not to limit God with human thinking. Hebrews 11:17-19 gives us a glimpse of Abraham’s faith in God’s faithfulness:

By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, "It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned." Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.

Prayer: God, help me surrender totally to You and Your plan for my life. Help me not put human limits on You, for You are far greater than I can even imagine. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"Who has prescribed his ways for him, or said to him, 'You have done wrong'?" (Job 36:23).

Consequences of Disobedience

By Michael Youssef, Ph D. 09/01/18

Abraham continued to face consequences for circumventing God’s plan regarding his descendants. Ishmael, the child he fathered through his wife’s servant Hagar, became a resentful and jealous son following the birth of Isaac. "Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, and she said to Abraham, 'Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.' The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son" (Genesis 21:9-11).

Abraham learned the hard way that deviating from God’s path leads to misery. He knew that God’s promises were true and sure, but, more than once, he allowed himself to become trapped by Satan’s lies and faltered in his faith. Jesus told us, "Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (John 8:32). Jesus was not talking about mere knowledge of the Truth, but our submission to it. He was talking about the Truth of the Gospel message: We need a Savior, and God has met our deep need through the atoning sacrifice of Christ by grace. It isn’t up to us. And that Truth brings freedom and transforms us into Christlike people as we trust and follow Him.

Rejoice that no matter how you falter along your journey of faith, God will be there to pick you up and redirect your steps toward His Truth—the Gospel of grace.

Prayer: God, I know that I must face the consequences of my disobedience, but I know You will never forsake me. Help me grow in faith. Thank You picking me up when I fall. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"Though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand" (Psalm 37:24).

Contact Us

Bunker Hill Community Church
170 Pleasant Drive
Aliquippa (Center Township), PA 15001
Phone #: 724-375-6700

Email: [email protected]


Sunday School - Adults & Children 9:45 am
Sunday Worship at 11:00 am
Wednesday Evening
Bible Study & Prayer 7:00 pm

God Save America - By Michael Youssef, Ph D.

Please continue to pray for the leaders of America.