Today’s Scriptures: “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”— Genesis 18:14.
“Ye Lord God! behold, Thou hast made the heaven and the earth by Thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for Thee.”—Jeremiah 32:17.
THERE IS no doubt as to the identification of these three guests that suddenly appeared before the tent-door of Abraham. We are expressly told that “Jehovah appeared unto him.” It was thus that our Lord anticipated His Incarnation. He came incognito, and “His delights were with the sons of men” (Proverbs 8:31). During His earthly life, He loved the homes of men, lodged with Peter and Zacchaeus, and in the dear home where Mary loved and Martha served. After His resurrection, He tarried with two of them in the village inn. So He will come to thy heart and mine. Though He is the High and lofty One, who inhabits Eternity, yet He will plead for admission to sup with us and we with Him (Revelation 3:20). But He often comes disguised as a wayfaring man, hungry and athirst. Let us “run to meet Him,” remembering Matatthew 5:40.
God is no man’s debtor; He always pays for His lodging, hence His promise to Sarah! She laughed with incredulity, but is anything too hard for the Lord? That is one of God’s unanswered questions. It has accosted the human conscience all down the ages. Let us look away from the difficulties imposed by nature, to Him who holds the oceans in the hollow of His Almighty hand. Then we can stand with Him on the mountainside, and plead for Sodom; then God Himself will draw us on to ask for more and yet more, till, when our faith gives out, He will do something far in advance of all that we asked or thought.
Today’s Scripture: “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour?” Matthew 26:40.
A few years ago National Geographic magazine did a report on Yosemite National Park, and featured a story about Carl Sharsmith, an 81 year old guide at the historic site. Carl was in his tent after a long afternoon with tourists. His nose was flaked white and red with sunburn; his eyes were watery, partly from age but also from hearing again an old question after a half century of summers in California’s Yosemite National Park.
“I’ve only got an hour to spend at Yosemite,” a lady tourist declared, “What should I do? Where should I go?”
Carl sighed. “Ah, lady, only an hour?” he asked; and then softly added, “I suppose that if I had only an hour to spend at Yosemite, I’d just walk over there by the river and sit down and cry.”
The same could be said for those who have such little time to give to reading and reflecting upon the Word of God. Oh, what treasures we forfeit; what loss we incur – simply because we imagine ourselves too busy to take the time.
But, out of curiosity, just how much time do you think it would take to read from Genesis to Revelation? Well, if you would read the Bible out loud slow enough to be heard and understood, the full reading time would be seventy one hours. If you break that down into minutes and divide it into 365 days, you could easily read the entire Bible in one year by taking only twelve minutes each day.
The treasures you will find are of inestimable value. Here’s but one fine example — a prayer taken from the Psalms:
“Train me in your ways of wise living. I’ll transfer to my lips all the counsel that comes from your mouth; I delight far more in what you tell me about living than in gathering a pile of riches. I ponder every morsel of wisdom from you, I attentively watch how you’ve done it. I relish everything you’ve told me of life, I won’t forget a word of it. Be generous with me and I’ll live a full life; not for a minute will I take my eyes off your road. Open my eyes so I can see what you show me of your miracle-wonders. I’m a stranger in these parts; give me clear directions.” (see Psalms 119:12-19, The Message).
Today’s Scripture: “Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away. Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil. For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land. Psalm 37:1-9
Waiting on God is an important spiritual discipline in our walk of faith. King David’s life teaches us about the value of following the Lord’s plan and the danger in moving ahead of Him.
When David was a young shepherd boy, the prophet Samuel anointed him as Israel’s next king. Yet he did not become the ruler for many years. Waiting for the Lord to place him on the throne was made more difficult because the current king, Saul, turned against David and repeatedly tried to take his life. Despite the opportunity to take matters into his own hands and kill his enemy, David held back. He wouldn’t allow anyone else to attack Saul either (1 Samuel 24:1-7). He waited on God and was greatly blessed for his obedience.
King David also knew what it was like to move ahead without the Lord. One year he chose not to join his troops in battle, even though that was one of his duties (2 Samuel 11:1). During the time he stayed home, he noticed Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, and he coveted her. Acting upon his desires, he conceived a child with her and then tried to cover up his sin. What a mess he made of his life. Instead of following the Lord’s plan and being blessed, he experienced divine chastisement and much heartache.
As believers, we want to obey the Lord, but there may be situations when intense desire propels us forward without waiting for His direction. Like David, we will experience the blessing of obedience or the heartache of disobedience. Be sure to seek out God’s plan before you act.
Today’s Scripture: “Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.” James 1:21 (NIV)
Ever have a reoccurring bad attitude drain the life right out of you? It can cause your spirits to wither and your joy to die, leaving you limp and lifeless like a water-deprived plant.
I was feeling that way recently when I remembered something my husband’s mom had taught me. She is famous for growing wonderful herbs and colorful perennials. In fact, her garden boasts an array of color from the first hint of spring until late fall.
One day I asked her to share her green-thumb secret. She explained that the secret to helping plants thrive is called “dead-heading.” Here is how it is done: As soon as any beautiful blooms begin to whither, fade, or turn brown, they must be removed.
I’ve discovered it is a tedious, never-ending task. Just when I think I have removed every dried up blossom, the next day a dozen more appear. But if I want my flowers to keep blossoming, I have to dead-head daily because the deceased blooms sap nutrition and strength from the core of the plant. They rob the flowers of energy that could be used for new growth.
However, if the dead and debilitating weight is properly plucked, the stems will give gorgeous petals throughout the entire life of the plant.
As I pluck my dead flower heads, I am reminded of my life with Christ. There are places in my heart, thoughts in my mind, and actions in my will that stem from bad attitudes. And they are nothing but dead weight to my spiritual life.
Often these deep-rooted thought patterns and their companions — doubt, fear, wrong choices, old habits, nursed grudges, or current conflicts — threaten to choke our growth and prevent us from displaying the splendor God intends for us to show.
We start our day hopeful yet give in to the hurtful. Our self-doubts or judgments of others often take root in negative thoughts and counterproductive actions that not only have the potential to ruin our day, but also affect those around us. However, if we are intentional in nipping these at their first appearance, we will be more likely to experience new growth in our walk with Christ and health in our relationships.
Today’s verse from James tells us to get rid of such issues and instead to humbly plant God’s word deep in our hearts. So, instead of dwelling on a temptation in our thoughts and allowing it to morph into sin, we quietly focus our hearts on a truth from scripture such as “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet he did not sin.” (Hebrews 5:14)
Dwelling on scripture empowers, rather than drains us. It is spiritual dead-heading at its finest. This switch in our thought pattern can save us from wrong choices, unhealthy relationships and self-inflicted heartbreak.
Could your heart use a dead-heading session? Are there faded blooms you have been carrying around that are sapping your spiritual energy and strength, causing heartache and tears? Get rid of the bad. Plant God’s good Word in that spot instead. Then stand back — patiently now — and watch beautiful blooms begin to appear.
Dear Lord, I admit to You the faded flowers of my heart that I have been carrying around for much too long. Grant me courage to pluck them for good. Replace them with Your word planted seriously in my soul in an intentional manner. Let me drink deep of your bottomless nourishment so that the blooms You choose to grow and display in my life might point others to the Savior. In Jesus’ Name, Amen
Today’s Scripture: “Behold Thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass. And the multitudes cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest!”—Matthew 21:5-9.
THE KING of Glory approached the Holy City, seated not on the richly-draped war-horse, or followed by a glittering band of soldiers, but riding on a lowly ass, and attended by a vast crowd of rustic pilgrims! He was welcomed, not by the Governor Pilate, or Caiaphas the High Priest, but by the children, the poorer folk, the blind and the lame whom He had healed. His lodging-place was the bare ground on the mount of Olives, and on one occasion, at least, He was hungry enough to seek fruit from the fig-leaf.
Yet there was a mystic power about Him before which the rabble, that filled the courts of the Temple with noise and filth, were driven forth, and which the chief priests and scribes had to acknowledge when they challenged Him as to His authority (Matthew 21:23). His authority was that of Truth and Purity and God. It was a stray beam of His intrinsic Majesty. One who knew Him intimately said: “We beheld His glory, as of the Only-Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
Soul of man, to thee, also, thy King cometh! Let the gates of thy heart lift up their portals and admit Him! At first you may dread the revolution which His coming suggests, but be quick to give to Emmanuel, the Prince, all the keys of Mansoul. Enthrone Him in thine heart! He is the King and Heir, and He will make thee a joint-heir with Himself. Let the kingdom of your life become the kingdom of God and of His Christ. Let every thought be brought into subjection to Him.
But if, on the other hand, you are content to build the house of life apart from Him, be very sure that you are rejecting the one Chief Corner-stone, which can alone give the necessary stability and beauty to its structure. To forfeit that will involve the absolute destruction of the edifice on which your whole life-energy may have been expended (Matthew 7:27; 1Corinthians 3:10-15).
Today’s Scripture: “We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD, even as we put our hope in you.” Psalm 33:20-22
Scripture makes it clear that our heavenly Father hears and answers prayer. Yet we all experience times when, though we pray for God to act right away, He does not. What are some reasons for the delay?
At times the Lord sees that our attention is misdirected. Our relationship with Him should have priority over any earthly matter (Mark 12:30). Yet minds and prayers can become so fixed upon a need that our gaze shifts away from Him. The Father may delay His answer until we refocus on Him. In other situations, God waits because the timing is not right for granting our request. Perhaps certain events must happen first, or people’s thinking needs to be changed.
There are also seasons when the Lord wants to stretch and grow our faith. One of the ways He accomplishes that is by having us watch for His response. The Holy Spirit will work in these times of waiting to mature us and bring forth righteous fruit (Galatians 5:22-23).
Other reasons are a wrong motive for our request (James 4:3) and the practice of habitual sin. We all fall short when it comes to God’s standard of holiness, but some of us persist in a lifestyle of disobedience. The Lord may delay His answer so He can prompt us to confess our sin and turn back to Him.
Waiting on the Lord isn’t easy—faith and trust are needed (Hebrews 11:1). If His answer is delayed, check that 1) your focus is on Him, 2) your motive for asking is God-honoring, and 3) you aren’t practicing habitual sin. Then believe that His response will be for your good and His glory.
Today’s Scripture: “For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:14-21
Bertha Smith, a missionary to China, once expressed some of the most discouraging words I’d ever heard. “Charles, I want to tell you that you’re as good as you’ll ever be. You’re as good as you’ve ever been, and you won’t ever be any better than you are.”
I had grown up believing a falsehood—that believers were to pour effort into turning their flesh around and doing right all the time. Thankfully, Bertha wasn’t finished. “God never intended for you to get better, because you can’t improve flesh,” she said. “But the Holy Spirit, who is living inside you, will enable and live through you.”
She was right. My flesh hasn’t changed one bit. But the Holy Spirit releases His supernatural power in my life, and I find myself going beyond what is inherent to the nature of man. And that’s why He indwells every follower of God.
Although the works of the Holy Spirit are many, four are basic to the life of faith: 1) The Spirit illumines the mind, enabling believers to understand the things of God. 2) He energizes physical bodies to serve the Lord. 3) He enables the will to follow through on doing what is right. 4) He quickens emotions to feel and express the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).
Bertha Smith passed on an important truth to me: Flesh is insufficient. Only the Holy Spirit living inside us has the strength and wisdom to live out the Christian life victoriously. That’s why God gave Him to us. Through the Spirit, we reap all the benefits of a righteous and Godly life.
Today’s Scripture: “If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.” 1 Corinthians 3:12-15
Believers build their lives on the Rock of Ages: Jesus Christ. Every motive, every deed, and every word is material for our spiritual house. The apostle Paul warned followers to construct with care because on the day of judgment, fire will test the quality of each person’s work. This refers not to a literal fire but to the purifying presence of Jesus Christ.
When I stand in the Savior’s perfectly holy and just presence, all the wood, hay, and stubble in my life will disappear. Good things done with wrong motives will vanish along with secret sins and bad attitudes. Only what has been done and said in Jesus’ name remains. And the moment the chaff is gone, we will see that God is right—those things didn’t fit the life of His child.
On hearing this explanation, someone usually says, “All that matters is that I get into heaven.” But that attitude is shortsighted because the judgment of believers is about rewards. In the parable of the unrighteous steward, Jesus explained the basic concept to His disciples: “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much” (Luke 16:10). Our time on earth is the beginning of an eternity serving and rejoicing in the Lord. God will reward us with heavenly responsibility according to our faithfulness here.
Wise people plan for the future (Proverbs 27:12).I want to receive as much of God’s goodness as He offers, so I am determined to build with top-quality, enduring materials. The privilege of serving is only the beginning of the rewards. In heaven, God’s generosity will be even more abundantly unleashed.
Today’s Scripture: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” 2 Corinthians 5:10
Scripture reveals that Jesus Christ will judge every person who has ever lived (Acts 10:42). Those who refuse His offer of salvation face the white throne judgment—the unbelievers’ last stop before an eternity of exile from God’s presence. Believers will also stand before Jesus, at which time they’ll finally come to full comprehension of His extravagant grace.
In 1 Corinthians 4:5, Paul asserts that Jesus will disclose the motives hidden in believers’ hearts. Some people have gotten the misguided idea that all their sins will be displayed for everyone to see, but the Bible in no way supports that notion.
Jesus will reveal the true nature of a believer’s heart to him or her. Every rebellious act, wrong attitude, and cutting word will be reviewed. When the Bible says that Jesus will wipe the tears from our eyes, it is referring to this time (Isaiah 25:8). We’ll be standing in the holy Savior’s presence, grieving over how undeserving we are of His sacrifice. But the sorrow will last only a moment. On its heels comes the tremendous joy of having received forgiveness and lived a life pleasing to Him. Christ’s judgment is not a punishment; it is a reminder that we are pardoned. At last, we will fully realize the depth and breadth of His grace.
Believers need not cower or hang their heads during the judgment. Nor are we to repent—the time for that is past. We will stand before the Lord, clothed in Christ’s righteousness and forgiven of every single sin. And we will at last comprehend how great is the love of our God for us.
Today’s Scripture: “When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the LORD will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared.” Proverbs 3:24-26
David was confident that the Lord was always at his right hand (Psalm 16:8). His psalms reveal that in surveying his life, he saw God’s fingerprints all over it. Like David, we must train our spiritual eyes to notice the evidence of our heavenly Father’s presence.
Seeing with spiritual eyes isn’t a now-and-then kind of thing—it’s a lifestyle. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). Those who walk before the Lord with a clear conscience will take captive unholy thoughts, habits, attitudes, and words. They cast out sin and live in righteousness. As a result, such believers have a spiritual clarity that sharpens their awareness of God’s presence and involvement in their lives.
I developed a habit years ago that has helped me to focus. When I lie down and talk to the Lord before going to sleep, I try to recall the events of my day. What I’m really doing is looking for evidence of God at work. How did He guide this decision? Answer this question? Protect me in this situation? Help me in this relationship? Appreciating the Lord’s handiwork a second time (even when the initial experience was difficult) etches the reality of His care deeper on my heart.
The evidence of God’s great power is all over your life, if only you will see it. Viewing the world with wide-open spiritual eyes changes one’s perspective. Instead of saying, “I can’t,” say, “I can because the Lord always enables me.” Live confident in our loving, omnipotent God, who dwells within you.