Love Can Change People

I once read a story in Guideposts Magazine, a remarkable account of how love changed a person’s life. A Christian woman lived next door to an elderly lady who never came out of her house or even raised her window shades to let light into her home. This lady’s husband had died, and she herself had endured a stroke, which had left her lonely and bitter.

The Christian woman and her two young children began trying to reach out to the elderly recluse, but every time they did, she rejected their advances. They baked cookies every week for a long time and delivered them to their neighbor’s door. The first time, she opened the door just a crack, accepted the cookies, thanked them, and closed the door.

The neighbor’s response was not what the Christian woman had hoped for, but she lovingly persisted. And eventually love did work! The elderly lady accepted a casserole from her and said more than just a short thank-you. As the visits continued, the elderly woman gradually began to chat longer.

Finally, one day, the Christian woman’s children picked some flowers from their garden and delivered them to their neighbor. Eventually, they all became good friends. The elderly lady got her life back. She opened her blinds, her door, and her heart, and she began to live again—all because someone who loved God was determined to love her.

Many people in the world today are just like the elderly neighbor. They have had sadness or difficulties in their lives and have become bitter. They seem to reject love, yet love is what they need most. Be a person who gives of yourself and your resources to reach out and show love to someone who desperately needs it.

Prayer Starter: Father, let me be an instrument of Your love today. Show me someone I can bless, encourage and uplift. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.



The Justice of Divine Judgment

Revelation 20:11-15

Every person will face God on judgment day. Whenever that topic comes up, I am usually asked something like, “What about people who live in remote areas, who will never hear about Jesus?” The concerned questioner is really wondering, How could a loving Lord send an ignorant person to hell? In other words, how can it be fair to condemn those who have never heard the gospel?

To understand how God judges, we should recognize two truths about Him. First, He is not limited. While whole people groups still have no Scripture in their language, God always reaches individuals whose hearts are open to knowing Him. Men like Abraham and Moses had no Scriptures, and yet the Lord spoke to them.

Second, God reveals Himself to all people, whether or not they have access to the Bible. He not only demonstrates His power and attributes through creation; He also programs our conscience to understand the basic distinctions between right and wrong. For those who are blessed to hear the gospel at some point, Jesus Christ is the greatest revelation of God in their life.

When people stand before the Father, He will judge them on three criteria: the amount of truth to which each has been exposed; how many opportunities there were to accept the truth and share it with others; and what was done with those opportunities. The believer’s responsibility, then, is to reach as many as possible with the gospel so that no one need ask, “What about those who have never heard of Jesus?”



Building On Christ

1 Corinthians 3:9-15

Have you ever seen an elaborate, masterfully crafted sandcastle? That’s one of the most delightful experiences of a trip to the beach. The best builders are painstaking in every detail as they craft these beautiful works of art. The towers are straight, the windows are even, and sometimes the outline of individual bricks can be seen on each wall. The end result is often stunning, rivaling the elegance of homes in the wealthiest neighborhoods of the world.

But for all a sandcastle’s splendor, its hours are numbered. From the moment the first grain of sand is set in place, the miniature building is on its way to oblivion. Within hours the details are destroyed by wind, rain, and the incoming tide. There is simply no future for a house of sand.

Sometimes believers’ lives are like sandcastles. Even though everything looks perfect on the outside, their life’s pursuits and activities will be revealed as worthless in the fire of God’s judgment. Although their eternal destiny is secure, they will suffer the loss of heavenly rewards because they used inferior building materials.

The most important thing in life is to make sure we have the right foundation. Church attendance, ministry work, discipleship programs, or community service are no substitute for the rock-solid foundation of faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. We also need to build our life with faithful, obedient service to the Lord. The goal is not to have the most impressive-looking life in this world but to build one that demonstrates our devotion to the Savior who died to rescue us.



Seek Help From His Spirit

“Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me.”   John 6:57

Have you ever tried to accomplish something for God without first seeking help from His Spirit? It can feel so desolate! Nothing is more mechanical than when we attempt to live a supernatural life apart from Him. I’ve done it. You do it too. When we live apart from Him, cruising along on our own self-sufficiency, prayer becomes dull, witnessing becomes burdensome, and relationships sag under the weight of selfishness. Our jobs drag us down; our smiles become plastic; our words about God begin to sound like a memorized script; performing an act of kindness becomes an unpleasant duty. Even our relationship to the Lord becomes a chore. In case you’re feeling like you are fine on your own today, remember that in Him you live and move and have your being (Acts 17:28). With His life flowing through you, you will accomplish more than you could ever dream.

Lord Jesus, how vain and foolish I can be sometimes! And what an empty experience it is to go through the motions of following You without experiencing the daily reality. I just need You, Lord. I don’t want to attempt anything for You in my own wisdom or my strength. Please fill me with Your Spirit today, and empower me to be the person You want me to be.



Responding to Accusations

Luke 12:11-12

When conflict occurs, the natural reaction is to blame someone else and defend yourself. But believers must respond differently. Once, I was publicly chastised for a wrong I had not committed. Thankfully, the Lord enabled me to remain calm rather than react angrily. Praying before doing anything else is the best response in a crisis. When we do, God supernaturally provides that which we can’t muster up ourselves.

Spiritual discernment. The Lord, who perfectly understands the source of every problem, can give us insight beyond our limited perspective. Perhaps there’s been a communication breakdown, a feeling of jealousy on the other person’s part, or a mistake we unknowingly made. The Holy Spirit can show us how to approach our accuser and see beyond hurtful words or actions.

A quiet spirit. Our human nature wants to react quickly so that we can defend ourselves. That’s why we must first deliberately focus our attention on the Lord and experience the inward peace He alone makes available to us (John 14:27).

Wisdom. Jesus told His disciples the Holy Spirit would give them wise words to say when they faced hostile authorities. He’ll do the same for you. Ask Him to put a seal on your lips until He shows you what to say and when (Psalm 141:3).

We don’t have to react to criticism with anger and self-protection the way the world does. Instead, we are called to represent Christ in every situation by depending on Him. In responding as He directs, we bring Him glory and cause unbelievers to want to know the source of our strength.



The Greatest Influence

Several years ago someone interviewed the contemporary artist Marc Chagall for a PBS program. The young, arty interviewer started the session with a question about influences. His question was very long and involved and exhibited his own learning along the way, giving everybody, including Chagall, a lecture on the nature of influences on the artist.

When the young man finally gave the artist a chance to answer for himself, Chagall said, in the simplest way, that his greatest influence was his mother. It took the poor young man a bit of time to get his bearings after that.

I know of no more permanent imprint on a life than the one made by mothers. I guess that’s why Mother’s Day always leaves me a little nostalgic. Not simply because my mother has gone on (and heaven’s probably cleaner because of it!), but because that’s the one day the real heroines of our world get the credit they deserve. Hats off to every one of you!

More than any statesman or teacher, more than any minister or physician, more than any film star, athlete, business person, author, scientist, civic leader, entertainer, or military hero . . . you are the most influential person in your child’s life.

Never doubt that fact!

There would never have been an Isaac without a Sarah, a Moses without a Jochebed, a Samuel without a Hannah, a John without an Elizabeth, a Timothy without a Eunice, or a John Mark without a Mary.

A mother’s influence is so great that we model it even when we don’t realize it, and we return to it—often to the surprise of others.

As I think of my own mother’s influence on me, two words come to mind: class and zest. My mother, being a classy lady, was determined to keep our family from being ignorant of the arts or lacking in social graces. I have her to thank for my love of artistic beauty, fine music, which fork to use, and no gravy on my tie. She also possessed such a zest for life. I am indebted to her for my enthusiasm and relentless drive. Her indomitable spirit got passed on, thank goodness.

And so, mothers, don’t ever forget the permanence of your imprint. The kids may seem ungrateful, they may act irresponsible, they may even ignore your reminders and forget your advice these days. But believe this: They cannot erase your influence.

Think about how your own mother has influenced your life. Have you ever thanked her? Have you thanked God for your mother’s influence in your life?



A Privilege

Hebrews 7:23-28

Prayer is a truly remarkable privilege, especially considering the Lord’s holiness. How can human beings, who are inherently sinful, dare to approach a holy God whose nature is so flawless and perfect that even a hint of sin is incompatible with His presence? Yet that is exactly what Christians are invited to do—to “draw near with confidence to the throne of grace” so they can receive help in times of need (Heb. 4:16).

Although we often take prayer for granted, we should never forget what God did to open this path to His throne. Because He is holy, a blood sacrifice is required to cover sin before anyone can approach Him (Lev. 17:11). In the Old Testament Law, a priest offered animal sacrifices for the cleansing of imperfect people (Lev. 4:1-35; Lev. 5:1-19). However, that was only a temporary solution because, while animal sacrifices covered the sin, they could never wipe it out.

At the cross, God’s Son offered Himself as the only fully sufficient, atoning sacrifice to pay the penalty for sin once for all time. His blood is adequate for the forgiveness of every past, present, and future sin of those who have by faith received His atonement. Now believers are not only forgiven but also welcomed into God’s family as a result of being born again of His Spirit, who indwells them.

One aspect of our new spiritual birth is that we have the privilege of communion with the Father in prayer because the Son is our high priest, eternally covering us in His righteousness. We can rest assured that we always have access to the Creator of the universe, who is sovereign over everything.



Live Creatively For Christ

Living creatively for Christ in the home is the acid test for any Christian man or woman. It is far easier to live an excellent life among your friends, when you are putting your best foot forward and are conscious of public opinion, than it is to live for Christ in your home. Your own family circle knows whether Christ lives in you and through you. If you are a true Christian, you will not give way at home to bad temper, impatience, fault-finding, sarcasm, unkindness, suspicion, selfishness, or laziness. Instead, you will reveal through your daily life the fruit of the Spirit, which is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, and all the other Christian virtues which round out a Christ-like personality.

Prayer for the day

My family, Lord, knows the real me—they deserve so much more. May I live so close to You that Your love will flow through me to them.



God’s Ways Revealed

1 Corinthians 2:6-16

Just when we think we’re growing in our understanding of God, something happens that causes us to wonder if we know Him very well at all. Perhaps it was an unanswered prayer request, an accident, an illness, or some loss that shook our faith. What are we to think when the events in our life seem to contradict our understanding of God?

This basic truth may sound paradoxical, but we’re wise to keep it in the forefront of our thinking: We have a God who is far beyond human comprehension, yet He wants us to know Him and understand His ways. Even the apostle Paul—who had an intimate relationship with God—exclaimed, “How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord?” (Rom. 11:33-34).

So how can we know our unfathomable God? The only way is if He reveals Himself to us—and that’s exactly what He has done. Every believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit “so that we may know the things freely given to us by God” (1 Corinthians 2:12). That’s why the apostle Paul said, “We have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16). Although we’ll never know or understand all that God does, we can be confident that as we read the Scriptures and walk in obedience to the Holy Spirit, He will teach us God’s ways.

We have a priceless treasure within us. The Spirit is the only reason we can understand spiritual concepts that are hidden from those who don’t know Jesus. But with this privilege comes the responsibility to let God’s Word dwell richly within us, because that’s how the Spirit teaches us the Father’s ways.



The Ability To Believe

It is impossible to believe anything into existence. The Gospel did not come into being because men believed it. The tomb was not emptied of Christ’s body that first Easter because some faithful persons believed it. The fact preceded the faith. We are psychologically incapable of believing without an object of our faith. The object of Christian faith is Christ. Faith means more than an intellectual assent to the claims of Christ. You are not called upon to believe something that is not credible, but to believe in the fact of history that in reality transcends all history. Faith actually means surrender and commitment to the claims of Christ. We do not know Christ through the five physical senses, but we know Him through the sixth sense that God has given every man—the ability to believe.