On one January first back in the seventies, it was still dark outside when I awoke. The den was toy-strewn, there were supper dishes in the sink. A pile of laundry waited to be washed, while the dryer was full of the last load. I didn’t have the traditionally Southern New Year’s meal- black-eyed peas, cornbread and hog jowl-planned; I didn’t even have milk for breakfast. Wearily I tossed scattered toys into the yellow plastic clothes basket with the broken handle.
New Year’s Day .Bah,humbug! I felt someone watching me and turned. In the dark room stood Julie my oldest, in her pink nightgown with the top button missing. Sleepy eyes, she asked softly, “Why are you up so early, Mama?” I’m trying to get a head start. It’s New Year’s Day. You know what that means?”Silence. I assumed she’s chosen to ignore my strange early-morning question.” teacher said that every day is the first day of the rest of your life. Is that what you mean, Mama?”
I stood up straight and looked at her- really looked at her . A smile found my face. “Yep, Julie Babe, your teacher’s a smart lady – Author Marion Bond West
God dealt with Moses because of some of the mistakes he made. In fact, one of them kept him from entering the Promised Land. Nevertheless, God wouldn’t permit anybody else to criticize Moses – not even his sister Miriam. So what can you learn from this? 1) We’re all capable of harboring a critical attitude. Miriam had great qualities. She saved Moses’ life as a child, and she wrote a song of praise Israel used to celebrate the crossing of the Red Sea. But she paid a high price for her critical attitude – leprosy. 2) When you’re resentful you become critical.‘Miriam…began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife’ (Numbers 12:1). But was that the real issue? No. ‘They said, “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us also?”’ (v. 2).Moses’ wife was just a diversion; the real issue was Moses’ success. Their beef was: ‘How come he gets all the attention?’ 3) Anytime you succeed you’ll be criticized. The Bible says, ‘Moses was very humble’ (v. 3), yet even he couldn’t escape the pain inflicted by self-appointed critics. And you’re no different; as long as you’re alive somebody will find fault with what you’re doing. Brush it off and keep going. 4) If you’ve been critical, you need to repent. When Aaron acknowledged, ‘We have acted foolishly…we have sinned’ (v. 11), God showed mercy and healed Miriam. Most of us would rather classify criticism as a weakness, but from God’s perspective it’s a genuine, bona fide, registered sin. And there’s only one way to deal with sin – repent and stop committing it.
Prayer Heavenly Father,
forgive me for the times I have been critical of others and give me
patience and love towards those who are critical of me.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen
Mary, a virgin, was living in Galilee of Nazareth and was engaged to be married to Joseph, a Jewish carpenter. An angel visited her and explained to her that she would conceive a son by the power of the Holy Spirit. She would carry and give birth to this child and she would name him Jesus.At first Mary was afraid and troubled by the angel’s words. Being a virgin, Mary questioned the angel, “How will this be?” The angel explained that the child would be God’s own Son and, therefore, “nothing is impossible with God.” Humbled and in awe, Mary believed the angel of the Lord and rejoiced in God her Savior.Surely Mary reflected with wonder on the words found in Isaiah 7:14 foretelling this event, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”(NIV)
While Mary was still engaged to Joseph, she miraculously became pregnant through the Holy Spirit, as foretold to her by the angel. When Mary told Joseph she was pregnant, he had every right to feel disgraced. He knew the child was not his own, and Mary’s apparent unfaithfulness carried a grave social stigma. Joseph not only had the right to divorce Mary, under Jewish law she could be put to death by stoning.
Although Joseph’s initial reaction was to break the engagement, the appropriate thing for a righteous man to do, he treated Mary with extreme kindness. He did not want to cause her further shame, so he decided to act quietly. But God sent an angel to Joseph in a dream to verify Mary’s story and reassure him that his marriage to her was God’s will. The angel explained that the child within Mary was conceived by the Holy Spirit, that his name would be Jesus and that he was the Messiah, God with us.
When Joseph woke from his dream, he willingly obeyed God and took Mary home to be his wife, in spite of the public humiliation he would face. Perhaps this noble quality is one of the reasons God chose him to be the Messiah’s earthly father.
Joseph too must have wondered in awe as he remembered the words found in Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”(NIV) At that time, Caesar Augustus decreed that a census be taken, and every person in the entire Roman world had to go to his own town to register. Joseph, being of the line of David, was required to go to Bethlehem to register with Mary. While in Bethlehem, Mary gave birth to Jesus. Probably due to the census, the inn was too crowded, and Mary gave birth in a crude stable. She wrapped the baby in cloths and placed him in a manger.
Out in the fields, an angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds who were tending their flocks of sheep by night. The angel announced that the Savior had been born in the town of David. Suddenly a great host of heavenly beings appeared with the angels and began singing praises to God. As the angelic beings departed, the shepherds decided to travel to Bethlehem and see the Christ-child.
There they found Mary, Joseph and the baby, in the stable. After their visit, they began to spread the word about this amazing child and everything the angel had said about him. They went on their way still praising and glorifying God. But Mary kept quiet, treasuring their words and pondering them in her heart. It must have been beyond her ability to grasp, that sleeping in her arms—the tender child she had just borne—was the Savior of the world.
After Jesus’ birth, Herod was king of Judea. At this time wise men (Magi) from the east saw a star, they came in search, knowing the star signified the birth of the king of the Jews. The wise men came to the Jewish rulers in Jerusalem and asked where the Christ was to be born. The rulers explained, “In Bethlehem in Judea,” referring toMicah 5:2 . Herod secretly met with the Magi and asked them to report back after they had found the child. Herod told the Magi that he too wanted to go and worship the babe. But secretly Herod was plotting to kill the child.
So the wise men continued to follow the star in search of the new born king and found Jesus with his mother in Bethlehem. (Most likely Jesus was already two years of age by this time.) They bowed and worshipped him, offering treasures of gold, incense, and myrrh. When they left, they did not return to Herod. They had been warned in a dream of his plot to destroy the child
1) To take spiritual inventory of your life. David prayed, ‘Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting’ (vv. 23-24). Note the words ‘anxious thoughts’ and ‘offensive way’. These are things you start to take stock of when you are in God’s presence. For example, are you growing daily in your spiritual walk? Are you allowing unconfessed sins to pile up in your life? How about your attitudes? In order to see yourself from God’s point of view, you have to face these questions in His presence and answer them honestly.
2) To commit each day to the Lord. The writer of Proverbs said,‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths’ (Proverbs 3:5-6). Share your schedule with God, ask Him to guide you in your daily activities and alter them as needed. Ask Him to help you manage your time better so you can get more done (Psalms 90:12). Ask Him to help you distinguish between what’s truly important and what isn’t (1 Corinthians 10:23). Every day of your life you’ll have to deal with two things: problems and opportunities. And God will give you the right perspective and approach to handle both. You’ll be amazed how much more effective and efficient you are when you’ve spent time with Him.
Another goal of your daily devotions should be: guidance. Without God’s input you’re at the mercy of your own best thinking—and that should concern you greatly! The Psalmist wrote, ‘Show me Your ways…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.’ (Psalms 25:4-5). God said through the prophet Isaiah: ‘I will bring the blind by a way they did not know; I will lead them in paths they have not known. I will make darkness light before them, and crooked places straight. These things I will do for them, and not forsake them.’ (Isaiah 42:16). The path you take determines your destination, so before you decide to go in a given direction, talk to God. And don’t be surprised when He takes you down a road ‘you have not known’. You must trust that God knows what He’s doing. Blaise Pascal said, ‘All of man’s troubles stem from his inability to sit quietly in a room alone.’ In this fast-paced age you must take time to slow down, collect your thoughts, evaluate what’s happening around you, and get direction from the One who knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10). Jesus told His disciples to ‘come apart’ in order to be rejuvenated physically and spiritually (Mark 6:31). The Bible says, ‘…When they were alone, He explained all things to His disciples.’ (Mark 4:34). There are certain things God will explain to you only when you take the time to be alone with Him.
help me spend alone time with You today so that I can meditate upon You!
In Jesus’ NameAmen
Prayer is foundational to your individual Christian life, and also to the life and ministry of your church. Like a foundation that secures a building, prayer gives you something trustworthy on which to rest. No wonder Satan works overtime to keep you busy and distracted so that you lose regular in-depth communication with your heavenly Father. But there’s one person against whom Satan couldn’t make headway when it came to trying to disrupt His prayer life: Jesus. And He’s the great example of what your prayer life should be. He began and ended His public ministry in prayer. In Mark chapter one, on one of the busiest days of His life, we see Jesus getting up before daylight to pray. Luke writes, ‘He…often withdrew…and prayed.’ It was His regular daily habit! In the Garden of Gethsemane He prayed with an intensity none of us will ever know. No wonder the disciples asked Him to teach them how to pray. Just how important is prayer? Ask Peter. It was the prayers of Christ that kept him from being destroyed completely when he denied his Lord; they salvaged him, and eventually promoted him to leadership in the church. And the only reason you don’t fail more often is because Jesus is praying for you, too (John 17:20; Hebrews 7:25). The application is pretty obvious: if Jesus needed to pray—so do you. Furthermore, if you’re waiting until you feel like it, or for the Spirit to move you to pray, you’re missing something. The Holy Spirit has already moved you to pray—through the instruction and example Christ left you.
In training Timothy for the ministry Paul wanted him to understand how the church works. So he began with the important stuff like prayer. In essence, Paul was saying, ‘Before you do anything else, pray. Before you teach anything else, teach your people to pray.’ Why? Because if God’s not on your side, you won’t succeed! Most of us understand this intellectually. We say a quick prayer as we’re running out of the door. We say grace before a meal. We open our church services with prayer. But few of us grasp the real importance of prayer, and Paul didn’t want Timothy to be misled or misinformed about the place of prayer in the church. We dare not fool ourselves into thinking we can ‘make things happen’ without prayer. If a church isn’t a praying church, it doesn’t matter how well the pastor preaches or the choir sings, or how nice the building is. For it to succeed, Jesus said, ‘…My house shall be a house of prayer…’ (Luke 19:46). Oswald Chambers said, ‘We look upon prayer as a means of getting things for ourselves: the Bible’s idea of prayer is that we may get to know God Himself.’ You aren’t coming to church just to hear a lively sermon or a good song; you’re coming to meet with God. The pastor and the choir are vehicles through which He can speak, but there’s no substitute for prayer. It’s not merely a nice sentiment; your spiritual growth and survival depend on it. So if you’ve gotten out of the habit of praying—right now get back into it!
If someone threatened your home or community, wouldn’t you defend them? They are under attack, but the enemy’s invisible. And Paul says the lion’s share of responsibility for stopping these attacks belongs to Christian men. ‘I want men everywhere to…[pray]’ (1 Timothy 2:8). Here the word ‘men’ isn’t the generic term for the human race or mankind; it’s specific to ‘males’. Now, I’m not saying only men are supposed to pray. Every Christian must. Nor am I saying prayer is the only thing to do. But it’s the first thing to do! John Bunyan said, ‘You can do more than pray after you’ve prayed, but you can’t do more than pray until you’ve prayed.’ James said, ‘…The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much’ (James 5:16). Note the word ‘righteous’. Every believer is clothed with the righteousness of Christ, which means you’re in right standing before God. There are two kinds of righteousness: positional and practical. There’s righteousness you need to practice daily as you allow the Holy Spirit to cleanse, fill and use you. Just like you don’t want to drink from a dirty cup, God doesn’t want to hear the prayers of a Christian whose life is fouled up with junk. The prayer God answers: 1) is offered by a clean heart; 2) has a seriousness and intensity that shows you’re not just throwing out a few wishes to see which ones God might pick up on; 3) lines up with God’s Word and purposes; 4) comes from an undivided heart, because ‘…a double-minded man receives nothing from the Lord’ (James 1:6-8).
cleanse my heart so that my prayers may go up to You as one of an open and upright heart
In Jesus’ Name
In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'” Acts 20:35
When the Good Samaritan saw the wounded man the priest and the Levite ‘passed by’, he took the initiative and went out of his way to help him. Jesus ended His parable by saying, ‘…Go and do likewise.’ (Luke 10:37). Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart, taught all his employees ‘The 10-Foot Rule’. It says, ‘I promise that whenever I come within 10 feet of a customer I will look them in the eye, greet them and ask if I can help them.’ As a result, stores worldwide implement Sam’s rule every day. Most of us recognize the value of taking the initiative. We acknowledge its importance in relationships, yet we still don’t do it. We wait for the other person to make the first move. But all that does is lead to missed opportunities. Pastor Malcolm Bane observed, ‘If you wait until you can do everything for everybody, instead of something for somebody, you’ll end up not doing anything for anybody.’ If you’re serious about helping others don’t wait—initiate! The ‘perfect moment’ seldom arrives. An old Jewish proverb says, ‘The wise do at once what the fool does at last.’ Initiating a conversation often feels awkward. Offering help means risking rejection. Giving to others can lead to misunderstanding. You won’t feel ready or comfortable in such moments; you just have to learn to get past those feelings of awkwardness and insecurity. To help people, you must go ahead and do what others never quite get around to. So right now take the initiative. Go out on a limb—that’s where the fruit is.
Heavenly Father, help me initiate contact with others to serve them. In Jesus’ Name, Amen
I’d been asking that question of some of our Guideposts readers and people who use our prayer Web site. We’d received a slew of answers, such as “in my car” or the old sofa in the living room” or at the “kitchen table”.
I was thinking about just what my answer would be when I walked by the barber’s I popped my head in. “Jacob” I asked “Do you have time to cut my hair?.
“Shush.” He put a finger to lips and gestured, “Come in, come in” He slapped the barber chair with his towel, pinned a smock around my neck and took out his comb and clippers. “I’m so glad you could fit me in,” I said. Again he put a finger to his lips and this time he pointed to a chair in the back where a man was sitting with his head swathed in warm towels, his feet up and his hands over his chest.
“The guy fell asleep, “Jacob whispered. “I didn’t want to wake him. And then you walked by.” He started combing and clipping. Inspired by the sleeping customer and Jacob’s silence, I closed my eyes, breathed deeply to the traffic outside and closed out the world. I thought of several people who needed a measure of peace in their lives, including me. Lord have mercy…I prayed.
But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered…Lute 12:7
Fifteen minutes later Jacob whispered off the smock and held up a mirror so i could admire his handwork. “Great, I said “Thanks” I gave him a good tip because he’d given me one: A barber chair is a great place to pray- as long as you can trust your barber with your while you’re practicing trusting God.
The apostle Paul had a strong commitment to know and serve Jesus Christ. His passion and love for the Lord was obvious—Jesus was always central in his thinking, whether he was working as a tent maker, preaching to the crowd, or even sitting in chains at prison. What fueled his love for the Lord?
Paul’s conversion experience on the Damascus Road was a motivating force in his life. Grateful for the gift of grace he had received at salvation, the apostle told many people about his encounter with the resurrected Christ and its impact on him. We, too, have a story to tell of God’s mercy in saving us and of the new life we have in Him.
Paul’s zeal also came from his firm conviction that the gospel message was true and available to everyone (John 3:16). On the cross, Jesus took all our sins—past, present, and future—upon Himself (1 Pet. 2:24). He suffered our punishment so that we might receive forgiveness and be brought into a right relationship with God. Through faith in Christ, we’ve been born again, and the indwelling Holy Spirit helps us every day (John 14:26). The more we understand what Jesus has accomplished on our behalf, the greater will be our passion to share the gospel.
Developing a vibrant faith requires time and energy plus a commitment to obey God. Regularly studying the Bible will strengthen your beliefs and give you courage to speak. Caring about the spiritual welfare of others will move you into action. Do you have a passion to serve Jesus wherever .