Sincerity May Not Be Enough

Charlie Brown was standing in front of his baseball team talking about the game they had just lost.
With a look of sadness in his eyes he sighed and said, “Sixty-five to nothing. I don’t understand it. We were so sincere.”
Sincerity is good but it does not insure success. We may be as sincere as the day is long but it will not replace knowledge, skill or the right attitude. If we are going in the wrong direction sincerity will not lead us to the right destination.
One may be sincere about what they believe but it does not guarantee salvation. One may sincerely believe in eternal life and want to go to heaven, but unless they receive Christ as their Savior, they will not be with Him in eternity.
John wrote, “So whoever has God’s Son has life; whoever does not have His Son does not have life.” This simple statement says it all when it comes to the new birth and the way to eternal life.
Eternal life begins the moment we surrender our lives to the Lordship of Christ as our Savior. It is not something we can work for or hope for or purchase. It is not something that is passed on from one generation to another. And it certainly does not depend on a “feeling” or being sincere.
It is something that God guarantees through His Son. Whoever believes in Him will certainly receive eternal life.

 Only through You and in You, Heavenly Father, can we have eternal life. We are grateful for Your salvation and the assurance of eternal life with You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: 1 John 5:12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

Giving Help - Inspiring Others

Joseph Priestly left college believing he was called to serve God as a minister. However, he soon became uncomfortable with this calling and decided to teach school. One day Benjamin Franklin visited his classroom and was very impressed with his teaching skills. At the conclusion of the class he said to Priestly, “I believe that you have the abilities to write a history of electricity. I’ll help you by lending you my books and notes.”
Encouraged by the generosity of Mr. Franklin, he accepted the challenge and immediately began writing a book on the history of electricity. He was so enthusiastic and excited about this project that he researched and wrote the entire book in one year. This inspired him to dedicate his life to scientific research. His research led him to the discovery of oxygen. He is also credited with developing the first carbon dioxide fire extinguisher. All because of the encouraging words of Franklin.
Paul recognized the important role of encouraging others. In his letter to the Thessalonians he encouraged them to “encourage each other and build each other up!”
At the end of a long race the runners often speak of muscles that are cramping or throats that are parched and burning as their body is about to collapse. But then the crowd begins to shout, “You can do it – keep it up – you are going to make it!” Those few words of encouragement are all they need to finish well. Be an encourager today.
Prayer: Help us, Heavenly Father, to be alert to those around us who need a word of strength, hope or love to persevere in the face of adversity. Make us Your encouragers. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: 1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

Setting The Standard

He is a central figure in the success of the New York Yankees. He has led the American League in the most single hits, runs scored and “at bats.” He has over 3,000 hits, stolen more bases than any other player, has five golden glove awards, selected 13 times as an all-star and played more games than any other New York Yankee. Many of his records will stand for many years to come.
A reporter once asked, “What’s the best advice your father ever gave you?”
“Don’t let anyone outwork you,” came the quick reply of Derek Jeter.
We are all compiling a list of accomplishments that will reflect what we have done with talents God has given us. However, beyond that fact we must realize that the time we are allocated and the talents we are given are gifts from God and must be used to His glory.
Paul wrote, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as though you are working for the Lord rather than for people!” We are all accountable to someone for the work we do here on earth. Ultimately, though, the Christian is accountable to God and will be judged by Him for what we have done with the many opportunities He has given us. We must always remember that we are obligated to God to honor Him with every gift He has given us.
Prayer: We thank You, Lord, that You are interested in the work that You have given us to do. May we accept this with thanksgiving and bring You honor in what we do. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Colossians 3:23,24 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. 

An Attitude For Gratitude

James and his grandmother were having a wonderful day at the beach. The wind was gentle, the sun warm and the crowd friendly. It was a delight for her to watch James as he splashed in the waves not far from where she was relaxing.
Suddenly a large wave came crashing over James and pulled him into the water and out of her sight. In fear and anguish she shouted, “Oh, God, I’ll do anything You ever ask me if You will only save my grandson and return him safely to shore. Please God – help me.”
The very next wave brought James back to shore safely, but a bit frightened. Standing up and walking toward him, his grandmother gave a sigh of relief knowing he was safe. Then she put her hands on her hips and said, “O.K. God. What happened to his hat?”
Paul wrote, “Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.” It seems to be much easier to “devote ourselves to prayer” than to “devote ourselves to a thankful heart.” Giving thanks to someone means we are indebted to them for something.
Our God is a gracious and giving God and all that we have is the result of His goodness and grace. He stands before us with outstretched arms and open hands waiting to draw us close to Himself to protect us and provide for our every need, beginning with our salvation. Yet, too often we fail to be grateful!
Prayer: Forgive us, Heavenly Father, if we have been forgetful in expressing our gratitude to You for all You have done for us. May our thankfulness be equal to Your gifts. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Colossians 4:2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.

Failure And Success

Michael Jordan, the legendary basketball player is quoted as having said, “I’ve lost more than 300 games. There were twenty-six games when I was given the ball in the last seconds to make the basket that would have won the game. But it didn’t happen – I missed the shot and we lost. I have failed over and over. And that’s why I succeed.”
Strange quote from someone who elevated basketball to a higher level through his skills. We rarely think of such an achiever in any sport as someone who turned failure into success. High-achievers seem to come fully developed and highly skilled.
However, experience is always part of failure. And if we chose, we can use the experience to gain insight and from insight we can gain knowledge and from the knowledge we can gain wisdom and learn to turn failure into success.
The Christian has a wonderful resource to help in this process: the Holy Spirit. He dwells within us and is present, ready and willing to give us the wisdom we need to become successful in life.
There is one condition, however. If we want wisdom, we must go to God in humility and ask for it and then use it for His glory. God will give us whatever we need if we willingly use His gifts for His glory and not our own self-interests or self-advancement.

Prayer: Help us, Lord, to know that when we fail we need to “fall forward” into Your waiting arms, knowing that Your desire is to work with us to help us succeed. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. James 1:5

Searching For Victory

During one of his fights Gene Tunney broke both of his hands. Some thought that he would never fight again because of the severe damage. However, he did not give up boxing and years later said that “breaking my hands was the best thing that ever happened to me.”
Realizing that he would never be able to hit his opponents hard enough to win a world championship by knocking them out, he chose to become a scientific fighter. So, he decided that he would become a boxer and not a slugger. As a result of that decision he became a champion.
Often the obstacles we face in life are God’s way of actually giving us an opportunity to grow and develop and learn faith and trust. Many times we come face to face with unforeseen and overwhelming problems we never thought we would have to face. They may be simple or significant, large or small, few or many. But each and every one of them come to us as a gift from God and are a sign of His grace and overflowing love to offer us an opportunity to grow into His likeness.
What may seem as something that would destroy us may be God’s way of presenting a new opportunity to us to prove the promises in His Word. With His power and strength, with His wisdom and knowledge, with His guidance and protection we can overcome all things.
Prayer: Increase our faith, Father, and enable us to see beyond what is to what can be. Open our eyes and minds that we may willingly see You at work in our lives. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: James 1:17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

The Significance Of A Smile

He is recognized as a pioneer medical missionary, an African explorer who wanted to discover the source of the Nile River, a scientific investigator and a reformer of the political system in England.
One day at a Missionary Conference in London, a gracious man with a contagious smile noticed a young boy standing quietly with a puzzled look on his face. With a kind expression and that wonderful smile, he approached the youngster and asked, “Wouldn’t you like to become a missionary?”
Years later David Livingstone said, “It was that smile and the kind, questioning face that led me to become a missionary.”
Paul once wrote of Moses and said that “his face shown with the glory of God.” The glory that was evident in the face of Moses came from his relationship with God – the source of all glory then and now.
And Paul also wrote, “I pray that God who gives you hope will keep you happy and full of peace as you believe in Him.”
There is an obvious connection in Paul’s mind that is expressed in his writings: If the glory of the Lord is on the inside of the Christian, it will be obvious to those around us by the expressions on our faces. If you know and love Jesus you will express His grace and glory through the smile on your face and the kindness in your voice.
Prayer: We ask, Heavenly Father, that we will be so filled with Your Spirit that our faces will reflect Your beauty, our voices Your kindness and our deeds Your love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

Prepared But Vulnerable

Fort Eben-Emael in Belgium was considered to be the strongest fortress in the world. Its concrete walls were fifteen feet thick and reinforced with honeycombed steel. It took five years to build and was the strongest and most heavily armed fortress in the world. Upon completion the Belgians boasted, “It is so strong no army can storm it.”
And they may have been right.
But one night a German glider with well-trained and heavily armed paratroopers quietly descended into the fort. They discovered that few men were on duty and they easily took command of the fort and its assets. All of the preparations of the Belgians were in vain.
The Apostle Paul had a military background. So it is no wonder that he went back to his military experience to give an insight for Christian living to the Church at Corinth. And it seems as though he is speaking as a military commander when he wrote, “Be on your guard! Stand true to what you believe. Be courageous. Be strong. And everything you do must be done in love.”
His first order of the day was to be alert – to be on guard – to the worldly dangers that will certainly and with great consistence confront the Christian. We may prepare well and be strong in our faith but if we are not constantly alert to life’s temptations we will be defeated.
Prayer: Help us, Lord, to avoid becoming complacent in our lives. May we be constantly aware of those areas in our life where we are weak and look to You for our strength. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: 1 Corinthians 16:13 Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.

Doing What For Whom?

One of the world’s greatest composers and musicians was Johann Sebastian Bach. He is recognized as the most celebrated German composer of all times. He was also known as a deeply religious man. Over every one of his compositions he wrote the words, “To the glory of God.” He never lost sight of Who got credit for what he did.
This sets a great example for us: Whatever we do we must do, as Paul said, for the glory of God. But how is this possible and what does it mean? Am I to receive no recognition for what I do? Must God get all the credit for all of my accomplishments?
Perhaps the first truth we need to understand is the impact of our behavior on others. Many things that we can do may not bring harm to ourselves. But we must not ever, under any conditions, do anything that may or will bring harm to other Christians or non-Christians. There is nothing more wonderful than the Christian’s freedom. But that freedom must be used to help – not hurt others.
We also need to consider the important fact that we as disciples are responsible to disciple others. It is not enough to live right, we must be involved in sharing the insights, knowledge and wisdom God has given us with those who want to grow into the likeness of Christ. We need to strengthen the weak and lift up the fallen. When we, in our lives, do as Jesus did with His life, we will not be concerned about “being recognized.” We will do what we do because we love our Father!
Prayer: Heavenly Father, may we be conscious and considerate of everything we do and say. May we also work with You to equip those who are struggling. In Jesus’ Name, Amen
Scripture for Today: 1 Corinthians 10:31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

Great Hands And Greater Heart

Our Lord has hands that give and a heart that forgives. The closing words of David in Psalm 23 exclaim, “Surely your goodness and unfailing mercy shall pursue me all the days of my life!”
The word goodness in this verse refers to all of the gracious gifts that God will lavishly bestow on those who are His own. It includes kindness, love and loyalty as well as the fact that He will meet our every physical need.
Mercy in this verse assures us that the Lord will forgive our sins when we call on Him. It leaves no doubt that our God is the “God of mercy.” He alone is responsible for providing the gift of His salvation to those who call upon Him. And furthermore, it assures us that He will forgive us for those times when we fail Him and sin as we strive to grow into the likeness of His Son and, unfortunately, fail.
This goodness and mercy that David writes about are neither conditional nor temporary. It is with us today and will be with us as long as we live – “all the days of our lives” – that is, until we enter His house and dwell with Him forever more.
How wonderful it is to know that our Lord goes before us and is always alongside of us waiting to meet our every need – spiritually, emotionally and physically.
What a wonderful Shepherd is ours!
Prayer: Lord, we rejoice in the greatness of our salvation, knowing that we need fear nothing or no one because You are with us all day, every day! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Psalm 23:6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

Needs And Wants

Two merchants in a small community were fierce competitors. Their stores faced each other on opposite sides of the street. Drake’s Store was much larger than Albert’s Merchandise Mart. Each fought for the same customers.
One day Drake put up a sign in his store that read, “If you want it, we’ve got it!” Not to be out done, Albert hung a larger sign across the entrance to his store that read, “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it!”
There is a vast difference between “a need” and “a want.” A “need” refers to the essentials in life, the things that we cannot do without. A “want” is something quite different. It is something that is not really essential. Think of the importance of water and the pleasure of a soft-drink. We can do without soft-drinks, but water is essential.
Jesus said, “Your Father knows what you need and He will give you what you need if you live for Him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern.” When we make the Kingdom of God our primary concern, it means that God is first and foremost in our lives and that He is at the center of all that we do.
If we make His thoughts our thoughts, His desires our desires, His priorities our priorities and His ways our ways, He will meet our every need every day!
Prayer: Our Father, may we give You the place of honor that You deserve in our lives. May we always place You first in our lives and honor You in all that we do. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Matthew 6:31-34 …Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

The "In" In Winners

It was the end of the football season and Ryan received a trophy for rushing for over 1,500 yards – the most in the history of his high school. On the way home his father said, “I’m proud of you, Son. I never won a trophy!”
“Dad,” he asked softly, “did you ever try?”
Some never win anything in life because they never begin anything in life that is worthwhile. They wander aimlessly from one interest to another because they are unwilling to do what is necessary or make the sacrifice to become a winner.
Others do not win anything because they give in to doubts and difficulties. They lack the determination to seek help or advice from others who faced the same problems but refused to give in and persevered until they achieved their goals.
If we want to win, we need to begin where the Bible begins – with God. Moses wrote, “In the beginning God...” When we begin any project or attempt to achieve any goal we can count on God to be with us to guard us and guide us, to uphold us and sustain us.
Before we begin a task or work toward any goal we need to stop and pray earnestly and sincerely asking God to keep us from making mistakes, follow His will and give us His wisdom and strength. If we rely on Him in all things for all things, He will lead us from one victory to another.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we know that we can do all things through You and for You, if we remain in You. May we overcome all obstacles in life as we follow You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Practicing The Presence Of God

Lord Moynihan was recognized as one of the world’s greatest surgeons. Physicians came from distant places to observe his techniques and procedures.
One day after he finished operating before a gallery of other surgeons a reporter asked, “How can you work so calmly with such a famous crowd present?”
After pausing for a moment, he calmly replied, “There are just three people in the operating room when I operate – the patient, myself and God.”
In Joshua we read, “I will not fail you or abandon you.” In Hebrews we read, “I will never fail you, I will never forsake you!”
One thing is certain: Wherever Christians find themselves they can know with certainty that God is with them, will never fail, abandon nor forsake them!
How marvelous is that.
When we learn to accept the reality of God’s presence in our lives and come to depend on His strength and power rather than our own, we will begin to recognize the sufficiency of His grace and mercy. Once we make the transition from depending on ourselves to complete dependency upon God, our fears will be relieved, our anxieties overcome and our lives endowed with a “peace that passes all understanding.”
God wants to do more than care for us, He wants to take care of us. And He will if we trust Him!
Prayer: We are grateful Lord, for Your promises and presence, Your power and protection and Your desire to give us whatever wisdom we need if we use it to honor You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Hebrews 13:5  Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you;  never will I forsake you.”

How To Get Down To Work

He rose from slavery to become one of the greatest scientists of the twentieth century. He discovered hundreds of uses for various crops, including 300 products from peanuts, 100 products for the sweet potato, 75 for pecans and introduced crop rotation for plant nutrition and many products for cosmetics.
Quite a legacy for one man.
As the son of a slave he understood one problem that the farmers of the South faced: How to expand the number of crops they could grow. He first thought about peanuts – but realized that there was no market for them. He soon recognized his need for God’s help.
So, he prayed: “Mr. Creator, why did You make the peanut?”
One day he said, “God gave me a handful of peanuts and went with me to the laboratory and together we got down to work.” That was the beginning of a career that was founded on a simple prayer, a man who honored God and brought great things to the world.
“If you need wisdom,” James wrote, “if you want to know what God wants you to do, ask Him and He will gladly tell you!”
The word wisdom means practical, insightful discernment. It begins with recognizing the power of God, respecting His power and depending upon Him to show us what we can do with the gifts He has given us.
Prayer: How blest we are, Heavenly Father, that we do not have to waste time and worry about what to do with our lives. May we look to You for Your guidance every day. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

"Bred To Run"

On the wall behind the desk of a horse breeder is a picture of a new born colt. It appears to be only a few days old and seemed as though it was having a difficult time struggling to stand up. It looked weak and wobbly even though the mother is nearby watching carefully. But underneath the picture are three words engraved on a bronze plate, “Bred To Run.”
Bred into the genes of the colt are qualities of strength and success, endurance and energy. And even though the colt is unsure and unsteady as it struggles to stand tall, the potential for greatness is inside.
So it is with the Christian. When we are born again, God implants within us His strength and stamina, His power and the potential for a life of victory over sin. He gives us a purpose in life, goals to achieve and a message to proclaim.
With all of its potential the colt is not ready to run. It must endure hours of training and miles of running and learn obedience to its master.
So it is with the Christian. God has given us all that we need to achieve greatness in serving Him. But the greatness will not come unless we discipline ourselves to “study and meditate on the Book of the Law continually – day and night – so that we may be sure to obey all that is written in it. Only then,” Joshua says, “will we succeed!”
Prayer: Lord, we are so blessed to be called Your children and to be called to serve You. Help us to be strong, courageous and unafraid to run the race before us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Joshua 1:6-9 …Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” 

But Is It Your Psalm?

The 23rd Psalm has been called “Everybody’s Psalm” because it describes how God can meet all the needs of every Christian.
Are you looking for direction? The Lord will be your Shepherd providing you direction and safe passage throughout life.
Are you in need? As our Shepherd, He has everything we need.
Are you tired? He will provide the rest you need in meadows that are green and peaceful.
Are you anxious? He will lead you beside peaceful streams.
Are you weak? He will provide all the strength you need from His resources.
Are you having difficulty finding your way through life? He will lead you along right paths.
Are you going through dark valleys? He will walk beside you and protect your every step of life’s journey with His might.
Are you hungry? He will prepare a feast for you even though you are surrounded by your enemies.
Are you weary of life’s journey? He will anoint you with His refreshing, healing oil.
Is your cup empty? He will fill it until it overflows with mercy and goodness and thoughtfulness.
And His unfailing love will surround you until you are with Him in His house. Forever.
Prayer: We rejoice in the goodness of Your grace, our Father, knowing that You will always care for Your own. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Psalm 23

How To Self-Destruct

It was the second class of the new semester. The professor entered the classroom walking rapidly. Before getting behind his desk he shouted, “Hold up your assignment with your right hand!” One student, however, held up his assignment with his left hand.
Angrily the professor looked at the student and shouted, “Your right hand you stupid idiot!”
Calmly, the student responded, “Sir, this is the only hand I have. I lost my right hand in combat.”
The Greeks defined anger as a “brief madness.” In Scripture it has several meanings, including “strong feelings of displeasure, fury or wrath.” Whichever meaning we choose leads to the same outcome: the expression of destructive behavior. When we become angry, we are not in control of ourselves and we do things that are displeasing to God and harmful to others.
The Psalmists always give good advice. When speaking of anger and self-control one of them said, “Stop your anger! Turn from your wrath.”
When we become angry, we usually become frustrated, lose control of our emotions and then take it out on others. We think that we know what they should do and assume a role that is reserved for God.
Better for the Christian to turn anger into affection and frustration into forgiveness and prayer.
Prayer: Help us, Savior, to fill our hearts with Your love. May we honor others as You do, Lord, and seek to build them up rather than to tear them down in anger. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Psalm 37:8 Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret – it leads only to evil.

Living In The Shadow

There is nothing more certain than death and nothing more uncertain than life or the time of one’s death. Although we cannot prepare for the events that will come into our lives, we can prepare for the day that our life will end. So, it’s wise to be prepared for that unknown day when we will meet God face to face.
In Psalm 23 David wrote, “Even though I will walk through the dark valley of death, I will not be afraid for You are close beside me.” David was prepared for “the valley.”
David said with confidence that “I will walk through.” Death was not a dead-end street for David nor is it a dead-end street for the Christian. It is a throughway to heaven.
For many the “shadow of death” is a very frightening thought. Its dampening effect reminds us that we are entirely helpless as we face its uncertain hour. There are many enemies in life that we can face and fight – pain and sorrow, suffering and grief, hunger, rejection and abandonment. But death? Fighting against it is useless. It is beyond our control.
But even though we may be helpless as we face the certainty of death, Christians are not hopeless as we face eternity. There is a Person who will meet us at the “appointed time” and walk us safely though the “valley of the shadow.”
Prayer: We rejoice, Father, in Your promise that for the Christian “to die is gain!” We thank You for Your presence in our lives and the peace that we have in You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Psalm 23:4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

What's In A Name?

During an inspection of his soldiers prior to a parade, Alexander the Great said to one of them, “Your name is Alexander. My name is Alexander. Either change your name or change your way of living!”
Another leader spoke of a Name and the honor it deserved. King David wrote, “He guides me along right paths bringing honor to his name.”
Names are important for many reasons. In Scripture the word name or words that have the same meaning as name occur nearly 1,100 times. Slightly half of that number refer to the name of God or God’s Son. But the use of the word name in the Bible always carries with it one’s identity or reputation.
Luke writes, “It was there at Antioch that the believers were first called ‘Christians’” or Christ-ones – emphasizing the fact there was something very different, yet something very similar, about those who were believers in Christ. This young church in Antioch included a mixture of Jews and Gentiles whose languages were Greek and Aramaic. And though their languages were different they had one thing in common: Christ. Yet together they lived Christlike lives that reflected His unending and always obvious love. Their lives were so different because of Christ that they had to be given a new name.
Question: Do you qualify for a new name? Do you qualify to be called Christian?
Prayer: Lord, we often falter and fail in our lives that bear the name of Your Son. Forgive us for those times when our lives do not reflect Your love and Your life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Acts 11:26 …and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.

Looking for God's Gift

A young child ran to his neighbor’s workshop in tears. His friend put his strong arm around the small boy’s shoulder and asked, “What’s wrong, my young friend? Why are you crying?”
“I can’t sing and I can’t play,” sobbed Antonio.
“Well, my little friend,” said Amati, “there are many ways of making music. If you have music in your heart, nothing else matters.”
Antonio felt better after hearing the comforting words of his friend. And the expression of concern he felt through the hug made him know that someone cared for him deeply. As a result of this kindness he began to visit with Amati and started to learn the craft of making violins. The day finally arrived when the violins made by Antonio Stradivarius were recognized as the finest violins in the world.
God has a perfect plan for each of us. He wants to take the “raw” gifts He has given us and transform them through His power into deeds of power and glory that reflect His grace.
Though at times it may seem as though we are struggling to find a purpose in life and a way to honor Him, we must always remember that He will never leave us or forsake us as long as we look to Him for guidance.
God wants what is best for us but we will never know what that is until we surrender our lives completely to Him.

Prayer: Help us, Heavenly Father, to recognize the fact that You have something unique for each of us to do to build Your Kingdom and willingly surrender ourselves to You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Romans 12:1,2 …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...Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will. 

Blurred Vision

A famous physician who specialized in working with alcoholics and other addicts was lecturing a group of young medical students. During his lecture on addictive substances and intoxicants, one of them raised his hand and asked, “Is it true that alcohol enables people to do things better?”
After thinking for a moment, the insightful physician replied, “No, it does not. But it does make them less ashamed of doing things badly or doing bad things.”
Actually, God’s Word presents the results of drinking alcohol much clearer. A verse in Proverbs from The Living Bible states its dangers in these terms: “Wine gives false courage, hard liquor leads to brawls; what fools men are to let it master them.”
Alcohol depresses people’s convictions and removes the restraints that govern behavior. It “frees” individuals to behave in ways that are destructive and damaging to themselves and others. The commitment to do what is right and avoid what is harmful and destructive is blurred and distorted. Seeing the beauty of decency and purity vanishes. Care and concern for others is lost in the fog of forgetfulness and harm and injustice replaces what was once right and just.
Although there are many who would defend the use of alcohol, in the final analysis, it is defenseless.
Prayer: Lord, You want us to have sensitive hearts, keen minds, helpful hands and purposeful lives. All of this vanishes when we consume substances that take from us the ability to discern what You want us to do. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today:  Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise.

Lifelong Learning

Oswald Avery and a group of biologists were looking for a method to cure pneumonia. While doing their research they accidentally discovered the properties of DNA – a unique gift from God that gives each person a unique identity. It has had and will have a direct impact on each of our lives as scientists expand its usefulness. It has the potential to assist physicians in diagnosing illnesses and in prescribing medications that will increase the healing process.
Avery did not have the discovery of DNA as a lifetime goal or objective. In fact, he worked in the laboratories of the Rockefeller Institute Hospital in New York City for many years and many of his research efforts failed.
But there was one standard in his life that kept him motivated. Each time he failed in one of his experiments, he took great pride in saying, “Whenever you fall, pick up something!”
Paul had that attitude. In his second letter to the Corinthians he wrote that God’s “gracious favor is all you need. My power works best in your weakness.”
Paul wrote those words when God refused to remove his “affliction.” Yet, through his “affliction” he understood and saw God at work in his life.
How? God gave Paul His courage, strength and power to overcome his doubts and weaknesses. Trust Him! Good things await you!
Prayer: When life seems to be crumbling all around us, Lord, help us to look to You in faith, believing that You have a gift for us in the midst of life’s “afflictions.” In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: 2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

It's All About Today

Jesus once said, “Don’t worry about everyday life.” So, what would He have us do? Live one day at a time.
We can pray about tomorrow and what we may need or want to avoid – such as trusting God for our necessities and enabling us to overcome temptation. We can pray that tomorrow will bring us greater blessings than we have ever experienced. We can pray that God will increase our faith, grow our trust and increase our hope in Him. But it is foolish to live for tomorrow.
It is not the problems of today that destroy us. It is, instead, focusing on the failures of yesterday and the fears of tomorrow that may never materialize.
Worry does not work. It cannot erase our past mistakes or guarantee us a problem-free future. What it can and will do, however, is destroy our confidence in the forgiveness of God and assurance that He will be with us until we are at last with Him in Heaven.
Worry will sap us of our strength, weaken our will, infuse us with fear, paralyze our productivity and inhibit us from helping others. These behaviors reduce or eliminate our ability to trust God to provide for our every need.
Turning our worries into concerns and asking God to forgive us and guide us will bring His peace into our lives.

Prayer: Enable us, Father, to place all of our life in Your hands – our failures and fears, our frustrations and especially our future – knowing that You care for us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Matthew 6:25-34 …Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Been There - Experienced That

Joseph is a well-known painter of seascapes. His paintings capture calm waters and threatening storms. Once, an admirer was looking at one of his famous paintings and asked, “How were you able to paint with such realism the violence of a storm at sea?”
“Sir,” he replied, “I was on the bow of a ship one evening facing that storm. I not only saw it, I felt it. I experienced it.”
Like the painter, our Lord experienced the storms of life. Often we neglect to think of what the writer of the book of Hebrews said: “Since He himself has gone through suffering and temptation, he is able to help us when we are being tempted.”
When we neglect to walk along side of Jesus in the Gospels, we fail to remember that He was as human as we are. We don’t often remember and recall the fact that whatever we experience in our lives He also experienced it in His life. However, He persevered because of His faith and trust in His Heavenly Father.
When we lose a loved one, we need to remember that He stood by a grave side one day and wept.
When we experience loneliness, we need to recall His feelings of desertion when His followers left Him.
When we experience suffering, we need to look at Him as He hung on His cross on our behalf and try to feel His pain and humiliation. God understands our pain, suffering and grief.
Prayer: How blest we are, Father, to know that we have a “High Priest” who has experienced our pains and knows our problems and is waiting to heal and help us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Hebrews 4:15-16 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.  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.

Winning The World

Dr. A.B. Simpson was one of God’s greatest missionaries and Biblical scholars. His passion for those who were unsaved was legendary and he devoted his life to winning them to Christ.
Early one morning, a guest who had spent the night in his humble home was quietly walking down the hallway. As he passed the study of Dr. Simpson, he noticed a light coming from the partially opened door. Out of curiosity he peeked into the room and there he saw him praying and heard him sobbing loudly. The arms of Dr. Simpson were wrapped around a globe and the visitor heard him pleading with God to bless every missionary on every continent. He listened as he asked the Lord to provide for the needs of those who were serving Him around the world. He wanted God to bless them and care for them and to work through them to win many for His Kingdom.
The Psalmist encourages us to “plant in tears.” He assures us that when we plant in tears and ask the Lord of the harvest to bring the lost into His Kingdom, He will. Then there will be a great “harvest with shouts of joy.”
We must also remember what Jesus said: “The harvest is so great, but the workers are so few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask Him to send out more workers for His fields.”
Let’s pray earnestly for the harvest and the harvesters.
Prayer: We pray, Heavenly Father, that You will bless those who are doing Your work in Your fields today. We also pray for more who are willing to work with You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Matthew 9:37-38 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

Grace And Guidance

Whenever I look into the eyes of a new born child or watch as little hands and arms reach out for love and affection, I realize, once again, the true meaning of helplessness and hope. It is impossible for that little one to care for itself. Infants know no one or nothing and have to depend completely on others for everything.
And that little one does not know that he or she has only one life to live. Since it is impossible to relive one second of our lives or retrace one step that we take, it is critical to know that God has provided a path and a plan for each of us.
His Word states very clearly, “It is not in man to direct his steps!” If it is not in ourselves, where do we find the directions that each of us need in our lives?
In the Lord!
An insightful king once declared, “He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to His name!”
If we allow God to guide us and to guard us, He will. But He can only do this if we allow Him to govern our lives. If we choose to go our own way and do our own thing, we cannot expect God to protect us and provide for us. We cannot blame Him for the problems we create, the tragedies that occur or the disasters that await us if we refuse His Lordship!
Our Shepherd has a plan for each of us that will lead us to peaceful meadows and quiet streams.
Prayer: Help us, Father, to surrender our lives completely to You so we may enjoy the good things in life that You have planned for each of us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Psalm 23:3 He refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.

What Do You See?

The citizens of a small community were overwhelmed with discouragement. The drought had destroyed the crops of the farmers and they were facing bankruptcy. The merchants were unable to purchase inventory for their stores because their customers could not pay their bills. Unfortunately things went downhill from there.
Everyone was heartbroken and depressed except one elderly man of God. He invited the leaders of the community to his home for a meeting to see if he could encourage them to continue a little longer.
His friends came to his home and sat around his kitchen table. Standing before them he hung a large piece of white paper on a wall and asked them to turn and look at it. As they did, he placed a black dot in the center. He then asked, “Gentlemen, what do you see?”
In unison they said, “A black dot.” Not one of them mentioned the white paper that surrounded the one small black dot.
“Gentlemen,” he asked, “are there some blessings in your life that we can place around the black dot that might make it not so obvious?” One by one they thought of some of the good things that they had been overlooking in their time of loss and grief.
God’s goodness sometimes disappears from our horizon. When days are difficult and nights are long, it is easy to see the dot and not the One who can remove it.
Prayer: Help us, Heavenly Father, to be aware of all that we have because of Your grace. Give us faith to proceed through difficulties of life through Your strength. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Matthew 19:26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

The Source Of Peace

Russ Ortiz was an outstanding baseball pitcher for the Atlanta Braves. In fact, in one season he won twenty-one games.
On one occasion a reporter asked him how he kept calm in situations when it looked like he would lose control of the game. Quickly he replied, “When I am on the mound and need a calming experience I look under the bill of my cap. You see, I keep a Bible verse there,” he explained. “When I started doing it,” he continued, “it helped me put things in perspective.”
The Christian is never guaranteed a life free from stress, strife or the worries of the world. It does not assure us of quiet paths and calm waters. But it does assure us that when we keep our minds securely focused on God and His Word we will know perfect peace even in the most turbulent times.
Isaiah, in a song of praise to the Lord wrote, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, whose thoughts are fixed on You!”
This is a powerful promise for the believer. His Word promises us that God will give us His perfect peace when we trust Him, obey Him and are faithful in following Him. It exceeds all of the wisdom, knowledge and understanding that we find in the writings of worldly authors. In Him we have everything we need: His unending and unchanging love. When we accept that fact, there is no reason for us to fear the chaos that confronts us or the confusion that surrounds us.
Prayer: Lord, may we accept the peace that You offer us through Your Son, our Savior. Help us to rely on Him and His power to protect and preserve us in all things. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Isaiah 26:3 You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.

Dig Deeper!

Henry was caught up in the gold rush. Shortly after arriving in California he found a mine, staked a claim and began digging. One day he found some ore, became excited, and believed he had struck it rich. He knew without any doubt that fame and fortune would soon be his.
He kept digging for a few weeks but eventually became discouraged and wanted to quit. Finally, a stranger approached him and offered to purchase his mine. In a moment of frustration he agreed to sell his rights for $11,000.00.
The new owner was excited about his purchase and began to dig where Henry stopped. And he kept digging for years and years. Eventually the Comstock Mine produced $340,000,000.00 of gold!
Wanting to encourage the church in Galatia, the Apostle Paul wrote, “So don’t get tired of doing what is good. Don’t get discouraged and give up for we will reap a harvest of blessings at the appropriate time.”
We have all faced those times in our lives when we become discouraged and distressed at doing what we believe is the right thing to do. No one offers a word of thanks or encouragement and there are no visible results to accompany our hard work. But Paul reminds us to keep on doing good and to trust God for the results. Giving in or giving up or giving out is the sure way to forfeit the blessing that God will award us for being faithful.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, may we be faithful to You in what You ask us to do. Protect us from allowing discouragement to destroy us and doubt to defeat us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Galatians 6:9  Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.