Saturday, April 3, 2021
It never was God’s plan for us to die; it was His plan for us to live forever. It wasn’t even God’s plan for us to age. If our first parents hadn’t eaten the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, sin wouldn’t have entered the world.
We all face the repercussions of it.
But here’s the message of Easter: Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead. And the resurrection of Jesus was the death of death. The resurrection of Jesus says that we can live beyond the grave.
I know that people are still dying, and they always will. It will happen to all of us in time.
The apostle Paul wrote, “But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died” (1 Corinthians 15:20 NLT).
And here’s what we know: our resurrection bodies that God will give to us will be similar to the resurrection body of Jesus.
When Christ rose, He still bore in his hands the marks of the crucifixion. He still ate food. He still was flesh and blood. At the same time, He did things He hadn’t done previously, like enter a room without using the door.
The Bible tells us, “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2 NKJV).
And this is the best news of all: If you have loved ones who died in faith, you will see them again. Your loved ones who have gone to Heaven are not just a part of your past; they’re also a part of your future.
Death died when Christ rose.
Friday, April 2, 2021
The term Black Friday originated in the financial markets of the United States when two speculators were trying to manipulate the market for their own benefit. It worked. They were artificially inflating the price of a respected commodity until the government came in and stabilized the situation.
That started a tumble that took no prisoners, and people lost millions of dollars. The date was September 24, 1869, and the commodity was gold. History remembers that day of infamy as Black Friday.
But the blackest Friday wasn’t September 24, 1869. The blackest, darkest Friday of all took place in the first century. It was the day that Jesus Christ died on the cross for the sins of all humanity.
We call this day Good Friday, and it is good because of the potential changes that can come as a result of it—if we put our faith in the One who died there for us.
The Bible tells us, “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5 NKJV).
All of our sins were transferred to Jesus, so we wouldn’t have to bear them. And why did He do that? Because He loves us.
Hebrews 12 gives us insight into what kept Jesus going as He faced the horrors of the cross: “Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne” (verse 2 NLT).
What was the joy awaiting him? You were that joy. I was that joy. We were the reason that He went to the cross of Calvary. Jesus paid a debt He did not owe because we owed a debt we could not pay.
Thursday, April 1, 2021
When Jesus gathered His disciples together in the Upper Room, they didn’t know it was the Last Supper. He didn’t say, “The Last Supper is officially beginning. Take your seat behind this table right here, and let’s all sit on one side.”
That isn’t the way it was. They had a lot of meals together, meals that would have lasted for hours around a table that was low to the ground. There would have been times of fun, laughter, and even some profound moments.
However, the meal that day wasn’t like any other meal. Jesus wasn’t acting as He normally did. There was a heaviness, a seriousness, about Him.
Holding the bread and breaking it, Jesus said, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19 NKJV).
Then He took the cup and said, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you” (verse 20 NKJV).
While I don’t believe in transubstantiation, which is the teaching that the bread and juice (or wine) literally become flesh and blood, I do believe they’re powerful symbols. They’re symbols of the broken body and shed blood of Jesus Christ.
That’s why we receive what we call Communion, which is sometimes called the Lord’s Supper. It’s something that Jesus asks all of His followers to do.
By the way, this isn’t a ritual. there isn’t any magic in it. It’s a symbol for a believer, just as my wedding ring represents my commitment to my wife, Cathe. There’s nothing mystical about it, but it’s an important symbol that I always wear.
Jesus has never, even for a moment, forgotten about you and me. He was thinking of us when He went to that cross. He came to this earth to die for our sins. So let’s remember Him.
Wednesday, March 31, 2021
If you have a hard time believing there’s a God in Heaven who loves you, if it’s difficult to wrap your mind around the fact that God has a plan for your life, then Easter is for you.
Everyone struggles with doubts now and then. Oswald Chambers, author of the well-known Christian devotional My Utmost for His Highest, said, “Doubt is not always a sign that a man is wrong; it may be a sign that he is thinking.”
One of the disciples of Jesus was super skeptical. In fact, we call him doubting Thomas. After the resurrected Jesus appeared to the disciples, they told Thomas about it. But Thomas said, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side” (John 20:25 NLT).
Yet the next time they met together, Thomas was there. And sure enough, Jesus appeared and said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!” (verse 20 NLT).
Thomas simply said, “My Lord and my God!” (verse 28 NLT). He didn’t want to know anything more than what the others knew, but he just needed to know for himself.
So you can come to Jesus with your skepticism. You can come to Jesus with your doubt. You can even come to Jesus if you’re an outright atheist.
However, you can’t live off the faith of someone else. You need to come to the Lord and say, “I have these questions,” and then put your faith in Him.
Someone might say, “Show me, and I’ll believe.”
But God effectively says, “Believe, and I'll show you.”
You can turn your skepticism into faith, and you can turn your doubt into belief.
Tuesday, March 30, 2021
Have you ever been disappointed with God? Have you ever felt as though God let you down, that He failed you?
That’s how two first-century disciples felt as they were leaving Jerusalem. They were devastated because Jesus had been crucified. In their minds, that was the end of the story.
And then, none other than the resurrected Jesus joined them. However, they didn’t know it was the Lord. He did something to conceal His identity, although we don’t know what it was.
As the three walked along together, Jesus turned to them and said, in effect, “Hey, guys, why the long faces? What’s going on?”
One of them replied, “You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about all the things that have happened there the last few days” (Luke 24:18 NLT).
Jesus said, “What things?” (verse 19 NLT). So they proceeded to tell Jesus about Jesus.
But then the Bible says that Jesus stopped and rebuked them, saying, “You foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures. Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory?” (verses 25–26 NLT).
Jesus went on to explain all the Old Testament passages that pointed to His death. I would love to have been a fly on the wall for that conversation.
As they came to the end of their journey, Jesus acted as though He would keep going, so they invited Him to join them for a meal. And when He took the bread, blessed it, and broke it, they suddenly recognized Him. Then He disappeared.
This story reminds us that God can use His Word to bring us back to spiritual life again. Disappointment is His appointment. God wants to restore your faith today.
Monday, March 29, 2021
In the ancient Olympic Games, they didn’t give out gold, silver, and bronze medals like they do with the winners today. Rather, they would crown their victors with laurel leaves.
So if you were running a race and nearing the end, you could see the emperor standing there with a crown of laurel leaves that he was waiting to place on the winner’s head.
I remember when I was in track and field in high school. I hated to go to practice, but if there was a pretty girl who happened to be watching, it always helped me run faster.
In the race of life, however, we have a better motive. Jesus himself is watching us. The writer of Hebrews tells us, “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1–2 NKJV).
The literal meaning of “looking unto Jesus” is turning your eyes away from other things and fixing them on Him. In fact, if you’re really focused on something, then everything else becomes somewhat blurry in comparison.
The same is true when you’re using a camera. You focus on your subject and get it dialed in, and that obscures other things. You blur out other elements so the subject stands out.
That’s what looking to Jesus means. It’s putting Him first and filling your mind with the Word of God. That can help you get through whatever hardship or difficulty you’re going through.
We need to look to Jesus, because He’s always been looking out for us. We need to live for Him, because He died for us.
Saturday, March 27, 2021
The purpose of prayer is not getting our will in Heaven. Rather, it’s getting God’s will on earth.
Imagine for a moment that you’re in a little boat not far from a dock. You throw out your rope, secure it to the dock, and then pull yourself in. Now, are you pulling the dock toward your boat, or are you pulling your boat to the dock? It’s the latter, of course.
In the same way, God is like that dock, and we need to get aligned with Him in our prayers. And the closer we align ourselves with His will, the more that we’ll see our prayers answered in the affirmative.
Jesus said, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you” (John 15:7 NKJV).
The Message puts it this way: “But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon.”
We tend to gravitate toward the latter part of the verse about asking whatever we desire. But we need to realize that if we’re maintaining a living communion with Him, and His Word is at home in our hearts, then we will start praying for what God wants.
The Bible tells us, “And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him” (1 John 5:15 NKJV).
So don’t be afraid to ask God to reveal His will to you. Don’t afraid to say, “Not my will, but Yours, be done.” Never be afraid to commit an unknown future to a known God. God loves you, and His plan for you is good.
Friday, March 26, 2021
In John 4, we find the story of a desperate father whose son was very sick. Although he was a nobleman, he amazingly humbled himself and asked Jesus to touch his dear son.
Jesus’s response, however, was quite unusual: “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe” (John 4:48 NKJV). Now, what kind of thing is that to say to a dad who just wanted his son to be healed?
The fact is that Jesus wasn’t really addressing this father. Rather, He was addressing the fickle crowd that only wanted to be entertained.
Meanwhile, the persistent father was standing there, waiting, and he wouldn’t give up. He said, “Sir, come down before my child dies!” (verse 49 NKJV).
So Jesus told him, “Go your way; your son lives” (verse 50 NKJV).
Why didn’t Jesus simply respond to this father immediately? I think it’s because Jesus wanted to draw him out and teach him that sometimes you need to keep asking, keep seeking, and keep knocking.
Because we need to be persistent in our prayers. There are times when we don’t see them answered in the affirmative. And sometimes what looks like a barrier actually may be a bridge. So don’t give up.
Is there someone you need to be praying for today? Do you have a child who’s rebelling against God? Do you know someone who needs to hear the gospel?
Keep praying for them because when you pray for people to believe in Jesus, you are praying according to the will of God. The Bible says that God is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9 NKJV).
Are you willing to pray with persistence for other people to come to the Lord? God is still looking for people to stand in the gap and pray.
Thursday, March 25, 2021
When I was a brand-new believer, other Christians warned me, “Greg, you’re going to go through trials.”
“What do you mean by trials?”
“You’ll know,” they said.
And when the first trial hit, I knew.
Why does God allow trials, tribulation, and hardships in the lives of Christians? James 1:2–4 tells us, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience haveits perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (verses 2–4 NKJV).
Trials are like God’s gym. When we’re out of shape, for instance, we go to the gym. We have to pace ourselves, and in time we’ll break down muscle and then build it up. And we’ll be stronger as a result.
In the same way, God lets us go through trials to strengthen us. We break down spiritual muscle to build it up.
For example, Moses went into exile for 40 long years. He was a hotheaded man who took matters into his own hands. Instead of waiting on the Lord’s timing, he killed an Egyptian.
But the Lord recommissioned him at the burning bush (see Exodus 3), and ultimately, Moses learned how to deal with people who opposed him.
Does that describe your life today? Are you dealing with people who are critical of you, who are making things hard for you? Have people treated you unfairly?
When this happens, our natural reaction is to hit back—and hit back even harder.
But that isn’t what the Bible tells us to do. Jesus said, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you” (Luke 6:27–28 NKJV).
When you do that, you’re acting like true children of your Father in Heaven.
Wednesday, March 24, 2021
The Bible gives us 76 different word pictures for forgiveness, but the main word the New Testament uses for it means “to release.” In Scripture, to forgive means to write “canceled” over a debt.
However, forgiveness isn’t giving in to another person; it’s getting free of that person. It isn’t about whether he or she deserves your forgiveness. You may even think that you’re hurting someone by harboring a grudge against them. But do you know who’s really getting hurt?
It’s like eating rat poison and waiting for the rat to die. When we harbor anger and bitterness toward someone who has hurt us, we’re not destroying them. We’re actually destroying ourselves. When you withhold forgiveness, it will eat you up inside.
And if you don’t forgive, then you’re choosing to hate. One person put it this way: “The first to apologize is the bravest. The first to forgive is the strongest. And the first to forget is the happiest.”
In fact, if you are married, then you really need to learn how to forgive. Someone once asked Billy Graham’s wife, Ruth, what the secret was to a strong and lasting marriage. She replied that a successful marriage is made up of two good forgivers.
Is there someone you need to forgive at this very moment? Maybe it’s your mom, your dad, your child, your friend, your coworker, or your spouse. Has someone hurt or betrayed you, and you’re sitting around plotting your revenge?
That has to stop. Lay it at the foot of the cross, and put them in the hands of God. You don’t want to be bound by it anymore. Let it go.
Someone has wisely pointed out that when you forgive someone, you set a prisoner free: yourself. So learn how to be a good forgiver.
Monday, March 22, 2021
C. S. Lewis said, “Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive.”
A study on forgiveness found that 75 percent of those polled believed that God forgave them for past sins. But only 52 percent said they had forgiven others.
However, in what we call the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught us, “Pray like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. . . . Forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us’” (Matthew 6:9, 12 NLT).
If you’re a believer in Jesus Christ, then you’re a forgiven person. And forgiven people should be forgiving people.
Of course, life is filled with hurt and disappointments. We’ve all been hurt in life. And sometimes we don’t mean to do it, but we hurt others in life as well. That is why we must forgive.
You may regard someone who has hurt you as an enemy. You even bristle when you think about them. And maybe you’re saying, “You don't understand what this person has done to me. I can never, ever forgive them.”
Yet Scripture doesn’t simply suggest forgiveness; it commands it. Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you” (nlt). And Colossians 3:13 tells us, “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others” (NLT).
I like this advice from my friend Max Lucado: “Before you get caught in the crazy cycle of hurt and forgiveness, try shifting your glance away from the one who hurt you and setting your eyes on the One who has saved you.”
If you want to live a happy, healthy, and blessed life, then learn how to forgive.
Tuesday, March 16, 2021
Every day, 66 percent of evangelical Christians are looking at Facebook, 39 percent are looking at YouTube, and 32 percent are opening their Bibles.
In other words, a lot of Christians aren’t opening their Bibles today. Instead, they’re looking at social media. That’s a problem.
I remember the first time I started to read the Bible. I couldn’t believe that I had finally found the user’s manual of life. I couldn’t believe how the words were so relevant to what I was facing as a 17-year-old kid.
In fact, I’ve found that the Word of God is relevant for every phase of my life, and you will find the same.
The Bible is the most amazing book ever written. It’s literally God’s message to us. Technically speaking, it isn’t one book. It’s actually 66 books written over a 1,500-year span by 40 writers from every walk of life: kings, peasants, philosophers, fishermen, poets, statesmen, and scholars.
Yet all of them wrote about one thing: God’s redemption of humanity. And God inspired every one of these individuals who wrote down the Scriptures. The Bible says, “Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God” (2 Peter 1:20–21 NLT).
So many things come and go, from trends to musical styles. But the Word of God is always the same, and Jesus Christ is always the same, yesterday, today, and forever.
It’s amazing to me that even though a newspaper is outdated in a day or so, God’s Word is always fresh and relevant to what we’re facing. It never goes out of style.
The Word of God is perfect and completely trustworthy. So we need to open it and hear what it has to say.
Thursday, March 11, 2021
If you or I had written the Ten Commandments, we may have prioritized some over others. For instance, we might say the most important commandments are “you shall not murder” and “you shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:13–14 NKJV).
After all, no matter how our culture is going, it seems like we could all agree that murder and adultery are wrong.
Yet it’s interesting how God began the Ten Commandments: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me” (verses 2–3 NKJV).
The first commandment deals with everything. Jesus said, “‘And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment” (Mark 12:30 NKJV).
So, if we get this down, then we’ll have the Ten Commandments working in our lives. If we love God with all our hearts, souls, and minds, then we won’t have other gods before Him. We won’t bow down before false images of God or take His name in vain.
And if we love God with all our hearts, souls, and minds, then we’ll set aside a day to worship Him. We won’t steal from others or lie to them or murder them, and so forth. The reality is that if we love God, then we’ll do the right thing. And we’ll want to honor Him in the right way.
It all starts with God’s place in our lives because we’ll serve what we worship. If God isn’t number one in your life, then everything else will be in chaos. But if God is number one in our lives, then everything else will find its proper balance.
Wednesday, March 10, 2021
One-fourth of Americans today can name what’s in a Big Mac, and one in three people can name all the kids from The Brady Bunch. But only 14 percent of Americans can name the Ten Commandments.
The Ten Commandments are at the heart of Western civilization and form the foundation of our legal system. God has given us the solutions to all of our problems right here in the Scriptures. And they’re broken out for us in the Ten Commandments, which we find in Exodus 20 (NKJV):
God gave us the Ten Commandments for our own good so that we can go from hopelessness to happiness. But we need to do more than just memorize them. We need to internalize them because they’re not obsolete; they’re absolute.
Hope Has a Name
Have you ever felt as though your life doesn’t matter, that no one cares about you, or that no one would miss you if you were gone?
You couldn’t be more wrong. God loves you. And so many people, more than you realize, love you. Your life has meaning, and your life has purpose. You have a place, and we need you. So I want you to hang on.
Sometime life can seem so unfair, and life can seem so hard. You wonder, “How am I going to get through it?” Maybe you’re terrified of the future and don’t think you ever will be happy again.
As someone with one of the few advantages of age, let me just say this: No matter how bad the crisis you’re facing is right now, you’re going to get through it. Ultimately, it all will pass.
I'm not speaking from a vacuum. I wasn’t raised in a Christian home. I didn’t have Christian parents who tucked me into bed at night and read me Bible stories. I lived the opposite of that. My mother was an alcoholic who was married and divorced seven times. I had a very difficult, crazy, and tumultuous childhood.
But when I came to faith in Jesus Christ, it changed the course of my life. Now I feel like I can take the pain and hardship I’ve been through and use it to help others.
Dr. Robert McNair Wilson, a British cardiologist, wrote, “Hope is the medicine I use more than any other—hope can cure nearly anything.”
Could you use some of that medicine today? Hope has a name, and it’s Jesus Christ.
God can take all the hurt and pain you’ve experienced in life and use it to touch other people. He can make you into the person that He wants you to be.
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