When Jehoshaphat saw trouble looming, the first thing he did was turn attention to God and proclaim a fast throughout Judah. People came from all around to support their king in prayer (2 Chronicles 20:3, 2 Chronicles 20:13).
Sometimes we are too proud to ask others to pray for us. Jehoshaphat was a king, yet he didn’t put on airs of self-sufficiency. Instead, he admitted his army paled in comparison to the three forces united against him. He recognized his limitations and sought divine intervention. Though Jehoshaphat reigned over his subjects, he nevertheless called on them for prayerful support.
One of the wisest things we can do in the midst of difficulty is to engage the assistance of someone who knows how to talk to God. The body of Christ depends upon cooperation. When the people of Judah began to pray, God provided a solution through a trusted prophet. Jehoshaphat was humble enough to listen and wise enough to follow his directives (vv. 14-17). As a result, the Israelites were saved. The advancing armies turned against each other and destroyed themselves completely. Without shooting an arrow or drawing a sword, Judah’s forces suffered not even one casualty. Because their humble king listened, they witnessed the Lord’s remarkable victory (vv. 22-30).
We have to attune our ears to God’s voice in order to hear Him. Sometimes He speaks through people we would not choose to follow, and He often says things we’re not expecting to hear. But He will provide us with solutions to our problems if we are willing to heed His words.
Bible in One Year: Proverbs 16-18
Read: Hebrews 4:14–16
Bible in a Year: Psalms 4–6; Acts 17:16–34
But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge.—Psalm 73:28
A woman desiring to pray grabbed an empty chair and knelt before it. In tears, she said, “My dear heavenly Father, please sit down here; you and I need to talk!” Then, looking directly at the vacant chair, she prayed. She demonstrated confidence in approaching the Lord; she imagined He was sitting on the chair and believed He was listening to her petition.
A time with God is an important moment when we engage the Almighty. God comes near to us as we draw near to Him in a mutual involvement (James 4:8). He has assured us, “I am with you always” (Matt. 28:20). Our heavenly Father is always waiting for us to come to Him, always ready to listen to us.
There are times when we struggle to pray because we feel tired, sleepy, sick, and weak. But Jesus sympathizes with us when we are weak or face temptations (Heb. 4:15). Therefore we can “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” (v. 16). —Lawrence Darmani
Lord, thank You that I can pray to You in all places at all times. Put the desire to come near to You in my heart. I want to learn to come to You in faith and in confidence.
God is everywhere, is available every time, and listens always.
INSIGHT: How different is our relationship to God from that of Old Testament Israel! At Sinai, the people trembled at God’s presence and were afraid to be near Him (Ex. 19:16). Israel followed this pattern throughout their relationship with their covenant God, requiring the people to go to Him through human priests who stood as intermediaries between God and the people. All of that changed through Jesus. He came to make it possible for us to come directly to God (John 14:6), giving us access to God through our faith in Him (Rom. 5:1-2). Through Jesus we become children of God who now have a family relationship with the perfect Father (John 1:12). And, to strengthen this relationship, Jesus now acts as our High Priest (Heb. 2:17; 4:15; 7:25), interceding and mediating on our behalf (1 Tim. 2:5). Based on our new standing as children of God, and resting in Jesus’s perfect intercession, we can boldly approach the Creator of the universe—and call Him Father!Spend some time reflecting on these encouraging Scriptures, and then thank the Father that, through Jesus, He has made a way for us to come directly to Him with the needs and joys of our lives. Bill Crowder
“Shepherd” is not a career choice you often hear children dreaming about. Tending sheep is not as adventurous as being an astronaut or as glamorous as being a movie star. But to one small child in a Sunday school classroom, “shepherd” seemed the most logical answer. What do you want to be when you grow up? She wanted to be a shepherd because “Jesus is good at it and it makes him happy.” This, I thought self-assuredly, was a child who was paying attention in my class.
Later, as I put the crayons back in the cupboard and turned to get the kids in line for church, my eyes caught the picture that hung on the wall behind me each week. It was one of Jesus, holding a lamb in his arms, smiling.
The Christian narrative is full of images of sheep and shepherding. The ancient prophet writes of God, “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.”(1) The gospel writer notes similarly of Christ, “When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”(2) Hearing such descriptions, perhaps you recollect images of a Good Shepherd similar to the painting in my Sunday school classroom: Jesus standing peacefully among his flock, keeping watch and taking care. It is an image not far from some of those carefully painted in well-told stories: The LORD is my shepherd I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.
For My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the Fountain of living waters, and they have hewn for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns which cannot hold water. —Jeremiah 2:13
I believe one of the biggest ways people waste time is by doing what the Bible calls “dead works.” I like to define a dead work as a “work” that doesn’t work! That means that you are trying to make something happen, but no matter what you do, it simply does not work. When that happens, the reason is that the work is yours and not God’s. When you stop planning and striving, and come to the end of yourself, then God will begin to move. That doesn’t mean you have no responsibility; it simply means your work needs to be inspired and empowered by the Holy Spirit, not conceived in your natural mind and fueled by your natural strength.
There are many different kinds of dead works. For example, anything we do with a wrong motive is a dead work. Another type of dead work would be the efforts we make without asking God to get involved. Take another look at today’s Scripture and imagine how frustrated you would be if you spent all day digging a well, thinking you would get water, and at the end of the day, tired and worn out, your only result was a big hole.
Things we do outside of God’s timing or His will are also dead works. Learn to discern when you are working on something that is not working and refuse to do anything that is not in God’s will and timing.
Love Yourself Today: What do you need to stop doing so you can use your time more wisely?
“And you hardhearted, sinful men know how to give good gifts to your children, won’t your Father in heaven even more certainly give good gifts to those who ask Him for them?” (Matthew 7:11).
“Daddy, we love you and want to do only that which pleases you.” Do you know what I would do if my sons expressed their love for me and their trust in me in this way?
“I love you, too,” I would tell them, as I put my arms around them and gave them a big hug. “I appreciate your offer to do anything I want. Your expression of love and faith is the greatest gift you can give me.”
As a result, I am all the more sensitive and diligent to demonstrate my love and concern for them.
Is God any less loving and concerned for His children? Of course not. He has proven over and over again that He is a loving God. He is worthy of our trust. Further, He has the wisdom and power to do for us far more than we ever are able to do for our children.
“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those that ask Him?” (Matthew 7:11 NAS).
By our attitudes and actions, most of us say to God, “I don’t love You. I don’t trust You.”
Can you think of anything that would hurt you more deeply, coming from your children? The average Christian is a practical atheist living as though God does not exist. Even though we give lip service to Him, we often refuse to trust and obey His promises as recorded in His Word.
Bible Reading: Matthew 7:7-11
TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Knowing that God wants to give me a supernatural, abundant life, I will trust and obey Him today in all that I do.
Calamities can leave us off balance and confused. Consider the crisis of Joseph’s generation as recorded in Genesis 47:13. “Now there was no bread in all the land; for the famine was very severe, so that the land of Canaan languished because of the famine.” Joseph faced a calamity on a global scale. Joseph told his brothers, “God sent me before you to preserve life. For these two years the famine has been in the land, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. And God sent me before you” (Genesis 45:5-7). Joseph began and ended his crisis with God. God preceded the famine. God would outlive the famine.
How would you describe your crisis? Do you recite your woes more naturally than you do heaven’s strength? You are assuming God isn’t in the crisis. He is. Even a famine was fair game for God’s purpose!
From You’ll Get Through This
For more inspirational messages please visit Max Lucado.
A newly married same-sex couple wants to “show the whole world that you can be gay and Muslim.” Jahed Choudhury and Sean Rogan were married in Walsall, a town 130 miles northwest of London.
However, Islam prohibits same-sex marriage. As a result, some members of Mr. Choudhury’s Muslim family disagreed with his decision. He told reporters, “This is about showing people I don’t care, my family doesn’t want to come on the day, they just don’t want to see it, it’s too embarrassing for them.” His family is certainly not the first to face this question.
In fact, a reader who has been invited to a family member’s same-sex wedding wrote to me recently asking how he should respond. If you’ve not been in this position yet, likely you will be in years to come.
Consider four biblical facts:
One: Scripture forbids same-sex sexual relations. I have written extensively on this issue (see my How to Defend Biblical Marriage, for example). A same-sex marriage contradicts God’s intention for us.
Two: God created and defined marriage. In his view, marriage is only between a man and a woman (cf. Genesis 1:28; Jeremiah 29:6; Matthew 19:4–5; 1 Corinthians 7:14). Therefore, a same-sex “marriage” is not a biblical marriage.
(Some claim that God’s word doesn’t address this subject, alleging that such marriages did not exist in the biblical era. This is not true. Same-sex relations were known in ancient Canaan; the emperor Nero was married to two men in separate ceremonies. Biblical writers had abundant opportunity to endorse such relationships, but they consistently forbade them.)
Three: We should not endorse what the Bible prohibits. Paul refused to engage in behavior that would make his brother “stumble” (1 Corinthians 8:13). Our witness is vital to our public ministry as followers of Jesus.
Four: God loves gay people and calls us to do the same. We are all broken by sin (Romans 3:23). Jesus died for all sinners (Romans 5:8) and loves us unconditionally (John 3:16). Now we are to love others because “he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
How do these facts help us decide whether to attend a same-sex wedding? Here’s my position: I would not attend the wedding or the reception since my presence at either would suggest that I approve what God forbids.
However, I would meet with the couple beforehand to explain: because I care for them, I cannot endorse what I believe is not best for them. I will pray for them and want to be involved in their lives. But I believe that a wedding celebrates a sacred covenant between a couple and God. I cannot attend such a ceremony if it violates his word and will.
Since my decision may damage my relationship with the couple, I would do all I could before and after the wedding to demonstrate my love for them. Jesus ate with sinners (Matthew 9:10) and calls us to love everyone he loves. But love sometimes requires us to say what people need to hear even when it is not what they want to hear.
“Speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) is our challenge, our mandate, and our privilege.