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Setting Up Memorials

By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

When God miraculously brought His people out of slavery in Egypt, they quickly succumbed to ingratitude towards God. They grumbled and complained and murmured every time they faced a new challenge, instead of thanking God for His ever-present hand. Their attitude prevented them from entering the Promised Land for 40 years until that grumbling generation had died out in the wilderness.

After God’s people finally reached the Promised Land, God told them to create a monument as a reminder of His supernatural aid in crossing the Jordan River (see Joshua 4:1-3). Joshua carried out the Lord’s commands and explained to the men that this would “serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord.…These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever” (Joshua 4:6-7).

God wants to see prayers that are filled with genuine praise and thanksgiving for what He has done in the past. He wants our hearts to be filled with awe and gratitude for His blessings. He wants us to set up memorials in our hearts testifying to the provisions He has given us.

God does not want to be taken for granted. He does not want to be given our lists of wants without any true desire to know Him. We dishonor God when we relegate Him to the role of magic genie. God answers our prayers to strengthen our faith in Him, to help us trust in His Word, to glorify Himself, and to express His love for us.

Prayer: God, help me to be mindful to set up memorials in my heart so that I never forget the many blessings You have poured out on me. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

“I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago” (Psalm 77:11).

Celebrate God's Promises

By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

God allowed the Israelites to leave Egypt. He had heard their cries for help and sent Moses to lead them out of bondage and to the Promised Land. More than likely, when Israel left captivity, they thought that they were free and would not have to face fear again—but they had many more obstacles to face before finally entering the Promised Land.

It’s easy to grumble in the face of difficulty, as the Israelites often did. Instead, when trouble comes we need to celebrate God's deliverance, provision, and blessing. However, many times we forget that God uses life's difficulties to train us for even greater blessing.

The people of Israel left Egypt, but they had to face the Red Sea, Pharaoh's army, and 40 years in the desert before they were ready to enter the land God had promised Abraham. Their freedom from Egyptian slavery was the first step toward blessing, but it also was a step toward another faith experience. Would they trust God or cry out in fear? They cried out in fear—even with the Angel of the Lord going before them and a pillar of cloud behind them.

The cloud later represented the presence of God's Spirit, and the Angel of the Lord was the pre-incarnate Christ. Yet Israel was not tuned into God's provision. As they approached the Red Sea and saw that Pharaoh's army was pursuing them, they became fearful. The physical evidence of God's presence was not enough, and they missed a tremendous blessing.

God has never failed to keep His promises. He was faithful to Israel then, and He will be faithful to us today. We may not see a pillar of fire or a cloud in front of us, but we have the Spirit of God living within us. The same God who was with the Israelites at the crossing of the Red Sea is with you today.

Prayer: Lord, thank You for staying true to all Your promises. Because of Your faithfulness, I have no reason to fear. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

“The angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel's army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel” (Exodus 14:19-20).

Preparation for His Work

By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

The faster our world moves, the less patience we have. When we want something, we want it now. When presented with two equal choices, we make our selection based on availability, asking, “Can I get it today?”

Waiting on God can seem like an eternity. We know His promises, yet we wonder if He remembers us. We pace back and forth and mutter about how God never moves quickly. We wonder what is taking Him so long, and we wonder if He will keep His Word.

Just as a loving earthly father would not hand over car keys to a child who is unprepared to drive an automobile, neither would God give us something before we are truly ready. The time in which we wait upon Him often prepares us for the work He wants to do through us. He is preparing us to handle greater responsibilities.

Unfortunately, we struggle to realize this and often forget about the way He has operated in our lives in the past. God is not slow as much as He is patient. He is waiting for us to arrive at just the right place to receive His blessings. He is waiting for us to trust Him. Our patience in waiting upon Him demonstrates our love and trust that He knows exactly what He is doing.

As our relationship with God grows deeper, we realize our maturity is not based on how many verses we have memorized or how many things we are doing for the church. Much of maturing in our relationship with God means we have come to a better understanding of His love for us and we trust Him fully—no matter how long it takes for Him to fulfill His promises.

Prayer: Lord, I confess there are some areas of my life where I have doubted Your faithfulness. Help me to wait upon Your perfect timing for my life, trusting that You are accomplishing Your purposes. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

“We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name” (Psalm 33:20-21).

We Know the Ending

By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

While witnessing one team take a lopsided lead in a sporting event, we sometimes keep watching because of the slight chance that the losing team could mount a comeback. There is hope that the team will claim an unforgettable victory, but the uncertainty of the game produces great anxiety.

Just as in a sports game, we may not be able to predict the outcome of our own personal circumstances. But one thing is certain: our victory in Christ is assured. We are not left to guess how this story ends. Although we may feel discouraged in the heat of spiritual battle or hopeless in the face of tragedy, we can find courage in His ultimate triumph over the darkness.

When Jesus died on the Cross and rose from the grave, He secured the victory for us. Jesus’ triumph over death also gave us the victory over death’s grip, both here on earth and in eternity. No longer do we have to be held in bondage to sin on earth. No longer do we have to pay the price of death for our sins on earth either. Jesus’ sacrifice covered it all.

Life can be difficult. It can even feel gloomy and full of despair. Yet, just as Jesus’ sacrifice gives us new life, His last words before His death fill us with hope: “It is finished” (John 19:30).

Like watching a movie for the second time where all the suspense is removed, so is living our lives here on earth if we are walking with the hope and assurance of salvation in Christ. We know the ending: God is victorious. Satan, sin, and death are defeated.

Jesus’ death and resurrection give us eternal life, and His final words on the Cross give us encouragement, spurring us to press on because God is the victor and we are His people.

While the enemy may make a last-ditch effort to discourage you and to divert the plans God has for your life, he will not win.

God loves you and when you place your faith and hope in Him, He will deliver you from all the wiles of the enemy. The victory has already been won!

Prayer: Lord, reveal to me how I can walk more in the victory of Christ. Show me areas of doubt, discouragement, and hopelessness where I am not trusting in Your victory. Thank You for the eternal hope You have given me! I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

“But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).

Achieve God's Goal

By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

Have you ever wondered how Moses handled discouragement? Or how Paul maintained a positive attitude when he faced the criticism and threats of others?

Surely Paul fought discouragement when he faced the threat of death. However, he kept his focus set on Christ, who was his infinite strength and eternal hope. We can do the same.

Life may have many challenges, especially when you are doing what God has called you to do. But you do not have to be overwhelmed by disappointment. We should long to be heroes of the faith—people who seek to win the race set before us and to achieve the goal that God has given.

When trouble comes, don't give up. Don't lose heart, and don't listen to harassment. God has a plan for your life. When you feel like quitting, think about Paul's life and all he did for the Lord. He was not called to be famous or to have a vast sum of money. He was called by God to preach His Word to the lost. Paul did exactly what he was given to do. He obeyed God and surrendered his life to Christ. He went from being a man of position in the Jewish faith to an outcast and a traitor. What may have appeared to be failure from a human standpoint was actually the mark of true victory.

God does not ask you to cross a finish line with the goal of reaching worldly success. He does not hand out trophies that look good in a case or sitting on a shelf. The trophies of our faith come at a price. Just as Christ gave His life, are you willing to give your life to Him? Forsaking all else, will you follow Christ and proclaim His love and forgiveness to a dying world?

Prayer: Lord, as I fix my eyes on You, I know You will give me the strength I need to do Your work. Help me to surrender all to You, that You might have Your way in my life. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power” (Ephesians 6:10).

A Move of the Spirit

By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

As we continue looking at the Spirit’s movement to spread the Gospel in Acts 10, we see that not only had the hearts of Cornelius and Peter been prepared, “the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message” and many were saved as a result (Acts 10:44).

The move of the Spirit was so great that Peter said, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right” (Acts 10:34-35). This was a world-changing, history-making statement. The Jewish believers were astonished and began to baptize the believing, formerly untouchable Gentiles.

And that is how God took Christianity from being a narrow sect within the Jewish religion to a worldwide religion that breaks down prejudice and unites people in Christ. Christians do not just show tolerance to others, they love all people because God created them and loves them Himself.

You can have confidence that if God has a calling for you, even if it is to go into territory that is unfamiliar to you, He will go ahead of you. Not only will He prepare your heart for your mission, He will prepare others to receive what you are offering them.

Prayer: God, I realize that You have the power to do more than I could ever imagine. I pray that You would give me the courage to do my part in spreading the Gospel. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

“I will go before you and will level the mountains; I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron” (Isaiah 45:2).

No Barriers

By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

Yesterday we read about the Spirit’s movement in the life of Cornelius. Today we will continue looking at what the Spirit did in Acts 10 as part of God’s mission to spread the Gospel to every corner of the world.

While God was moving in Cornelius’ life, He was preparing Peter’s heart to witness to Cornelius. God had to change Peter’s view of Romans and all Gentiles, a belief system developed over a lifetime of teaching from his parents, his church, and his community. God effectively transformed Peter’s thinking through a vision.

God portrayed food that the Jews had always considered as unclean as an analogy to the Gentiles, who were considered even more unclean. No Jew would have ever invited a Gentile into his house nor entered a Gentile home.

Yet, in Acts 10:15, we learn that the voice in the vision said to Peter, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”

At the Spirit’s direction, Peter soon found himself traveling to Cornelius’ home.

Are there barriers in your life that are keeping you from sharing the Gospel with someone? Perhaps God wants to use you to witness to someone you’ve always kept at a distance.

Prayer: God, forgive me for putting up barriers in my life that have kept me from being completely available to You. Help me to be willing to go to whoever you call me to so Your Gospel can spread to every corner of the world. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

“I will hasten and not delay to obey your commands” (Psalm 119:60).

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