Devotionals

Be inspired and uplifted each day as you receive insight into God's Word

Matthew 5:4

February 20

Matthew 5:4—Blessed are they that mourn:  for they shall be comforted.

Even now, in the dark of night when our hearts are breaking, He sits beside us!

Do happiness and mourning go together?  What a paradox!  How flatly it contradicts today’s hedonistic worldview!  How can crying and joy go together?  How can the perfume of happiness be extracted from the gall of sorrow?

Who in his natural mind would think of congratulating a person whose face was wet with tears?  “It’s nice to see you crying today, Mary.  Keep it up, it’s good for you.”

When we weep, we’re in good company.  When Lazarus died, Jesus wept.  When He knelt on the Mount of Olives and looked out over the city of Jerusalem, He wept.  When Paul left the town of Ephesus, he and the elders wept with sorrow at their parting.  John wept on the isle of Patmos because no one was found worthy to open the scroll that would reveal God’s plans.

But Jesus is not saying, “Happy are the crybabies, for they shall get what they want.  Happy are those dedicated to feeling guilty even when they haven’t done anything wrong.  Happy are those who have learned to whine their way to maximum attention.  Happy are those who love root canals and IRS audits.”  He says, “Happy are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

Do you understand the implications of this?  The God of all comfort promises to comfort us.
- The God who comforted Abraham as he walked toward Mt. Moriah to sacrifice his beloved Isaac—that God will comfort us!
- The God who comforted Paul on the raging sea moments before he was shipwrecked—that God will comfort us!
- The God that comforted the fathers of the church, as they were being burned alive by their persecutors—that God will comfort us!

The first thing we’ll feel in eternity is the gentle hand of God, wiping the tears from our eyes.

When we’ve been abandoned by our dearest friend on earth and feel so absolutely alone, He picks us up in His massive arms and holds us close until the storm passes by.

Shout it from the housetops to the unhappy legions of earth:  “We shall be comforted!”  Who says so?  The God of all comfort says so.

Source:  Being Happy in an Unhappy World

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Psalm 34:18

February 21

Psalm 34:18—The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart.  And saves such as have a contrite spirit.

Only when we are crushed and remolded in the hands of the Master Potter can we enter the kingdom of God!

God doesn’t force us to change our minds about our pride.  But He does give us ample opportunity to reevaluate our position.  Jonah found himself in the belly of a great fish when God whispered in his ear, “Jonah, if you’ll do what I called you to do, I’ll program this fish to deposit you on the beach.  Otherwise, this fish just had lunch.  What’ll it be?”

Jonah screamed, “I’ll obey!  I’ll obey!  Forgive me for being so stubborn and full of pride.”

God said, “Good thinking, Jonah!”

Jonah waded to shore, slimy, smelly seaweed around his neck, bloodshot eyes, trembling with fear, his pride finally crushed, crying out to the Ninevites as God had commanded. Him, “Repent!”
Saul of Tarsus was knocked to the ground and struck blind on the road to Damascus.  God whispered in his ear, “Saul, you can quit persecuting Me and these new Christians, or you can stay blind.  What’s your pleasure?”

Saul replied, “What do You want me to do?  Just name it?” 

And God said, “Atta boy, Saul!”

God plays hardball.  When He spots pride in your life He goes after it the way a surgeon goes after cancer.  He’ll put you flat on your back in a full body cast for a moment of reflection.  He’ll take the possessions that are the basis of your mentality and scatter them to the four winds.  He’ll make your bed like coals of fire in the night.  You’ll never know rest until you make your peace with God.

Jesus picked up a little child and addressed His hardened adult audience:  “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven…”  Matthew 18.

Millions of America’s tormented legions flood through the doors of our churches every Sunday proud, religious, unteachable, cold, jaded, resentful, hurting and hateful—about as unlike a humble little child as can be.  We are searching for happiness.  But we can find it only when we allow the loving hand of God to break us and remake us into vessels that please Him.  This is the first step toward true happiness.  Why not take it right now?

Source:  Being Happy in an Unhappy World

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Jeremiah 31:13

February 22

Jeremiah 31:13—…For I will turn their mourning to joy, Will comfort them, And make them rejoice rather than sorrow.

On the other side of tears is God’s peace!

Have you ever heard the expression “good grief”?  It’s true.  Grief is healthy.  A tear in the eye tells of at least one spring in the soul.  It may lie buried beneath emotional scars, a bitter divorce, rejection by parents, and a litany of bitter memories that will not die.  But that one little tear trickling down our cheeks cries out, “I’m alive!”

Every Sunday morning at Cornerstone Church, immediately after the sermon, I invite all who wish to respond to the Gospel to come forward to the altar.  When I was a child, we used to call it “the mourner’s bench.”  People come forward with tears streaming down their faces.

Why?  Because the Lord is at work.  Shattered dreams are being rebuilt, fractured marriages restored, ruptured relationships healed by the power of God.  The pressures of life are easing and the burden of sin lifting as people bask in the happiness that only God can give.  They look sad on the outside, but they’re happy on the inside.

Tears are living proof of life.  The man who cannot shed tears is not fully alive. 

One day a woman called my office asking if I would talk to her husband, who was manifesting signs of severe depression.  Their eighteen year old son had been killed two months before in a blazing auto accident, and the father’s heart was broken.  His torture was compounded because he embraced the mentality that it isn’t manly to cry.

When I arrived at the home, I found the man in the backyard, pacing back and forth like a caged lion.  We chatted a few moments as I searched for a tactful way to broach the painful subject of his son’s tragic death.

Suddenly he blurted out, “Tears are for the weak, preacher.  I’m too hard and cold to cry.  I’m like steel inside.”

That’s a pity,” I said.  “And dangerous, too.”

“Why?”  He asked.

“Because the only thing steel can do under stress is snap and break,” I said.  “You may consider tears a sign of weakness, but they are really God’s therapy for a broken heart.  On the other side of tears is God’s peace.  Don’t be afraid to cry.”

He brushed off my advice.  Two days later he put a .357 Magnum in his mouth and blew the top of his head off.  He couldn’t bend like a supple tree planted beside rivers of living water.  He could only snap under the pressure. 

Happy are those who mourn, who can weep like a child, sob it out in their private Gethsemane and later find relief in the rich laughter of heavenly consolation.  They shall be comforted indeed.

Source:  Being Happy in an Unhappy World

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Matthew 18:4

February 23

Matthew 18:4—Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

When we become unable to mourn over our sin, we are morally doomed!

One night my ten year old son called me to his room.  It was almost 10:30—two hours past his bedtime.  As I walked up the winding stairs, I could hear him crying softly in the darkness.  When I opened the door, I could see moonlight reflected from cheeks wet with tears.

“What’s the matter, Matthew?”  I asked quietly.

“Today I said some things that offended the Lord,” he said.  “Would you pray with me that God would forgive me for what I said?”

I didn’t ask what it was he’d said.  Even if it was horrible, God would forgive it.  And even if it was trivial, it was still serious to Matthew.  I knelt beside his bed and we prayed together until he felt comforted.

As I walked back to my bedroom I prayed, “Lord, don’t let me lose the heart of a child.  Don’t let me get so cold and calloused that I forget how to mourn over things that offend You.

Paul speaks of people who have “lost all sensitivity” Ephesians 4:19.  They are past feeling.  Their consciences no longer sting when they break the law of God.  It’s a dangerous position to be in.  Our consciences are supposed to hurt when we sin.  It’s how God alerts us to the need for repentance.

Socrates described conscience, as the spouse from whom there is no divorce.  Maybe we can’t divorce our consciences, but we can stifle them until their voices are silent.  Then we have, in Paul’s words, “lost all sensitivity.”

Remember Father Damien, the leper priest?  In answer to God’s call, he became a missionary to the lepers on the island of Molokai.  For thirteen years he lived among them as their teacher, their companion and their friend.

At last the dread disease laid hold of him.  One morning he spilled some boiling water on his foot and felt not the slightest hint of pain.  Then he knew—he was doomed.  The loss of feeling was proof that leprosy had conquered.

It is the same with us.  When we become unable to mourn over our sin, we are morally doomed.

What about you?  When you sin, does your conscience trouble you?  Then be glad.  Happy are those who mourn over wrongdoing, for they are truly alive!

Source:  Being Happy in an Unhappy World

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2 Samuel 12:13

February 24

2 Samuel 12:13—Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”

Forgiveness leads to happiness!

Happy are those who mourn over wrongdoing; for they are being forgiven.

Sin and happiness are never found together.  Consider the lives of King Saul and King David.

Saul was handsome, powerful, the choice of the people.  As long as the adulation of Israel was directed toward him, all was well.

Then came David’s stunning victory over Goliath.  When the army was returning from the field of battle, the women came out from all the towns of Israel to meet them.  They danced and sang, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands” 1 Samuel 18:7.

Saul was enraged.  He sent David away and then hunted him across the hills of Israel like an angry hound pursuing a fox.  Slowly but surely Saul conquered his conscience.

In all of Scripture, there is not the slightest hint that Saul ever mourned over his sin toward David, or over his defiance of God’s law concerning the witchcraft in which he had participated when he consulted the “witch of Endor.”

He died in bitterness and anguish, utterly bereft of the joy that could have been his as God’s anointed.

Now consider King David.  After many years on the throne, he became addicted to the nectar of power.  When he saw the beautiful Bathsheba, he used his absolute authority to have her brought up to him.  He committed adultery with her and, to cover up his crime, craftily arranged for her husband to be killed.

God sent the prophet Nathan to King David.  He told the king a story of a wealthy man who had stolen and eaten the only sheep of a poor man.  David was enraged.  “As surely as the Lord lives,” he said, “the man who did this deserves to die!”  Only then did Nathan point his finger at David and intone, “You are the Man!”

At that moment, David’s life before God hung in the balance.  What decision would he make?  Would he mourn for his sin?  Or would he, like Saul, choose to override his conscience and ignore that voice of God?  The Scriptures record his decision:  “Then David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’”

That one simple statement delivered David from spiritual leprosy.  He mourned his son before God with tears.

Being happy in an unhappy world requires mourning over wrongdoing so that we may know the joy of forgiveness. 

Source:  Being Happy in an Unhappy World

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Job 23:10

February 25

Job 23:10—But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.
                             
If we endure to the end and run the race that is set before us with patience, our tears will turn to joy and our sorrow into singing!

As a pastor, I know there are times when no words in human speech can remove the pain from the brokenhearted.  Many of those times occur when a tragedy has befallen someone for no apparent reason.

Where is God when it hurts?  Sometimes it seems He is silent just when we need Him the most.  Why do suffering and pain afflict good people?  In my opinion, there are three basic reasons:

1. Poor choices.  I once counseled a young man who came into my office angry with God that he was not “a whole” man because he had lost an arm in an auto accident.  Pressed for details, he admitted he had been the drunken driver in a single car accident involving an encounter with a massive oak tree.  I decided to administer a stiff dose of reality therapy.

“Your arm was cut off because you chose to drive while drunk,” I said, “God didn’t pour the whiskey down your throat or force you into the driver’s seat and down the highway…  You made a series of poor choices, and the consequences are yours to bear.”

Then I went on to share with him how God could help him deal redemptively with those consequences.

People who are suffering are seldom willing to acknowledge their responsibility in the matter.  I have begged young women in my church not to marry the young men they were seeing until their professions of faith manifested some fruit.  I have implored businessmen not to join in contracts with questionable believers.  But in mad pursuit of the chance of a lifetime, they plunge into a romantic or financial abyss that destroys their lives.  I have heard them ask, “Why is God letting this happen to me?”  The answer is, it isn’t God who’s making this happen.  It’s the consequence of your poor choices.

Source:  Being Happy in an Unhappy World

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Job 23:10

February 26

Job 23:10—But he knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.
                             
If we endure to the end and run the race that is set before us with patience, our tears will turn to joy and our sorrow into singing!

As a pastor, I know there are times when no words in human speech can remove the pain from the brokenhearted.  Many of those times occur when a tragedy has befallen someone for no apparent reason.

Where is God when it hurts?  Sometimes it seems He is silent just when we need Him the most.  Why do suffering and pain afflict good people?  In my opinion, there are three basic reasons:

See yesterday’s devotional for reason #1
 
2.  Ignorance.  Knowledge is power.  In July 1881, President Garfield was shot by an assassin.  For two months, his doctors couldn’t agree on the location of the bullet no X-ray in those days.  Garfield’s personal physician, Dr. Bliss, was certain the bullet was in one area.  A specialist, Dr. Weiss, insisted it was in another.
 
The result?  NO operation, and the president died.  When the autopsy later showed that Dr. Weiss had been correct, a Washington newspaper quipped, “Ignorance Is Bliss”.

It makes a cute saying.  But it’s utterly false.  Knowledge is a God given light that can steer us away from the deep ditches of disaster.

Source:  Being Happy in an Unhappy World

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Job 23:10

February 27

Job 23:10—But he knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.
                             
If we endure to the end and run the race that is set before us with patience, our tears will turn to joy and our sorrow into singing!

As a pastor, I know there are times when no words in human speech can remove the pain from the brokenhearted.  Many of those times occur when a tragedy has befallen someone for no apparent reason.

Where is God when it hurts?  Sometimes it seems He is silent just when we need Him the most.  Why do suffering and pain afflict good people?  In my opinion, there are three basic reasons:

See yesterday’s devotional for reason #2

3.  God’s Sovereignty.  Because of the sovereign, long range purposes of God, there are times when things happen over which we have no control and about which we have no knowledge.  We pound on heaven’s gates, asking, “Why is this happening?”  And in response we hear only the deafening sound of eternal silence.

When Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery in Egypt, it seemed the darkest day of his life.  He couldn’t possibly have understood at that moment the long range purposes of God in his life, or comprehended how the hand of God was directing every agonizing step.

When our hearts are breaking and our eyes are blinded with tears, it’s hard to see the sovereign hand of God guiding our every step.  We suffer until the purposes of God become apparent to us, which may not happen for many years and may not be at all in this life.

But if we endure to the end and run the race that is set before us with patience, our tears will turn to joy and our sorrow into singing.  We who mourn will be comforted. God guarantees it.

Source:  Being Happy in an Unhappy World

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Jeremiah 27:45

February 28

Jeremiah 27:45 “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel…I have made the earth, the man and the beast that are on the ground, by My great power and by My outstretched arm, and have given it to whom it seemed proper to Me."

“In the chain of human events, the birthday of the nation is indissolubly linked with the birthday of the Savior.  The Declaration of Independence laid the cornerstone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity.  –John Adams, Second President of the United States

John Adams understood that the Holy One of Israel, Jesus Christ, the Maker of heaven and earth and all that dwell therein, is to be honored and recognized as the Hand, which not only created the land we proudly call our home, but also formed it into a nation, and from its inception, up to this very day, sets a President over it, for His divine purposes. 

Today, as we give honor to the Presidents of America, past and present, let us pray a prayer for the Office of the Presidency of the United States of America in the spirit from which it was created, the Holy Spirit of Jehovah, God: 
Father, we thank You for the privilege of living in the greatest of nations, which still emanates Your glory because Your hand remains upon us.  Lord, God, stand guard over the Office of the Presidency and provide supernatural protection and wisdom necessary to navigate among today’s increasingly perplexing domestic and international challenges.  And help our faith in knowing that You are indeed perfecting every detail.  This we ask of the King of glory, in His name, the precious name of Jesus, amen.
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