Excerpt for The Forever Notebook: Daily Quiet Time Devotions for Christians, Book 1, January - March by , available in its entirety at Smashwords



Mary’s Little Sister

Hope of Cherry Blossom Lane

Miracle at Gabriel’s Rock

Alexandra’s Song

Farewell PFC Polk: The End of a Nightmare

In the Valley of Hope: Faith Conquers Fear

Fifth Sunday: The Loving Hands Murder


The Forever Notebook Devotionals

Book 1, January - March

Book 2, April - June

Book 3, July - September

Book 4, October - December

The Forever Notebook 365 Daily Prayer Journal

For a complete listing of books by Richard Weirich, visit the author’s website at Available in print and eBook editions.

The Forever Notebook

Daily QUIET TIME Devotions for Christians

Book 1: January - March


Copyright © 2017 Richard Weirich

No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, or by any information storage and retrieval system without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of very brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.

All scripture references are from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

For information contact

All rights reserved.

ISBN: 1543157173

First Edition: February 2017

ISBN-13: 978-1543157178


To the Godhead — my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ who saved me and dwells within me, my Heavenly Father who loves me and helps me through every storm of life, and to the Holy Spirit who has illuminated God's word and enlightened my way. To God be the glory. Forever and ever. Amen.


Why write ANOTHER devotional? There are thousands available written by well-known Christian authors and celebrities. I’m neither. All I have to offer is love for God and a desire to share His love with you.

The Forever Notebook was born out of my daily quiet time. I begin each day with a select scripture, prayerfully meditate upon it, and explore it as if studying all the facets of an exquisite gem. What is God saying today, at this place and in light of the current situations I face in my life?

After having ministered to my heart, my notebook entries have been rewritten with the intent of touching your life where you need it.

Some days the messages will be encouraging you to hang in, stay the course, and never give up. Other days you'll be exhorted to change some aspect of your behavior or challenged to strengthen your relationship with others.

In a sense, The Forever Notebook is like boot camp for the soul. It's an exercise regimen for those who desire a closer walk with God.

Why a quarterly? Why not put it all in one book? Well, three months of notebook entries equal about 70,000 words each. It didn't seem practical to publish a 280,000 page book. Think of the Forever Notebook as four 90-day challenges for spiritual growth. And although created chronologically, you can start whenever you want. Just follow it day by day.

I sincerely hope your spiritual life will be enriched by my books. May God bless you and supply your every need in abundance through our great Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.

The Forever Notebook

Daily QUIET TIME Inspirational Devotions

Book 1: January - March


Table of Contents

January 1 - New Year Resolutions from God

January 2 - Your Best Teacher

January 3 - Use His Gift Wisely

January 4 - When Right Doesn’t Feel Right

January 5 - The Game Plan

January 6 - Time for Quiet Time

January 7 - Love Naturally

January 8 - The Boundaries of Good and Evil

January 9 - How to Accumulate and Hold onto Real Wealth

January 10 - What You Should Be When You Grow UP

January 11 - 5 Powerful Words for Every Challenge

January 12 - No Room for Prejudice in the Church

January 13 - Ambassadors of Reconciliation

January 14 - The Love Test

January 15 - Hold On to the Truth

January 16 - How to Respond to Conflict in the Church

January 17 - Shining Stars for Christ

January 18 - How to Avoid Temptation

January 19 - Time to Polish the Golden Rule

January 20 - Pure Joy

January 21 - Life in the Garden

January 22 - Keep At It and Never Give Up

January 23 - How to Attain Wisdom

January 24 - Your Ministry of Restoration

January 25 - Change Your Thinking to Change Your Life

January 26 - The Power of Humility

January 27 - How to Win Spiritual Battles

January 28 - How to Get Into Worship

January 29 - The First Eggshell Church

January 30 - Our Relationship to Others Reveals Our Relationship to God

January 31 - No Line and No Waiting for His Forgiveness, Goodness, and Love

February 1 - Get Real in Your Love for God

February 2 - Take Hold of What God has Prepared for You

February 3 - When Someone is Out to Get You

February 4 - Pictures of God Worth a Thousand Words

February 5 - The One Sure Thing of Life

February 6 - God Wants You to Be Prosperous

February 7 - When You Need God to Guard and Deliver You from Evil

February 8 - The Behavior of Love, Part 1

February 9 - The Behavior of Love, Part 2

February 10 - The Behavior of Love, Part 3

February 11 - The Behavior of Love, Part 4

February 12 - The Behavior of Love, Part 5

February 13 - The Behavior of Love, Part 6

February 14 - The Behavior of Love, Part 7

February 15 - This is Love- The Love of God

February 16 - He Looked Beyond My Faults

February 17 - Check Your Faith-Vision

February 18 - Even Conquerors Need Love

February 19 - What God Wants You to Know

February 20 - A Sign of Spiritual Maturity- Knowing When to Shut Your Mouth

February 21 - Your Circles of Influence

February 22 - Fear Management

February 23 - Plan for a Better Life

February 24 - God has a Plan for Your Life

February 25 - Why You Must Wait On the Lord

February 26 - Even Trivial Matters- Matter to God

February 27 - The Enormous Value of Investing in the Lives of Others

February 28 - Give God a Return On His Investment

March 1 - When You Lose Control of Your Emotions

March 2 - How to Respond When God Tests You

March 3 - Sit Down, Shut Up, and Listen to God

March 4 - When Life Is Too Hard to Handle

March 5 - The Greatest Interpretation of the Bible is Its Interpretation of You

March 6 - When Things Fail to Turn Out the Way You Pray

March 7 - The One Intimate Relationship that Will Never Fail

March 8 - Where to Find Comfort for All Your Troubles

March 9 - Time is Running Out

March 10 - Be Prepared to Give the Reason for Your Hope

March 11 - The Flawless Forever Faithfulness of God

March 12 - How to Attain Everything You Need for Life and Godliness

March 13 - The Lord Really is My Shepherd

March 14 - Time to Put On the New You

March 15 - There is Power in His Name

March 16 - The Greatest Right of All is to Become a Child of God

March 17 - Guilt Can Be a Good Thing When Used Wisely

March 18 - Where to Turn When You Desperately Need Hope

March 19 - Your Daily Spiritual Maturity Test

March 20 - Time to GROW UP in Your Salvation

March 21 - Just a Closer Walk with Thee

March 22 - When Life is a Struggle

March 23 - Heaven is Just a Few More Steps Away

March 24 - Check the Reading On Your Sin Meter

March 25 - How to Get the Spring Back in Your Spiritual Step

March 26 - Suffering for Christ

March 27 - Your Dependency on God for Honor

March 28 - The Launching Pad for Satan’s Failed Plan

March 29 - Jesus Paid It All

March 30 - He Loves You This Much

March 31 - The Declaration of Dependence- Jesus is Lord

January 1

New Year Resolutions from God

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

2 Corinthians 5:17

Out with the old and in with the new. Today begins a brand new year with new opportunities and challenges. At least, for today, the emphasis is on “new” as thoughts turn to making resolutions to change something about yourself or your life.

Not everybody makes New Year’s resolutions but many people do. Some of us have broken so many resolutions we no longer see the point in trying. In reality, each of us knows something personal that needs changing. If you’re clueless about what needs to be changed, there’s usually somebody close to you ready and willing to make suggestions.

Now, let’s bring God into the picture. What would God want you to change about your life? After all, you are His “new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” When you gave your life to Christ you were given all that you need to become the new creation that God intended. However, it doesn’t come instantaneously. You must nurture the seed that was planted in you to bring it to maturity.

When a baby is born it doesn’t come into the world as a mature adult. The child requires nurturing and guidance to reach his or her potential. If you’re a parent, you understand the enormous difficulty of that task.

Growing into the Christian God wants you to be is also a daunting task. There is far more to it than just occasionally showing up for church or memorizing a bible verse. Spiritual growth is a lifelong journey. Until you take up residence in your heavenly home, there will always be something to work on.

My wife gave me my Christmas gift early this year. I couldn’t wait to get my new cell phone home so I could get it up and running. This was a replacement phone… just more bells and whistles. It did so much more than my old phone. I could go online, text, take pictures, make and receive phone calls, and find my away around with GPS.

As soon as I got home, I began the process of opening the box. Soon I realized that a devious individual had designed a packaging device that was impossible to open. I was unable tear it open. Scissors didn’t work. Even a box cutter was no match for the strength of the plastic surrounding my new phone. Although considered, dynamite was not an option. Finally, after about 30 minutes of slicing, chiseling, and bending, I removed the packaging.

Then came the easy to use instructions. At least, that’s what it said in the manual. “It takes about 15 minutes to activate your service.” Wrong! Try 2 days.

48 hours after making the purchase, I made my first phone call. Then a client called and left me a voice message. It took another day to find out how to retrieve it.

Change takes considerable effort, commitment, and persistence. Change that is necessary for becoming the new creation for which you have been designed takes continual and consistent prayer, study, discipline, and hard work. The benefits far outweigh the effort. As you become more like Christ you will change, not only you, but the world around you. You will be a better person — better parent — better spouse, better friend, better servant, better employee, better everything.

Back to the question I asked earlier: What does God want you to change about your life? What, in your heart of hearts, do you know about yourself that God wants changed or improved? What is it that He has placed upon your heart He wants you to accomplish?

Prayerfully, ask Him to help you establish your resolutions for change in this New Year. Trust Him to help you make it happen.

January 2

Your Best Teacher

Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Psalm 90:12

Who was your best teacher? Is there one that stands out in your mind above all the rest? What made that teacher special?

In the eighth grade I signed up for band. One of the unfortunate realities of playing in a small band is that you are stuck with the instrument the band director needs and not the one you want. Consequently, I was assigned to play the tuba. I loved music but the tuba just wasn’t for me.

Fortunately, by the next year our band was short a trombone player, so I volunteered to switch instruments. After auditions I ended up last chair and didn’t have a clue what was going on. I must have been bad because the first chair player made fun of me all year.

Early in the summer I received a call from Steve Strickler, the new band director assigned to our school. He wanted each band member to audition for him so he could get an idea of what he had to work with.

What I remember most about that audition was that it was awful, and I didn’t want to spend another year at the bottom of the trombone section. I braced myself for the verdict. Then came words that would change my life. “You have something special. If you will practice hard, I believe you can become a great player.”

His words gave me the hope and encouragement I needed. For the rest of the summer I practiced four hours every day without fail.

Once again we were required to audition for chair placement. I’ll never forget looking on the bulletin board to see the seating arrangement. I had been assigned first chair, and the guy who had made fun of me throughout the previous year was dropped to second chair. He was so humiliated by the experience he quit the band.

Steve Strickler’s influence on my life was enormous. By my senior year I made first chair in the district, first chair in the state, and was accepted into the Navy Band. More than just teach me the basics of how to play my instrument he gave me encouragement and a reason for living. He saw potential in me when no one else did.

A great teacher can alter the direction of your life by planting the seeds of a dream based on your potential. In today’s selected text the psalmist is appealing to the greatest of all teachers, God. “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” He wants God to teach him how to make the most of the days of his life. He wants to get his life right in a world gone wrong and desires a “heart of wisdom.”

Nobody knows more about you than God. He knows your potential because He is the one who designed you. When you surrender to His instruction, you will find meaning and passion for living. Your eyes will be opened to opportunities you never dreamed possible.

Extract the most good from each day by following God’s instruction. Strive for the vision He places in your heart and grow in His wisdom. Get your instruction and inspiration from — the greatest teacher of all time.

January 3

Use His Gift Wisely

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age…”

Titus 2:11-12

Do you remember what it was like to be a teenager? That’s when the opposite sex became something other than — “Yuck, she’s a girl/boy!” Not only was dating in the picture — so was the prospect of driving a car. That vehicle was your ticket to freedom from the watchful eye of your parents.

Before you started dating and driving you received many lectures and instruction about how important it was to act responsibly. Your future would be affected by the choices you made. So, how did you handle those responsibilities? Did you make the right choices?

There is a place near my hometown called Hupp’s Hill. Highway 11 descends from the hill into my hometown of Strasburg, Virginia. Many years ago there was a severe accident at the base of the hill involving a carload of teenagers. They had been drinking.

One of the first men on the scene was the father of one of the boys. He joined with other rescue workers in attempting to pull them from the wreckage. Their efforts were to no avail. What that man did not know until later was the driver of the car was his son. And the car that had been destroyed was the one he had given his son. The vehicle and the bodies were burned beyond recognition.

Later, the car was put on display in Strasburg as a reminder to future drivers, me included, of the importance of responsible driving.

The young driver of the car had received a special gift from his father. His son used what he had been given irresponsibly.

The greatest gift you will ever receive is the grace of God through Jesus Christ. In today’s selected scripture we read, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age…” God is telling us that with grace comes responsibility.

We should never take God’s grace for granted. Grace means God has given us far more than we deserve. It is His unmerited favor.

The choices we make in this life should be in line with God’s instruction. We will be confronted with “ungodliness and worldly passions.” God teaches that our response in such times is to say “No!” We must learn “to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives.”

Notice too, God teaches that such godly behavior is our responsibility “in this present age.” And… our present age presents more opportunities for sin than at any time in the history of mankind. Worldly passions are increasingly accessible in a growing number of ways and forms.

No, God isn’t trying to take away all your fun. Your Father knows the dangers that await you when you choose the path of ungodliness. He wants to keep you out of harm’s way. Save yourself a lot of pain and heartache. Use God’s gift wisely.

January 4

When Right Doesn’t Feel Right

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8

How often do your children come to you with questions to which they already know the answer? “Can I watch TV?” To which you respond, “Have you finished your homework?” Then they answer, “No.” You reply, “Finish your homework!” They unhappily stomp off as if there was some new revelation when in fact they heard the answer they already knew.

Many of us spend a lot of time asking God questions even though we already know the answers. I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t ask God questions because you definitely should. But I do believe that in many situations we already know what God expects. Notice the opening words in today’s selected scripture, “He has showed you, O man, what is good.”

Doing the right thing requires discipline and often requires extra effort. The right thing can seemingly take away some of our perceived pleasures or relationships. The right thing can make us appear cowardly or as a pushover. Doing the right thing can expose us to unwanted punishment or discipline. Do we really believe all the excuses given by people who are habitually late for work, or kids who seldom turn in their homework? They are lying to avoid the consequences of their behavior.

When someone has wronged us we want to retaliate and return hurt for hurt, even though we know our resultant behavior is unacceptable to God. Then there are times when we find ourselves in an embarrassing or compromising situation in which lying is easier than telling the truth.

When you are in a difficult situation with a co-worker, relative, or friend — how should you respond? When you are facing temptation — how should you respond? When you are in an unfortunate situation — how should you respond? Again from today’s scripture, “And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

God has already shown you what He expects. He expects your behavior to be good, just, merciful, and humble. Even when right doesn’t feel right… God expects right behavior.

He wants you to “act justly.” Treat everyone fairly and within the confines of God’s directives and man’s law.

God wants you to “love mercy.” When you feel like getting even — apply mercy. Don’t give them what you think they deserve. Remember, God is merciful, and He desires that we be merciful.

“Walk humbly with your God.” That means that there will be times when you have to swallow your pride or deny yourself a pleasure. As you live your life before Him, you surrender your wants and desires to that which is right, pleasing, and acceptable in the eyes of God.

When you make the effort to do what is right, even when it is painfully difficult, God will bless you. Serve God with integrity. Do the “good” that God has already shown you. Do right even when it doesn’t feel right!

January 5

The Game Plan

wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.

Isaiah 1:16-17

During the closing weeks of the previous year and the first week of the New Year we are inundated with football bowl games. That’s obviously good for those of us who love football and not such a good thing for those who could care less.

The biggest of all the bowl games is the BCS National Championship game where the supposed best two teams in the nation square off to see who is number one. Long before the big game the coaches and players bought into a vision that has carried them through every challenge and obstacle along the way. They have persevered through discipline, hard work, and faithful execution of a winning game plan.

Did you know that God has a game plan for your life? In today’s selected scripture God lays out His vision for what He wants us to be and what He wants us to accomplish. Of course, the first step toward accomplishing this plan is to give your life to Christ. Then comes the hard part. You have to buy into God’s plan. Make it your own. Unfortunately, that’s where we frequently fall short. We’re unwilling to commit ourselves to the discipline and hard work that will make it happen.

God’s game plan can be summed up in two directives:

(1) Get your spiritual act together (“wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right!”) and

(2) help others who can’t return the favor (“Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.”).

Even though all of us want to live right before God and make a difference in our world for Christ these essentials are frequently not the realities. We’re too busy doing our own thing and too self-absorbed to devote ourselves to God’s mission in this world.

Many of us are guilty of an attitude that basically says, “Just give me the abundant life but I really don’t have time for all that other stuff. I just want the part of Christianity that makes me feel good.”

Ask all those young men who are about to play in the National Championship game if all the discipline and hard work was worth it. Their lives are considerably more abundant today than a year ago. And they are feeling really good — probably better than any other time in their lives.

If you will make a commitment to God’s game plan, your life will take on new excitement, richness, and meaning. Life will take on an abundance the likes of which you’ve never seen. And you will experience those good feelings you desire.

Start today. Get to work on those things in your life that are displeasing to God. Get your spiritual house in order. And begin to look for ways that you can help others who can’t return the favor. Who do you know that could use some words of comfort? Who do you know that needs a helping hand? Who needs defending? Whose life could be radically changed if you shared the good news of Jesus Christ?

As you prepare for work each day — prepare yourself for God’s work. Be the light in somebody’s life today. Take ownership of God’s game plan and make a difference in your world.

January 6

Time for Quiet Time

Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.

1 Peter 1:13

How have you prepared yourself for the challenges of this day? What have you done to prepare for the unexpected obstacles that you will encounter this year? What are you doing right now to prepare for the future?

In today’s selected scripture the Apostle Peter instructs, “prepare your minds for action.” The context of the passage reveals that Peter is talking about our need to live holy lives. When our minds are sufficiently prepared we can respond to all of life’s changing circumstances in a way that honors God.

In recent days here in The Forever Notebook I have been talking about Christian behavior. We are God’s representatives on this earth and we have a responsibility to behave in a manner that rightly reflects our relationship to Him and His mission for us on this earth.

Our behavior is affected by the situations and people we encounter each day. How will you respond when a co-worker sets you up to make you look bad? What will be your response when you are passed over for a promotion you deserved? What will be your response to the driver who cuts you off in traffic or the person at the grocery store who breaks in line in front of you? Will your response to negative, hurtful, and provoking stimuli honor God? Will your choices and decisions be pleasing to God?

Every moment of every day there is something before you that requires a response. When your mind is prepared for action then you will “be self-controlled” in every situation and thus honor God.

Holiness is not just a theory but it is a state of being. It is the way that we should desire to be found when Jesus returns. “…set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

So then, how do you “prepare your mind for action?” I believe that the greatest way to accomplish that is to have a daily quiet time with God. Find a place where you can be alone with God without interruption. And then make a daily appointment with God.

Prepare yourself physically just as you do prior to going to work. Bathe, dress, and have a cup of coffee if that is part of your routine. Be alert and ready for your meeting with God. Give Him your undivided attention.

Pray, read from His word, and meditate on what He is saying to you and how you can apply it to your life. Then pray His word back to Him affirming your desire to incorporate what you have learned into your life. Keep a journal of your thoughts and how you are using God’s instruction in your life.

I know of no other activity or discipline that can produce more positive benefit for the Christian. In your daily quite time with God, He will “prepare your mind for action.”

The Forever Notebook comes from my daily quiet time with God. It is my hope that as God speaks to me that He will also speak to you. He has done and continues to do so much in my life. I pray that you can experience His incomparable presence in your life.

I am convinced that the Lord can transform, renew, change, revitalize, encourage, give hope, and help for any and all of life’s challenges. Let Him prepare you — for action. Make time for quiet time with God.

January 7

Love Naturally

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Ephesians 5:1-2

My father died when I was eleven years old. A year later, my mother suffered a debilitating stroke that left her unable to care for herself. Soon after, I moved in with my grandparents and they took care of me as their own child. I can only imagine what my life would have been had they not taken me in.

Granddaddy was good to me but it was my grandmother who had the greatest impact on my life. Her love for me was extraordinary. So great, in fact, that only in recent years have I been able to comprehend the depth of that love.

Once a month my Granddaddy would give Mammaw a little money to buy groceries. In the kitchen cabinet she kept an envelope where she would save the pennies from her purchases. She called it her “mad money.” Whenever there was something that I needed she would buy it from the money she had saved. She used the term “mad money” because it was money she could spend on herself.

When music became a major part of my life, I needed a better trombone than just a beginner instrument. Through the help of my band director my grandmother arranged for a musical instrument salesman to pay us a visit. He brought several trombones for me to try. One of the instruments was an incredibly amazing professional model but I knew there was no way that we could afford it. So I chose one of the cheaper intermediate horns.

To my astonishment my grandmother told the salesman that we were going to buy the better instrument and not the one I had selected. I was overwhelmed at her incredible generosity and asked her how she was going to pay for it. She said, “from my mad money.”

In the months that followed she baked cakes and pies for people and saved an extra portion from granddaddy’s grocery budget. She kept nothing for herself and put every penny toward making the $11 monthly payment. She gave from the little she had for me.

When I read today’s selected scripture, I was immediately reminded of my grandmother’s sacrificial love. “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

She was an imitator of God, the most godly person I have ever known. Her life was a “life of love.” And her love was sacrificial.

In my life I have been the blessed beneficiary of sacrificial love, first in my grandmother, then from my wife, and supremely from Christ. How wonderful to be on the receiving end of such incredible love. But sacrificial love is better understood when it involves giving. I have grown in that understanding through my love for my wife, sons, and family. What I have learned is that sacrificial love comes naturally. It’s not something you are forced or required to do, but something that flows from the depths of your love for another.

Sacrificial love is given gladly and produces joy in the giver. As you become an imitator of God you see others through His eyes. You cannot imitate God without loving people. “God is love.” (1 John 4:8) To grow in Christ is to expand your love universe to include the people of the world. The more you love the more you want to love sacrificially. It’s natural. It’s who you are.

January 8

The Boundaries of Good and Evil

Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the LORD God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is. Hate evil, love good….

Amos 5:14-15

My son called me a few days ago and told me about an unusual situation that he had encountered. He said that when he had returned to his office, after getting his auto gas tank filled, he noticed that he was only charged $4.00 for 17 gallons of gas. “What do you think I should do?” he asked. Without hesitation I told him that he should make the gas station aware of the mistake and pay the right amount. He said, “I’m one step ahead of you.”

We don’t hear much about “right and wrong” anymore. Some say there is no such thing as moral absolutes. It’s an outmoded concept and no longer valid. Right and wrong are defined by the individual. What I perceive to be right may not be right for you. What you perceive to be wrong may not be wrong for me. You choose what works for you.

Today we are ruled by what feels good as opposed to what is good. Right is defined by that which makes us feel good — not by what is good. You can do whatever you want as long as it doesn’t hurt anybody else.

When there is no right and wrong, there is no conscience. Conscience is that onboard mechanism created by God to help us keep our behavior in check. The absence of conscience removes those uncomfortable feelings of guilt where our mind tells us that we have done something wrong in thought, word, or deed. We don’t want anything that makes us feel bad.

I have heard many parents say their children lack a conscience. No form of punishment or reprimand produces the guilt that results in corrected behavior. Today’s culture has invalidated a strong sense of right and wrong. Moral boundaries have been eradicated.

So what happened? What has caused this shift in the way we determine what is right and wrong?

I believe that answer comes down to where our culture has placed God. We haven’t eliminated God but we have minimized His role in our lives. We have taken Him off the throne and placed ourselves there. We approach God with an “I’ll call you when I need you” mentality. Since we define right and wrong, we really only need Him when we are in trouble or want something.

In today’s scripture we see God’s desire for moral boundaries in our lives. “Seek good, not evil… Hate evil, love good…” God never intended for us to be the captain of our own ship making the decisions on what is right and what is wrong. The “good” that we are to “seek” is right and wrong as defined by Him.

Jesus died not only for your sins but also for your guilt. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t experience guilt when you violate His directives. Those feelings of guilt are to be used as a motivator for correcting the wrongful behavior. God gave you guilt to help you….not destroy you.

When you sin ask for His forgiveness. He is faithful to forgive. And remember that nothing removes guilt faster than corrected behavior. If you’ve wronged someone — mend the fence. If you’ve done something that you should not have done — then do what you can to correct it. Put out your fires while they are small and manageable.

Let God set your moral compass. Allow Him to establish the boundaries of right and wrong. “Then the LORD God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is.”

January 9

How to Accumulate and Hold onto Real Wealth

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Matthew 6:19-21

In 2008, we were hit with a global financial crisis. Many people saw their retirement savings wiped out seemingly overnight. What followed was a severe economic decline marked by record unemployment, home foreclosures, and a radical decline in the standard of living. Financial institutions and systems in which we had placed our trust were unable to deliver on our expectations and their promises.

No matter how hard man works at accumulating wealth and storing up treasures he will never be completely safe. In an imperfect world replete with self-indulgence, hunger for power, and greed, we will always be vulnerable to loss.

Jesus talked about the fragility of earthly treasures and how easily they can be lost. He pointed to the natural forces of this world “where moth and rust…destroy.” Our generation will long remember the devastating loss resulting from a hurricane named Katrina. Jesus then talked about our vulnerability to the wickedness of man “where thieves… break in and steal.”

I can’t imagine that anyone among us has not suffered at least some loss from the recent financial crisis. It has certainly had an impact on me. I just had a flashback to $4 per gallon gasoline — and filing for unemployment.

Surely things can get better and hopefully they will. However, Jesus’ message is that there will never be a time on this earth in which your treasures will be completely safe. The security of your earthly treasure is uncertain.

Jesus offers something far better than accumulated earthly wealth. His instruction to us is to “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” We are to treasure the things of God over the things of man.

Jesus is not telling us that we shouldn’t have a comfortable life on this earth or enjoy some of the nice things that this world has to offer. But He is warning us that earthly treasures should not be our heart’s desire. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

What is it that you truly treasure? What matters most to you? Where is your heart?

When you focus on heavenly treasures you grow in Christ. You become more like Him and see things from His perspective. When you encounter crisis situations on this earth you are better equipped to handle them because you know you have divine help and direction. Your hope is not in things but in God. He enables you to rise above your earthly crisis where there is hope, promise, and exciting possibilities.

Treasure a godly character. Treasure a life devoted to His service. Treasure your relationship with Christ. Treasure His instruction. Treasure God’s enormous love for you that required the gift of Jesus’ life. Treasure His provision, protection, power, grace, and mercy. Treasure your accumulated wealth in Jesus Christ. Set your heart and your mind on eternal heavenly treasures that can never be lost, destroyed, or stolen. Accumulate and hold onto real wealth by putting your heart into living your life for God.

January 10

What You Should Be When You Grow UP

But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

1 Peter 1:15-16

One of our favorite questions to ask a child is, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” My oldest son wanted to be a “scien-tis-tist.”

Many parents have designs on what they want their children to “be.” I never really thought in terms of a specific vocation for my sons. My primary concern was in regards to their character. I wanted them to “be good.” The rest would take care of itself.

In regards to what we should “be” there is actually a higher expectation that comes from God. God wants us to “be holy.”

Doctrinally there are two categories of holiness. First there is positional holiness. You are made holy by the work of Christ. In Him you are holy. The second category is the practice of holiness, “…be holy in all you do.” God is telling us to “be” who we already are in Christ. You are holy…now act like it. “Be holy.”

The word “holy,” in regard to the believer, means to be set apart for God’s purposes. Holy, sanctify, and saint all come from the same root word.

When we are young there are behavioral traits of our parents that get on our nerves. My granddaddy always sat at the head of the table, used the same plate, same fork (with one prong missing), and knife (with a broken handle)…for every meal. I was bound and determined that when I was out on my own I would never adopt that behavior. Fortunately, I’ve been able to keep my promise to myself. But…who knows? Maybe someday.

In reality we adopt many of the behavior characteristics of our parents. Have you ever said to your spouse, “You’re acting just like your mother?” The older we get we not only act like them, we actually look like them. Recently my granddaughter put a play wig on my head and took my picture. I was shocked to see that…I look just like my mother.

Our heavenly Father is holy and as His children we are instructed, “Be holy, because I am holy.” As we grow in Christ we will inevitably adopt family traits. Just as a child mimics the behavior of a parent we should seek to mimic the holy behavior of our God.

To “be holy” is to strive for godly behavior in every area of your life. God wants you to pattern your life after Jesus. “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do.” Jesus is your perfect model for living the Christian life. Learn from His devotion and obedience. Learn from His way of forgiveness. Learn from His model of standing against temptation and for what is right. Learn from His compassion, love, and ministry to others.

As a Christian, what do you want to be when you grow up? There really is only one right answer to that question. Your uppermost desire should be to “be holy in all you do.” Here in the month of January, when goal setting and resolutions are top of mind, is a perfect time to resolve to set your sites on holy living. Ultimately, the highest compliment you can ever receive is for someone to say, “I can see your Father in you.”

January 11

5 Powerful Words for Every Challenge

In my anguish I cried to the LORD, and he answered by setting me free. The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?

Psalm 118:5-6

Have you ever been in such a difficult situation you thought you would not survive? Have you ever experienced suffering so great you thought it would consume you?

In today’s selected scripture, the psalmist describes a condition that many of us have experienced when he uses the word “anguish” which can be defined as excruciating or acute distress, suffering, or pain.

Most often “anguish” is temporary. Several years ago, I suffered a gall bladder attack. An emergency room nurse asked me to grade my pain level on a scale of 1 to 10. My response, “12!” A few days later my gall bladder was removed and I began to experience relief. You may have encountered temporary anguish with a tooth, food poisoning, or broken bone. (Been there…done that.) Although the pain is unbearable there is light at the end of the tunnel. You will ultimately get relief.

“Anguish” at its worst seemingly has no end. In the early days of my first pastorate, I was called upon to minister to a family in anguish. A young mother had lost her son and husband in a traffic mishap. In the years that followed, I witnessed numerous tragedies of many kinds that produced “anguish” in the lives of those affected. Suicides, untimely deaths, drug overdoses, divorces, job loss, debilitating diseases (to name a few) and all produced anguish so severe that those involved saw no way out.

Notice how the psalm writer responded to his anguish, “In my anguish I cried to the LORD.” From the depths of his suffering he called out to his only hope and petitioned God to rescue him from his peril.

His hope was based on a vital principle, “The LORD is with me.” Those words produce strength in the heart of the believer in the midst of crisis. If God is with you then you know that somehow you will make it. And if “The LORD is with me,” concludes the psalmist, then “I will not be afraid.”

There is no greater knowledge during the struggles of life than knowing that the Lord is with you. Those 5 words, “The LORD is with me” are a soothing balm like none other. No matter what you are going through or what you may face these words spoken in faith will always produce relief.

It may not look like it, or feel like it, but if you are a Christian then the Lord is always with you. The psalm writer then adds an additional thought that he puts in the form of a question. “What can man do to me?” He realized that he is on the winning team. The power of God is on his side and even though it may look like he is losing the battle, he will ultimately behold victory.

Whatever struggle is before you this day, you can be comforted and gain strength from these 5 powerful words, “The LORD is with me.” These words breathe hope into every challenge and crisis you may face.

In those lowest moments when you are too weak to hold on — just remember you don’t have to. God has you firmly in the grasp of His forever hands.

Remember those 5 powerful words for your every challenge. THE LORD IS WITH YOU.

January 12

No Room for Prejudice in the Church

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 3:26-28

In today’s scripture the Apostle Paul addresses bias in his world that carried into the church. The church was to be a place of inclusion…and not exclusion. His point is that all Christians have been given the same position in Christ and are viewed by God as His children (“You are all sons of God…”).

Christian fellowship, worship, and ministry should not exclude anyone by race (“Jew nor Greek”), social class (“slave nor free”), or gender (“male nor female”).

God’s gift of eternal life is for all who will receive it. It can’t be earned, bought, or passed on through family inheritance. Anyone who desires a right relationship with God through Jesus Christ can have it through faith (“You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.”)

Early on, in my first pastorate, I encountered a very troubling situation involving racial prejudice. One Sunday morning a black family visited the church. Later that day there was a scheduled deacon’s meeting. In fact, it was my first with that group of men as their pastor.

When I showed up for the meeting, I sensed that something was amiss. Once we were all assembled one of the deacons arose and quickly shut the door. As soon as he sat down he began to speak. “Preacher, what are you going to do about those (N-word) in our church?” Others began to join in. “If they show up again you don’t have to give an invitation to receive Christ. They’re just here to stir up trouble.”

I was stunned and shocked by what I was hearing, and I could not let their thinking go unchallenged. “Christ’s message of salvation is for everyone,” I said, to which they responded: “But you don’t have to give an invitation at the end of the service. What will happen if they become church members?”

“If they become church members then we will love them and treat them as one of the family,” I said, now thinking that my pastorate was about to come to an end. “Forbidding them to come into the church and denying them the opportunity to become Christians would be contrary to our Lord’s instruction. Now, what else do you want to talk about today?”

Much to my relief, they moved onto other things and the subject never again came up.

Before you go casting stones at the aforementioned church it should be pointed out that every church has sin issues that must be overcome. The church is made up of people all of whom are sinners. There is no such thing as a perfect Christian or a perfect church.

More important than pointing the finger and condemning others for their sin is taking a close look at ourselves in the spiritual mirror. Is there anyone with whom you would not be willing to share your faith? Is there anyone from whom you would withhold the good news of Jesus Christ? “For God so loved the world that He gave…” (John 3:16)

Jesus’ love for all people, with no exceptions, drove Him to the cross. His love was sacrificial and is unconditional. Our love for others should be a reflection of His amazing love.

January 13

Ambassadors of Reconciliation

that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.

2 Corinthians 5:19-20

Good relationships can turn on a dime. Two people who were once inseparable now want nothing to do with one another. Affinity is replaced by enmity, love turns to hate, and mutual trust has been eradicated. Unfortunately, broken relationships are an all too common reality of life.

Unless someone extends an olive branch, or a third party intervenes, then failed relationships become permanent. The gulf of separation between two people grows to the point of no return.

In the bible, we learn that man is separated from God. In fact, we are depicted as being at enmity with God. The thing that stands in the way of fellowship with God is sin. As Holy God, He can have nothing to do with sin and consequently He can have nothing to do with sinners. As sovereign God, He sets the rules and establishes the standard by which all of us are expected to live. Moreover, as the supreme judge He must punish sin.

We are also taught that “God is love,” (1 John 4:8) and it is from His unfathomable love He provides a plan for our reconciliation to Him. Out of His love, He sent His only Son, Jesus, to pay the penalty that we deserve for our sin, which is death and eternal separation from God.

Today’s selected scripture reveals God’s truth this way. “…that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.” That’s why Jesus is referred to as “The Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)

Jesus is our only way to being reconciled to God.

The Apostle Paul teaches that once we have accepted God’s offer of reconciliation, we then have a responsibility to share God’s good news with others. “And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” We are to be God’s ambassadors of reconciliation on this earth. “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.”

I have often heard Christians say that they are trying to find out what God wants them to do. “I know God has something special for me to do. I just don’t know what it is yet.” Your conclusion that God has something special for you to do is accurate. He has appointed you to be an ambassador of reconciliation. All Christians carry that same responsibility.

We all have different talents and abilities yet we have a common responsibility. You are God’s ambassador wherever He has planted you. At home and at work; among friends, family, neighbors, acquaintances, and co-workers. Numerous opportunities exist for you to represent the One who has sent you through the ministry of reconciliation.

There is an urgency associated with the message with which you have been entrusted. “We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” In fact, there is no more important message.

As you take your assignment seriously, you will discover that reconciliation will become a reality in other areas of your life. Not only will you be interested in vertical reconciliation (man with God) but also horizontal reconciliation (man to man). The hurt and frustration of old broken relationships will be healed by forgiveness, mercy, and grace. You will understand what Jesus meant when He said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” (Matthew 5:9)

Congratulations! You have been appointed as an Ambassador of Reconciliation. You are God’s chosen representative.

January 14

The Love Test

If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.”

1 John 4:20-21

Since our earliest days we have undergone testing for just about everything imaginable. We have undergone academic tests, medical exams, personality profiles, and more.

I’ve noticed lately that there are pop culture personality tests that supposedly reveal certain personality traits or tendencies. Among them there is the Barbie Doll test. I suppose that’s just for girls. There’s an Animal Test that allegedly reveals the animal that most closely matches your personality. There are even Hollywood Star personality profiles like the Brittany Spears Test and the Charlie Sheen Test. Good luck on those.

In the bible we learn that God has given us some tests to reveal if we are truly in the faith. In today’s selected scripture we find such a test. I’ll call it The Love Test. This test is designed to reveal if your love for God is genuine.

The Apostle John writes, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.” Put simply, if you love God you will love others.

To love God is to strive to keep His commands. “And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.” God expects us to love our brothers in Christ and yes, even those who are unlovable.

Do you love God? I’m guessing that your answer is to the affirmative. I’ve never encountered a professing Christian who said they did not love God. But the best way of answering that question is to look at your relationship with your brothers and sisters in Christ.

As a pastor, I witnessed a lot of unloving behavior in the church. Families feuding with families, backbiting, vicious rumors, people refusing to talk to one another, and ill treatment were fairly regular occurrences. Unloving behavior can be found in churches in all sizes and from all denominations. Sadly, God’s ministry is hindered by such unnecessary and abhorrent conduct. More importantly it reveals a lack of love for God and an intentional violation of God’s command to love our brothers.

In some churches there is more loathing than loving. Some of my pastor friends have encountered severe animosity and hatred directed toward them and their families. People within the church grudgingly refuse to give them the support and encouragement they need. Such behavior fails God’s Love Test revealing a lack of love for God.

Most of our divisions and disagreements are petty and have nothing to do with advancing the mission of Christ. One church was split over placement of the piano in the worship center. Some wanted it on the right. Others wanted it on the left. They couldn’t reach an agreement so one of the groups started another church.

A deacon in another church was outraged during a church renovation project when the nail, upon which he hung his hat, was removed. He refused to give another penny to the church until the nail was replaced.

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