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The Longing of Every Heart

By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

The imperishable reality of heaven is what every human heart desperately longs for. We all want a home where we can live forever, experience endless joy in the Creator's presence, and be reunited with those we love.

God Himself placed those desires within us so that we would never be satisfied with anything less than eternity with Him. He wants to draw us into a relationship with Him because only by joining our lives to His can we experience the eternal life He intended for us at creation.

We are physical beings -- but we are not merely physical. We are part of the spiritual realm, and we were created for heaven. We are restless and dissatisfied with life until we find our true destiny in Him. Only when our searching and wandering leads us home to the Father can we find the peace and belonging we seek.

This world is impermanent and destined for destruction. But if we have placed our trust in Christ, our citizenship is in the world to come -- a permanent place called heaven.

Prayer: Father, thank You for creating me for heaven. Thank You that I can look forward to that day when I will leave this world because I have placed my trust in You. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"He has also set eternity in the human heart" (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

The Heart of God

By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

What do the religions of the world have in common? They all attempt to pursue and appease their gods, who have distanced themselves from humanity. That is a key difference between these religions and the Christian faith. Christianity is the only faith in which the one true God reaches out to humanity. He pursues and seeks us out; we are the ones who are lost -- not God.

We can rejoice not only because God seeks us out, but also because we can know our Creator personally and have a thriving, fulfilling relationship with Him. We can talk to Him as we would a close friend. We can know the very heart of our true God. In essence, Christianity is not a religion, but a relationship.

In the Gospels, we see Jesus conveying this message over and over again. At the beginning of Luke 15, we see the religious leaders murmuring against Jesus: "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them" (v. 2). The Pharisees considered anyone who admitted his need for God's forgiveness to be ignorant and weak. Though they studied the Scriptures, they were far from knowing and comprehending the heart of God.

Prayer: Father, thank You for pursuing me when I was lost in sin. Thank You for being an intimate and loving God. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?" (Matthew 18:12).

Trusting the Sovereignty of God

By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

When our confidence is in the sovereignty of God, we will not panic when we face tough circumstances. But when we try to control our lives and manipulate events and people to our advantage, we will become frustrated and joyless.

Paul trusted the sovereign hand of God, and he learned to be content in the ups and in the downs, in the abundance and in the lack, in sickness and in health, in the courts of kings and in the dungeons and prisons. Paul recognized God as the source of his strength: "I can do all this through him who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:13).

Whatever God called Paul to do -- whether speaking with the powerful or the poor, whether preaching to thousands in a coliseum or to a lone Philippian jailer, whether speaking to King Agrippa or to a lowly soldier in Rome -- Paul knew that God would equip him for his tasks.

Paul's God-centered focus brought joy and contentment to his life. The psalmist declared, "The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him" (Psalm 28:7).

God will also provide for us and strengthen us as we seek to follow Him in faithful obedience. "And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19).

Whatever needs we have -- salvation, comfort, encouragement -- Jesus can meet them. He can lift us above the hurts that others have caused. He can give us perseverance when we are in the middle of the valley. He will meet our needs in His perfect timing and in accordance with His glorious, inexhaustible riches.

Prayer: God, thank You for Your sovereignty. Help me to trust in You, knowing that You are more than able to see me through every trial I face. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"Sovereign Lord, my strong deliverer, you shield my head in the day of battle" (Psalm 140:7).

Remember God's Blessings

By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

Have you ever forgotten an important date? Maybe it was a friend's birthday or your wedding anniversary. With our hectic schedules, sometimes we forget the important things -- including the past blessings of God. We take for granted our relationships, our health, and the possessions that God has entrusted to us. Almost as soon as we set foot on land, we forget how God has guided us through the storm.

Throughout the book of Joshua, God supernaturally carried the Israelites through one insurmountable task after the other. The Lord stopped the flow of the Jordan River. He caused the walls of Jericho to crumble. He gave victory to the Israelites again and again. Yet by the end of the book, the Israelites already had forgotten God's goodness and generosity.

In Joshua 24, we see God speaking through Joshua, reminding the people of how He has faithfully provided for them in the past. Joshua chose a special place to remind the people of God's faithfulness: "Then Joshua assembled all the tribes of Israel at Shechem" (Joshua 24:1). Shechem was near the same location that, 600 years earlier, Abraham received God's promise of that land. What better place to praise God's faithfulness and to pledge in response to His blessings?

We all have our own personal Shechem -- the places where God has met us in a special way. These are the places where God has provided for us and has fulfilled His promises. These are the places where God has answered our prayers and has intervened on our behalf. Our Shechems are where God has showed Himself faithful -- even when we have been unfaithful.

But God has not given us these many blessings so that we may become complacent in them. He has blessed us for a purpose, and we are called to respond. God wants us to use our resources and circumstances to bring Him glory and to testify to His goodness. He wants us to tell the story of how He transformed our lives. He wants to see our willingness to share about His love for us.

Prayer: God, thank You for the Shechems in my life. Help me to never forget the many times You have shown Yourself faithful in my life. Help me to tell others about You. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"But do not be afraid of them; remember well what the Lord your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt" (Deuteronomy 7:18).

The Journey of Faith

By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

Many times when we hear the word journey, we imagine time spent along broad vistas with restful pastures. The word even sounds poetic.

But in reality, the journey of faith that God requires us to take through this life can lead up steep, emotional mountain grades; out across vast, lonely plains; and, without warning, down into dark valleys, where we face some of our greatest challenges.

Through it all, however, we can have a tremendous sense of hope and determination because our faith is founded in an unshakable God who is not frustrated by the rise and fall of the world's economy. Nor is He alarmed by daily news reports or changed in any way by the shifting of governmental powers.

He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (see Hebrews 13:8). He is faithful and true, and we can be sure of this: God is just as concerned about our needs as He is about the nations of this world. No request is too small for Him and no problem too great for Him to solve.

When we are tempted to feel hopeless, He comes to us as our strong and mighty advocate, proclaiming His care and plan for our lives (see 1 John 2:1).

Prayer: Father, this journey of faith has taken me through some serious challenges. Thank You for the reminder today that You are faithful and that You care about my every need. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"For the Lord loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones" (Psalm 37:28).

A Forgiving Spirit

By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

How did Moses respond to the criticism of Aaron and Miriam? He exhibited a forgiving spirit. He could have lashed out and said things that would have been justified. He could have accused them of hypocrisy. He could have defended himself.

Sometimes it is necessary to defend ourselves, but in this case Moses did not. He remembered that Miriam was part of God's plan in saving him from a watery grave as a child. He did not forget that Miriam sang the song of praise after they crossed the Red Sea. He thought of Aaron standing with him against Pharaoh.

Do you know the reason why people try to tear someone else down? To build themselves up. If we remember that God has a purpose and a plan for each of us, then we do not need to be negative and critical toward others. In His eyes we are all equal.

Not only does God choose to use us for His purpose, He also stands between us and those who would seek to slander and harm. While it may seem like a long time before God acts, He will.

How do you respond to criticism born out of jealousy and envy? Pray for opportunities to minister to the person. Instead of being glad that Miriam was punished with leprosy, Moses cried out to God to heal her. God responded to Moses's prayer even though He did not heal Miriam instantly. God taught Israel that you could not make false accusations without consequences.

Are you a critical person? Or are you suffering from unjust criticism? Take your requests to the Lord today. Let Him deal with the one criticizing you, or your own critical spirit.

Prayer: Lord, thank You that You have forgiven me. When I deal with conflict, help me to remember the forgiveness You have shown toward me. Help me to be humble and to forgive. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you" (Colossians 3:13).

Forgiveness: At the Heart of the Gospel

By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

Getting a relationship back on track often takes a proactive approach. Forgiveness requires reaching out with no guarantee that the other person will respond. It requires overcoming pride and walking in humility.

Yet forgiveness lies at the heart of the Gospel. It should be a litmus test separating those who are committed to Christ from those who are not. When you forgive, you follow the example of Jesus. But when you harbor bitterness and resentment, you follow the example of Satan—because he never forgives.

When someone takes advantage of you, when someone lets you down or speaks ill of you, you have a choice. You can act like Satan, the accuser, or you can manifest the divine nature that became yours the day you said yes to Jesus.

Few things please the heart of God more than a readiness to forgive. That is why, when you truly forgive another person, a deep peace floods your heart. Be aware that forgiveness may not be a one-time act. There are times when it will be a continual, daily surrender. Charles Spurgeon once said, "Cultivate forbearance until your heart yields a fine crop of it. Pray for a short memory as to all unkindness." Forgiveness is the salve that keeps a wound free of the infection of bitterness and allows it to heal over time.

When forgiveness requires more strength than we possess, we have the power of the Father, the example of the Son, and the strength of the Spirit to help us.

Prayer: Father, help me to follow Your example in offering forgiveness to those who have hurt me. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times comes back to you saying 'I repent,' you must forgive them" (Luke 17:4).

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