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Strength for Today

Strength for Today is a daily devotional thought penned by Victor Knowles of Peace on Earth Ministries.

CONVERSION (9)

Victor Knowles - Friday, September 13, 2013

THE CONVERSION OF MANASSEH. How could one of the finest kings of Judah, Hezekiah, have a son who became the worst king ever? And yet it happened. Manasseh reigned in Jerusalem for 55 years (2 Chron 33:1). He actually rebuilt the high places that his father had demolished and erected altars to Baal (even in the temple of the Lord). He worshiped the stars, practiced sorcery and witchcraft, consulted with mediums and spiritists, and even sacrificed his own sons in the fire! Manasseh "led Judah and the people of Jerusalem astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the LORD had destroyed before the Israelites" (v. 9). But God is not mocked.

God brought the Assyrians against Judah and they captured Manasseh, put a hook in his nose, and carted him off to Babylon. And there something absolutely amazing took place. "In his distress he sought the favor of the LORD his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. And when he prayed to Him, the LORD was moved by his entreaty and listened to his plea; so He brought him back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD is God" (vs. 12, 13). You talk about an incredible conversion, this is it! Can you imagine how the angels must have rejoiced in heaven? The text goes on to show that his repentance was real. He removed the images from the temple, he restored the true altar of sacrifice, and he told the people to worship the God of Israel alone (vs. 15-17). Manasseh is living proof that God will forgive even the worst of sinners who will humble themselves, repent and pray!




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CONVERSION (8)

Victor Knowles - Thursday, September 12, 2013

THE CONVERSION OF A SYRIAN ARMY OFFICER. Syria dominates the headlines today. They were a force to be dealt with in Old Testament times too. Naaman was a commander of the Army of Syria. God had actually prepared him by granting a military victory to Syria (2 Kings 5:1), But Naaman had a problem: a big problem! He was a leper. However, in one of his raids he had brought back a captive, a young Israeli girl (v. 2). In the providence of God she became the maidservant of Naaman's wife. The girl told her about the prophet Elisha who could heal people of leprosy. This resulted in the king of Sryia writing a letter to the king of Israel on behalf of Naaman. When Naaman arrived at Elisha's house, he was met by a servant who told him to go wash seven times in the Jordan River and he would be healed. But the Syrian took umbrage at the strange request and refused because he thought the rivers of Damascus were better than all the waters in Israel (vs. 9-12).

Naaman went away in a rage (the first case of "road rage"? Who knows!). But he had a wise servant who convinced him that he really should do as Elijah had ordered. "So he went down and dipped seven times in the Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean" (v. 14). He returned to the man of God and gave his testimony: "Indeed, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel..." (v. 15). Conversion does not and will not happen to a person who is proud. Naaman listened to and followed the advice of his servant, an inferior, and received a superior blessing and benefit - complete healing. His healing led him to declare his new found faith in God. "Now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel." It reminds me of the song, "What a wonderful change in my life has been wrought, since Jesus came into my heart!"




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CONVERSION (7)

Victor Knowles - Wednesday, September 11, 2013

THE CONVERSION OF THE WIDOW OF ZAREPHATH. God told Elijah the prophet, "Go at once to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there. I have commanded a widow in that place to supply you with food" (1 Kings 17:9). Zarephath was in the vicinity of modern Lebanon. The widow was not an Israelite, not in covenant with God, but He used her anyway. Elijah found her gathering sticks. She was going to prepare a meal for herself and her son and then die. Yet when Elijah audaciously asked her to prepare him a meal first, she did! God blessed her faith by causing her jar of flour and jug of oil to last all through the drought. The three of them had food to eat every day. But a little later her son died. The widow's new-found faith was severely tested. She thought Elijah and come to remind her of her sin and kill her son (v. 18). But Elijah prayed and God brought the boy back to life. When he handed him to his mother, the widow of Zarephath cried, "Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the LORD from your mouth is the truth" (v. 24). What a great conversion story!

The story of the conversion of the widow of Zarephath is a story of full surrender. She surrendered her last meal to the prophet. She surrendered her son to the prophet. Finally, she surrendered her heart to the God of Israel. "Now I know!: God had prepared her heart for the arrival of Elijah. Now she surrendered it to Him. This story reminds me of the hymn "I Surrender All." "All to Jesus I surrender/All to Him I freely give/I will ever love and trust Him/In His presence daily live." That's where we receive our "Strength for Today." 




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CONVERSION (6)

Victor Knowles - Tuesday, September 10, 2013

THE CONVERSION OF DAVID. Yesterday we discussed the conversion of Ruth, David's grandmother. Today we will look at the conversion of her grandson, David, "the man after God's own heart." David was just a shepherd boy when Samuel the prophet came looking for the next king of Israel. When he saw Eliab, David's oldest brother, Samuel thought his search had ended. But God said, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart" (1 Sam. 16:7 NIV). Seven sons passed before Samuel and all of them were rejected. Finally, David was brought in from the fields. Immediately God told Samuel, "Rise and anoint him; he is the one" (v. 12). 

"So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the LORD came upon David in power" (v. 13). From a shepherd boy to a king! You talk about a conversion experience. Later, Solomon, David's son and successor to the throne, prayed to God: "You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart" (1 Kings 3:6). One cannot read the Psalms of David -- many which were written when he was out in the field with the sheep -- and not see that God was working in the heart of David, preparing him for the day he would be anointed as the King of Israel. Conversion does not take place until we give God and His Spirit place in our heart. Just as David did. 




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CONVERSION (5)

Victor Knowles - Monday, September 09, 2013

THE CONVERSION OF RUTH. It is one of the greatest love stories in the Bible. It is also one of the finest conversion stories in all of Scripture. A famine in the land forces a man from Bethlehem in Judah to live for awhile in Moab. While he is there he up and dies. So do his two sons, who have taken Moabite wives. One of them is named Ruth. Her mother-in-law Naomi decides to return to Judah. Although she is a Moabite, Ruth wants to go with her. Naomi argues against this, but Ruth prevails. "Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me" (Ruth 1:16, 17 NIV). [The words from this passage form the basis of a wedding song, "Whither Thou Goest." In fact, it was sung at our wedding on August 7, 1967!]

The Lord did deal with Ruth, but not severely. We might say He dealt with her graciously (showing grace to her) because Ruth indeed did return to Bethlehem in Judah, married a man named Boaz, and the rest is history. "Please take the time to read the rest of the story, which ends with Naomi holding Ruth's baby in her lap. God was assembling the players from whose combined blood lines His own Son would be born ... [this is why] the name "Ruth" appears in the genealogy of Jesus Christ" (Notes from The Leadership Bible). In fact, two converts (Rahab and Ruth) are mentioned in Christ's genealogy. "Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David" (Matt. 1:5-6). Talk about good things coming from someone's conversion!




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CONVERSION (4)

Victor Knowles - Sunday, September 08, 2013
THE CONVERSION OF RAHAB. One of the most amazing accounts of conversion in the Old Testament is that of Rahab the harlot. Joshua sent spies into the land of Canaan and this brave woman hid them from her own people at the risk of her life. Why would she do such a thing? Listen to her testimony. "We are all afraid of you. Everyone in land is living in terror. For WE HAVE HEARD how the Lord made a dry path for you through the Red Sea when you left Egypt" (Joshua 2:9, 10). Stop the tape! It had been 40 years since the crossing of the Red Sea! And the ripples of the Red Sea had reached all the way to Jericho! Faith comes by hearing and this woman was a believer. She continued: "No wonder our hearts have melted in fear! No one has the courage to fight after hearing such things. For the Lord your God is the supreme God of the heavens above and the earth below" (v. 11). It would not be long until The Lord would be her God as well as their God! She struck a deal with the spies that she and her household would be spared when Israel would conquer Jericho (vs. 12-14). The rest is history. The scarlet cord hanging from Rahab's window was the marker of her conversion. She and her family were spared (6:22-23). "And she lives among the Israelites to this day" (6:25). Not only that, you can find her name in God's Hall of Fame, Hebrews 11. "It was by faith that Rahab the prostitute was not destroyed with the people in her city who refused to obey God. For she had given a friendly welcome to the spies" (Heb. 11:31). What a remarkable woman, memorable faith, and significant conversion!


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CONVERSION (3)

Victor Knowles - Thursday, September 05, 2013

THE CONVERSION OF JACOB. Having God change your name might rank as one of the all-time conversion experiences! One night a Man (notice that the NKJV capitalizes Man) wrestled with Jacob until the break of day (Gen. 32:24). Amazingly, the Man could not prevail against Jacob, so He touched the socket of his hip. Jacob's hip was now out of joint, but he continued to furiously wrestle with the mysterious Man! The Man said, "Let Me go, for the day breaks." But Jacob replied, "I will not let You go unless you bless me!" Talk about boldness at the Throne of Grace! Then the Man asked Jacob, "What is your name?" Jacob told him and the Man replied, "Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed" (v. 28). Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: "For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved." It is interesting to note that Jacob (Israel) walked with a limp the rest of his life. God left his mark on the man who would not give up struggling with God until he received the blessing. The name Jacob appears 360 times in the Bible, but Israel appears 2,565 times (including the Children of Israel and the nation of Israel). This is one conversion that made a big difference in a lot of people's lives! Do you give up too easily? Are blessings just out of reach because you gave up too soon? Learn this lesson from the man we now know as Israel. "And as many as walk according to this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God" (Gal. 6:16). 




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CONVERSION (2)

Victor Knowles - Wednesday, September 04, 2013
THE CONVERSION OF ABRAHAM. Normally when we think of conversions we want to go directly to the Book of Acts. But the story of the 50-some conversions in the Bible actually starts with Abraham, or Abram as he was known at the time. Why did God choose of man from the Ur of the Chaldees to start a new nation, an idol worshipper at that? This morning when I awoke I looked out my bedroom window and saw the stars. God took Abram outside his tent and said to him, "Look up into the sky and count the stars if you can. That's how many descendants you will have!" And Abram believed the LORD, and the LORD counted him as righteous because of his faith" (Gen. 15:5, 6 NLT). This could be called the first case of conversion in Scripture. I like how Herbert Lockyer describes this convert. "Born in Ur of the Chaldees, of heathen parents, little is known of Abraham until he was 75 years old. Before leaving his home for far-off Canaan, there came his revelation of, and from, God, and he willingly surrendered the seen for the unseen when the call came to surrender certainty for an uncertainty in a promised land. God made him the recipient of three promises: of a country, Canaaan; of posterity, as the stars of heaven; of a spiritual host, through whom all families of the earth would be blessed. What a momentous hour that was then, when Abraham went out not knowing whither he went" (Their Finest Hour, Revell, 1979). Are you willing to surrender the seen for the unseen and certainty for uncertainty in the promised land of faith? The you can be a convert too!


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CONVERSION (1)

Victor Knowles - Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Are you a convert? You should be. The Bible has a lot to say about our need for conversion. Psalm 19:7 says the law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul. Our souls need conversion. The NASB has "restoring" the soul. A "convert" is one is is turned around, transformed, or restored to the starting point. David asked God to restore to him the joy of His salvation -- "then I will teach transgressors Thy ways and sinners will be converted to Thee" (Psa. 51:12-13 NASB). Jesus said, "Unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 18:3). There are no exceptions. Peter further declared, "Repent  therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord" (Acts 3:19 NKJV). Being converted is as essential  to salvation and eternal life as it can possibly be! We are going to look at a number of conversion stories in Scripture. We will start with Abraham, but that will have to wait until tomorrow! See you then on "Strength for Today!"




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FIRST THINGS FIRST (20)

Victor Knowles - Sunday, September 01, 2013

THE FIRST AND THE LAST. It is only fitting that we conclude this brief series of 20 daily devotions on "First Things First" by looking at Jesus Christ in the Book of Revelation. "When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: 'Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades'" (Rev. 1:17-18 NIV).

Jesus Christ is the Alpha and Omega, which is another way of saying the First and the Last. He was in the beginning of all things. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning" (John 1:1-2 NIV). He is the the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in all things He might have the supremacy (Col. 1:18). There is no fear of death when we understand that Jesus is the firstborn from the dead. Because He lives, all fear is gone. The First and the Last placed his hand on John and said, "Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last." Let those words sink down into your heart and stay with you all the days of your life. He was with God in the beginning and He will be with us right to the very end of time and the beginning of eternity. Hear His promise. "Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End" (Rev. 22:13). Always put Jesus -- who is the First and the Last -- first in your life! As James DeForest Murch wrote in his great hymn, "The Lord Jesus died my salvation to win/He went in my stead to Cal'vry and bled/Redemption impels me to give up all sin/I'll put Jesus first in my life!"





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