March 12th – “Standing O”
[Bible reading: Numbers 16:41-18:32; Mark 16:1-20; Psalm 55:1-23; Proverbs 11:7]
“So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God.” – Mark 16:19
Mark closes His account of the Jesus story by telling us how Jesus was one moment talking with His followers and the next He was taking an invisible elevator up into the heavens. That must have been pretty cool to watch. Mark then adds that Jesus “sat down at the right hand of God“. We next read of Jesus in Acts 7:55-56, when Stephen, a radical follower of God, was being murdered for his faith in Jesus. As Stephen was about to be stoned with rocks until he was dead, he looked up into the sky; “But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, ‘Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!’” I find it extremely interesting that Mark specifically tells us that Jesus went up to “sit down” at the right hand of God, and then Stephen specifically tells us that he saw “Jesus standing at the right hand of God“. This is huge, because it means that Jesus stood up. Jesus gave Stephen a standing ovation!
I often think about the fact that when I die and meet Jesus face-to-face I am going to hear Him say something directly to me. I pray that what I hear Him say will be, “Well done My good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21). However, it’s an interesting thought that I could actually cause Jesus to stand up now, while I’m still alive! I want to be a man that receives a “Standing O” from Jesus. How can I make that happen? I believe I must be a man like Stephen; A man that is willing to lose his life for the cause of Christ.
“Father, today I choose death to self. I choose to live for You and You alone. I want to share Your love and Your good news to all, whether they like it or not, whether they criticize me or not. I want to be as bold and radical as Stephen and not care, in the least, about this life. Truly, anything I could have here, any opinion of man, pales in comparison to pleasing You. You are worthy of my praise and of my life. Help me to make a true stand for You and live in such a way as to cause You to stand. I love You, my King!” – Michael
March 13th – “Tears In A Bottle”
[Bible reading: Numbers 19:1-20:29; Luke 1:1-25; Psalm 56:1-13; Proverbs 11:8]
“You number my wanderings; Put my tears into Your bottle; Are they not in Your book? When I cry out to You, then my enemies will turn back; This I know, because God is for me.” – Psalm 56:8-9
“God is for me” is a pretty special sentiment. The idea that the ultimate Being, the Creator of the universe, the only omnipresent (everywhere at once), omniscient (all-knowing), and omnipotent (all-powerful) God is rooting for me is extremely awesome! It’s better than the young, inexperienced boxer who has the undisputed heavy-weight champion of the world in his corner. And God is not only for us, He is compassionately caring about what you and I are going through. “You number my wanderings” points to the idea that wherever we go, whether in or out of times of joy (Psalm 121:8), God is aware.
“Put my tears into Your bottle” is a reference to a practice that has been passed down through the centuries. Not only in times of antiquity and Roman times, but also the Victorian Period and during the American Civil War, and even up to today, stories have been found of how women were said to have cried into tear bottles and collect their tears of greatest joy and happiness, as well as their tears of greatest sorrow and sadness. They’d wear these small bottles around their necks all their lives. If the woman’s husband was away at war, their wives would save them until their husbands returned from battle and present the bottles to their husbands with their collected tears of joy and tragedy. This loving act would show the men how much they were adored and missed. This shines new light on the passage in Luke 7:38 that shares the story of a ‘sinful woman‘ who, “…stood at His [Jesus] feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil“. What she may well have been doing was taking her tear bottle and pouring it on Jesus, saying, “Jesus, You have my heart. You have my greatest joys, and all my brokenness. I hold nothing back. Everything I am is Yours.” This is an awesome truth, because when we give our heart to Jesus we can be confident that He’ll take really good care of it. Why? Because God is for us.
“Father, like the sinful woman I want to pour my love on You; All my joys, all my hopes, all my fears, and all my brokenness. I give it all to You, knowing that You care for me more than I can even imagine. Thank You for watching my silly wandering, but also caring about each and every tear I’ve ever cried. You are a good, good Father… and I love You!” – Michael
March 14th – “Cross-Eyed”
[Bible reading: Numbers 21:1-22:20; Luke 1:26-56; Psalm 57:1-11; Proverbs 11:9-11]
“So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.” – Numbers 21:9
As the people of Israel journeyed through the desert, they often complained about their living conditions. This particular time God sent fiery serpents into their midst and the snakes bit them and many of them died because of the snake bites. This caused them to confess that they had sinned and they begged their leader, Moses, to go to God on their behalf and ask Him to forgive them and take away the snakes. Moses did this, and was then instructed by the Lord to make an image [statue] of one of these fiery snakes wrapped around a pole, and then set it up in a place where anyone could look at it. If the people, when they had been bitten by one of the snakes, would simply look upon the image, they would be saved.
I find it interesting that God didn’t take away the serpents, but had Moses put up a pole that people could look to for salvation. John 3:14-18 declares: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” These verses contain the single most quoted verse in all the Bible, John 3:16, but how many people truly understand its context? Much like the people in Moses’ day had to look upon the pole that had been lifted up, so too you and I must look up to the Cross, where Jesus was lifted up and killed on our behalf. God has chosen not to remove the sin from this world, just like He didn’t remove the snakes. But because of His grace, He has given us an option: We can choose to remain snake-bit by sin and die, or we can simply focus our eyes on the Cross and be saved.
“Father, thank You for making salvation something that I can simply find. Today, I choose to gaze upon Jesus – the Author and Finisher of my faith (Heb. 12:2). Please help the venom of sin not to have its desired effect on my life, and help me to live my life with You always in my sights. I love You!” – Michael
March 15th – “Go With The Flow”
[Bible reading: Numbers 22:21-23:30; Luke 1:57-80; Psalm 58:1-11; Proverbs 11:12-13 ]
“God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” – Numbers 23:19
God had told Balaam what to say to Balak, the king of Moab, and it wasn’t good news. Wanting desperately to avoid delivering the bad news, because he knew the king would hate it, Balaam was unable to change God’s mind. Unlike the false gods of that region, who were often depicted as whimsical and easily manipulated, the God of Israel – the only, true, living God – speaks, and doesn’t change His mind.
Today, we often want things our way right away. We aren’t as concerned with what God’s will or opinion is if it doesn’t line up with ours. When God has spoken something into our hearts, whether through His Word or by His Holy Spirit, it’s not an easy thing for us to get Him to change His mind. Isaiah 40:8 declares that “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of God stands forever.” When God convicts me of something, or directs me to ‘do’ or ‘say’ something, no matter how I might plead with Him about how uncomfortable it makes me… He doesn’t change. Am I a man who is constantly kicking against the Lord and His Word? What has He clearly spoken to me that I have acted as though He wasn’t serious about? “C’mon, Lord… You certainly didn’t mean that You really wanted me to submit to him?” “Lord, You surely wouldn’t want me to say ‘that’ to ‘them’… it could get me fired!”
“Father, Your Word is true, and it is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. That means that it can guide me and keep me. Forgive me for the times I have doubted Your Word, and when I have out-and-out disobeyed what You’ve spoken because it made me uncomfortable. Today, I choose to trust You and walk according to Your ways. I want to go with where Your Word and Your Spirit is flowing. I love You!” – Michael
March 16th – “Destination Disease”
[Bible reading: Numbers 24:1-25:18; Luke 2:1-35; Psalm 59:1-17; Proverbs 11:14]
“Where there is no counsel, the people fall; But in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” – Proverbs 11:14
In other translations, this verse is very interesting.
- “For lack of guidance a nation falls, but victory is won through many advisers.” – New International Version
- “Without wise leadership, a nation falls; there is safety in having many advisers.” – New Living Translation
- “Without good direction, people lose their way; the more wise counsel you follow, the better your chances.” – The Message
- “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.” – English Standard Version
- “Where there is no [wise, intelligent] guidance, the people fall [and go off course like a ship without a helm], But in the abundance of [wise and godly] counselors there is victory.” – Amplified Bible
In any and every endeavor, pride is a serious enemy of self-improvement and success. When a person shuts their ears to the wisdom and advice of others, it can be devastating. The reason we do this is singular; we think we already know everything. This unteachable and prideful attitude can stagnate a person and keep them from having the impact that God intends for His followers to have. Thus, listening to multiple sources can greatly multiply our effectiveness. Be a learner. It’s been said, “We should learn as if we were to live forever, and live as if we were to die tomorrow“.
All too often I can have something called, “Destination Disease“. That’s when all I want to do is just enough to “arrive” and then simply kick back and “retire“. I must fight this tendency and be constantly learning and improving. I must not be satisfied with who I was yesterday, or what I accomplished years ago. I must look for ways to become better. This requires reading, and listening to others that have gone before me, so that they might pass on to me what they’ve learned. Musician great, Bruce Springsteen once said, “A time comes when you need to stop waiting for the man you want to become and start being the man you want to be“. In other words, I must apply what I’ve learned so far, but I also must be willing to change and grow. This requires less pride and more listening to others.
“Father, I don’t know everything. I also don’t want to stagnate. Help me die to myself and be open to instruction and guidance from others. Thank You for reminding me that I still have much to learn. May I never have that “I’ve arrived” attitude. Help my heart to be humble… and moldable, ultimately for Your glory. I love You!” – Michael
March 17th – “What’s Your Rank?”
[Bible reading: Numbers 26:1-51; Luke 2:36-52; Psalm 60:1-12; Proverbs 11:15]
“Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them, but His mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” – Luke 2:52-53
These verses follow the story of Jesus, at 12 years of age, being in the temple and blowing away the teachers gathered there by His “listening to them and asking them questions” (Luke 2:46). His parents had lost Him and were looking for Him (I imagine frantically) for three days! Once He was finally located, they rebuked Him for causing them to freak out (verse 48), and then they all three headed back home to Nazareth, where Luke tells us specifically that Jesus was “subject to them“. The word ‘subject‘ is the Greek word, ‘hypotasso‘, which is defined, ‘obedient‘. However, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words states that it is primarily a military term that specifically means, “to rank under“. This is interesting, because it means that Jesus –the only Son of God, the Messiah, the One who had just made a bunch of adult scholars and teachers of the Word be ‘astonished’ – obeyed His earthly parents and considered Himself to be under them and their leadership! Joseph was a carpenter. Mary was an unschooled, young mother (some believe to be approximately 26-28 years old at this time). Jesus was the Anointed One from God!
Later in Jesus’ life, approximately 18-20 years later, Jesus is teaching and is told that His mother and brothers wish to see Him (Matthew 12:47-48). Seemingly, they don’t understand what He’s up to and want Him to stop. However, at this time, Jesus doesn’t ‘submit‘. He lovingly continues His ministry and refers to the crowd who is listening to Him as His ‘mother and brothers‘. What changed? Was it that He and His family no longer got along? No. Jesus still loved and cared for His family (John 19:26). The answer lies in the fact that Jesus “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men“. Jesus grew in ‘wisdom‘ (intellect and practical holiness), ‘stature‘ (physically He grew to adult size), ‘favor with God‘ (spiritual intimacy with His heavenly Father), and ‘favor with men‘ (social respect and acceptance). He grew to understood Who He was and His unique calling. As a 12 year old boy, His calling was to submit to the God-given authorities that had been placed in His life. As an adult man in His thirties, His calling was to submit to His Father’s will… even if there would be a cost.
Wherever I am in life, I am to be a man that is submitted to whatever God has called me to. The God-given authorities that He has placed over me are there for a reason. God knows the reason, I don’t have to. I’m simply called to submit to them, as unto the Lord. However, first and foremost, I am to always submit to the Lord. If there were ever to come a time when the authorities over me were asking me to live contrary to God’s Word, then I would need to lovingly decline (Acts 4:19).
“Father, You are in control of my life. The authorities that You’ve set in place over me are there because You wanted them to be there. I thank You for them and pray that You’d bless them and continue to guide their lives. Help me to remember that as I submit to them, I’m really submitting to You. Take away my pride and that feeling I get that I don’t want to “rank under” anyone else. I see in Scripture where even You submitted to Your authorities when they didn’t clash with what Your call was, and I want to be like You. Thank You for having Your hand upon my life, I don’t deserve it, but I sure appreciate it. I love You with all my heart.” – Michael
March 18th – “I Wanna Rock!”
[Bible reading: Numbers 26: 52-28:15; Luke 3:1-22; Psalm 61:1-8; Proverbs 11:16-17]
“Hear my cry, O God; Attend to my prayer. From the end of the earth I will cry to You, when my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” – Psalm 61:1-2
The writer of this prayer is exhausted. In poetic language they are describing how they’ve come to the end of their rope and all they can do is cry out for help from God alone. They ask that God lead them “to the rock that is higher” than they are. This is an interesting request and brings to mind the story of the people of Israel in Numbers 20, and how they were thirsty and the Lord quenched their collective thirst with water supernaturally coming out of a rock in the desert. This provision by God is mentioned at other times in the Scriptures (Deuteronomy 8:15, Nehemiah 9:15, and multiple times throughout the Book of Psalms – For example: Psalms 105:41 “He opened the rock, and water gushed out; It ran in the dry places like a river.“) The psalmist knows that supernatural provision and quenching of thirst can come through this ‘rock’, and he wants it. 1 Corinthians 10:4 interestingly describes Jesus Christ as that ‘Rock‘ (“and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ“).
One day a a great rabbi of around Jesus’ time, Rabbi Akiva, came across a rock by a river that had been greatly worn away by a slow drip of water falling on it over the centuries. He remarked, “What has hollowed this stone? Is it not a small drop of water falling on it day after day? If soft water can wear away hard stone, how much more should the words of the Scriptures, which are like iron, carve their way into my heart, which is flesh and blood? It is interesting to note that it was not one drip of water, but the constant force, drip after drip, year after year, that had a great effect. Often times we Christians think a big event like a weekend conference or a special-guest speaker will change peoples’ lives. But most of the time, God’s Spirit tends not to work through big “splashes”. Instead, through the slow drip of spending time with Jesus through study and prayer, day after day, year after year, He shapes us into what He wants us to be.
“Father, You are the Rock of my salvation, You are the hope of my life. I know that time spent in Your presence, day after day, is the only thing that will quench the thirst in my soul. Today, lead me to Jesus, the Rock that is way higher than I am. I love You, my Rock!” – Michael