EXCITING NEWS

Kelli and I have exciting news to share:

We have accepted the invitation to be the new Senior Pastors of Alpine Chapel in Telluride, Colorado! Telluride is a small town in Southwest Colorado, and it is at a high elevation (something very good for Kelli’s health). We have fallen in love with the community and the people of Alpine Chapel. We KNOW the Lord is guiding us in this direction.

Here are some answers to FAQ’s:

Why are you leaving Calvary Worship Center? Didn’t you just become the Creekside campus lead pastor?

Answer: I have loved my time at CWC, and leave with no bad feelings whatsoever. About a year ago my pastor confirmed that I had a “senior pastor’s” call on my life, and felt that I should consider returning to that roll. At that time I sent an application to Telluride for two reasons; because they had an opening, and it was at a high altitude. The Creekside campus was birthed during this past year and I wanted to give it all I had, not knowing what the Lord’s will was going to be. I did give it my all, and have seen Creekside launched in the healthiest way I know how. I do believe that campus will flourish with the leadership that Pastor Al will choose. I’m excited for what God will do at Calvary Worship Center Creekside! I love the people there, and thank God for the season I’ve had with Pastor Al Pittman and Calvary Worship Center, but I also know that my season has come to an end.

Why did you leave CWC without saying “goodbye”?

Answer: When I gave my month’s notice to CWC, it was felt the best thing would be for me to leave quietly and quickly. The Easter season is one of joy and celebration, where we rejoice that Jesus conquered death!!! No one wanted to see that atmosphere dampened by me crying all over the place (something that anyone who knows me, knows would definitely happen!) This blog is my chance to say goodbye to all of you. I love you and will miss you. Please keep in contact with me! I’m still in town for a few weeks and you can email me at: pastormcraft@gmail.com

Aren’t you leaving all your kids, grandkids, and future grandkids?

Answer: Yes…that’s been the toughest part of all this. But we’re only 5 hours away, and we will make the trek to see them VERY regularly! They are excited to have me preaching and teaching again, and stand with us that this is the Lord’s will for us.

Will your sermons be available?

Answer: Yes. To a website near you. Stay tuned.

March/April – Week Thirteen – Daily Devos

March 26th – “Offended At God” 

[Bible reading: Deuteronomy 5:1-6:25; Luke 7:11-35; Psalm 68:19-35; Proverbs 11:29-31]

“And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.” – Luke 7:23

John the baptizer had sent his own followers to Jesus in order to ask him a very important question: “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” (Luke 7:20). This seems an odd question coming from John, who knew Jesus pretty well, considering they were cousins. Also considering that when Jesus came to John to be baptized, John said to Jesus, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). I was under the impression that John knew exactly Who Jesus was! However, when you understand where John was when he sent his disciples to question Jesus in this way, it sheds a bit of light on the reason why he sent them… and why Jesus responded the way He did. You see, John was in prison according to Luke 3:20. Perhaps, John is a lot like us? Perhaps, he at one time believed Jesus to be the “Coming One“, the “Messiah“, and now that he is rotting away in a prison cell, seemingly all but forgotten, he is having some doubts? Perhaps he thought, like many others at that time, that the Messiah would be the physical deliverer of God’s people from the tyranny of Rome? Perhaps John thought that Jesus should have ridden in on a white horse, stormed the prison, overpowered the guards, and rescued His cousin? I mean, after all, Jesus was the Deliverer, right?

There are times when I can also feel as though Jesus has forgotten all about me. I’ve been taught that Jesus is the Deliverer, and that He “rescues” those who are hurting and in trouble, and when He doesn’t come through like I want Him to, or imagined Him to… I can become offended. This is why Jesus’ answer to John’s disciples is so powerful. He says, “Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the dear hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them…” (Luke 7:22) – These are all things that the coming “Messiah” was absolutely going to be doing, according to the prophet Isaiah! Jesus is saying, “Yes, I am doing all the things the Messiah is supposed to be doing… but I’m not coming in on a white horse and saving you, cousin. My mission is much bigger than overthrowing a Roman government. My mission is to overthrow Satan, and defeat sin and death once and for all! Tell John that he’ll be blessed if this fact doesn’t offend him. Sometimes I don’t perform your will… I must perform My Father’s will instead.”

John had performed exactly what God had wanted him to, he had prepared the way for the coming Messiah. Now he would die. John would never be the one in the spotlight. John would never be the one who would be what it was all about. He knew it in his head (John 3:30), but apparently being in a dark prison cell caused him to have his doubts. So too, when I am left in the dark… when I feel lonely and forgotten… is when my doubts start to surface. Jesus’ message to John is the same message He whispers to you and I in those times: “blessed is he who is not offended because of Me“.

“Father, I want to understand all that You are up to behind the scenes, but at times You ask me to simply trust You. Forgive me for my doubts. Forgive me for my whining and complaining in times of darkness. Strengthen me so that I can be a man that is completely submitted to Your will and Your plan for my life.  I love You.” – Michael

 

March 27th – “I Got This!” 

[Bible reading: Deuteronomy 7:1-8:20; Luke 7:36-8:3; Psalm 69:1-18; Proverbs 12:1]

“…, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do you good in the end – then you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.” – Deuteronomy 8:16-17

God had done so much for His people. He had fed them, quenched their thirst, protected them, delivered them, and provided for their needs again and again. He allowed them to go through trials too, but always in those trials did He keep His hand on them. We’re told here that one of God’s purposes for all this was to “humble” His people and “test” them in order to ultimately bring about their “good“.

Why would making His people humble through testing them be for their good? Because, God knows that man’s tendency is to take all the credit for ourselves. When we do this, we begin to rely solely upon ourselves, our might, and our power and ability. This can actually be a very dangerous thing, because some of the obstacles that we’ll face will be way too much for us. If we walk into a battle with a false sense of security, because we’ve only counted on what strength we can muster up in and of ourselves… we could die. God desperately wants us to understand that we NEED Him. As the Holy Spirit said through the prophet Zechariah, “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ Says the Lord of hosts.” (Zechariah 4:6).

“Father, I need You. Forgive me for pridefully taking things into my own hands and trying so hard to do everything by myself. You’ve given me talents and skills, but I’m unable to do all that You’ve called me to do, without Your empowering me to do it. Today, help me to walk in a state of total dependency upon You. I don’t particularly enjoy the tests that I go through, but I do appreciate how they remind me of my own inadequacy and my desperate need of You. I love You so very much!” – Michael

 

March 28th – “God Has the Gall” 

[Bible reading: Deuteronomy 9:1-10:22; Luke 8:4-21; Psalm 69:19-36; Proverbs 12:2-3]

“They also gave me gall for my food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.” – Psalm 69:21

The word “gall” in Hebrew is “ros“, which means, “poison; bitterness, venom”. In the Old Testament the word is used of a plant characterized by bitterness, probably wormwood (Deut. 29:18; Hos. 10:4; Amos 6:12). Ancient people believed that the poison of serpents lay in the gall (Job 20:14). We see it used in the New Testament, but there the Greek word “chole” is used. Some regard this word as referring to myrrh, because that is what is used in Mark 15:23.  Myrrh was often used as an embalming liquid, and was highly deadly if ingested. This little verse in Psalm 69 would turn out to be one of many Messianic prophesies that Jesus uniquely fulfilled. Matthew tells us that as Jesus came to the place called Golgotha to be crucified they offered Him “sour wine mingled with gall to drink. But when he had tasted it, He would not drink” (Matthew 27:34). Some have speculated that perhaps they were trying to poison Him and hasten His death. Others have said that perhaps they were trying to prolong His death and cause even more suffering for Him.

Regardless of why they offered Jesus ‘gall’, it is interesting to me that the words “gall” and “myrrh” seem to be interchangeable. We know a few things about ‘myrrh‘ from Scripture. It was very expensive. Exodus 30 describes how it was used to anoint prophets, priests, and kings. It is used as a perfume in Psalm 45, and in John 19 it was used for embalming. Of course, after Jesus’ birth, it was a gift that was given to Him from the wise men (Matthew 2:11). Why would that particular gift be given to Jesus? Because He is the ‘Anointed One’. He is a prophet. He is a priest. He is a King. His name is like a fragrant perfume that has been poured out (Song of Solomon 1:3). And Jesus came to give His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45)… He came to die.

Whenever I find Old Testament prophesies that point to the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, I am encouraged. Nothing is coincidental. The Holy Spirit has been working for a very long time to bring about the Father’s will. The fact that this prophecy was written hundreds of years before Jesus would fulfill it exactingly. And the idea that one of the gifts that was given to Mary and Joseph for their Son would one day be the very thing that He would be offered to drink as He was dying, and that that very thing would symbolize exactly Who He was… Prophet, Priest, King, the Anointed One and the Ultimate Sacrifice for the world’s sins… is awesome!

“Father, why do I ever doubt? How can I fear anything when You so obviously are in control of EVERYTHING? You orchestrated so much in history to accomplish Your perfect will, and You are still the God Who is in charge of my little life. Help me walk in faith today and in a ruthless and radical trust in You. I’m so thankful that You have the gall to love someone like me. I love You back!” – Michael

 

March 29th – “Happy Wife, Happy Life

[Bible reading: Deuteronomy 11:1-12:32; Luke 8:22-39; Psalm 70:1-5; Proverbs 12:4]

“An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who causes shame is like rottenness in his bones.” – Proverbs 12:4

Later, in Proverbs 31:10, we read, “Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies.” This is a phrase that Boaz uses when speaking of Ruth, in Ruth 3:11, “…for all the people of my town know that you are a virtuous woman.” (Interesting note: In the Hebrew ordering of the Old Testament, the Book of Ruth comes immediately after the Book of Proverbs, which closes with a description of a”virtuous woman”). The word, “virtuous” literally means, “having or showing high moral standards, righteous, good, pure, saintly, angelic, ethical, upright, upstanding, exemplary, principled“. When a woman is this way, she is the very best thing about her husband (his “crown“). Conversely, when she is not this way, she can cause her husband shame. This shame is “like rottenness in his bones“, which is another way of saying, “she causes the loss of her husband’s joy and strength“. So, how a woman lives her life… how she walks with God… how she walks with integrity… actually affects her husband’s life as well.

I believe this goes both ways. I’ve seen the anguish on the faces of too many women who have found their husbands behaving sinfully. Whether they’ve caught their husbands viewing pornography or watched them lose their temper, the shame that a woman can feel can be draining to her. Likewise, when a woman has a husband who is chasing after Jesus and walking with integrity and holiness… it is a true blessing to his wife. When we make the choice to be married, we are making the choice to become ‘one’ with another human being. When we become ‘one’ with them, we must realize that how we behave from then on out will greatly affect our spouse, and others in our families (children, grandchildren). It is no longer just ‘our’ relationship with God that is on the line, it is our entire family’s relationships that could be on the line. This is one of the reasons why Scripture admonishes us to be “excellent at what is good and innocent of evil” (Romans 16:19). Our lives impact others, especially those closest to us.

“Father, thank You for my awesome wife! Other than Jesus, she is the greatest thing about my life. She is my pride and joy, my crown. Help me live my life in such a way as to make her proud of me too. Forgive me for the times I’ve caused shame to You, or to the ones closest to me. I truly do not deserve how much You’ve blessed me with a wife that is so awesome. I love You, Lord!” – Michael

 

March 30th – “12 Years A Slave” 

[Bible reading: Deuteronomy 13:1-15:23; Luke 8:40-9:6; Psalm 71:1-24; Proverbs 12:5-7]

“And He said to her, ‘Daughter, be of good cheer; your faith has made you well. Go in peace.”“But He put them all outside, took her by the hand and called, saying, ‘Little girl, arise.’ Then her spirit returned, and she arose immediately…” – Luke 8:48 & 54-55a

Two females experience restoration in these verses: one is a woman who has been bleeding for 12 years, the other is a 12 year old girl. This means that 12 years prior to this day, there were two very different stories beginning. The first story was of a husband and wife who had just given birth to a beautiful baby girl. She was their pride and joy, I’m sure. But at that same time, across town, there was a second story beginning… a woman who began to bleed. This would have been startling for her at first, and then become very concerning as days turned into weeks that turned into months. As years passed by, the baby girl grew older and brought her parents times of much joy, while the woman across town had become damaged and shamed and spent every last cent of her money on doctors who were no help whatsoever. One day, twelve years later, the young girl became sick herself and was “at death’s door”. Now she is desperate for help… like the other woman. Both women encounter Jesus. Both women are made well. Both women are revived… renewed… restored to their former health.

Everybody has a story. One person’s story may be beautiful and joyous, while the person living right next door to them is going through hell. However, Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33). Jesus is our Hope, He is our Deliverer, and Jesus is a Master at restoration. He is awesome at taking someone who is broken, damaged, used up, hurting, thrown out, and seemingly useless – and transforming them into something beautiful and useable once again. Whatever sin or hurt we may feel like slaves to, Jesus can set us free. Whether life is joyous or painful, my hope is always Jesus. Only He can bring life… and restore.

“Father,  whether in good times or bad, teach me to look to You for hope and restoration. I know in my heart of hearts that in You alone is life, joy, peace, and healing. Set me free today, that I might be healed and whole and free to free others for Your glory. I love You!” – Michael

 

March 31st  – “No Abracadabra” 

[Bible reading: Deuteronomy 16:1-17:20; Luke 9:7-27; Psalm 72:1-20; Proverbs 12:8-9]

“Then He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the multitude.” – Luke 9:16

Jesus, before doing the mighty miracle of feeding the five thousand, stopped first to pray. The way this is worded it can be a bit confusing. Did Jesus bless the “bread and fish” and then break them, or did He “bless God for the bread and fish” and then break them. In John’s account of the same story he makes it a bit more clear, “And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted.” (John 6:11).

Have you ever prayed a prayer like this or heard someone pray this way before a meal; “Dear Lord, bless this food to the nourishment of our bodies” or “Our Father, bless this food and may it strengthen us to do your work, Amen”? While these are common and acceptable prayers, they perpetrate a widespread spiritual misunderstanding. According to the Bible, we should be blessing God and not the bread. Think about this for a second – if an outsider, not versed in our prayer rituals, would hear us ask God to “bless the food,” it may come across as superstitiously silly. It’s almost as if we invoke a magical incantation to envelop our macaroni and cheese.

To grasp the biblical foundation for blessing and thankfulness, it helps to understand Jesus’ Jewish world. The written Scriptures that Jesus grew up reading were the books from the Old Testament, and He would have had similar oral traditions as practiced by Jews living two thousand years ago. In the Bible, God blesses people’s fields, crops, livestock, and future offspring by making them fruitful and abundant (Deut. 7:13-15), and the people return the favor by thanking their Provider for His goodness and bounty. Jesus follows this practice in the New Testament, when He serves food to others, He offers prayers of thanksgiving and blessing to God (Luke 24:30, Luke 22:19, Mark 14:22, Matt. 26:26, I Cor. 11:24). The word “bless” in many of the Bible’s prayers means expressing thanks to God. An ancient Jewish blessing that is still pronounced today with the entrance of the Sabbath on Friday evenings, as participants sip wine from a cup is,; “Blessed are you, O Lord, Our God, King of the Universe who creates the fruit of the vine.” Another blessing, as members break bread is; “Blessed are you, O Lord, Our God, King of the Universe who brings forth bread from the earth.” These would probably have been very similar to the prayers that Jesus would have uttered during the famous “Last Supper”. Notice that in these “blessings”, God the Creator is being thanked for giving food (bread) and drink (wine), not the bread and wine. The next time we sit down to a big breakfast,  we should thank God for it and not abracadabraize the pancakes. Bless God, not the bread. A prayer we learn in pre-school summarizes this perfectly, “God is great, God is good, Let us thank him for our food. Amen.” Let us remember to thank God the Creator of our meal, instead of enchanting the grub we’re about to eath with “God bless the food!

“Father, thank You for always providing everything I need. Help me to slow down and give thanks to You before chowing down on anything.  I love You!” – Michael

 

April 1st – “Cockroaches and Fakeness” 

[Bible reading: Deuteronomy 18:1-20:20; Luke 9:28-50; psalm 73:1-28; Proverbs 12:10]

“A righteous man regards the life of his animal, but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.” – Proverbs 12:10

A person that treats animals well is usually a person that has a high regard for “life”. What Scripture is really getting at here is the comparison between the righteous man and the wicked man. To make the point, he assumes that most of us know that there is nothing esteemed much lower than an animal. To this lowest of creatures a righteous person still has regard (the dictionary defines, “regard” as; “showing consideration, care, concern, thought, notice, taking heed, or giving special attention”). However, a wicked person who believes they are showing “tender mercies” to this lowly creature, is in fact, still cruel. Both individuals feel they are being kind, but the big difference is that the righteous person really is being kind, while the wicked person is only being cruel.

Dr Livingston, who is famous from the phrase, “Dr. Livingston I presume?“, was absolutely fanatical about “life”. There is a story that is told where he received a piano when he was on the mission field. Upon opening up the back of the piano, hundreds of cockroaches poured out. The man he was with began to fervently stomp on them to kill them all. Supposedly, Dr. Livingston stopped him immediately by yelling something like; “What are you doing!? Those creatures have done nothing, except for what they were created to do. God created them, you should not end them!” Now, it may seem odd that a person would have such high regard for a cockroach, but that story has always amazed me. Why? Because, apparently Dr. Livingston really cared about “life”, and according to this Scripture… he was righteous.

“Father, even a wicked person when trying to be nice, is actually cruel. I think that is because we can’t fake what we really are inside. I want to be authenticly following You and walking uprightly. Convict me whenever I’m simply faking it. I long to please You with the way that I’m living. I love You so much.” – Michael

March – Week Twelve – Daily Devos

March 19th – “How Strong Is He?” 

[Bible reading: Numbers 28:16-29:40; Luke 3:23-38; Psalm 62:1-12; Proverbs 11:18-19]

“God has spoken once, twice I have heard this: That power belongs to God.” – Psalm 62:11

The wording “once” and “twice” is strange, but it is being used to emphasize that something has been repeated and therefore it is very significant. In this case it is the lesson to be learned that “power belongs to God“. The context is that the writer seems to be in a tough situation financially. He is being oppressed and taken from wrongfully. He has played with the idea of perhaps taking matters into his own hands and even turning into a thief himself (verse 10). However, his resolve is to simply wait and trust in the God who can provide for his needs and will ultimately be merciful to those who recognize that He alone is the One with all the real power.

How often I’ve considered taking things into my own hands when I don’t feel God is moving on my time-table. Like this writer, I have heard it said many times that “God is in control“, I know this in my brain, but often fail to truly recognize it in my heart. I’ve been taught that God is ‘omnipotent‘, which means “all-powerful“, but do I really believe it? Do I really believe that if I’ll wait and trust in Him, that I’ll be okay?

“Father, when I am stressed out and anxious about the things happening in my life, help me to remember all that I’ve been taught. Remind me that You are good, and that You are powerful. I am better off in Your care, than anywhere else. Thank You for loving and understanding me the way You do. I love You.” – Michael

 

March 20th – “Jesus’ Mission Statement” 

[Bible reading: Numbers 30:1-31:54; Luke 4:1-30; Psalm 63:1-11; Proverbs 11:20-21]

“So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up and thrust Him out of the city; and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff.” – Luke 4:28-29

This tension filled moment took place on the Sabbath, where the townsfolk had gathered in the synagogue, and Jesus was given an opportunity to participate in the service. As an act of courtesy, the ruler of the synagogue invited Jesus to read the Scripture. It was common in Jesus’ day for synagogue officials to invite qualified visitors to read Scripture and make comments. When handed the sacred scroll. Jesus unrolled it to the writings of Isaiah and began to read the text He selected, Isaiah 61:1-2. Everyone in the synagogue understood that the words Jesus read were a description of the Messiah, but as He read, did they know the reading referred to Jesus? Did they know Jesus was revealing the desires of His own heart? Jesus then rolled up the sacred scroll and gave it to an attendant to be returned to its honored place. Then He sat down, which was the custom of someone who was about to deliver a sermon. That’s why the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him(Luke 4:20). Jesus began with a message no one had heard before. He said the reading from Isaiah, which everyone associated with the promised Messiah, was about Him. It was like His personal ‘mission statement’.

Now, when you look at that passage in Isaiah, you can see that Jesus was making a pretty radical proclamation! He was saying that God’s Spirit was on Him. He was saying that He had been anointed to bring hope and healing and grace to all, especially to those who needed it most: the poor, the prisoners, the blind, the oppressed. At first, people were won over by a sense of God’s grace. It says they were speaking well of Him.  You can picture the townspeople nodding at each other, and you can almost hear them saying, “That’s our boy! Amazing, isn’t it?” But they were also a little skeptical. “Is this not Joseph the carpenter’s son?” Who knew He had it in Him?”

Everything sounded well and fine, until Jesus mentioned that He was supposed to bring this hope and healing to everyone… even the bad guys! Now… do the math: “This Guy was claiming to be Messiah! Messiah was the ‘Sent One’ from God Almighty! God Almighty wasn’t supposed to be loving & kind to the bad guys! The crowd is now completely ticked off!” Notice how they went from “marveling at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth” to being “filled with wrath” as they heard these things?

What caused the change? The people couldn’t begin to imagine that God Almighty was like that! They all felt that God should be exclusive, just like they were! They had God all figured out, and when Jesus came on the scene claiming to be sent from God, yet His mission statement was to show love and grace to all people, they couldn’t make that fit into their box. People still have wrong perceptions of God today, and they still put Him in a box that is made up of their wrong perceptions of what He’s really like.

“Father, sometimes I think I’ve got You all figured out, and then You surprise me! I love that! I love that You don’t fit into my little mold. You blow apart the preconceived ideas that I and many others have about You. For example; Just when I think You’re going to be super mad at me, You shower me with kindness and mercy. Thank You for bringing hope and healing and grace to those of us who needed it the most. I love You so very much!” – Michael

 

March 21st – “Nose Ring or Tongue Ring?” 

[Bible reading: Numbers 32:1-33:39; Luke 4:31-5:11; Psalm 64:1-10; Proverbs 11:22]

“As a ring of gold in a swine’s snout, so is a lovely woman who lacks discretion.” – Proverbs 11:22 

In Old Testament culture we must understand that a “swine” was an unclean animal. It didn’t matter how much you dressed it up, even if you were to put a solid gold nose-ring into it’s snout, it would still be unclean. Like the old saying, “You can’t put lipstick on a pig“, so too, you can’t make a swine beautiful with a nose-ring. This was a vivid picture the author was painting so that he could get his point across. The point is that a woman can be incredibly lovely on the outside, yet if she doesn’t have discretion, be ugly and flawed. The word “discretion” has two meanings: First, “the quality of behaving or speaking in such a way as to avoid causing offense or revealing private information“. Second, “the freedom to decide what should be done in a particular situation“.

I don’t think this tidbit of wisdom only refers to “women”. Truthfully, any man or woman who can’t use their words wisely, should just be quiet. In the New Testament Book of James, chapter 3, we read much about the dangers of the ‘tongue’. James 3:6 declares, “And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell“. And James 1:6 states, “If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless“. I can consider myself a “religious” person, but if my words cause offense and hurt others, than I’m a joke.

“Father, guard my tongue today. Convict me of saying anything that might displease You. I want my words to reflect You to all I meet and talk with. I love You and I want to live like it and talk like it!” – Michael

 

March 22nd – “Touching

[Bible reading: Numbers 33:40-35:34; Luke 5:12-28; Psalm 65:1-13; Proverbs 11:23]

“Then He put out His hand and touched him, saying, ‘I am willing; be cleansed.’ Immediately the leprosy left him.” – Luke 5:13

Today we don’t hear much about this disease called, ‘leprosy’. Actually, it is a yucky, horrible sickness that is a great picture to you and I of ‘sin’. Like sin, leprosy begins below the surface and then begins to spread and totally wipe out a person. It attacks the nervous system and actually takes away the ability to feel anything. I read where there have been accounts of folks with leprosy who have fallen asleep and wakened to find that there toes… or even their nose… had been chewed off by mice! Leprosy causes a person to lose all sensitivity.

Notice that Jesus didn’t tell this guy to go to some leper-hospital, or some “overcoming leprosy seminar”. He said, “You need to get rid of this stuff. You want to get rid of this stuff. So, guess what… you will be rid of this stuff!” Maybe that is what some of us need too? Maybe… if you are feeling sick with sin today…polluted by something you’ve been doing… affected negatively by some sin that has a grasp on your life – you too need to find out where Jesus is… and go to Him? You see, it’s when we see that we NEED to get rid of the sin… and when we truly WANT to get rid of the sin… that the Lord will say, “I’m willing, be cleansed”. I love how Jesus didn’t just SAY this, but it says that He reached out and TOUCHED him! This is something that you just DIDN’T do… you don’t touch someone with leprosy because of how highly contagious it was! This dude had probably not been touched by another human being in years because of the leprosy that riddled his body. But Jesus… touched him!

So too, Jesus doesn’t hold His nose and look away from you and me with disgust because of the sin we’ve been carrying. Others might do that… perhaps others HAVE done that to us… but I’m telling you right now… JESUS doesn’t do that. He is not irritated with your flaws, or put off by your sin… He loves you. He embraces you.

“Father once again I’m reminded that my calling is to not only LIKE You, but my calling is to BE like You. I too, do not want to hold my noses and look away from those who have messed up – not only because Jesus didn’t do it, but because I have taken a good, long look into the mirror and found that I’m pretty messed up too! I’ve cried out, “I need to be clean! I want to be clean!” And when I did that… I found a God who didn’t hold His nose and look away, but rather, reached out and embraced me…forgave me…loved me… redeemed me…made me feel awesome… and then said, “You WILL BE clean!” I love You, Lord!” – Michael

 

March 23rd – “Hung Up By Sin” 

[Bible reading: Numbers 36:1-13; Deuteronomy 1:1-46; Luke 5:29-6:11; Psalm 66:1-20; Proverbs 11:24-26]

“And the Lord heard the sound of your words, and was angry, and took an oath, saying, ‘Surely not one of these men of this evil generation shall see that good land of which I swore to give to your fathers, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh; he shall see it, and to him and his children I am giving the land on which he walked, because he wholly followed the Lord.'” – Deuteronomy 1:34-37

God was upset. He was upset that His people, whom He had taken such good care of and come-through for on so many occasions, did not trust Him. Earlier in this chapter, verse 32, God said, “Yet, for all that, you did not believe the Lord your God“. God had heard their words of distrust in Him and so He swore that a whole generation would die in the wilderness, including Moses (verse 37). Only Caleb and Joshua the son of Nun (verse 38) were able to enter. Why? Because they followed the Lord wholeheartedly!

Lack of faith and trust in what God has spoken is sin. When I fail to listen and obey God’s Word, it is sin. All of these millions of people were unable to go into the awesome promised land because they were hung up in their sin. They had put their trust in their own military strength and prowess and when they compared their ‘strength’ to the enemy’s strength, they grew fearful. They didn’t trust that God was their strength, and that no amount of giants in the land would ever keep them from it if He was on their side.

“Father, forgive me when I get hung up by sin. I desire to be a man that trusts You and Your Word at all times. Some may put their trust in chariots, horses, armies, money, soldiers, guns, and their own strength, but I choose to put my trust in You alone. Your kingdom come, Your will be done! I love You!” – Michael

 

March 24th – “How To Find Leaders” 

[Bible reading: Deuteronomy 2:1-3:29; Luke 6:12-38; Psalm 67:1-7; Proverbs 11:27]

“Now it came to pass in those days that he went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. And when it was day, he called His disciples to Himself; and from them he chose twelve whom He also named apostles:” – Luke 6:12-13″ 

I find it interesting that Jesus spent a full night in prayer before He chose His twelve disciples. These were not only men that were going to be following Him, living with Him, watching Him, learning from Him and experiencing three years of life with Him. They were also going to be the future leaders of the church!

1 Timothy 5:22 states that we should “...not lay hands on anyone hastily, nor share in other people’s sins; keep yourself pure“. Many people want to be in leadership, however, those making the decisions about placing them into positions of leadership should not rush to do so. Today’s leaders in the church should learn this important lesson from Jesus: Before choosing leaders, pray. Pray a lot. If Jesus, the Son of God, needed to spend a complete night in prayer to His Father before making this incredibly important decision… perhaps we should do more than read a few resumes and call a couple of references?

“Father, choosing leaders is not easy. Finding those who will stand beside you in thick and in thin, and take ownership of the ministry You’ve called us to, is hard. Forgive me for when I’ve rushed into putting the wrong people into places of leadership. It’s always come back to bite me. I want to be a man that does not “lean on my own understanding”. Thank You for imparting wisdom to those who seek it. Please just remind me to seek it more often. I love You.” – Michael

 

March 25th –  “Hide and Seek

[Bible reading: Deuteronomy 4:1-49; Luke 6:39-7:10; Psalm 68:1-18; Proverbs 11:28]

“But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul. When you are in distress, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, when you turn to the Lord your God and obey His voice (for the Lord your God is a merciful God), He will not forsake you nor destroy you, nor forget the covenant of your fathers which He swore to them.” – Deuteronomy 4:29-31

This is a beautiful prophecy that will absolutely come true for the Jewish people, and not only for them, for you and me as well. You see, our history parallels the Jewish people’s history and so too does our future. The Jewish people turned away from the true and living God and became immersed in idolatry and materialism. Consequently, in 586 B.C., God allowed the Babylonians to invade and destroy Jerusalem, to burn the temple, and to carry God’s people to Babylon, where they were held captive for seventy years. After that time, the Spirit of God began to stir in the hearts of a small remnant of Jews who would rebuild the city of Jerusalem and, eventually, the temple. But as time passed, so radically did the nation again turn its back on God that they would actually cry out, concerning Jesus (God’s only Son), “Crucify Him! We have no king but Caesar“(John 19:15). Therefore, within forty years, in the year A.D. 70, the Romans invaded the city, destroyed the temple and killed one million Jews. When Hadrian became emperor of Rome, the persecution of the Jews intensified further. And as we know all too well, in World War II, the Jewish population was nearly obliterated by Hitler when he murdered over 6 million.

So too, all mankind has immersed ourselves in idolatry and materialism. And like the Jews of old, we too have found ourselves in captivity again and again because of our sin. At times, we can feel scattered and unsure of what is going on in our culture. We can feel as though we are drowning in the darkness that is all around us. But this promise from God is still true today! If we seek Him with all our heart and with all our soul, we will find Him! If we will turn to the Lord and obey His voice, we’ll find that He is still merciful and that He’ll never forsake us! This is the Good News of the Gospel message. I John 1:9 is still true; “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness“.

“Father, I thank You that “If we are faithless, You remain faithful; because You cannot deny Yourself” (2 Timothy 2:13). Help me not repeat, over and over, all the sins of those who’ve gone before me. Help me not to be consumed with materialism, like so many others in my culture. Remind me to not ‘idolize’ anyone or anything else, other than You.  I love You.” – Michael

March – Week Eleven – Daily Devos

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’tsubmit‘. 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 105:41He 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

March – Week Ten – Daily Devos

March 5th – “Shema” 

[Bible reading: Numbers 4:1-5:31; Mark 12:18-37; Psalm 48:1-14; Proverbs 10:26]

“Jesus answered him, ‘The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.'” – Mark 12:29-31 

This passage of Scripture is very well-known. It has been a sort of “pledge of allegiance” for Jewish people for a very long time. They call this pledge the “Shema“, which is the first word of the first line, “Hear (Shema), O Israel…“. Jesus is quoting from Deuteronomy 6:4-5. By repeating the ‘Shema‘, a person reminds themselves of their commitment to love God in a radical way, with everything they have. Some Jews teach their children the Shema at such an early age it is, literally, the first words they can put together. The word ‘shema‘ in Hebrew simply means to “listen and obey“. Listening, in our culture, is basically a mental activity. When we think of “hearing”, what we mean is that our ears pick up sounds. But in Hebrew, the word shema describes hearing and also its effects – taking heed, being obedient, doing what is asked. Any time Jesus would say “He who has ears to hear, let him hear“, He was basically telling those around Him that they shouldn’t just hear the sounds coming out of His mouth, but they should be putting His teachings into practice. As a matter of fact, almost every place we see the word “obey” in the Bible, it is translated from the word “shema.”

Once again I am reminded that loving Jesus in an authentic and radical way is much more than simply something I ‘say’, something I ‘wear’ on a T-shirt, or something I have on a bumper-sticker. It is something that I ‘live’. My actions of obedience to the words of Christ, the way I live-out Jesus’ teachings, are the ways that I truly follow Him.

“Father,  I love You with all my heart, soul (emotions), mind (my thoughts), and strength. I also want to love all those I come in contact with, just as You would love them. I read about You and I listen to Your teachings, and I want to be transformed by them. Fill me up with Your Spirit today that I might walk in obedience to Your teaching, and live radically for You.” – Michael

March 6th – “The Joy of the Lord” 

[Bible reading: Numbers 6:1-7:89; Mark 12:38-13:13; Psalm 49:1-20; Proverbs 10:27-28]

“…This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them: ‘ The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.” – Numbers 6:23-26 

The “priestly blessing“, sometimes referred to as the “Mosaic blessing“, is something that the priests said over the people every single morning after the sacrifice at the Temple. Today many synagogues, and even the church I attend, end the services with this blessing over the people. The entire “blessing” is beautiful, but there is one line that really catches my attention; “The Lord lift up His countenance upon you“. The word ‘countenance‘ is the Hebrew word, ‘panav‘, which is the same word used earlier in the blessing, “The Lord make His face (‘panav‘) to shine upon you“. So, to have it translated as “countenance” is a bit odd. Some translations don’t do this, they simply translate it “face“, which is a bit clearer to me. When understood this way, it reads: “The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His FACE upon you and give you peace.

Maybe you’re thinking, “Michael, who really cares?” I’m a father of five children. They’re pretty much grown now, but I can recall with joy the many times, when they were babies, I would play with them and toss them up in the air. Holding them high over my head would always cause them to giggle and laugh. I LOVED those moments. Well, it’s been understood by Jews for a very long time that this line is a neat picture of  how God delights in His children. The idea of “lift up His face upon you” is the idea of a daddy holding his child up in the air, playing with it, smiling, laughing. The word picture is literally God holding you up in His arms as a delighted father might hold up his young child in joy… God lifts up His face as He holds you and I up in divine joy.

“Father, You are my God and my Abba (Daddy). It blows me away to think that You delight in me and find joy in me! I love You, Papa.” – Michael

March 7th – “Being Fake is Being Wicked” 

[Bible reading: Numbers 8:1-9:23; Mark 13:14-37; Psalm 50:1-23; Proverbs 10:29-30]

“But to the wicked God says: ‘What right have you to declare My statutes, or take My covenant in your mouth, seeing you hate instruction and cast My words behind you?'” – Psalm 50:16-17

The person God declares to be ‘wicked’ is one who declares the statutes (commands/teachings/covenant) of the Lord, yet truthfully, they themselves don’t listen and obey God’s instructions. They consider God’s Word something that was important in the past (“cast My words behind you“), but not something that is relevant for THEM today.

How dangerous it is when a person knows all the right things, but doesn’t live them out. Even worse, when that person stands in front of others and tells them how they should be living, what they should be believing… and they themselves are not following the very things they are declaring! To ‘know’ God’s Word is one thing, to walk it out in our daily lives is quite another.

“Father, forgive me for the times I’ve declared Your Word to others, but have not lived the very thing I was declaring. I’ve told others not to be anxious, when all the while I was sweating. I’ve told others to pray, when I’ve been prayerless. I’ve told others to treasure Your Word, when I’ve left it dusty on the shelf. Forgive me, Father. I desire to be a man that lives what I believe, and what I have read and learned about You from Your Word. Thank You that Your mercies are new every morning. I love You.” – Michael

March 8th – “An Inconvenient Truth” 

[Bible reading: Numbers 10:1-11:23; Mark 14:1-21; Psalm 51:1-19; Proverbs 10:31-32]

“Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Him to them. And when they heard it, they were glad, and promised to give him money. So he sought how he might conveniently betray Him.” – Mark 14:10-11 

There were many people that were interested in Jesus and wanted to be near Him. Some because He was the ‘newest thing‘, others because they ‘wanted something‘ from Him. The point is, Jesus was popular. To get to Him, or to arrest Him, might have proved a difficult thing for His enemies to do (see Mark 14:1-2 and Luke 22:6). Here, we’re told that, Judas was looking for a ‘convenient‘ way to betray Him. I find that interesting.

My tendency is to find ‘convenient‘ ways to still look like I’m a close disciple, while behind the scenes I live as one who is betraying the One I say I love. “Where can I go to not be seen by others, so that my betrayal will stay secret?” “How can I look like I’m a disciple, but still work things out behind the scenes to my own advantage?” When I care more about what I want, than what Jesus wants, I am following in the footsteps of Judas Iscariot. However, the truth is, I would never come right out and admit that. It wouldn’t be convenient.

“Father,  my actions often betray my heart. Please forgive me when my heart betrays You. Again I pray, help me be the man You’ve called me to be… at all times. I love You.” – Michael

March 9th – “EGO” 

[Bible reading: Numbers 11:24-13:33; Mark 14:22=52; Psalm 52:1-9: Proverbs 11:1-3]

“When pride comes, then comes shame; But with the humble is wisdom.” – Proverbs 11:2

Everyone has an ‘ego’. Ego is defined as, “a person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance“. The biggest barrier to being an authentic follower of Jesus Christ is a heart that is motivated by self-importance. This is opposite of what the Word teaches; “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4). A heart that is motivated by selfish interests looks at life as an “give as little as possible, while taking as much as possible” endeavor. When we are full of pride we are not those who are trusting in God and submitting to His will, we are desiring our own agenda and confident in doing things in our own strength. This prideful way of living our lives ultimately leads to shame. Wisdom comes from living our lives with humility and a reliance upon God to call the shots.

I’ve heard it said that EGO can stand for either Edge God Out, or Exalt God Only. Am I a man who strives to do things on my own, have the spotlight, receive the glory? Or do I live my life in such a way as to point others to Jesus Christ, make Him famous, give Him all the credit? I, like everyone else, have an ego… but am I driven to promote myself or Jesus?

“Father, I absolutely do not wish to edge You out of my life today. Please be the One that people are attracted and drawn to when I am with them. When I finish speaking, or leave the room, I want others to have a taste of Jesus lingering in their mouths… not a taste of Michael. I submit to Your Lordship and authority today, and I want to see You receive the honor that You’re due.  I love You.” – Michael

March 10th – “Life Sentence” 

[Bible reading: Numbers 14:1-15:16; Mark 14:53-72; Psalm 53:1-6; Proverbs 11:4]

“Then he began to curse and swear, ‘I do not know this Man of whom you speak!'” – Mark 14:71

Peter was a disciple of Jesus. He had walked with Him and lived with Him for a few years at this time. Of course he knew Jesus! A disciple was supposed to be utterly devoted to his rabbi, to love him like his own father. He was a student who learned from his rabbi, but he was also to be a servant to his rabbi. A disciple and his rabbi were very close. We see this in 1 Kings 19:21, when Elisha became Elijah’s “attendant” and then later in 2 Kings 2, when Elisha refused to walk away from Elijah and even called him ‘father’ as Elijah was being taken away in a fiery chariot. When Peter said, “If I have to die with You, I will not deny You!“, in Mark 14:31, that would have been a completely reasonable thing for a disciple to say to the rabbi he followed and loved. And when Peter later denied Jesus three times, it would have been an unthinkable thing for him to do. He would have felt terrible because of the fact that a disciple would never betray or abandon his master… and that’s exactly what he had done.

In the story of my life the Main Character should be Jesus Christ. I would consider myself a ‘disciple‘ of Jesus. I desire to be a man that is very close to Jesus and, I too, see Him as a Teacher, a Father, and One that I should serve. If someone were reading my story, I’d want every sentence of my life to reflect Him. It would seem to be an unthinkable thing for me to deny even knowing Him,… yet at times is this exactly something that I do? When I’m in the world (at the store, at the gym, in the coffee shop) am I so quiet and polite about my faith, that I might as well be denying Him? Can others look at me and see that I “know this Man“?

“Father, I am honored to follow You. I love it! But help me show this world, proudly, that I am a disciple of Jesus. Forgive me for the times I’ve acted as though I do not know You. You are the best thing going on in my life, You are the Main Character in my story, and I want the world to know it! I love You.” – Michael

March 11th – “No Wannabes” 

[Bible reading: Numbers 15:17-16:40; Mark 15:1-47; Psalm 54:1-7; Proverbs 11:5-6]

“The righteousness of the upright will deliver them, but the unfaithful will be caught by their lust.'” – Proverbs 11:6

When a person wakes up each morning and decides to live for Christ, rather than live according to their own fleshly desires, they are choosing righteousness. This choice will help them escape many of the snares and traps of this sinful world. Conversely, when a person chooses to live according to their flesh, they will absolutely be caught up in, and in bondage to, their sin.

For years, Christians have created excuses to justify living with secret sin and lust in their hearts. Gone are the days of passionately pursing God with the way they actually live their lives. Jesus followers should constantly assess and ask ourselves if we are living day to day with a head full of Christ and a heart full of sin. Are we a wannabe disciple, but truthfully a secret phony? When we do this, it can be a dangerous trap. The Word cautions us to live authentically and righteously. There are just too many stories of well-meaning, seemingly radical Christians who have given into the lusts of their flesh. Their witness become a blight on Christianity and an embarrassment to the Lord and His Bride, besides all the damage it can do to those looking at themNumbers 32:23 declares, “you have sinned against the Lord; and be sure your sin will find you out“.

“Father, continue to convict me, each and every day, to be authentic and to not harbor secret sin. I want to be holy, as You are holy. I want to live my life as a sacrifice to You today, dying to myself and my lusts and living for Your will and Your glory. I love You.” – Michael

Feb/March – Week Nine – Daily Devos

February 26th – “Considerate Jesus” 

[Bible reading: Leviticus 19:1-20:21; Mark 8:11-38; Psalm 42:1-11; Proverbs 10:17]

“So He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the town. And when He had spit on his eyes and put His hands on him, He asked him if he saw anything. And he looked up and said, ‘I see men like trees walking.’ Then He put His hands on his eyes again and made him look up. And he was restored and saw everyone clearly.” – Mark 8:23-25

There are three things of note here that show one of the coolest things about Jesus; The  considerate way in which He ministered to people.

First, we’re told that Jesus took the blind man out of the town. Why would He do that? Think about it. Can you imagine being blind all your life and suddenly receiving your sight? Can you imagine the sudden influx of stimuli you’d receive if you were smack dab in the middle of a town with thousands of people? Jesus considerately took this guy to a place where he wouldn’t be blown away all at once and the thrill of seeing for the first time would break less suddenly on him.

Second, Jesus spit on his eyes. Why in the world would He do something gross like that? Again, Jesus is being considerate and using a method that this man could understand. The ancient world believed there was healing properties to spit. It’s really not so strange when you think about it. When I cut my finger, as gross as it may seem, the first thing I do is put my finger in my mouth. Why? Something innately inside my head says that it’s a good thing to do. Weird, right? But Jesus doesn’t use a method that is way beyond this guy’s understanding, He had a way of speaking and doing things that even the simplest of minds could grasp and understand.

Third, Jesus healed the blind man gradually. This is the singular time that we see Jesus do this. Usually, Jesus’ miracles were instantaneous. However, here, Jesus heals the man in stages. Perhaps there is a truth in this for you and I today? No man sees all of God’s truth all at once. So often, we can tend to make Christianity seem like it is a one-time decision. “Just raise your hand, repeat this prayer, and you’re saved. That’s all you’ll ever need.” The truth is that we should be growing closer to and learning more about Jesus every day. Every day I need seek God’s face… His presence. Why? So that I might grow ever closer to Him.

“Father, help me to be considerate towards others, even as You are. Help me relate to others and make You real to them, by the way that I speak and the way that I live. Today, I ask that You draw close to me that I might know You better. I love You.” – Michael

 

February 27th – “Soak” 

[Bible reading: Leviticus 20:22-22:16; Mark 9:1-29; Psalm 43:1-5; Proverbs 10:18]

“Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; For I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.” – Pslam 43:5

This is the third time the writer has repeated these words (Psalm 42:5 and 11). He is literally speaking to himself, his own soul, commanding himself to “Hope in God”. What he means is that he should wait on God during this time of crisis. He’s reminding himself that there is no reason to fear if God is on his side. The fact that the psalmist repeats himself this many times simply shows that it must have been difficult for him to internalize this truth.

When I am downcast or depressed, fearful or anxious, I must also remind myself to ‘hope in God’. If I allow the gunk and sin of this life to attach itself to me, I often find myself feeling like the psalmist here. There is nothing else that gets me down more than sin. Although I know that God does not condemn (John 3:17), I often get down on myself. What’s the solution? I must ‘hope in God’… I must ‘wait’ on Him. Jesus told us in John 15 that we should “abide” in Him.

I recently heard an illustration that perfectly describes what happens when I ‘abide’ in Him: If I leave a dinner plate out all night, without washing it, the next day the food will be dried on and incredibly hard to scrape off. However, if I soak that plate in water, the next day the food will simply wipe off easily. Many times ‘religion’ says we must ‘scrape’ the sin out of our lives… and it can be incredibly difficult and lead us to feeling depressed and condemned. But Jesus asks me to simply ‘soak’ in Him… His presence… wait on Him… put my hope in Him. As I do, I find that the sin I was struggling with and so concerned about, simply is washed away easily!

“Father, I want to soak in You today. I want to be a man that praises You in any and every circumstance. Your Word tells me that You inhabit the praises of Your people, and what I need is Your presence today. This is how I will hope in You. I love You.” – Michael

 

February 28th – “Shut Your Trap” 

[Bible reading: Leviticus 22:17-23:44:21; Mark 9: 30-10:12; Psalm 44:1-8; Proverbs 10:19]

“In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.”– Proverbs 10:19

The Book of Proverbs has much to say about how we should be careful about the stuff coming out of our mouths. Proverbs 6:2 states, “you have been trapped by what you said, ensnared by the words of your mouth.” It seems the more we talk, the more susceptible we are to sin, and the more likely it is we’ll say something we seriously regret. Proverbs 12:13 goes so far as to call people who do this “evildoers” when it declares, “Evildoers are trapped by their sinful talk, and so the innocent escape trouble.” It sounds like it would be a really good idea to listen more and speak less.

I find it interesting how we can be ‘trapped’ by the words we say. There have been times when I’ve found myself in a conversation and been unsure what to say. Rather than admit that, I have just talked and talked, hoping that by some miracle I’ll hit on something worthwhile. This rarely happens and it is especially true when talking about other individuals behind their backs. A small comment can lead to a longer conversation that often can turn negative. As negative talk continues it can quickly become gossip and downright slanderous. This is sin. And like all sin… it is a vicious trap.

“Father, forgive the times I’ve sinned by speaking too much. Please convict me immediately when I find myself in a situation where I can say too much, especially when that too much is something negative and mean about someone You love. I want to be “wise” and not fall into the sinful trap of gossip and slander. Thank You for forgiving me and helping me become more like You. I love You.” – Michael

 

March 1st – “Jesus is our Jubilee!” 

[Bible reading: Leviticus 24:1-25:46; Mark 10:13-31; Psalm 44:9-26; Proverbs 10:20-21]

“And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a Jubilee for you; and each of you shall return to his possession and each of you shall return to his family.”– Leviticus 25:10

God proclaimed that every seventh year was to be a Sabbath for the land – that crops were not to be planted but that they were to live on what God had provided before that time, and what grew up by itself. It was also a “year of release”. This meant that all Israelites who were in bondage were freed, and anyone who had sold his ancestral property would receive it back, and all debts were forgiven.

[Early Americans, who knew their Bibles better than we do, placed this passage on the Liberty Bell, which shows that our founding fathers thought this year of Jubilee was a wonderful idea as they were establishing the United States.]

In that economy, where people depended on the crops they raised, if a family had a bad harvest and ran out of food, they were forced to go into debt or even sell their land. If they couldn’t recover, but fell further in debt, they would have to sell themselves into slavery or leave the country. So, the Jubilee was for one main purpose – to provide for the poor who had gone into debt or lost their land, so that they would be able to start over again. Without it, the wealthy would always do better in bad years, and the land would tend to move into their hands while those who had lost their land would become permanently enslaved. Another effect of the Jubilee would be to stop the destruction of families. If a person lost his land and sold himself and his family into slavery, he would be likely to never see his family together again. The year of Jubilee was to be a year that people returned home and families were brought together again.

There is evidence from other Middle Eastern countries that years of release were proclaimed in ancient times when a new king came into power. It would be a way to ensure support from the masses when a king would declare all debts void and set free all those in bondage to debt. In Luke 4, at the beginning of his ministry, Jesus read from the prophet Isaiah in the synagogue in His hometown; “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn” (Is 61:1-2)… and then He said, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing!

I see in Jesus the greatest picture of God’s grace. Those in prison are those who are under a crushing debt they could never repay. I see in Jesus, a new King setting prisoners free of debt that they owe because of their sin. Through Jesus’ work on the cross, those who become a part of His Kingdom receive a forgiveness of a debt that they cannot pay themselves and they get to start over as new creations. Jesus is our Jubilee!

“Father, You’ve set me free from the bondage of sin, You’ve empowered me to say “no” to sin. I am no longer a slave to it. You’ve also made me rich and I am no longer poor and in debt. Thank You for Your love for me and for Your declaration that I am free in You. You truly are my King, and I love You.” – Michael

 

March 2nd – “Brother From Another Mother” 

[Bible reading: Leviticus 25:47-27:13; Mark 10:32-52; Psalm 45:1-17; Proverbs 10:22]

“after he is sold he may be redeemed again. One of his brothers may redeem him;” – Leviticus 25:48

Whenever an Israelite had fallen on extremely hard times, and was forced to sell themselves into slavery, it was a really bad deal. However, when they had to sell themselves to a foreigner, that happened to live in the area, it was even worse. It was considered to be the grimmest of circumstances because of the degrading aspect of belonging to someone that was not an Israelite. Yet, God made a way for them to be delivered from this bondage! If the year of Jubilee was still a ways off (something we read about in yesterday’s devo), the slave could be redeemedhave their freedom purchased – by a “brother”.

Romans 8:16-17a declares, “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ”. An ‘heir’ is one that receives an inheritance when the parent is gone. Paul is saying that because you and I have been redeemed, we can now call ourselves God’s kids! If we are God’s kids, and we’re “joint heirs” with Jesus, Who is the Son of God… then, in a sense, Jesus is our “brother”! Once again, we see a cool picture in the Book of Leviticus of Jesus’ sacrifice for us. Our Brother, Jesus, went to the cross and paid a debt that He didn’t have to pay. Why? Because He didn’t want to see us in slavery to a ‘foreigner’, Satan. You and I were never meant to be slaves to sin and Satan, but we each found ourselves in the grimmest of circumstances, in bondage. That’s when “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son (our Brother), that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

“Father, again I thank You for Jesus. Today, I recognize that I was in bondage to sin, and I had no way of getting out. It was only because of Your great love for me that You sent Jesus as a Savior, Sacrifice, Deliverer, Redeemer, Friend, and Brother. Cleanse me once again, that I may walk in holiness with You. I love that I can have relationship with You. I love You so very much!” – Michael

 

March 3rd – “Go FIGure” 

[Bible reading: Leviticus 27:14-Numbers 1:1-54; Mark 11:1-26; Psalm 46:1-11; Proverbs 10:24-25]

 Now the next day, when they had come out from Bethany, He was hungry. And seeing from afar a fig tree having leaves, He went to see if perhaps He would find something on it. When He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. In response Jesus said to it, “Let no one eat fruit from you ever again.”– Mark 11:12-14

The way a person can tell if fig trees have fruit is that their leaves appear in full bloom, so Jesus expected to find something to eat when He saw a fig tree “having leaves“. It may seem that Jesus’ expectations were incorrect, since Mark tells us “it was not the season for figs”. Some say this sounds like a ‘contradiction’, however, there are two possible explanations for this. First, there are different varieties of fig trees in that part of the world, not all of them bear fruit in the same season. Mark may have been saying that it was not the season in which most fig trees would bear fruit, but that the fig tree Jesus saw was the kind that bore fruit in the season when most others did not. Second, and probably more likely in this case, even when it was not the season for mature figs, Palestinian fig trees in leaf had smaller, unripe figs that were absolutely edible. Either way, Jesus was clearly not wrong to expect fruit when He saw a fig tree that was full of leaves.

Sometimes prophets in that area of the world would use a fig tree as a picture of the nation of Israel. In Hebrews 2:12 we read, “And I will destroy her vines and her fig trees“, which, in context, was a way that Hosea the prophet was describing how God was going to judge Israel. So, when we read that Jesus curses this particular fig tree, then we immediately read how He cleansed the Temple because they had turned it from a “house of prayer” to a “den of thieves” (Mark 11:17), we should understand that Jesus’ curse of the fruitless fig tree was a sign that judgment was about to come on Jerusalem. He cursed the fig tree for its fruitlessness, for not living up to what it appeared to be when it had lots of green leaves but no figs. This is exactly what His big complaint was with the folks who were portraying themselves as “religious”, but living only for themselves. That is a warning to all of us today as well. When we claim to be Christians, we are then called to bear fruit for God’s glory (John 15:1-8). If we are not bearing spiritual fruit, we should pray and ask God to show us why we are not. It could be that we need to repent of saying we are one thing, but living in an opposite way. The truth is, if we were truly following God and full of His Spirit (and not just our own), we’d have evidence of that pouring out of our lives (we’d be bearing Spiritual fruit).

“Father, forgive me for the times I’ve claimed to be a Jesus-follower, but my life has produced no fruit. How devestating it would be to have You come to me, as You approached this tree, looking for authentic fruit, but finding none. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit once again, that I may manifest Your presence as evidenced by the precious fruit of Your Spirit (Galations 5:22). I love You, Lord. I long to please You today.” – Michael

 

March 4th – “A Priest Walks Into A Bar” 

[Bible reading: Numbers 2:1-3:51; Mark 11:27-12:17; Psalm 47:1-9; Proverbs 10:24-25]

“So you shall appoint Aaron and his sons, and they shall attend to their priesthood; but the outsider who comes near shall be put to death.” – Numbers 3:10 

The stuff that the priests were required to do was all very important because they ensured the ceremonial purity of the sacrificial instruments and curtains of the tabernacle furnishings. Only they were allowed to touch this stuff. Why? Well, for two reasons: First, because God had ordained it to be that way. You see, all the priests throughout the history of the nation of Israel were to be descendants of Aaron. Aaron was a direct descendant of Levi, so it’s important to understand that every priest was a Levite, but not every Levite was a priest, because only Aaron’s family would serve in the priestly service. Second, because every priest had to go through some serious cleansing rituals.

Today, we don’t have all of these rituals, or even a building that we call a Temple. We’re told in the New Testament that because of all that Jesus has done for us, we are the Temple of His Spirit, and that we can all go boldly enter into His presence when we need to (Hebrews 4:16). How is this possible, when our text in Numbers 3:10 states that any “outsider who comes near shall be put to death“? Again, because of what Jesus has accomplished on Calvary. 1 Peter 2:9 declares, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light“. You and I have been chosen by the Lord and placed into the royal priesthood. The Word also teaches us, in Revelation 1:5-7and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood,  and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen“. What an awesome thing that you and I, with or without our Bible college degrees, can be called “priests”, and more importantly enter into the awesome presence of the God of the universe! Not only that, but we’re also called the “sons” of God (Romans 8:14; Romans 9:26; Galations 3:26). In the Greek language, “the son of” is the word “bar“. For example; Peter was also known as Bariónas: “son of Jonah,” Bar-Jonah. 

“Father, may I live for Your glory today. Thank You for the honor that I have to hang out with You whenever I am in need. I am a priest in Your sight, as well as a son. I am blown away by Your love and grace towards me. I love You.” – Michael

 

February – Week Eight – Daily Devos

February 19th – “Principle of Increase” 

[Today’s Bible reading: Leviticus 7:28-9:6; Mark 3:31-4:25; Psalm 37:12:29; Proverbs 10:5]

“For whoever has, to him more will be given; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.’” – Mark 4:25

This is a lesson that we learn in all of life. I always assumed this was talking about money or material possession, but in context it is talking about so much more. It’s a principle that applies to knowledge, effort, skill and responsibility. Let me explain:

First, KNOWLEDGE. The more a person knows the more they are capable of knowing. A person can’t learn all the riches that are in the Bible until first they have learned how to read. Once they have the basic grammar down, they’ll be able to learn all kinds of stuff written in their language. Same with music. A person can’t write beautiful songs on the piano or guitar until they first learn the basics of how to form chords. We can forget stuff too… when we don’t take the time to develop the little that we’ve learned. I took French in High School, but can’t remember a bit of it, even though I got an ‘A’. All I had back then has been forgotten and lost, because I have made no attempt to develop it.

Second, EFFORT. The more physical strength a person has, the more they’ll be able to acquire. In other words, the more they train their body physically, the more they’ll be able to do. I couldn’t just go out and run a marathon without first spending some significant time on a treadmill training. So too, the more a person allows their body to become flabby and out of shape, the less they’ll be able to do. What they have will be taken away from them.

Third, SKILL.  If a person has a particular talent or skill with their hand, or eye,or mind, the more they’re able to develop it… the more useful it will be to them. However, if they just sort of drift along, content with what they have and neglect that skill… they’ll lose it altogether. Whether it is the basketball player that never practices free-throws or the computer software designer that doesn’t keep up with the latest ‘thing’… they can be in danger of declining, rather than advancing.

Fourth, ABILITY TO BEAR RESPONSIBILITY. The more responsibility a person takes, the more they’ll be prepared to shoulder later in life. The more decisions they make, the better they’ll be able to make future decisions. But if a man or woman shirks their responsibilities, they’ll become a person who is totally unable to come to any decision and someone that will never be entrusted with the authority to be in charge.

Jesus understood this principle very well and wanted His followers to understand it too. He didn’t want us to simply listen to what He said (or read His words) and then NOT change the way we behaved. He wanted us to put His words into practice… or we’d be in danger of losing big time.

“Father, thank You for all You’ve given to me. May I never take it for granted, or sit passively on it. Help me to take all You’ve taught and all You’ve given and place it into practice in my daily life. I want to be a good steward and make You proud today with the way I live my life. I love You so very much.” – Michael

 

February 20th – Not Coincidence” 

[Bible reading: Leviticus 9:7-10:20; Mark 4:26-5:20; Psalm 37:30-40; Proverbs 10:6-7]

“But the salvation of the righteous is from the Lord; He is their strength in the time of trouble. And the Lord shall help them and deliver them; He shall deliver them from the wicked, and save them, because they trust in Him.” – Psalm 37:39-40

The psalmist is making a strong statement of confidence in the Lord. He has spent much of this psalm speaking of those who do evil and how the righteous person should persevere and trust in God. He ends all his thoughts making this declaration; That ultimately, it is God alone who can help the person that, although is being attacked by the enemy/wicked, decides that they can put their trust in God.

Sometimes, although we are Christians and are supposed to believe that God is in control of everything, we have doubts. When we are constantly pummeled by bad ‘stuff’ that seems to keep heaping on top of us we can become discouraged. Even if/when things turn around and get better, we can doubt that God was involved in our deliverance. We can chalk it up to “coincidence“. We’ll say something like, “Well, I’m glad that finally worked out. I wasn’t sure I’d make it through that one, but things finally worked themselves out I guess.” However, is it truly coincidence, or could it be that the psalmist here is correct when he boldly states, “salvation… is from the Lord; He is their strength…And…shall help them and deliver them…save them“?

“Father,  I believe there really is no coincidences for those who’ve put their trust in You. You are always involved and interested in my life. Thank You for that. Thank You for loving and caringg for me today. I do put my trust in You… and I do believe that I am “righteous”, not because of anything I have done or deserve, but because of Jesus. You are my Righteousness, and You are my deliverer. I am in love with You.” – Michael

 

February 21st –  When God’s Breath Smells Like Puke” 

[Bible reading: Leviticus 11:1-12:8; Mark 5:21-43; Psalm 38:1-22; Proverbs 10:8-9]

“He who walks with integrity walks securely, But he who perverts his ways will become known.” – Proverbs 10:9

There is safety and a sense of peace for the person who is walking with God. When my daily life is one where I’m walking/living/breathing with Jesus and with integrity, I’ll be alright. “Integrity” means, “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness…the state of being whole and undivided.” The opposite of walking, or living your life, with integrity is to “pervert your way“. In other words, this would be a person who is NOT honest, they DON’T have strong moral principles, they DO live a life that is ‘divided’. A life that is ‘divided’ is an interesting way to say that they live part-time one way, and part-time another way.

Jesus declared in Revelation 3:15-16, “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth“. How many times have I lived my life with a “divided” heart? The truth is, when I am living like that, there is no peace whatsoever! How many times have I chosen to walk in a way that was without integrity… and I was eaten up by it… perhaps even ‘found out’? Recently, I was given a leather, woman’s trench coat. It had been donated to the church, and when it was offered to me, I thought it was pretty nice and that it would save me some money in having to buy my wife a Christmas present. I wrapped it up and gave it to her, like I was some kind of big-spender. Well,… she hated it. She thought it was totally out-dated with it’s big shoulder-pads and ridiculous buttons. She tried to pretend that she liked it, but when she found out that I had gotten it for free, because someone else was basically throwing it away… let’s just say, she wasn’t impressed. Numbers 32:23 declares, “…and be sure your sin will find you out“.

“Father, I don’t like the feeling I have when I’m faking it. I want to be authentic. I want to be a man of integrity… all the time! Forgive me when I am living as though I’m divided… half way a Christian, half way a heathen. I want my life to be 100% lived for You today. Thanks for forgiving me, and helping me to be what I truly desire to be. I love You.” – Michael

 

February 22nd –  But Vapor” 

[Bible reading: Leviticus 13:1-59; Mark 6:1-29; Psalm 39:1-13; Proverbs 10:10]

“Indeed, You have made my days as handbreadths, and my age is as nothing before You; Certainly every man at his best state is but vapor.” – Psalm 39:5

The writer, Kind David, is describing how he is upset at somebody, and literally fuming with anger towards them. In verse 3 he describes this as, “My heart was hot within me“. He’s talking to God and doing his best to shut his mouth and not speak in his anger. As he is struggling with all this, he requests of God that God remind him of just how insignificant he is in the grand scheme of things. I find this interesting. Even though David is the ‘king’, he wants to remind himself that he is nothing ‘special’… and he doesn’t want his own anger to be his downfall. It’s as if he is saying, “God, I’m mad, but help me shut my mouth and remember that I’m nobody. I need to keep my inner feelings in check, because who the heck am I to get mad at somebody else, when I’m as lame as I am?” He likens his life to a ‘vapor‘, which is the Hebrew word “hevel“, which literally means “puff of air“. This word relates back to another word he uses, “handbreadths”, which basically speaks of the fleeting nature of life.

I must see everything as God sees, from His perspective, not my own. Human accomplishments, however great they may seem – even becoming a king, or some other great leader – fade away as time rolls on. From God’s awesome perspective our lives and accomplishments are puffs of air. When I begin to view them like this, I can prioritize things a bit better. The stuff that can seem so important to me, is really not that big a deal to the Lord.

Many years ago I was preaching and read this verse. As I did, unfortunately, I paused and said it like this; “every man at his best state is…….. but vapor“. Everyone started laughing and I didn’t realize why. Later that week, some of the college kids made me a T-shirt with these words written on the chest; “I am butt-vapor” – Psalm 39:5. They added an extra ‘t‘ to ‘but‘ – They thought they were so funny. Truthfully, I loved that shirt and wore it proudly.

“Father, give me Your perspective today. My life is nothing but a stinky puff of air, without You. I love You.” – Michael

 

February 23rd –  Hidden Things Like Healing Wings” 

[Bible reading: Leviticus 14:1-57; Mark 6:30-56; Psalm 40:1-10; Proverbs 10:11-12]

“Wherever He entered, into villages, cities, or the country, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged Him that they might just touch the hem of His garment. And as many as touched Him were made well.” – Mark 6:56

To understand better what is happening in this verse we must read another story, found in Luke chapter 8. There is a woman who had an issue where she had been constantly bleeding for 12 years straight! Most of you know the story, but imagine this woman’s suffering for a moment. The Bible tells us that she had spent all the money she had on doctors yet could not be healed by any of them! Luke 8:43-44Now a woman, having a flow of blood for twelve years, who had spent all her livelihood on physicians and could not be healed by any, came from behind and touched the border of His garment. And immediately her flow of blood stopped.” The woman is one of many women. She’s one of many hundreds of people that are all pressing in to get near to Jesus. The truth is, the 12-year bleeding problem that she has is probably a severely messed up menstruation-cycle. This is super important, because it would have been way more than just uncomfortable, strength draining, and bank-account depleting for her… it would have caused her serious repercussions having to do with her religious faith and her relationship with God and all of God’s people: Leviticus 15:19 ‘If a woman has a discharge, and the discharge from her body is blood, she shall be set apart seven days; and whoever touches her shall be unclean until evening.” Leviticus 15:25 If a woman has a discharge of blood for many days, other than at the time of her customary impurity, or if it runs beyond her usual time of impurity, all the days of her unclean discharge shall be as the days of her customary impurity. She shall be unclean.” This woman was in serious trouble. She was unclean. She was in physical pain, absolutely. She was in financial difficulty, to be sure. But she was also in emotional duress like you wouldn’t believe… And here comes Jesus! She somehow makes her way to Him and reaches down and grabs hold of His robe. Specifically, she grabbed onto the tassel of His robe” (vs 44) and instantly her bleeding stopped. Matthew’s account gives us one more detail that Luke does not… Matthew 9:20-21 – “And suddenly, a woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years came from behind and touched the hem of His garment.  For she said to herself, “If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well.

Well… what was the reason she touched His robe? Why didn’t she just grab His hand, as He passed by? I always pictured this story like the woman was crawling on the ground, between the crowds’ legs, and reached out and touched His robe because that’s all she could get to. However, Matthew tells us that she specifically said to herself, “If I can just touch His robe, I’ll be made well!” What’s so great about Jesus’ robe? The text indicates that it was specifically the tassels of His robe that she touched, an important detail from a Hebraic viewpoint. The English word for tassel is sometimes translated hem, but it is the Greek word kraspedon, which literally means a tassel of twisted wool”. The woman was, in fact, reaching for the tassels on Jesus’ prayer shawl. In Hebrew, these tassels, which are attached to the corners of the prayer shawl, are called tzitzit. They were, and still are, worn by observant Jews in fulfillment of the biblical commandments found in Numbers 15:37-41 and Deuteronomy 22:12 and are intended to remind the people of God’s commandments. In Numbers 15:38 the word translated border or corner is the Hebrew word kanaph, which can be translated wings, as it is some 76 times in the Bible. For this reason, the corners of the prayer shawl are often called wings.

Now, maybe you think, “Michael, who really cares about all this boring stuff?” Well, listen… all good, God-fearing Jews believed the Old Testament… and they all were anxiously awaiting the Messiah that would one day come. Jesus was that Messiah, but most of the people didn’t recognize Him as that… even those closest to Him… even though there were multitudes of prophecies concerning the Messiah that Jesus uniquely fulfilled! One of those Messianic prophecies is found in the Book of Malachi… Malachi 4:2aBut to you who fear My name The Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings;…” ‘The Sun of Righteousness’ is one of the many terms for the coming Messiah, and this verse… this prophecy… stated that when He came, He’d have healing in His wings. They didn’t understand this to mean that the Messiah was going to have huge bird/angel wings coming out of His back. They understood it to mean the corners of His tallit, the ‘wings’ of His robe, would have healing power!

This is why today’s little verse is so very important! Read it again: “Wherever He entered, into villages, cities, or the country, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged Him that they might just touch the hem of His garment. And as many as touched Him were made well.” – Mark 6:56

“Father, I love Scripture! I love some of the hidden stuff that’s in there like this, but I also love the stuff that is super easy to see and understand too. Thank You for being a God that I can reach out and touch, each and every day, through prayer and study of Your Word. Thank You for forgiving me, and healing me. You truly are the best thing going on in my life! I love You.” – Michael

 

February 24th – Scapegoat” 

[Bible reading: Leviticus 15:1-16:28; Mark 7:1-23; Psalm 40:11-17; Proverbs 10:13-14]

And when he has made an end of atoning for the Holy Place, the tabernacle of meeting, and the altar, he shall bring the live goat. Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, confess over it all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions, concerning all their sins, putting them on the head of the goat, and shall send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a suitable man. The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to an uninhabited land; and he shall release the goat in the wilderness.” – Leviticus 16:20-22

Ever wonder where the term “scapegoat” came from? Right here. Most of the practices mentioned in Leviticus seem weird to us living in the 21st century, but this one stands apart from most of the others in this one single difference: Instead of killing a near-perfect animal, this animal would be allowed to live. Hands would be placed upon it’s head, as in other sacrificial offerings, and the sins would be “transferred” onto the animal, as in other sacrificial offerings, but instead of slitting the animal’s throat, it would be released into the wilderness, unlike all other sacrificial offerings.

The Bible teaches us something very awesome about Jesus in 1 John 2:2, “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.”Propitiation is an action meant to regain someone’s favor or make up for something you did wrong. You might offer your wife a dozen roses in propitiation for killing all her houseplants by accidentally watering them with Mountain Dew (that sounds like something I would NEVER do). Propitiation comes from a form of the Latin verb “propitiare,” which means “to appease.” Jesus took all the worlds sins upon Himself, to appease the Father and pay the price for all of our sins. He died to pay that price. However, the awesome thing about Jesus is that He didn’t stay dead! He came back to life on the third day, and He ever lives! He will always bear the scars of His death, and the brutal price He had to pay… but He lives! For this reason, this Old Testament passage about the scapegoat is another beautiful picture of Jesus for us! Truly, He has become our Scapegoat!

“Father, thank You for loving me enough to offer Jesus as the Sacrifice for my sins. I am no longer guilty, because of what Jesus has done. I shall forever be grateful, and I shall forever love You.” – Michael

 

February 25th – Bloody Religion” 

[Bible reading: Leviticus 16:29-18:30; Mark 7:24-8:10; Psalm 41:1-13; Proverbs 10:15-16]

“For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul… for the life of all flesh is its blood…” – Leviticus 17:11, 14b

The life of every creature that has ever lived, or is alive now, or will ever live… is in its’ blood. This is why blood, and the spilling of blood, is such a serious thing in the Bible. God could have concocted any number of different plans, but the one He chose to go with was the most dramatic, intense, and in tune with the history of religions. Ancient religions have often sought to appease the gods with sacrifices. Most of the time it was in crazy ways like sacrificing a virgin or a child. The real God has no part in that. However, in ancient Israel people would place their hands on a lamb, and the priest would kill the animal. As the blood was draining, the person offering the sacrifice couldn’t help but think, There must be punishment for sin. If I were God, I wouldn’t be as patient with others as He is with me. The death of the animal was a reminder of the grace, mercy, and patience of God who wasn’t requiring death of the person who sinned. When Jesus came,He was hailed as the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” The perfect Lamb offered up on a cross for a people God loves very much: you and me. It’s been said that Christianity is a bloody religion, and I guess it is. However, the life of everything is in the blood… and since Jesus spilled His blood for me – gave up His life for me – I shall forever love Him.

“Father, I love You. I can say nothing more than that when I think of all You’ve done…accomplished… for me. I just… love You.” – Michael