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

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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

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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

 

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January/February – Week Five – Daily Devos

January 29th – “What’s In It For Me?” [Bible reading: Exodus 8:1-9:35; Mat. 19:13-30; Ps 24:1-10; Prov 6:1-5]

“Then Peter answered and said to Him, ‘See we have left all and followed You. Therefore, what shall we have?’” – Matthew 19:27

I think when Peter and the other disciples were with Jesus, and saw all that He was doing, and figured out Who He really was, they began to assume that they’d be those who would be exalted and promoted because of their association with Him. “What shall we have?” shows Peter’s selfish heart. He was thinking with the wrong ambitions in mind.

In Acts 3:6 this same Peter says, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you.” Something was now different in Peter. It wasn’t about ‘getting‘, but ‘giving‘. The longer a person is with the Lord, and the more they know Jesus’ heart and mission, the more they’ll become God-centered and less self-centered.

“Father, may I be a man that desires to give away all that You’ve given and shown me. Forgive me for always wanting to ‘get’. I want to be a servant and be poured out for others and for Your glory. Less of me… more of You.” – Michael

 

January 30th – “The EYES Have It” [Bible reading: Ex 10:1-12:12; Mat 20:1-28; Ps 25:1-15; Prov 6:6-11]

“Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because i am good? So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.” – Matt. 20:15-16

After telling the story of the workers in teh vineyard and how those who worked all day were selfishly wanting more – Jesus (the landowner) says this, and asks, “…is your eye evil?” This was a Jewish way of asking, “Are you a miser? Are you stingy with your money and so greedy that you are not about others, but only about yourself?”

In Jewish writings “a good eye” represented a generous attitude (Proverbs 22:9 – “He who has a generous eye will be blessed, for he gives of his bread to the poor.“) and an “evil eye” represents a man who only cares about riches (Proverbs 28:22 – “A man with an evil eye hastens after riches, and does not consider that poverty will come upon him.”). Matthew 6:22-23 describes how a man’s “eyes” represents the light or darkness within his whole life! If I am stingy or greedy with my material possessions, it can be a sign of a deeper spiritual problem that I am having.

“Father,I want to be a man who is generous. Forgive me of my greed and selfishness… it’s like I think I deserve anything at all, when truthfully all I have and enjoy is a gracious gift from You. May I be known as a giver and not a taker or a complainer. Thank You for setting the best example for me, by giving me Your all. May I give my all to You today. I love You. – Michael

 

January 31st – “My Sacrifice, My Relationship” [Bible reading: Ex 12:14-13:16; Ps 25:16-22; Prov 6:12-15 ]

“In one house it shall be eaten; you shall not carry any of the flesh outside the house, nor shall you break one of its bones.” – Exodus 12:46

Speaking of the specific ways they were to treat the Passover lamb, Moses declares that the lamb sacrificed would be solely for the residents of the home… not for anyone else outside the family’s immediate household. Beautifully, we’re also told the lamb’s bones were NOT to be broken. This is an interesting little detail that is thrown in that I believe is beautiful because John 19:31-33 states that Jesus’ bones were not broken, as was the custom of the day in which He was crucified. (You see, the legs of crucifixion victims were broken to hasten death. This prevented them from pushing themselves up to open the chest cavity and thus breathe better. Since the victims would now have to pull themselves up by the arms instead, suffocation occurred once their arm strength failed. Jesus escaped having His legs broken since He died so quickly.) This Old Testament passage, then, is a beautiful picture of Jesus as the Lamb of God.

Jesus’ shed blood did indeed cover a multitude of my sin, for He is the Passover Lamb. However, His sacrifice is only for those whom believe and obey, and turn from a life of sin. It is only for our “house“, we can’t be saved by anyone else’s belief or relationship with God. It must be our ‘personal’ relationship with the Lord… not our parents’ relationship with Jesus, our spouse’s, our friend’s, or any other person. We personally must believe, turn from our sin, and accept the sacrifice He paid on our behalf.

“Father, thank You for covering my many sins. I believe in You and I recognize that I can’t ride on the coat-tails of someone else’s relationship with You… it must be my own. The flesh sacrifice is mine alone to accept. I love You. – Michael

 

February 1st – “The Naughty List” [Bible reading: Ex 13:17-15:18; Mat 21:23-46; Ps 26:1-12; Prov 6:16-19]

“These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil, A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren.” – Proverbs 6:16-19

God doesn’t beat around any bushes here, He absolutely HATES this stuff! Pride, Lying, Murder of innocent, Those who plot evil, Those who are quick to run towards evil with no hesitation, False witnesses (this is another way to say ‘lying’, which is the second time He’s mentioned it… so it must be a real frustration to God), Those who stir up discord and division in the body of Christ.

Occasionally Scripture can be a bit hard to understand. It takes deep study to really get at what God is saying. However, at other times, God is painfully clear. There is no ‘grey-area’ in this list. Am I a man who is full of pride, etc… If so, I must evaluate and turn from my sin!

“Father, please point out any areas on this list that I may fail in. I absolutely do NOT want to displease You, but rather hear You say, ‘Well done’. I love You!”  – Michael

 

February 2nd – “How To Make Bitter… Better” [Bible reading: Ex 15:19-17:7; Mat 22:1-33; Ps 27:1-6; Prov 6:20-26]

“Now when they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter. Therefore the name ofit was called Marah. And the people complained against Moses, saying, ‘What shall we drink?’ So he cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree. When he cast it into the waters, the waters were made sweet.” – Exodus 15:23-25a

God had done so many wonderful things for these people – delivered them from slavery, helped them escape the Egyptians (bad guys) by splitting the Red Sea and taking care of them. Now, however, they are thirsty. They begin to complain… and whine. It’s almost as if they have forgotten all that God has done for them. We do that, right? No matter how good God has been, when we face a hardship… a trial…we tend to forget… to complain… act as if God has forgotten us… like He doesn’t care about us or for us. So they come to this lake. It’s looks awesome at first, but then when they try and drink it… it’s too bitter! They called it “Marah”, because “marah” means “bitter” in their Hebrew language. They’re stuck. They’re thirsty. They’re at the end of their rope… or so they think. Their leader, a guy named Moses, cries out to God and the Bible says, “and the Lord showed him a tree…When he cast it into the waters, the waters were made sweet.” Moses saw how desperate these people were, he knew they needed to drink, yet would be unable to due to the bitterness of the only water around. So, he prays to the Lord, and the Lord “showed him a tree”. Moses cuts it down and tosses it into the bitter water and in a split second… the water loses all bitterness and becomes sweet!

Approximately 1,476 years later there would be another Tree. We know it as the Cross of Jesus Christ. Galatians 3 and 1 Peter 2:24 talk of the Cross and refer to it as “the tree”. It is the Cross of Calvary… the Cross that Jesus died upon… which still transforms biter experiences, bitter people, and bitter circumstances. How? By realizing that the wrongs done to us, the offenses against us, the disappointments registered by us have all been paid for, dealt with, washed clean by the blood of Calvary.

“Father, when I’m upset and feeling bitter, help me to always remember to ‘toss in the Tree’. Remind me of what You’ve done for me on the Cross. That has a way of putting everything back into perspective. Thank You for Jesus, and thank You for the Tree. I love You!”  – Michael

 

February 3rd – “Hang On ” [Bible reading: Ex 17:8-19:15; Mat 22:34-23:12; Ps 27:7-14; Prov 6:27-35]

“On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” –  Matthew 22:40

Jesus is being approached by the Pharisees, who were “testing” Him. Deuteronomy 6:4 and Leviticus 19:18 state these two very important commands, but the Pharisees wanted to know if Jesus knew these Scripures or not. He did. Then He threw in this interesting statement, “On these two commands “hang” much of the Old Testament (Law – Genesis-Deuteronomy, Prophets – Isaiah-Malachi). Of course, He meant that we could pretty much sum-up all the Scripture with these two commands… but what if there is another message He was trying to communicate?

We know that Jesus “hung” on the Cross when He gave up His life as a ransom for all (1 Timothy 2:6). But I think it’s interesting to think of this statement to the Pharisees in that light. On these two commandments “hang” all the stuff God was speaking in the Old Testament. Jesus’ death on the Cross showed His deep love for His Father in the fact that He obeyed Him, even unto death. He obviously loved His Father with all His heart, soul, and mind. But we also know that He “demonstrated His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8)… so He loved us, His neighbors, as well. So it is on the Cross that I see demonstrated for you and me the greatest of commandments – Love God, Love Others. Whenever I am struggling with ‘sin’… or even the ‘temptation to sin’ by selfishly putting myself first… I must remember that Jesus on the Cross has set the example for me of what I must do. I must pick up my Cross and die… hang there, for it is in doing this that I am authentically loving the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, and mind and putting others before myself.

“Father, thank You for sending Jesus and loving me as much as You do. When I start to doubt it, all I have to do is gaze at the Cross once again. It’s there I see a love that I can’t begin to comprehend, but shall always be grateful for. I love you… back!”  – Michael

 

February 4th – “What’s At The CORE?” [Bible reading: Ex 19:16-21:21; Mat 23:13-39; Ps 28:1-9; Prov 7:1-5]

“Keep My commands and live, And My Law as the apple of your eye.” – Proverbs 7:2

The origin of the Hebrew word for ‘apple’ is ‘little man’ – it comes from the idea that when you look someone in the eye you can see a reflection of yourself in their eyeball. God’s saying that His Word, His reflection, should be seen inside each of us by others.

When I talk with others, I want them to see Jesus reflected inside of me. To look into my eyes and see Jesus would be the coolest thing ever! However… how does that happen? It happens when I “keep God’s Words and treasure His commands within me” (Proverbs 7:1). His Word must be at my ‘core’ (see what I did there? ‘core’… ‘apple core’? LOL… c’mon, that ain’t so bad)

“Father,  I love You AND Your Word! Today, as I’ve read so much of it, I pray it would really sink deep into my heart and life and change me. I pray it would make me more like Jesus. I desperately want others to see You in me today… not so that I get the credit, but that You’d receive all the glory that You are due. I love You!”  – Michael

 

If anybody is reading these devotions, would you mind leaving a quick comment here on my website. It would greatly encourage me to keep this up. Blessings! – Michael

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