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 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

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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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What’s God’s Will For You?

gods-willI have been thinking a lot, and talking with others a lot, about how we can figure out what God’s purpose is for our lives. Understanding why exactly God put us on the planet at this precise time in history? I believe that God honors our attempts to seek His will for our lives. In fact, I think He desperately wants us to know it. And while you and I may not be able to find any verses in the Bible with our names in them, there are several clear signals we can consult as we seek God’s plan for our lives.

Recently, in a small group of pastors that I meet with on a weekly basis for the sole purpose of mentoring, I challenged the guys to take some time to consider their unique purpose. We took a week to prayerfully write down some memories; good moments, bad moments, and God moments. I had them do this to give them a chance to look back and see where God had intervened and moved in times past to form them into who they are today. I sincerely believe that when we understand where we’ve been and how God has been alongside us each step of the journey, we can better determine what His plan is for us in the future.

Looking at that future, and determining specifically what God’s will is for our lives is a pretty big endeavor. I want to provide a bunch of questions that one can ask to probe for clues about God’s intentions when He created you. I’m going to give eight key categories for figuring out God’s will and purpose for your life. I think that as you reflect on these areas, as they pertain to your life, you’ll begin to see common themes that point to God’s purpose for you. I encourage those reading this, as I have the pastors that I’m mentoring, to sincerely and prayerfully dive into the following. Perhaps, even journal what God is showing you.

GOD’S WORD

There is no place where God has spoken more directly to the issues in our lives than in Scripture. This is the cornerstone of our search for our purpose. Because of God’s Word, we don’t need to ask if it’s God’s will for us to cheat on our taxes, or become a drug dealer, or divorce our spouse to marry someone else. In addition to the obvious dos and don’ts, there are many principles that suggest how life is supposed to work. The more you and I know about Scripture, the easier it is to discern God’s will. I often ask folks to prayerfully consider what their five favorite Bible verses are and to write them out. Why those five? What makes them so special? Have they ever considered what it is about those particular verses that makes them stand out? Could it be that those specific verses ignite something inside them that the Lord is uniquely wanting to do in them and through them?

WISE COUNSEL

If you were to ask the mentors in your life, what would they say you should do? Preferably, you should ask people you trust, people who have already been where you aspire to go, and people who have nothing to gain or lose by your decision. Iron sharpens iron. If God is leading you toward something, He will often confirm it through the suggestions of others you trust.

YOUR PAST

How has God used you in the past? Did it seem like His hand was on your efforts? Which ones were successful? Did you gain valuable experience that would be helpful in a similar arena now? You may already be doing what God wants you to do. And even if you aren’t, God almost always gives us a track record that leads logically toward the areas where He will use us in the future. One of the best indicators of the future is often the past.

PASSION

What makes you passionate? Are there certain things that seem to bring fulfillment or awaken your ambitions? If money were no object, where would you choose to focus your time and energy? These can be important clues as to where God would have you apply yourself.

GIFTEDNESS

What special gifts or skills are you equipped with? Are there abilities that stand out in you which could indicate a function you might perform in the world? What are the things you do best? Is there anything that comes effortlessly for you while others struggle to keep pace? What can you do that no one else can? Sometimes God gives us special talents so that we can perform certain skills that support His master plan.

RESOURCES

What resources or possessions do you have that can be leveraged? Do you have money, a position of influence, a vehicle, or an education that could be a building block for something you pursue? Perhaps you have key relationships with certain people that might be useful in developing one of your passions into an idea, a program, or a business. Could it be that God has given you access to resources that will play an important role in unfolding His plan for your life?

OPPORTUNITIES

What opportunities are sitting on your doorstep today? What opportunities are looming on the horizon? Have new doors opened? Have old ones closed? Might these be an indication of where God is taking you next? Change can be intimidating. But God will often use our circumstances to open doors in our life or to close them.

KEY ENVIRONMENTS

Are there certain environments in which you tend to thrive? Is there a certain area of the country, or part of the world that gets your juices flowing? Do you have a favorite city? Are there particular people or personality types that make you productive? Is there a certain office arrangement or housing situation that enables you to flourish? Sometimes these factors are decided for us, are limited by finances, or must defer to other priorities. But sometimes our preferred environments can lead us toward God’s plan for our lives.

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Blessed Assurance

BlessedAssuranceRemember the old hymn, “Blessed Assurance”(The lyrics are at the bottom of this blog)? These beautiful words have been running through my head all day. Here’s the reason: Today I met with a wonderful lady who happens to be 91 years young. She was raised as a catholic and has only recently begun attending our church with a neighbor friend. She had many questions and we had a wonderful talk. Her biggest question revolved around the fact that she did not feel absolutely sure that if she were to die she’d go to be with Jesus. She told me that there was just ‘no way’ she could be certain until she did indeed die. I told her she was, fortunately, very wrong. We then took a short trip through some amazing Scripture that I want to share with you today. My hope is that it will encourage you, as it did her and I. God’s simple, yet powerful Word has a way of doing more than anything I could ever say or imagine.

(All the following verses are taken from the New King James Version):

Job 19:25-27

25            For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth;

26            And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, That in my flesh I shall see God,

27            Whom I shall see for myself, And my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!

 

Proverbs 28:13

He who covers his sins will not prosper,
But whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.

 

John 3:16

 

 John 5:24

 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.

 

John 10:27-28

27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.

 

Acts 16:31

So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

 

Romans 5:9-10

Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.

 

Romans 8:16-17

16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.

 

Romans 8:38-39

38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

Romans 10:9-10

that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

 

2 Corinthians 5:21

For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

 

Ephesians 1:13-14

13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

 

Ephesians 2:8-9

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.

 

Philippians 1:6

…being confident in this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ…

 

2 Timothy 1:12

For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.

 

Titus 3:4-7

But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

 

Hebrews 7:25

Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

 

1 Peter 1:3-5

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

 

1 John 1:9

 

1 John 3:1-3

Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.

 

1 John 4:13-16

13 By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.

 

1 John 5:13

These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.

 

BLESSED ASSURANCEFrancis J. Crosby – 1873

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.

This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.

Perfect submission, perfect delight,
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
Angels, descending, bring from above
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.

Perfect submission, all is at rest,
I in my Savior am happy and blest,
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.

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