March/April – Week Thirteen – Daily Devos

March 26th – “Offended At God” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

March 27th – “I Got This!” 

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

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

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

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

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

 

March 28th – “God Has the Gall” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

March 29th – “Happy Wife, Happy Life

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

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

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

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

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

 

March 30th – “12 Years A Slave” 

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

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

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

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

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

 

March 31st  – “No Abracadabra” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

April 1st – “Cockroaches and Fakeness” 

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

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

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

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

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

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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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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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February – Week Eight – Daily Devos

February 19th – “Principle of Increase” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

February 20th – Not Coincidence” 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

February 22nd –  But Vapor” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

February 23rd –  Hidden Things Like Healing Wings” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

February 24th – Scapegoat” 

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

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

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

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

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

 

February 25th – Bloody Religion” 

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

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

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

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

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February – Week Seven – Daily Devos

February 12th – “Power In The Blood” [Bible reading: Ex 34:1-35:9; Mat 27:15-31; Ps 33:12-22; Prov 9:1-6]

“And all the people answered and said, ‘His blood be on us and on our children.’” – Matthew 27:25

This took place after Jesus had been arrested and found Himself now standing before Pilate. We’re told that Pilate knew Jesus was innocent, he knew that He was on trial only because the religious leaders were full of “envy” (Mat 27:18, 23). Pilate was even warned by his own wife, who had had a dream about Jesus, to have nothing to do with this “just” Man (vs 19). He didn’t want to be accountable for Jesus’ death. However, in this verse we see that the people who had gathered had no problem accepting full responsibility. They basically cried out, “Go ahead and blame us, His shed blood will be on us, not you!” Later, in Acts 5, we read how the apostles had been jailed for preaching in the name of Jesus, then miraculously freed from jail they went right back to preaching in His name. When they were arrested a second time they were brought before the high priest who asked them, “Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man’s blood on us!” (Acts 5:28). Ironic, that they were now complaining for the very thing they had asked for… the very thing they cried out to Pilate.

Truly, Jesus’ shed blood would be on us. Acts 20:28 states, “...the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.Ephesians 1:7 says that we “have redemption through His bloodand Romans 5:9 declares, “…having been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.” Without even knowing what they were saying, the people were speaking prophetically of how Jesus’ shed blood would be upon them and their children. Today, as in Acts 5, some don’t wish for the very thing they most need, while others are continuously grateful for the sacrifice that Jesus made that we might have redemption and justification (forgiveness). Truly, there’s still power in the blood.

“Father, thank You once again for Your forgiveness. Leviticus 17:11 and 14 declares that the life of the flesh is in the blood. And in Your precious blood I am washed whiter than snow. Your love for me is truly amazing. I love You back.” – Michael

 

February 13th – All Stirred Up” [Bible reading: Ex 35:10-36:38; Mat 27:32-66; Ps 34:1-10; Prov 9:7-8]

“Then everyone came whose heart was stirred, and everyone whose spirit was willing, and they brought the Lord’s offering for the work of the tabernacle of meeting, for all its service, and for the holy garments. They came, both men and women, as many as had a willing heart…The rulers brought onyx stones, and the stones to be set in the ephod and the breastplate, and spices and oil…” – Exodus 35:21-22a,27-28a

This is such a neat thing! God was setting up His Tabernacle, His home, and the people were bringing stuff to go in it. Notice, however, that Moses didn’t have to plead with the people. He didn’t have to beg them and pass an offering bucket. He allowed the Holy Spirit to move upon whomever’s hearts were “stirred“, and that were “willing“. This is an important lesson for us: We must ask the Lord to stir our hearts for the things He’d want us to do, and then we must be willing to obey.

I wonder if too often we “give” out of a sense of obligation… or even guilt? Wouldn’t it be better if we only gave unto the work of the Lord once we have taken the time to seek His face and His perfect will, and then allowed His Spirit to “stir our hearts“?

Also notice that the “rulers“… the leaders of all these people… were giving too! In fact, they were giving MORE than the people were giving! This is always how it should be. Leaders should be those who set the example to the people following them of what it looks like to give sacrificially, showing that the Lord is stirring the leaders’ hearts too. It wasn’t “Do as I say, but not as I do” with these leaders, they were living what they were preaching!

“Father, stir up my heart for the things that stir up Your heart. I want a “willing spirit” to come alongside the projects and ministry that You desire. If You’ve given me any amount of influence, I pray that I would always set an example as a man who is willingly submitted to Your will. Thanks for being on the move, for building Your kingdom in so many places around the earth. Show me where I can have an impact for it, and help me to bring You massive amounts of glory with the way I live my life. I love You.” – Michael

 

February 14th –  Ancient Inspiration” [Bible reading: Ex 37:1-38:31; Mat 28:1-20; Ps 34:11-22; Prov 9:9-10]

“Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the Lord delivers him out of them all. ” – Psalm 34:19

The fact that ‘bad things happen to good people‘ is just that… a fact. Scholars believe that David wrote these words during a season of his life where his life was in jeopardy. As a man who loved God, trusted God, and had been used by God on multiple occasions, he acknowledged that bad stuff was going down in his life. However, he also admits that in the end, the Lord would rescue him. Much like Job who said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21)… we see, time and time again throughout Scripture, men and women who underwent serious trials, yet maintained a radical trust in a God that they could not see. How were they able to do this?

Most Bible scholars believe that the oldest, or earliest, manuscript in the entire Bible is the Book of Job. If this is the case, it’s very possible that David, and many other Bible heroes knew of this story and thought of it as they went through their struggles. David had, as an example, Job – a man who had gone through unimaginable trials, yet maintained his faith in God. I wonder if when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow to the king’s idol, even when their lives were threatened with being cast into the fire, and said, “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up” (Daniel 3:17-18), if they had Job’s story resonating in their minds?

So too, today, when I am going through struggles and trials in my day-to-day life, I have stories that resonate in my mind. Stories from Scripture that remind me that there were other “righteous” folks who went through tragedies, yet maintained their love for and their trust in God. This is why Scripture is so very important. It has a supernatural way of speaking to exactly where I’m living. As I endeavor to walk in Christ and live for Him today, I must be a man that picks up the Bible and digs in. Why? Because it’s there in God’s Holy Word where I receive ancient inspiration that immediately becomes present-day motivation… to persevere… to endure. Truly, the Lord was real back then, and He is real today… and He will deliver!

“Father, You are my strength and my shield. I admit that I’m weak and cannot make it without Your Spirit. Thank You for Your Word. Help me to glean from it today as I apply it’s message and examples to my life. I love You.” – Michael

 

February 15th –  Hey, I Know You!” [Bible reading: Ex 39:1-40:38; Mark 1:1-28; Ps 35:1-16; Prov 9:11-12]

“Now there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, saying, ‘Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us? I know who You are – the Holy One of God!’” – Mark 1:23-24

There are some very interesting things here: First, I find it odd that this man was “in their synagogue” and possessed by a demon. I wonder how many services he had attended before anyone knew that he was demon-possessed? I wonder how many services people with demons today attend our churches and nobody knows? It took Jesus showing up for the truth to be revealed, and so too, it is going to take Jesus showing up in our church-services for the darkness in our churches to be exposed. Second, the demon knew exactly Who Jesus was. It referred to Jesus’ humanity by calling Him “Jesus of Nazareth“, but then it referred to Jesus’ deity by referring to Him as “The Holy One of God“. Maybe this is what James was referring to when he declared, “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe – and tremble!” (James 1:19)

How many people attend churches all over the world today that are just like this demonized man: they faithfully attend religious meetings, know all about Jesus and Who He is – even tremble at the idea that they will have to give an account for their life on the Day of Judgement – yet they are totally lost?

“Father,  I know so much about You, but I long to truly know You. I know you are the Holy One of God, but I want to KNOW the Holy One of God… and I believe there is a difference. Reveal Yourself to me in deeper and more intimate ways. Make me sensitive to Your voice. Fill me with Your Spirit. Walk with me everywhere that I go today so that there is more of You in me than me. I love You.” – Michael

 

February 16th –  Hands-On Faith” [Bible reading: Leviticus 1:1-3:17; Mark 1:29-2:12; Psalm 35:17-28; Proverbs 9:11-12]

“Then he shall put his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him.” – Leviticus 1:4

Leviticus has been accused as being ‘boring’. It has many specific and tedious rules concerning the proper ways in which to make a myriad of sacrifices. All of which don’t seem to apply to where and how we are living today in the twenty-first century. However, each and every one of these requirements can, and do, point to the ultimate sacrifice that was made by our Lord on the Cross of Calvary. In understanding that fact, a closer look at some of these rituals can give us a better understanding of what God has done for us. In the case of this little verse, we see that the person who desired forgiveness of sins had to bring an unblemished animal to the tabernacle, of his own free will, and offer it as a sacrifice to be killed. This animal’s sacrifice would then be “accepted on his behalf to make atonement for” his sins. ‘Atonement‘ simply meant, ‘appeasement with God by removing sin and impurities‘.  There would later be a ‘Day of Atonement’ (yom kippur – Lev 16:30). What’s interesting is that the person bringing the animal had to “put his hand on the head of the burnt offering“. Why would this be important? It was simply for the sake of identification. The person was symbolically implying that “This animal is now for present purposes myself, and its life is my life“. It was this act that made it an “acceptable” offering on his behalf.

Another thing that would happen as a person placed their hand on the head of the animal was that they would ‘feel‘ the animal. That may seem obvious, but think about if it were you: As your hand lay on the animal’s head, you’d feel its fur, you’d feel it moving, you’d feel it breathing. You’d become keenly aware that this was a LIVING sacrifice. You wouldn’t be able to shake the fact that this was a LIVE animal that was about to be killed… on YOUR behalf… because of YOUR sin.

Sometimes I think people today take Jesus’ sacrifice for granted. We’ve heard the story so many times… heard how He died so many times, and in so many ways… we’ve seen the movie, heard about it in songs, and sat through the Easter play on so many occasions… it has lost its impact upon us. Even when we take communion, we can tend to let our minds wander and simply go through the motions. Paul warned us not to do that: “Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord” – 1 Corinthians 11:27. What does “an unworthy manner” mean? Could it be that we can become so hardened by repetition that we simply go through the motions? What if we could place our hand upon Jesus’ head, as He was being crucified… If we could feel his sweaty and blood-matted hair, poke our finger on his crown of thorns, feel Him heave for a breath, hear Him whisper “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they’re doing“? I wonder if we’d take His sacrifice for granted then? I believe, we must constantly remind ourselves that Jesus was the sacrifice for “our” sins, and that He died on “our” behalf. “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” – 1 John 2:2 (NIV).

“Father, You paid a price that You did not owe. I owed a price that I could not pay. Help me remember to never take what You’ve done for me for granted. Today, may I live my life as a living sacrifice for You. I love You.” – Michael

 

February 17th – Questioning Authority” [Bible reading: Leviticus 4:1-5:19; Mark 2:13-3:6; Psalm 36:1-12; Proverbs 10:1-2]

“Then He said to them, ‘Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?’ But they kept silent.” – Mark 3:4

The Pharisees (that title literally means, “separated ones) strictly observed the written and oral law, believed in angels and resurrection, opposed Greek influence, and were esteemed by the people. They were constantly in conflict with Jesus, probably for a number of reasons; The crowds were beginning to follow Him, He was performing miracles and they weren’t, and He seemed to care more about what was happening within the hearts of people than what they looked like or acted like on the outside. These Pharisees loved to “appear” righteous and one of the best ways they did this was to do nothing on the Sabbath Day. Jesus, however, would do whatever was necessary on ANY day, as long as it was something His Father wanted Him to do (John 5:19). Jesus recognized that they guys were not questioning His ability to heal, but only wanted to know whether He would dare to do ‘something’ on the Sabbath. So, rather than rebuke them or say anything in His own defense, He does what He often did… He asked them a question.

Sometimes asking good questions is the secret to getting good answers and sometimes asking good questions just makes people ‘think’. Jesus was a Master at asking questions: “Who do men say that I am?” “Woman, where is your husband?” “What do you wish for Me to do for you?” “How can Satan cast out Satan?” “Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs to take Me?”  His questions were never meant to confuse or skirt an issue, but they were always meant to help people think more clearly about something.” I am often tempted to to provide instant answers when people ask me questions. Perhaps I should learn from ‘The Jesus School of Communication‘ and simply slow down to ask a few good questions instead?

“Father, I think it might be my own pride that makes me feel as though I must have an answer to every question. Please give me wisdom, but not necessarily all the answers. Wisdom from You might just be slowing down and asking a question. I want to respond as You’d respond… to whatever I encounter today. Thank You for never leaving me or forsaking me and for empowering me to be a light for You. I love You.” – Michael

 

February 18th – “Why Wait?” [Bible reading: Leviticus 6:1-7:27; Mark 3:7-30; Psalm 37:1-11; Proverbs 10:3-4]

Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass.” – Psalm 37:7

Over and over within the Scripture we see that we are to be those that “wait” on God. Lamentations 3:25-26 declares, “The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” Of course, the most famous passage that mentions waiting is found in Isaiah 40:31, “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” Because these Scriptures, and many others, admonish us to ‘wait‘ on God, we should probably know what in the world it looks like for us to do so. The word “wait” is the Hebrew word “qawa which means,  to hope in, to hope for, to be gathered with, and to look for‘. It comes from another Hebrew word, quavah“, which means ‘to bind together as by twisting‘. Putting all this together, we can begin to get an idea of what it means to be those who “wait on the Lord”.

Our lives can be so entangled with this world, our culture, material stuff, our jobs, responsibilities, hobbies, relationships, and more. When this happens, our relationship with God can seem to get pushed further and further down the scale of what’s important. Many times prayer, reading the Bible, and simply spending quiet moments where we set aside time to listen for His voice can happen less and less. We must stop and assess what is happening by asking some important questions; “What am I looking to?”… “Who am I gathered with?”… “What is my life bound together with, twisted up in?”… is it Jesus?

Why are so many Christians weak? Why do so many Christians seem to stop walking with the Lord? Why do so many Christians give up running the race? Could it be that they’re not “waiting” on God? Could it be that they’ve allowed their lives to become so entangled with this world, when what they really needed was to take a ‘time-out’ and become twisted up with Jesus again? The promise of Scripture is that when we’ll do that… when we’ll rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him… good things will happen.

“Father, today I will slow down and wait. You alone are my Hope. You alone are the One I look to. You alone are the One I want to be twisted up with. I love You.” – Michael

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February – Week Six – Daily Devos

February 5th – “Give It Up” [Bible reading: Ex 21:1-22:23:13; Mat. 24:1-28; Ps 29:1-11; Prov 7:6-23]

“Give unto the Lord, O you mighty ones, Give unto the Lord glory and strength. Give unto the Lord the glory due His name; Worship the Lord in the beauty of Holiness.” – Psalm 29″1-2

To “give” something to someone, in this context, is to acknowledge that they have that attribute. So this is like saying, “God, You are glorious! You have all the strength that is needed for whatever I’m going through!” ‘Beauty‘ can mean ‘adornment‘, such as how a king or queen might dress. The ‘mighty ones‘ are admonished to worship Him because He is clothed in “holiness”. The ‘mighty ones‘ can refer to those who are rulers here on earth; kings, queens, presidents, or anyone who is in authority.

Oftentimes, I can see myself as a ‘mighty one‘… the guy who is ‘large and in charge’. But is that the way it’s supposed to be? No. This entire Psalm talks of God’s awesome power and sovereignty. He alone deserves praise and admiration. Why? Because He is All-Powerful and “Holy” (perfect). I am not, and thus, I’m really not all that mighty. Do I live my life as though I truly believe this to be true? If not, Why?

“Father, I put my trust in You and do not wish to doubt or be anxious today. You “will bless Your people with peace” (Psalm 29:11) bcause of Who You are . You are awesome! I give You the glory that You’re due, because ultimately, You are the mighty One… and I am not. I love You.” – Michael

 

February 6th – “In-Joy Life” [Bible reading: Ex 23:14-25:40; Mat 24:29-51; Ps 30:1-12; Prov 7:24-27]

“For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; Weeping may endure for a night, But joy comes in the morning.” – Psalm 30:5

David writes this, but it’s important to know the context of when he wrote it. Most believe that it was during the time that he had put up the tabernacle to house the ark of the covenant. However, because the ark had been captured during a battle with some bad guys (I Samuel 6, 7) he had to go and retrieve it. He knew the ark was where the presence of God was, and so he took 30,000 guys and went and got it and put it on a cart to carry it home. The cart was driven by a guy named Uzzah, while a man named Ahio led the way. Uzzah means ‘strong’ and Ahio means ‘friendly’ in the Hebrew language. When they came to Nachon’s threshing floor they hit a bump. (The ‘threshing floor’ was the place where wheat and chaff were separated). As they hit the bump, Uzzah reached out to balance the ark and was immediately stricken dead. (2 Samuel 6:7). Upset and sad, David stashed the ark for a time in the house of Obed-edom. Three months later, when he heard that Obed-edom’s house was being completely blessed, David realized that he needed to go and get it. This time, however, David retrieved the ark as Scripture required. He had it carried on the backs of priests (1 Chronicles 15:15) and every six steps the whole company stopped and they built an altar and offered sacrifice. This must have taken forever, but it was as David did what God had commanded him to do… in the way that God had commanded it… he was able to return the presence of God back to the tabernacle.

Many times Christians say they want more of God. They want “His presence”. We sing so many songs about this and hear sermons about it quite often in the church-world. We even try to ‘make it happen’ in our own strength at times. It’s like they did in David’s time, we’ll think it can be ushered in by putting the right people in the right places. We put ‘Mr. Friendly’ out at the front and let ‘Mr. Strong’ keep things in control. Or we think we can bring in God’s presence on a cart. What was a cart anyway? It was just two-big wheels and a bunch of boards. So, we form our boards and have lots of meetings where we plan and formulate stuff… and we bring in the ‘big wheels’ to be our special ‘guest artist’ or ‘speaker’… THEN we KNOW God will show up! And we usher it in… or so we think. That’s usually where we hit the bump at the ‘threshing floor’… the place where God wants to separate the real from the fake. When God isn’t pleased… and it’s all just dead, we wonder what happened.

We must realize what David finally realized: We don’t need the boards, the big-wheels, the right people with the right skill-sets… we need to get back to the Bible and what God has asked of us. We need to stop every six steps (six is the number of man, the number of the flesh – therefore, we need to stop every time we feel our flesh well up, and be “altared” as we offer the sacrifice of praise, confess our sins, and express our dependency upon the Lord).

God’s anger was felt, and seen by all, when He struck Uzzah. David was heartbroken. But when he got back to the Word, the Lord showed that there can be a new day dawning for all of us, where joy is unspeakable and full of His glory! We simply need to get back to what God has asked of us.

“Father,  I know my sin separates me from You and is upsetting to You. I truly want to enjoy Your presence in my day-to-day life! Forgive me, Lord… and help me walk in the joy You long for me to live in. I love You. – Michael

 

February 7th – “America’s Got Talent” [Bible reading: Ex 26:-27:21; Mat 25:1-30; Ps 31:1-8; Prov 8:1-11 ]

“And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey.” – Matthew 25:15

The guy giving away the talents is like Jesus, and like the guy went away on a long journey and was delayed quite a while in returning, so too, Jesus has gone to sit at the right hand of the Father. However, He will return one day, and when He does there will be an accounting of how we used the talents He gave to us. In the Greek a ‘talent’ was a coin whose value equaled 6,000 days, or about 20 years, of wages! They were incredibly valuable things.

Today, when I hear ‘talent’ I think of something much different; I imagine the ‘gifts’, ‘abilities’, and specific qualities that make each person unique and special. One might have the talent of ‘speaking’, another the talent of ‘building’, or another the talent of ‘a sense of humor’.  Some have been given much, others have been given little. I see some people in the body of Christ and I think, ‘Wow… that person is a 5-talent person! They can sing, play the guitar, communicate to others in a way that everyone understands, they’re good-looking… man, are they blessed!’ Other folks, I might think, “Wow… they are a 1-talent person. They can’t do a lot of stuff, but just one little thing.” Regardless of how many talents you and I have been given, we must be those that are faithful to use it(them) for the glory of God and for the furthering of His Kingdom.

“Father, I thank You for the talent You’ve given me. I may only be a one, or two-talent guy, but I desire to invest what You’ve given for Your Kingdom. Help me to remember that I should never bury anything you’ve given. I love You. – Michael

 

February 8th – Worship That’s Not A Waste” [Bible reading: Ex 28:1-43; Mat 25:31-26:13; Ps 31:9-18; Prov 8:12-13]

“Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.” – Matthew 26:13

We know that this woman’s name was Mary (John 12:3) and that she anointed Jesus’ head and feet with very costly perfume. When attacked for wasting such an expensive oil, Jesus defended her and rebuked Judas and the other disciples. He praised Mary for her act of love. Nothing given to Jesus in love is ever wasted. Her act of love didn’t just bring joy to Jesus, and a beautiful smell to the house, but it also became an incredible blessing to the entire world all throughout history.

We read this story today and we’re encouraged to radically love and give our very best to Jesus. We’re reminded that Jesus is quick to defend His own. We’re convicted that we should never be those who hold something back in our worship and adoration of the Lord.

“Father,  I believe You are awesome. May I hold nothing back in my love and devotion to You. May I have the heart of this woman that poured her love out on You in such a memorable and loving way. I love You. – Michael

 

February 9th – Hand Me Downs” [Bible reading: Ex 29:1-30; Mat 26:14-46; Ps 31:19-24; Prov 8:14-26]

“And the holy garments of Aaron shall be his sons’ after him, to be anointed in them and to be consecrated in them.” – Exodus 29:29

Aaron was the high priest, and his clothes were to be passed on to his sons. In much the same way, my character will be passed on to my children as well. If I want Conor to be a man who prays passionately, then I must be a man who prays passionately. If I want Kolten to be a man who loves his wife sacrificially, then I must be a man who loves his mom sacrificially. If I desire for Caleb to be a man who loves God’s Word, then I must love God’s Word. If I want Michaela to be a woman who walks in purity, then I must be a daddy who walks in purity. If I want Merci to walk in obedience, I must be a son to my Father in heaven that walks in obedience. If I want my kids to be lovers of people, then I must live out a life that practically shows love towards other people because the garments I wear, for better or worse, will be passed on to the next generation. Sure, my kids will have to make their own choices in life, but perhaps the most important thing I can do to help them make the wisest choices that they possibly can is to cultivate my own walk with Jesus. When I am an authentic, radical lover of God it will be passed on from generation to generation.

“Father,  I say along with the psalmist in Psalm 17:15, “I will see Your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness.” I desperately want to be like You. I also want my children to be like You… to love You passionately… and to trust You completely. Help me to set the example for them. I want the garments I pass on to be holy, that You might be glorified. I love You. – Michael

 

February 10th – Why Am I Here?” [Bible reading: Ex 30:11-31:18; Mat 26:47-68; Ps 32:1-11; Prov 8:27-32]

“When He prepared the heavens, I was there, When He drew a circle on the face of the deep,… Then I was beside Him as a master craftsman;” – Proverbs 8:27-30

Wisdom is speaking here of it being present at the creation with the Lord, but we know that Jesus was there too. Genesis 1:26 declares, “Let us make man in our image”, so Jesus was not simply a Spectator, He was the Architect. Ephesians 3:9 states, “and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ;“. The Bible also declares that Jesus was not only there at creation, but that all things were created for His pleasure (Revelation 4:11).

Many times I can begin to wonder what my purpose in life is. I’ve asked the question on many occasions, “God, why am I here?” The answer is found in that verse in Revelation. I’m here to bring pleasure to my Lord. My life, my speech, my attitude, and my character should be a constant source of joy for Jesus.

“Father, do I bring you pleasure? Please forgive me when I live in such a way as to bring myself pleasure. Remind me that thats not what I was created for. I want to be a son that You delight in today. Refresh me in Your Holy Spirit, renew me in my passion, and revive me in my walk with You.  I love You. – Michael

 

February 11th – Hanging Out With Judas” [Bible reading: Ex 32:1-33:23; Mat 26:69-27:14; Ps 33:1-11; Prov 8:33-36]

“Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, ‘I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.'” – Matthew 27:3-4

Judas, after realizing what an evil thing he had done, felt horrible about it. So much so that he tried to return the money that he had taken as a bribe to betray Jesus. After the chief priests wouldn’t at first take the money back, Judas threw it on the floor and ran out into the night to hang himself. In the previous chapter (Matthew 26) we read how Peter denied knowing Jesus three times. Matthew goes into great detail describing each of the three encounters Peter had, each time adamantly denying Jesus. Both of these men had walked with Christ for over three years. Both of these men did wrong by Him.

However, here their stories become much different. One man runs off and weeps, later to be ‘reinstated’ by Jesus, totally forgiven, and then sent out to a lifetime of ministry. The other man runs off into the dark and commits suicide. What if Judas, as he was tying the rope around his neck had reconsidered? What if he had removed that rope and instead run to Golgotha and fallen at the foot of the Cross, looked up at Jesus and cried out, “Jesus, I’m so sorry! Please forgive me!” Do you think Jesus would have forgiven him? I do.

When I let Jesus down, I can chose to do one of two things: I can weep and find forgiveness in the arms of Christ, or I can allow my guilt and shame to drive me further away from Him. This is the difference between “conviction” and “condemnation”. “Conviction drives me to repentance and holiness. “Condemnation” drives me to depression and wanting to kill myself. Jesus convicts, Satan condemns. Jesus came to bring “life and life more abundantly, while Satan has come to steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10).

“Father, I know I blow it constantly. Thank You for Your Holy Spirit and for conviction. You have this beautiful way of lovingly driving me back to You. Thank You for forgiving me again and agian, I do so very much 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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January – Week Four – Daily Devos

January 22nd – “Learn It, Live It” [Bible reading: Gen. 44:1-45:28; Mat. 14:13-36; Ps 18:37-50; Prov 4:11-13]

“I have taught you in the way of wisdom; I have led you in right paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hindered, and when you run, you will not stumble. Take firm hold of instruction, do not let go; keep her, for she is your life.” – Proverbs 4:11-14

God teaches us, and gives us His wisdom. When we adhere to it – live by it, we walk in such a way so as not to stumble. It reminds me of Isaiah 40:31 where we are admonished to “wait” on the Lord and we will see similar results. Perhaps “waiting” on God and “holding fast to His wisdom” are the same?

God has given us Jesus, but He has also give us His Word (John 1 states that Jesus is His Word). This is ‘wisdom’ and I must be a man that not only loves Jesus and His Word, I better be a man who also behaves differently… and ACTS like I love Jesus and His Word. In other words, I can’t be all ‘talk’ and no ‘walk’. In John 14:24 Jesus declares, “He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me.” We’re also admonished in 1 John 5:2, “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments.”

“Father, I tire of stumbling in my walk with You, and of doubting, losing my temper, and just being selfish. Forgive me and help me live according to all I’ve learned. I don’t want just a bunch of head-knowledge. I love You deeply and want to live like it 100% of the time.” – Michael

 

January 23rd – “You Presume Too Much” [Bible reading: Gen. 46:1-47:31; Mat. 15:1-28; Ps 19:1-14; Prov 4:14-19]

“Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; Let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, and I shall be innocent of great transgression.” – Psalm 19:13

Presumptuous” is an adjective that means ‘failing to observe the limits of what is permitted or appropriate‘. Numbers 15:30-31 states that if a person commits a sin “presumptuously” that they’d be ‘cut off‘ from their people. In other words, it was a BIG deal!

After walking with the Lord for a while, I find that I have much greater knowledge about what I should and should not ‘do’. This comes with maturity in Him. However, this also means that I can’t get away with sin and plead ‘ignorance’. I’m accountable for what I know. Truly, ‘to whom much is given, much is required’ (Luke 12:48).

“Father, along with the writer of this psalm, I ask that You keep me from sin that I know You want me to avoid. I need Your conviction and Your strength to turn from evil like I know I should. Thank You. I do love You.” – Michael

 

January 24th – “Single Track” [Bible reading: Gen. 48:1-49:33; Mat. 15:29-16:12; Ps 20:1-9; Prov 4:20-27]

“Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life. Put away from you a deceitful mouth, and put perverse lips far from you. Let your eyes look straight ahead, and your eyelids look right before you.” – Proverbs 4:23-25

To “keep” something means to make sure it doesn’t get away and that it’s safe from attack. The “heart” was always thought to mean “who you are“, the “true you that directs all your thoughts and emotions“. We are being warned here to not allow ourselves to be distracted by sin, and that we should always watch our mouths… our words can show where we really are with the Lord (Luke 6:45).

I must constantly be “on guard“, watching what I say, and where I am “gazing“. There are many distractions in this life, but my main goal is to be the man God has called me to be. From this, I must not deter!

“Father, may my mouth – the words I speak – be pleasing to You. Keep my eyes on You and things that are holy. Forgive my wandering heart and eyes. It is You and You alone I wish to look upon and follow. I love You.  – Michael

 

January 25th – “Thou Shalt Not Sweat It” [Bible reading: Gen. 50:1-26; Ex. 1:1-2:10; Mat. 16:13-17:9; Ps 21:1-13; Prov 5:1-6]

“But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” – Genesis 50:20

God had miraculously transformed the disgustingness of man’s evil and sinful behavior into a diamond of Divine blessing. He still does this! He can take what the devil means for harm and turn it totally around for His glory!

When I am going through a tough season and feel alone and forgotten and “sinned against”… like Joseph must have felt many times during certain seasons of his life… I can take hope in the fact that God causes “all things to work together for good…” (Romans 8:28).

“Father, help me to always trust that You are in control. Why should I fear or be anxious about ANYTHING, when You are God, You are in control, and You are on the throne? I love You, and today I put my trust in You, my King.  – Michael

 

January 26th – “Ready On The Fly” [Bible reading: Ex. 2:11-3:22; Mat. 17:10-27; Ps 22:1-18; Prov 5:7-14]

“However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.” – Matthew 17:21

The context: Jesus has cast out a demon, something His disciples failed to do. It’s a hardcore ministry. Notice, He didn’t stop everything He was doing and pray and call a fast… He simply cast out the demon. This means that He must have lived a life where prayer and fasting were prevalent.

Prayer and Fasting should be in my regular routine of life. I never know when God is going to ask me to be involved in hardcore ministry. The truth is, I can keep myself ready on the fly by practicing these disciplines regularly.

“Father, forgive me for only crying out to You when I’m in dire-straits. Successful ministry will flow as I walk with You in intimacy on a consistent and regular basis. Empower me for whatever You call me to do today. Thanks for being the love of my life.” – Michael

 

January 27th – “Ssssssspeech Problems?” [Bible reading: Ex. 4:1-5:21; Mat. 18:1-20; Ps 22:19-31; Prov 5:15-21]

“Then Moses said to the Lord, ‘O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.’ So the Lord said to him, ‘Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the Lord?  Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what to say’.” – Exodus 4:10-12

Moses pointed out his own flaws and all the reasons why he couldn’t obey God and do what God had called him to do. These were only excuses, as if God were dependent upon Moses anyway. God answers and reminded Moses of Who He is and what He would do.

God can do a lot… with a little. When He chooses to use us, it is an act of His grace. He doesn’t have to use us. But being a tool in the Master’s hand is a privilege and an honor. Often I fear doing what the Lord asks… especially public speaking… thinking my sssslur or stupid sense of humor will distract from what God wants to accomplish. But I must always remember that God equips who He calls!

Father, thank You for all my flaws. May I never shy away from what You call me to do. It’s not by my own power anyway, but Your Spirit (Zech. 4:6). I love You so very much!” – Michael

 

January 28th – “Feeling Sheepish” [Bible reading: Ex. 5:22-7:25; Mat. 18:21-19:12; 23:1-6; Prov 5:22-23]

“The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.” – Psalm 23:1

God was often referred to as a Shepherd in the Old Testament (Psalm 74:1; Isaiah 40:11; Ezekiel 34:11-16). When Jesus said, “I Am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd gives His life for His sheep in John 10:11, He not only was declaring Himself to be “God”, but He was also showing the depth of His love for those following Him.

Just as shepherds were known for their meticulous care for their sheep, even their willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice for them (1 Samuel 17:34-35), so too was Jesus. What then am I truly in “want” of? Anything I think I “need” suffers in comparison to God laying down His life for me that I might obtain relationship with Him and eternal life.

“Father, thank You for Jesus. Thank You for loving me enough to lay Your life down that I might live! Thank You for shepherding, leading, feeding, and protecting me. May I follow You today and rest in Your presence.” – Michael

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January – Week Three – Daily Devos

January 15th – “Broken to See” [Bible reading: Gen. 31:17-32:12; Mat. 10:24-11:6; Ps 13:1-6; Prov 3:16-18]

“I am not worthy of  the least of all the mercies and of all the truth which You have shown Your servant; for I crossed over this Jordan with my staff, and now I have become two companies.” – Genesis 32:10

Jacob has messed up royally and has been on the run. After hearing his brother is on his way to deal with him… he is afraid. He begins his heartfelt cry unto the Lord, with this statement of humility and recognition of God’s amazing grace.

Why, when our backs are against the wall, do we wait to humbly cry out to God? Because He uses those situations to break us and bring us to the place where we finally see His goodness… in the light of our lameness.

“Father, thank You for how merciful You’ve been. Forgive my ‘discontentedness’. I’m not exactly where my flesh wants to be, but I’m content that I’m where You’ve chosen me to be for now. I love You.” – Michael

 

January 16th – “Get Real” [Bible reading: Gen. 32:13-34:31; Mat. 11:7-30; Ps 14:1-7; Prov 3:19-20]

“As they departed, Jesus began to say to the multitudes concerning John: ‘What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind?… A man clothed in soft garments? Indeed, those who wear soft clothing are in king’s houses.’” – Matthew 11:7-8

Jesus was declaring that His cousin John was AUTHENTIC. He wasn’t like the reeds that grew near the Jordan River that blew back and forth with the wind. In other words, he wasn’t someone who lacks conviction and sways back and forth in their faith. He also wasn’t someone who wears fancy clothes, when it was reported that he wore skins and ate bugs. In other words, what you saw with John… and what you heard about John (in this case, his humble attire) was exactly what you got when you saw him in person. He didn’t put out a phony message about himself and then when you got a look ‘behind the curtain’ you’d see something totally different.

How often we are tempted to be wishy-washy in our faith and be passionate for God one moment, then selfish the next, much like that reed that sways with the wind. Or to put on a ‘show’ or a ‘face’ that we’re one way in public, when in reality we are another way when no one is looking. We’re told in Revelation 3:16, “So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.”

“Father, I long to be a man, like John, that Jesus would brag about – a man who doesn’t act wishy-washy and fake. Forgive me when I do act this way. I know it makes You sick. Convict me and strengthen me today to be authentically radical for you at all times. I love You… help me live like I love You today.” – Michael

 

January 17th – “New Name” [Bible reading: Gen. 35:1-36:43; Mat. 12:1-21; Ps 15:1-5; Prov 3:21-26]

“And so it was, as her soul was departing (for she died), that she called his name Ben-Oni; but his father called him Benjamin.” – Genesis 35:18

Ben-Oni means, ‘Son of my sorrow‘, while Benjamin means ‘right-hand son‘, which is also interpreted to mean, ‘most honored son‘. Although Israel (formerly known as Jacob) must have been heart-broken at the loss of his wife’s life, he wasn’t going to let his son grow up with a name like that. He wasn’t going to let him be cursed with that bummer-of-a-name forever.

Although I was born with a sinful nature, as a son of the world… I have been Born Again and have been given a new name. Isaiah 62:2-4 declares, “…You shall be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord will name.You shall be a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.You shall no longer be termed ‘Forsaken’…“. I am adopted, as a son, and precious to my Father. He won’t let me live my life under the curse of my ‘old name’, but has re-named me and called me, ‘son'(Galatians 4:5 and Ephesians 1:5).

“Father, thank You for re-naming me and calling me Your son. I love that I can call You, “Abba Father’ (Romans 8:15 and Galatians 4:6) and that You see me as precious. I love You and want to make You proud today.” – Michael

 

January 18th – “True Inheritance” [Bible reading: Gen. 37:1-38:30; Mat. 12:22-45; Ps 16:1-11; Prov 3:27-32]

“O Lord, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You maintain my lot.” – Psalm 16:5

Land was often given as an inheritance. Here, the psalmist declares that not only is the promised land something he desires and looks forward to receiving, but the Lord Himself is the thing that he desires and needs most.

When I think of all I gain from following Jesus (joy, love, peace, eternal life in heaven, etc…), what is to be most desired? Truly, the intimacy I have with God, through Jesus, is all that matters.

“Father, may I never be so caught up in ‘stuff’ that I lose out on relationship with You. No amount of activity in Your service, can make up for neglecting time in Your presence. I love You so much.” – Michael

 

January 19th – “Sin Against God” [Bible reading: Gen. 39:1-41:16; Mat. 12:46-13:23; Ps 17:1-15; Prov 3:33-35]

“… How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” – Genesis 39:9b

Joseph knew that to give in to a temptation that promised a momentary feeling of pleasure (sleeping with his boss’ wife), would not only be a huge sin against his boss, but, even more so, a sin against his God.

When I trade my integrity, and what I know the Lord requires of me, for a moment of sinful pleasure, I am first and foremost sinning against God. As David prayed in Psalm 51:4, “Against You, and You only have I sinned”, so too I find that the biggest loss I feel when I sin is the loss of intimate relationship with my Lord.

“Father, please forgive my many sins. Each one of them are a result of me choosing to not care about my relationship with You being damaged. The thing is… I DO care about You so very much! I’m so sorry that I do this. I long to walk uprightly,  for no other reason other than You desire it. I love You.” – Michael

 

January 20th – “Incredible Gains” [Bible reading: Gen. 41:17-42:17; Mat. 13:24-46; Ps 18:1-15; Prov 4:1-6]

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for the joy of it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” – Matthew 13:44

The kingdom of heaven is so awesome that it’s worth everything! All we could ever hope to possess is worth losing for the joy of obtaining it! This reminds me of Paul’s words in Philippians 3:8, “Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for Whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them rubbish, that I may gain Christ.

If I could truly know Jesus and be 100% of His kingdom, would I not give up anything and everything else? Why do we cling to the material world and the acceptance of man like it’s so very important? In the light of eternity NOTHING compares to being in relationship with God through Jesus!

Father, I renounce this world and all of it’s trappings. I want to know You way more than I do right now. Not know ABOUT You… but know You. Help me to be so close to You that I begin to smell like You to everyone I meet (2 Corinthians 2:15-16 – “For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life…“). I love You, Lord.” – Michael

 

January 21st – “The Complete Teacher” [Bible reading: Gen. 42:18-43:34; Mat. 13:47-14:12; Ps 18:16-36; Prov 4:7-10]

“Then He said to them, ‘Therefore every scribe instructed concerning the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things new and old…” – Matthew 13:52

 

A ‘scribe’ was one who had studied the Old Testament Scriptures. If one of them could grasp the truths that Jesus was sharing here in the New Testament, the ‘new stuff’ He was dropping on them, well… then they would be able to share some incredible treasure with others, because they would be seeing the WHOLE STORY.

Many times Christians only like the New Testament. Some preachers will only preach from the New Testament… some even only preach the ‘red-letters’ of the New Testament. However, God’s Story didn’t begin in the Book of Matthew… it began in Genesis. As a teacher of God’s Word, I must strive to understand both Old and New Testaments. Whenever I teach/preach, I notice it is always more impactful when I pull from the entire Bible. Every New Testament principle has an Old Testament picture.

“Father, thank You for Your Word! I love all of it. Help me have a greater understanding of it, that I may become closer to You… and teach others how they can be closer to You too. Make me a bridge between You and people. I love You.” – 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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