March – Week Eleven – Daily Devos

March 12th – “Standing O” 

[Bible reading: Numbers 16:41-18:32; Mark 16:1-20; Psalm 55:1-23; Proverbs 11:7]

“So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God.” – Mark 16:19

Mark closes His account of the Jesus story by telling us how Jesus was one moment talking with His followers and the next He was taking an invisible elevator up into the heavens. That must have been pretty cool to watch. Mark then adds that Jesus “sat down at the right hand of God“.  We next read of Jesus in Acts 7:55-56, when Stephen, a radical follower of God, was being murdered for his faith in Jesus. As Stephen was about to be stoned with rocks until he was dead, he looked up into the sky; “But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, ‘Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!’” I find it extremely interesting that Mark specifically tells us that Jesus went up to “sit down” at the right hand of God, and then Stephen specifically tells us that he saw “Jesus standing at the right hand of God“. This is huge, because it means that Jesus stood up. Jesus gave Stephen a standing ovation!

I often think about the fact that when I die and meet Jesus face-to-face I am going to hear Him say something directly to me. I pray that what I hear Him say will be, Well done My good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21). However, it’s an interesting thought that I could actually cause Jesus to stand up now, while I’m still alive! I want to be a man that receives a “Standing O” from Jesus. How can I make that happen? I believe I must be a man like Stephen; A man that is willing to lose his life for the cause of Christ.

“Father, today I choose death to self. I choose to live for You and You alone. I want to share Your love and Your good news to all, whether they like it or not, whether they criticize me or not. I want to be as bold and radical as Stephen and not care, in the least, about this life. Truly, anything I could have here, any opinion of man, pales in comparison to pleasing You. You are worthy of my praise and of my life. Help me to make a true stand for You and live in such a way as to cause You to stand. I love You, my King!” – Michael

March 13th – “Tears In A Bottle” 

[Bible reading: Numbers 19:1-20:29; Luke 1:1-25; Psalm 56:1-13; Proverbs 11:8]

“You number my wanderings; Put my tears into Your bottle; Are they not in Your book? When I cry out to You, then my enemies will turn back; This I know, because God is for me.” – Psalm 56:8-9

God is for me” is a pretty special sentiment. The idea that the ultimate Being, the Creator of the universe, the only omnipresent (everywhere at once), omniscient (all-knowing), and omnipotent (all-powerful) God is rooting for me is extremely awesome!  It’s better than the young, inexperienced boxer who has the undisputed heavy-weight champion of the world in his corner. And God is not only for us, He is compassionately caring about what you and I are going through. “You number my wanderings” points to the idea that wherever we go, whether in or out of times of joy (Psalm 121:8), God is aware.

Put my tears into Your bottle” is a reference to a practice that has been passed down through the centuries. Not only in times of antiquity and Roman times, but also the Victorian Period and during the American Civil War, and even up to today, stories have been found of how women were said to have cried into tear bottles and collect their tears of greatest joy and happiness, as well as their tears of greatest sorrow and sadness. They’d wear these small bottles around their necks all their lives. If the woman’s husband was away at war, their wives would save them until their husbands returned from battle and present the bottles to their husbands with their collected tears of joy and tragedy. This loving act would show the men how much they were adored and missed. This shines new light on the passage in Luke 7:38 that shares the story of a ‘sinful woman‘ who, “…stood at His [Jesus] feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil“.  What she may well have been doing was taking her tear bottle and pouring it on Jesus, saying, “Jesus, You have my heart. You have my greatest joys, and all my brokenness. I hold nothing back. Everything I am is Yours.” This is an awesome truth, because when we give our heart to Jesus we can be confident that He’ll take really good care of it. Why? Because God is for us.

“Father, like the sinful woman I want to pour my love on You; All my joys, all my hopes, all my fears, and all my brokenness. I give it all to You, knowing that You care for me more than I can even imagine. Thank You for watching my silly wandering, but also caring about each and every tear I’ve ever cried. You are a good, good Father… and I love You!” – Michael

March 14th – “Cross-Eyed” 

[Bible reading: Numbers 21:1-22:20; Luke 1:26-56; Psalm 57:1-11; Proverbs 11:9-11]

“So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.” – Numbers 21:9

As the people of Israel journeyed through the desert, they often complained about their living conditions. This particular time God sent fiery serpents into their midst and the snakes bit them and many of them died because of the snake bites. This caused them to confess that they had sinned and they begged their leader, Moses, to go to God on their behalf and ask Him to forgive them and take away the snakes. Moses did this, and was then instructed by the Lord to make an image [statue] of one of these fiery snakes wrapped around a pole, and then set it up in a place where anyone could look at it. If the people, when they had been bitten by one of the snakes, would simply look upon the image, they would be saved.

I find it interesting that God didn’t take away the serpents, but had Moses put up a pole that people could look to for salvation. John 3:14-18 declares: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”  These verses contain the single most quoted verse in all the Bible, John 3:16, but how many people truly understand its context? Much like the people in Moses’ day had to look upon the pole that had been lifted up, so too you and I must look up to the Cross, where Jesus was lifted up and killed on our behalf. God has chosen not to remove the sin from this world, just like He didn’t remove the snakes. But because of His grace, He has given us an option: We can choose to remain snake-bit by sin and die, or we can simply focus our eyes on the Cross and be saved.

“Father, thank You for making salvation something that I can simply find. Today, I choose to gaze upon Jesus – the Author and Finisher of my faith (Heb. 12:2). Please help the venom of sin not to have its desired effect on my life, and help me to live my life with You always in my sights. I love You!” – Michael

March 15th – “Go With The Flow” 

[Bible reading: Numbers 22:21-23:30; Luke 1:57-80; Psalm 58:1-11; Proverbs 11:12-13 ]

“God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” – Numbers 23:19

God had told Balaam what to say to Balak, the king of Moab, and it wasn’t good news. Wanting desperately to avoid delivering the bad news, because he knew the king would hate it, Balaam was unable to change God’s mind. Unlike the false gods of that region, who were often depicted as whimsical and easily manipulated, the God of Israel – the only, true, living God – speaks, and doesn’t change His mind.

Today, we often want things our way right away. We aren’t as concerned with what God’s will or opinion is if it doesn’t line up with ours. When God has spoken something into our hearts, whether through His Word or by His Holy Spirit, it’s not an easy thing  for us to get Him to change His mind. Isaiah 40:8 declares that “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of God stands forever.” When God convicts me of something, or directs me to ‘do’ or ‘say’ something, no matter how I might plead with Him about how uncomfortable it makes me… He doesn’t change. Am I a man who is constantly kicking against the Lord and His Word? What has He clearly spoken to me that I have acted as though He wasn’t serious about? “C’mon, Lord… You certainly didn’t mean that You really wanted me to submit to him?” “Lord, You surely wouldn’t want me to say ‘that’ to ‘them’… it could get me fired!

“Father, Your Word is true, and it is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. That means that it can guide me and keep me. Forgive me for the times I have doubted Your Word, and when I have out-and-out disobeyed what You’ve spoken because it made me uncomfortable. Today, I choose to trust You and walk according to Your ways. I want to go with where Your Word and Your Spirit is flowing. I love You!” – Michael

March 16th – “Destination Disease” 

[Bible reading: Numbers 24:1-25:18; Luke 2:1-35; Psalm 59:1-17; Proverbs 11:14]

“Where there is no counsel, the people fall; But in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” – Proverbs 11:14

In other translations, this verse is very interesting.

  • For lack of guidance a nation falls, but victory is won through many advisers.” – New International Version
  • Without wise leadership, a nation falls; there is safety in having many advisers.” – New Living Translation
  • Without good direction, people lose their way; the more wise counsel you follow, the better your chances.” – The Message
  • Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.” – English Standard Version
  • Where there is no [wise, intelligent] guidance, the people fall [and go off course like a ship without a helm], But in the abundance of [wise and godly] counselors there is victory.” – Amplified Bible

In any and every endeavor, pride is a serious enemy of self-improvement and success. When a person shuts their ears to the wisdom and advice of others, it can be devastating. The reason we do this is singular; we think we already know everything. This unteachable and prideful attitude can stagnate a person and keep them from having the impact that God intends for His followers to have. Thus, listening to multiple sources can greatly multiply our effectiveness. Be a learner. It’s been said, “We should learn as if we were to live forever, and live as if we were to die tomorrow“.

All too often I can have something called, “Destination Disease“. That’s when all I want to do is just enough to “arrive” and then simply kick back and “retire“. I must fight this tendency and be constantly learning and improving. I must not be satisfied with who I was yesterday, or what I accomplished years ago. I must look for ways to become better. This requires reading, and listening to others that have gone before me, so that they might pass on to me what they’ve learned. Musician great, Bruce Springsteen once said, “A time comes when you need to stop waiting for the man you want to become and start being the man you want to be“. In other words, I must apply what I’ve learned so far, but I also must be willing to change and grow. This requires less pride and more listening to others.

“Father, I don’t know everything. I also don’t want to stagnate. Help me die to myself and be open to instruction and guidance from others. Thank You for reminding me that I still have much to learn. May I never have that “I’ve arrived” attitude. Help my heart to be humble… and moldable, ultimately for Your glory.  I love You!” – Michael

March 17th – “What’s Your Rank?” 

[Bible reading: Numbers 26:1-51; Luke 2:36-52; Psalm 60:1-12; Proverbs 11:15]

“Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them, but His mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” – Luke 2:52-53

These verses follow the story of Jesus, at 12 years of age, being in the temple and blowing away the teachers gathered there by His “listening to them and asking them questions” (Luke 2:46). His parents had lost Him and were looking for Him (I imagine frantically) for three days! Once He was finally located, they rebuked Him for causing them to freak out (verse 48), and then they all three headed back home to Nazareth, where Luke tells us specifically that Jesus was “subject to them“.  The word ‘subject‘ is the Greek word, ‘hypotasso‘, which is defined, ‘obedient‘. However, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words states that it is primarily a military term that specifically means, “to rank under“. This is interesting, because it means that Jesus –the only Son of God, the Messiah, the One who had just made a bunch of adult scholars and teachers of the Word be ‘astonished’ – obeyed His earthly parents and considered Himself to be under them and their leadership! Joseph was a carpenter. Mary was an unschooled, young mother (some believe to be approximately 26-28 years old at this time). Jesus was the Anointed One from God!

Later in Jesus’ life, approximately 18-20 years later, Jesus is teaching and is told that His mother and brothers wish to see Him (Matthew 12:47-48). Seemingly, they don’t understand what He’s up to and want Him to stop. However, at this time, Jesus doesn’tsubmit‘. He lovingly continues His ministry and refers to the crowd who is listening to Him as His ‘mother and brothers‘. What changed? Was it that He and His family no longer got along? No. Jesus still loved and cared for His family (John 19:26). The answer lies in the fact that Jesus “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men“. Jesus grew in ‘wisdom‘ (intellect and practical holiness), ‘stature‘ (physically He grew to adult size), ‘favor with God‘ (spiritual intimacy with His heavenly Father), and ‘favor with men‘ (social respect and acceptance). He grew to understood Who He was and His unique calling. As a 12 year old boy, His calling was to submit to the God-given authorities that had been placed in His life. As an adult man in His thirties, His calling was to submit to His Father’s will… even if there would be a cost.

Wherever I am in life, I am to be a man that is submitted to whatever God has called me to. The God-given authorities that He has placed over me are there for a reason. God knows the reason, I don’t have to. I’m simply called to submit to them, as unto the Lord. However, first and foremost, I am to always submit to the Lord. If there were ever to come a time when the authorities over me were asking me to live contrary to God’s Word, then I would need to lovingly decline (Acts 4:19).

“Father, You are in control of my life. The authorities that You’ve set in place over me are there because You wanted them to be there. I thank You for them and pray that You’d bless them and continue to guide their lives. Help me to remember that as I submit to them, I’m really submitting to You. Take away my pride and that feeling I get that I don’t want to “rank under” anyone else. I see in Scripture where even You submitted to Your authorities when they didn’t clash with what Your call was, and I want to be like You. Thank You for having Your hand upon my life, I don’t deserve it, but I sure appreciate it. I love You with all my heart.” – Michael

March 18th – “I Wanna Rock!” 

[Bible reading: Numbers 26: 52-28:15; Luke 3:1-22; Psalm 61:1-8; Proverbs 11:16-17]

“Hear my cry, O God; Attend to my prayer. From the end of the earth I will cry to You, when my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” – Psalm 61:1-2

The writer of this prayer is exhausted. In poetic language they are describing how they’ve come to the end of their rope and all they can do is cry out for help from God alone. They ask that God lead them “to the rock that is higher” than they are. This is an interesting request and brings to mind the story of the people of Israel in Numbers 20, and how they were thirsty and the Lord quenched their collective thirst with water supernaturally coming out of a rock in the desert. This provision by God is mentioned at other times in the Scriptures (Deuteronomy 8:15, Nehemiah 9:15, and multiple times throughout the Book of Psalms – For example: Psalms 105:41He opened the rock, and water gushed out; It ran in the dry places like a river.“) The psalmist knows that supernatural provision and quenching of thirst can come through this ‘rock’, and he wants it. 1 Corinthians 10:4 interestingly describes Jesus Christ as that ‘Rock‘ (“and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ“).

One day a a great rabbi of around Jesus’ time, Rabbi Akiva, came across a rock by a river that had been greatly worn away by a slow drip of water falling on it over the centuries. He remarked, “What has hollowed this stone? Is it not a small drop of water falling on it day after day? If soft water can wear away hard stone, how much more should the words of the Scriptures, which are like iron, carve their way into my heart, which is flesh and blood? It is interesting to note that it was not one drip of water, but the constant force, drip after drip, year after year, that had a great effect. Often times we Christians think a big event like a weekend conference or a special-guest speaker will change peoples’ lives. But most of the time, God’s Spirit tends not to work through big “splashes”. Instead, through the slow drip of spending time with Jesus through study and prayer, day after day, year after year, He shapes us into what He wants us to be.

“Father, You are the Rock of my salvation, You are the hope of my life. I know that time spent in Your presence, day after day, is the only thing that will quench the thirst in my soul. Today, lead me to Jesus, the Rock that is way higher than I am. I love You, my Rock!” – Michael

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March – Week Ten – Daily Devos

March 5th – “Shema” 

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

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

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

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

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

March 6th – “The Joy of the Lord” 

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

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

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

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

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

March 7th – “Being Fake is Being Wicked” 

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

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

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

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

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

March 8th – “An Inconvenient Truth” 

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

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

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

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

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

March 9th – “EGO” 

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

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

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

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

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

March 10th – “Life Sentence” 

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

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

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

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

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

March 11th – “No Wannabes” 

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

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

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

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

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

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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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Am I Too Clingy?

cling-on-orangutan-pic-solent-633420222A few weeks ago my pastor (Al Pittman – Calvary Worship Center, Feb. 7th, 2016) said something in his message that really blew me away. He stated, “If Jesus is not the Prize… then you are running the wrong race.”

This has stirred me up big time, and caused me to ask many questions: Is JESUS the reason I do what I do? Is it Him alone? Is His glory… making HIS name famous… all that truly matters to me?

I’m finding that my answers truly matter to GOD, and that He is greatly interested in whether or not I’m clinging to Him.

Jeremiah 13:1-7Thus the Lord said to me: “Go and get yourself a linen sash, and put it around your waist, but do not put it in water.” So I got a sash according to the word of the Lord, and put it around my waist. And the word of the Lord came to me the second time, saying, “Take the sash that you acquired, which is around your waist, and arise, go to the Euphrates, and hide it there in a hole in the rock.” So I went and hid it by the Euphrates, as the Lord commanded me. Now it came to pass after many days that the Lord said to me, “Arise, go to the Euphrates, and take from there the sash which I commanded you to hide there.” Then I went to the Euphrates and dug, and I took the sash from the place where I had hidden it; and there was the sash, ruined. It was profitable for nothing. (NKJV)

Basically the Lord would have people, men like Jeremiah, do some pretty strange stuff in order to make a point. In this case, the LORD commands Jeremiah to buy a linen cloth (sash) and wrap it around his waist. This was something like a belt that would be part of any Levite priest’s wardrobe.

The priests wore this linen sash as a symbol of purity and fitness for service. In the book of Leviticus, the priests were commanded to bathe before dressing so that none of the holy garments would get spoiled with water.

Leviticus 16:4 – “He shall put the holy linen tunic and the linen trousers on his body; he shall be girded with a linen sash, and with the linen turban he shall be attired. Theseare holy garments. Therefore he shall wash his body in water, and put them on.” (NKJV).

Just as the linen stood for purity and service, Israel was supposed to be a people of purity– a kingdom of priests– who were fit for service in God’s kingdom.

So up to this point, all is normal. The priest, puts the sash on tight. It’s clean. He’s clean. Everyone is happy. It all points to the fact that he is fit for service to the Lord.

But then the Lord has Jeremiah do something a bit awkward. He commands him to travel a great distance and hide the clean sash in the crevice of a rock… and just leave it there. He obeyed and didn’t return until the Lord told him to… many days later. When he went to retrieve the sash he found it not only dirty, but totally ruined and worth nothing.

God was trying to say something pretty powerful to these people… and to us today.

I think He was saying that Israel/Judah was completely ruined, useless to God because of her sin. Just like the sash had been ruined by dirt, so too, God’s people had been ruined and spoiled by their sin. What catches me about the wording of this story are the words: “profitable for nothing”… other translations have: “totally worthless”.

I can’t help but notice that the belt was only tarnished by the dirt when it was removed from it’s rightful place – clinging to Jeremiah.

So, because the sash represents God’s people… and Jeremiah, I believe, represents the Lord. The picture God is going out of His way to paint for us is this: When we are not clinging to God, we become ruined and “profitable for nothing” or “totally worthless”.

Luke 10:38-42 – As they continued their travel, Jesus entered a village. A woman by the name of Martha welcomed him and made him feel quite at home. She had a sister, Mary, who sat before the Master, hanging on every word he said. But Martha was pulled away by all she had to do in the kitchen. Later, she stepped in, interrupting them. “Master, don’t you care that my sister has abandoned the kitchen to me? Tell her to lend me a hand.”  The Master said, “Martha, dear Martha, you’re fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it—it’s the main course, and won’t be taken from her.” (The Message)

Today, as we seek to honor God by serving Him… let us remember that we are totally worthless unless we are clinging to Him.

Michael, what exactly does that mean?

It means that we are thinking about Him, talking to Him, praising Him, worshiping Him, loving Him, remembering Him, asking Him for strength… a good attitude… a smile… an opportunity.

The Main Course is Jesus. We either cling to Him…or waste away. He is truly the Reason we’re here today, doing what we are doing. He is awesome. He is all that matters.

Jesus.

The Word explains to us that God made us for His pleasure (Phil. 2:13). If that’s true… and it is… if you and I are living only for ourselves, our careers, our money, our own happiness, we’ll be miserable and useless. But if we live to walk with and worship the Lord, by abiding in Him… clinging to Him radically and passionately, then we are truly fulfilling the reason for our existence.

So, along with Pastor Al’s statement:“If Jesus is not the Prize… then you are running the wrong race” I’d like to add another simple question. It’s a question that just might help determine if it really is Jesus that you and I are clinging to today: “If heaven had everything you could ever want… but JESUS was NOT there, would you still want to go?”

Today, may JESUS be all that we cling to.

Much Love! – Michael

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