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 8:43-44 “Now 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 4:2a – “But 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