January 8th – “Who’s On First?” [Bible reading: Gen. 18:16-19:38; Mat. 6:25-7:14; Ps 8:1-9; Prov 2:6-15]
“But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” – Matthew 6:33
Jesus is teaching His disciples about material things and how, as His followers, they should not be concerned with the same stuff that the world is concerned with. Money and ‘stuff’ are nothing to waste your life running after, when He is your God. He promises that if their priorities are right, He’ll take care of the rest.
Much time is often wasted worrying.
However, if God is good… and if He is all-powerful… and if He is my #1 priority, and my life… then what could I possibly have to worry about? If I’m worrying, maybe one of those things isn’t true?
“Father, I want You to be my everything. I’m sorry I often put other things before You. I find the result of doing that to be fear and anxiety. Cleanse me and constantly remind me that You are to be my #1. I do so deeply love You.” – Michael
January 9th – “Authority Always Wins” [Bible reading: Gen. 20:1-22:24; Mat. 7:15-29; Ps 9:1-12; Prov 2:16-22]
“For He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” – Matthew 7:29
Jesus amazed the crowds with the way He taught with authority. Other first-century rabbis (Jewish teachers of the Scriptures) would appeal to the authority of other rabbinic predecessors. But Jesus would say, “You have heard it said… but I say...”. He based all He ever said… on Himself, not some other previous teacher.
I think it’s super interesting that Jesus’ teaching “with authority” was something that crowds admired. Why do you think that was? Maybe people were sick of hearing about God from those who themselves had only heard about God? I think the same thing is true today. Where are those who have truly experienced God, and can speak with first-hand experience and authority?
“Father, I want to know You so well that when I tell others about You, they can tell I’m talking about Someone I know… not just Someone I know about. Draw me close to You. I love You more than anything.” – Michael
January 10th – “Family Matters” [Bible reading: Gen. 23:1-24:51; Mat. 8:1-17; Ps 9:12-20; Prov 3:1-6]
“Now when Jesus had come into Peter’s house, He saw his wife’s mother lying sick with fever. So He touched her hand, and the fever left her. And she arose and served them.” – Matthew 8:14-15
Mention of Peter’s wife’s mom confirms that Peter was definitely married. He also, apparently, owned a home. Interesting that in Matthew 19:27 Peter says that he had left “all and followed (Jesus)“. By “all” he must not have meant his family and house.
I think I’ve always assumed Peter and the other disciples had no families or homes, maybe due to the fact that the Bible tells us that Jesus “had no place to lay His head“. But apparently they did! This means that I can also have a family, and a home… and be a radical disciple. Jesus healing Peter’s family member and visiting Peter’s home, shows He loved them and even approved of His disciples having families, and homes.
“Father, forsaking everything to follow You does not mean my family. Help me to never put ministry before them. May I follow You whole-heartedly and be a great husband and father/grandfather. You have set the example for me by being such an awesome Father to me. I love you so much!” – Michael
January 11th – “Inquire Within” [Bible reading: Gen. 24:52-26:16; Mat. 8:18-34; Ps 10:1-15; Prov 3:7-8]
“But the children struggled together within her; and she said, ‘If all is well, why am I like this?’ So she went to inquire of the Lord.” – Genesis 25:22
After not being able to have children for a long time, God miraculously enabled Rebekah to conceive. As awesome and exciting as that was, she began to be in discomfort – not knowing that she was carrying twins who were fighting within her. The pain caused her to seek God herself. Earlier, when she was hurting because she was unable to bear children, we were told that her husband had done the pleading on her behalf.
Many lessons I see here: A husband who cared for his wife’s inability to have kids enough to “plead” with God. A God who hears prayer. But honestly, I am must struck by a wife who, when in physical pain, goes to the Lord herself. Why did Rebekah go to God when she felt the pain within her, but not earlier when she was barren? Maybe her constant disappointment in not getting what she wanted caused her to not go to the Lord? Perhaps once she saw that God was real and cared for her, she felt confident to go to Him with her other concerns?
“Father, I think my trust in You is sometimes dependent upon You doing what I want You to do. If You do ‘this’ – THEN I’ll trust going to You with other struggles within me. Forgive me for this. May I be a man that always goes to You first, knowing that You love me, are sovereign, and trustworthy. I love You.” – Michael
January 12th – “Stay Fresh” [Bible reading: Gen. 26:17-27:46; Mat. 9:1-17; Ps 10:16-18; Prov 3:9-10]
“Honor the Lord with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase; so your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine.” – Proverbs 3:9-10
“Firstfruits” were the earliest and BEST of the crop. Those who honor God with their BEST will be blessed in such a way that they’ll be able to give (honor) Him even more. Luke 12:48 states, “…to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.”
At times, I can offer the “bare minimum”. I’m not talking only about money, but other things too; passion, devotion, service, etc. God is awesome… and has been so good to me for so long… should I not consistently offer my very best? Not just to receive more for selfish reasons, but to in-turn honor the Lord even more with that which I have received.
“Father, I want to be a man You fill with new-wine. I don’t want to become ‘old’ and ‘stale’, help me to offer only my best to You… so that I can consistently bring You honor and glory with my life. I love You.” – Michael
January 13th – “Guard the Basics” [Bible reading: Gen. 28:1-29:35; Mat. 9:18-38; Ps 11:1-7; Prov 3:11-12]
“If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” – Psalm 11:3
The psalmist is describing how the enemy is poised for attack. In verse 1, he states, “Do you expect me to be like a bird‘ – an animal that is defenseless and that can only fly away rather than stand its ground and fight. He is saying, “No way! I have to fight, for the Lord’s sake!” The foundations of God’s kingdom cannot be shaken by the wicked. The righteous serve a righteous God.
The enemy (wicked) will often strike at the very foundations of my faith. The attack is always against the WORD of God… and the GOODNESS of God… and the SOVEREIGNTY of God. These are the foundations of my faith, without them what can I do? (see Genesis 3:1-5 for an example of exactly how Satan does this)
“Father, strengthen me today in my faith. Thank You for Your Word, and for how good You have been to me! I declare today that YOU are Lord and Boss and in control. I will trust in You and rest in the fact that my whole life is built upon You – a Sure Foundation! I love You.” – Michael
January 14th – “Why Not Me, Lord?” [Bible reading: Gen. 30:1-31:16; Mat. 10:1-23; Ps 12:1-8; Prov 3:13-15]
“And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.” – Matthew 11:6
John the baptist is having his doubts. The cousin of Jesus, the man who referred to Jesus as “the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29), the guy whom Jesus would say was the greatest guy born of women (Matthew 11:11)… is doubting. So, he sends messengers to Jesus to ask if He really is the promised Messiah. Jesus responds by declaring that He is doing all the things the Messiah was prophesied to do (in Isaiah 29:18-9; 35:5-6; 61:1)… and then Jesus makes this interesting statement, “And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me“. What’s up with that last statement?
When I hear how God is moving and touching others… I should rejoice. However, often times my tendency is to be ‘offended’ by saying something like, “God, why them… and not me?” John, I imagine, expected the Messiah to overthrow Rome, as many others thought that He would do. Why wouldn’t Jesus come and rescue him out of prison if Jesus really was the Messiah? He’s healing and touching others, if He has this huge following… why not come and deliver His own cousin!? I can see how this could cause John to be big-time offended, as he sat rotting in prison, while Jesus went around doing great things for everyone else, but him. So, Jesus ends his confirmation that He truly is the Messiah with the words, “Tell John that he’ll be blessed if he doesn’t get offended. It’s not about him right now. It’s about the Kingdom.”
“Father, when You don’t do what ‘I want’ or in the ways that ‘I want’, help me trust You and not be offended (Proverbs 18:19). I love to hear how You are moving and rescuing people… even if its not me. Remind me once again, that it’s not about me… but You and Your Kingdom! I love You.” – Michael
It’s hard to believe that it was almost a year ago that I visited the Holy Land (Jerusalem/Israel). I loved my trip so very much! Today, as I was remembering my journey to Israel, I recalled a powerful thing I learned. I thought I’d write down some of my thoughts. I pray you are encouraged… and if you make it to the very end of this blog, I believe you’ll be truly blessed:
I went to many different High Schools. My first, was Livermore High School in Livermore, California. I remember one day our school was surprisingly visited by police officers with big, foaming-at-the-mouth German Shepherd dogs. The dogs sniffed every single locker looking for drugs. As a freshman, I remember being extremely intimidated… and thinking to myself, “If I ever do drugs… I’m NEVER hiding them in my locker!” By my senior year, my family had moved to Oregon and I was going to a little public school in Riddle, Oregon. Once again, our school was surprised by the police who were doing a random drug search through the lockers. This time, however, the police brought a single beagle. Literally, a little Snoopy-dog! I remember laughing out loud and thinking how UN-intimidated I was! Honestly, it was pretty hard to take it all seriously.
I wonder if people take us seriously sometimes when we say we are “Christians”. Sometimes we wonder why they’re not more impressed. Could it be that it is because, truthfully… we’re all HYPE.
I remember reading a story about the University of Michigan’s Football coach in 1938. His nickname was “Go-get-em-Yost “… the reason this was his nickname was because he was great at getting his players hyped up. Once, when playing another team at the other team’s home, Go-get-em-Yost was in the locker room screaming at his team and really hyping them up. He said something like, “Okay men, we’re going to go out those doors! We’re going to go out on that field! We’re going to WIN!” The team all yelled and hollered and in unison ran out of the locker room, took a wrong turn, and all fell right into the school’s pool! The entire team, yelling and screaming… ran right into the pool! They had to play the entire game soaking wet!
That’s sorta like what HYPE often does… we can get all excited, then sink miserably.
The truth is, we’re called to be SALT and LIGHT – Salt brings flavor and creates thirst others. It doesn’t simply ‘hype’ them up… it truly makes them thirsty! Likewise, light illuminates darkness. By the way… It only takes a little bit of light to extinguish darkness.
I wonder if we Christians don’t take Jesus’ command seriously in John 15:5, “Without Me, you can do nothing.” We attempt to do it all in our own energy. When the truth is that we desperately need the Holy Spirit in us… empowering us… enabling us to do what we are called by the Master to do. Do you know what one of the biggest differences between Jesus and the Holy Spirit is? The Holy Spirit is with us and can be everywhere, He is not limited geographically like Jesus was. Because of this, the Holy Spirit offers a greater intimacy (the Disciples could see Jesus and try to imitate Him, but even Jesus said it would be better if He left (John 16:6-7), because He’d send the Holy Spirit (Comforter).
Again, an example from my high school years. I was on the track team and competed in the Pole Vault. Because the school I was at was so small, we didn’t have a coach that knew anything about the Pole Vault. So I went to the library and ordered some VHS videos (this was in the days before YouTube). I would watch those videos over and over… then go out to the track and try and imitate what I had seen. I watched and imitated, but never really got that great, because I didn’t have a TEACHER… a COACH. What’s so awesome about the Holy Spirit is that He leads us and guides us… from within!
Galations 2:20 – (this has been called the “POWER VERSE” – 2:20 Power) – “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me…”
Many Christians’ walks are based on imitation not impartation.
I want to read a passage of Scripture that has illuminated this idea to me in a powerful way. It’s found in the Old Testament Book of Ezekiel, chapter 47. Here’s a little background: Jerusalem has just been wiped out, the Babylonians have wasted the city. People are depressed and discouraged – Heaviness over the whole country – they’re wiped! Prophetically, the Lord begins to reveal to Ezekiel a better day that’s coming when Jesus will come back and establish peace for a period of 1,000 years (called the Millinium). This will be a time where everyone abides under his own vine, and every man will experience health and prosperity to the highest degree. The mountains and the hills shall break forth in song and the trees of the fields shall clap their hands and the lion will like down with the Lamb. Everything will be right… and the way it was meant to be.
Ezekiel 47:1, 7-12 – “1 Then he brought me back to the door of the temple; and there was water, flowing from under the threshold of the temple toward the east, for the front of the temple faced east; the water was flowing from under the right side of the temple, south of the altar…7 When I returned, there, along the bank of the river, were very many trees on one side and the other. 8 Then he said to me: “This water flows toward the eastern region, goes down into the valley, and enters the sea. When it reaches the sea, its waters are healed. 9 And it shall be that every living thing that moves, wherever the rivers go, will live. There will be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters go there; for they will be healed, and everything will live wherever the river goes. 10 It shall be that fishermen will stand by it from En Gedi to En Eglaim; they will be places for spreading their nets. Their fish will be of the same kinds as the fish of the Great Sea, exceedingly many. 11 But its swamps and marshes will not be healed; they will be given over to salt. 12 Along the bank of the river, on this side and that, will grow all kinds of trees used for food; their leaves will not wither, and their fruit will not fail. They will bear fruit every month, because their water flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for medicine.”
This river begins to flow from the East side of the Temple… and trickles to the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea is called that because there is NOTHING alive in it. It is super salty. There is nothing that can survive in its’ waters, due to all the salt. But in this passage we’re told that one day, all of a sudden, lots of healing, life and fruitfulness will begin to happen wherever the river flows. Where the river does not flow remains dead and gross.
Where is this River? What is this River?
John 7:37-39 declares that the Holy Spirit is the River. “On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given,because Jesus was not yet glorified.“
Acts 1:8 says, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” That word “upon” is interesting, it’s ‘eph’ in Greek, which means ‘over’ or ‘overflowing from’.
Jesus is saying, “I know you believe in Me and that you have the Holy Spirit inside of you when I breathed on you, but wait until I leave and the Holy Spirit overflows from within you.”
But where does the Water begin?
IN THE TEMPLE – (vs. 1 – “Then he brought me back to the door of the temple; and there was water, flowing from under the threshold of the temple toward the east, for the front of the temple faced east; the water was flowing from under the right side of the temple, south of the altar”)
This speaks of Devotion to God. Where does the healing waters begin in your life? In God’s house, the Temple. When you are devoted to the Lord and you are saying, “I want more of You, Lord, in my life!” Matthew 5:6 says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be filled.” In a sense, you are saying, “I’m tired of the deadness, the dryness, the dirtiness within me, I need your river.”
AT THE ALTAR – (vs. 1 – “Then he brought me back to the door of the temple; and there was water, flowing from under the threshold of the temple toward the east, for the front of the temple faced east; the water was flowing from under the right side of the temple, south of the altar)
This speaks of Death to Self – Place where you die is the altar – rams, lambs, birds… all killed and slaughtered at the altar. People in the church often say, “I want more of the Holy Spirit.” … but why was He given in the first place? He wasn’t given so we could all feel goose-bumps and neat. He was given so that we might be WITNESSES – Read Acts 4:23-31.
We need to pray for boldness – less of us and more of God in our lives!
TO THE WILDERNESS – (vs 8 – Then he said to me: “This water flows toward the eastern region, goes down into the valley, and enters the sea. When it reaches the sea, its waters are healed. )
This speaks of Duty to Others – Acts 1:8 “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” You are going to go out into the wilderness of the World and refresh, renew, bring life to all those that are sick, dry and dead on the inside. The river will flow to all those places that need to be infused with LIFE. God says, “I’m not using you for the purpose of you… but for the purpose of others.”
I’m NOT TALKING ABOUT HOLY SPIRIT HYPE… as a matter of fact, it’s the opposite: The word ‘witness’ is the Greek word ‘marteo’, the word in which we get ‘martyr’. You’ll be so much like Jesus, Whom they crucified and martyred, that they’ll want to kill you too.
Do you see this? The Flow of God’s River starts with:
- DEVOTION TO GOD in the Temple (church)
- DEATH TO SELF at the altar
- DUTY TO OTHERS to the wilderness
Notice that as it flows, the order in which it goes: verses 2-6 …
“Son of man, HAVE YOU SEEN THIS?”
The path starting in the Temple, to altar, but between the altar and the wilderness is the Measuring Man , Who takes Ezekiel by the hand and walks a thousand cubits (¼ mile) and says, “Go in” – Water goes to the ankles
Walked another ¼ mile – Water to the knees
Walked another ¼ mile – Water to the loins.
Walked another ¼ mile – Water over his head carrying him away.
The Lord says, “HAVE YOU SEEN THIS?” Because this is the order of what should be happening in our walk with Jesus.
1. Ankles – We start walking with Jesus and we get our feet wet. We’re standing on the Rock. “This is awesome, my sins are forgiven!”
2. Knees – Michael, I want you to learn what it is to pray when your knees are knockin’ (best thing to do when knees knock is to kneel on them). We can do more than pray, but we can’t do anything until we pray.
3. Loins – Reproducing spiritually, healthy Christians grow just like farms grow…
4. Over Heads – (Not in control of your life anymore… the River is what is in control.)
I think God is still asking today, “Have you seen this?” I think God will take us as far as we want to go… as deep as we want to be… so PLUNGE IN.
Because without Him… you can do nothing! God’s wants us to be so full of Him that we become Salt and Light to this World… out there in the wilderness.
Gang, God wants for you and I to receive POWER (dunamas)… to be DYNAMITE WITNESSES.”
Lastly, for those who’ve made it this far down… you’re about to be blessed: I want to share that as I stood on the Mount of Olives last year, I remember thinking of this passage in Ezekiel. I remember thinking, “How is water going to flow out of that Eastern Gate and all the way to the Dead Sea?” For it to do so, it would literally have to flow UP THIS MOUNTAIN… because between the Dead Sea and the Temple Mount it is NOT flat! I remember thinking, “There is just no way that water could flow up a hill!” But on the plane ride home I found an incredible verse! Check this out: Zechariah 14:4 – “And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, Which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, From east to west, Making a very large valley; Half of the mountain shall move toward the north And half of it toward the south.”
On that day, the day that Jesus returns, He will set foot on the Mount of Olives and we’re told that it will split. On my trip there last year, I stood on this very mountain and was told that when the Jerusalem Hilton was built on this mountain, they did seismological surveys to search for potential problems in that area. They found a huge fault line that goes right through the Mt. of Olives, many feet below the surface. The scene is actually set for this split to happen! And it’ll split we’re told and separate the north part of the mountain from the south! This will provide a canyon… for the Ezekiel prophecy found in Ezekiel 47:1, 7-12 to take place perfectly! The water will flow from the Temple/Altar, out the Eastern wall of Jerusalem, through this split, and all the way to the Dead Sea. Prophecy is pretty cool, huh?
I LOVE GOD’S WORD!!!
“I have found that the best way to critique something is to create something better.”
“The nature of that holiness of which the true Christian seeks to possess is no other than the restoration of the image of God to his soul.”