March 26th – “Offended At God”
[Bible reading: Deuteronomy 5:1-6:25; Luke 7:11-35; Psalm 68:19-35; Proverbs 11:29-31]
“And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.” – Luke 7:23
John the baptizer had sent his own followers to Jesus in order to ask him a very important question: “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” (Luke 7:20). This seems an odd question coming from John, who knew Jesus pretty well, considering they were cousins. Also considering that when Jesus came to John to be baptized, John said to Jesus, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). I was under the impression that John knew exactly Who Jesus was! However, when you understand where John was when he sent his disciples to question Jesus in this way, it sheds a bit of light on the reason why he sent them… and why Jesus responded the way He did. You see, John was in prison according to Luke 3:20. Perhaps, John is a lot like us? Perhaps, he at one time believed Jesus to be the “Coming One“, the “Messiah“, and now that he is rotting away in a prison cell, seemingly all but forgotten, he is having some doubts? Perhaps he thought, like many others at that time, that the Messiah would be the physical deliverer of God’s people from the tyranny of Rome? Perhaps John thought that Jesus should have ridden in on a white horse, stormed the prison, overpowered the guards, and rescued His cousin? I mean, after all, Jesus was the Deliverer, right?
There are times when I can also feel as though Jesus has forgotten all about me. I’ve been taught that Jesus is the Deliverer, and that He “rescues” those who are hurting and in trouble, and when He doesn’t come through like I want Him to, or imagined Him to… I can become offended. This is why Jesus’ answer to John’s disciples is so powerful. He says, “Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the dear hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them…” (Luke 7:22) – These are all things that the coming “Messiah” was absolutely going to be doing, according to the prophet Isaiah! Jesus is saying, “Yes, I am doing all the things the Messiah is supposed to be doing… but I’m not coming in on a white horse and saving you, cousin. My mission is much bigger than overthrowing a Roman government. My mission is to overthrow Satan, and defeat sin and death once and for all! Tell John that he’ll be blessed if this fact doesn’t offend him. Sometimes I don’t perform your will… I must perform My Father’s will instead.”
John had performed exactly what God had wanted him to, he had prepared the way for the coming Messiah. Now he would die. John would never be the one in the spotlight. John would never be the one who would be what it was all about. He knew it in his head (John 3:30), but apparently being in a dark prison cell caused him to have his doubts. So too, when I am left in the dark… when I feel lonely and forgotten… is when my doubts start to surface. Jesus’ message to John is the same message He whispers to you and I in those times: “blessed is he who is not offended because of Me“.
“Father, I want to understand all that You are up to behind the scenes, but at times You ask me to simply trust You. Forgive me for my doubts. Forgive me for my whining and complaining in times of darkness. Strengthen me so that I can be a man that is completely submitted to Your will and Your plan for my life. I love You.” – Michael
March 27th – “I Got This!”
[Bible reading: Deuteronomy 7:1-8:20; Luke 7:36-8:3; Psalm 69:1-18; Proverbs 12:1]
“…, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do you good in the end – then you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.” – Deuteronomy 8:16-17
God had done so much for His people. He had fed them, quenched their thirst, protected them, delivered them, and provided for their needs again and again. He allowed them to go through trials too, but always in those trials did He keep His hand on them. We’re told here that one of God’s purposes for all this was to “humble” His people and “test” them in order to ultimately bring about their “good“.
Why would making His people humble through testing them be for their good? Because, God knows that man’s tendency is to take all the credit for ourselves. When we do this, we begin to rely solely upon ourselves, our might, and our power and ability. This can actually be a very dangerous thing, because some of the obstacles that we’ll face will be way too much for us. If we walk into a battle with a false sense of security, because we’ve only counted on what strength we can muster up in and of ourselves… we could die. God desperately wants us to understand that we NEED Him. As the Holy Spirit said through the prophet Zechariah, “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ Says the Lord of hosts.” (Zechariah 4:6).
“Father, I need You. Forgive me for pridefully taking things into my own hands and trying so hard to do everything by myself. You’ve given me talents and skills, but I’m unable to do all that You’ve called me to do, without Your empowering me to do it. Today, help me to walk in a state of total dependency upon You. I don’t particularly enjoy the tests that I go through, but I do appreciate how they remind me of my own inadequacy and my desperate need of You. I love You so very much!” – Michael
March 28th – “God Has the Gall”
[Bible reading: Deuteronomy 9:1-10:22; Luke 8:4-21; Psalm 69:19-36; Proverbs 12:2-3]
“They also gave me gall for my food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.” – Psalm 69:21
The word “gall” in Hebrew is “ros“, which means, “poison; bitterness, venom”. In the Old Testament the word is used of a plant characterized by bitterness, probably wormwood (Deut. 29:18; Hos. 10:4; Amos 6:12). Ancient people believed that the poison of serpents lay in the gall (Job 20:14). We see it used in the New Testament, but there the Greek word “chole” is used. Some regard this word as referring to myrrh, because that is what is used in Mark 15:23. Myrrh was often used as an embalming liquid, and was highly deadly if ingested. This little verse in Psalm 69 would turn out to be one of many Messianic prophesies that Jesus uniquely fulfilled. Matthew tells us that as Jesus came to the place called Golgotha to be crucified they offered Him “sour wine mingled with gall to drink. But when he had tasted it, He would not drink” (Matthew 27:34). Some have speculated that perhaps they were trying to poison Him and hasten His death. Others have said that perhaps they were trying to prolong His death and cause even more suffering for Him.
Regardless of why they offered Jesus ‘gall’, it is interesting to me that the words “gall” and “myrrh” seem to be interchangeable. We know a few things about ‘myrrh‘ from Scripture. It was very expensive. Exodus 30 describes how it was used to anoint prophets, priests, and kings. It is used as a perfume in Psalm 45, and in John 19 it was used for embalming. Of course, after Jesus’ birth, it was a gift that was given to Him from the wise men (Matthew 2:11). Why would that particular gift be given to Jesus? Because He is the ‘Anointed One’. He is a prophet. He is a priest. He is a King. His name is like a fragrant perfume that has been poured out (Song of Solomon 1:3). And Jesus came to give His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45)… He came to die.
Whenever I find Old Testament prophesies that point to the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, I am encouraged. Nothing is coincidental. The Holy Spirit has been working for a very long time to bring about the Father’s will. The fact that this prophecy was written hundreds of years before Jesus would fulfill it exactingly. And the idea that one of the gifts that was given to Mary and Joseph for their Son would one day be the very thing that He would be offered to drink as He was dying, and that that very thing would symbolize exactly Who He was… Prophet, Priest, King, the Anointed One and the Ultimate Sacrifice for the world’s sins… is awesome!
“Father, why do I ever doubt? How can I fear anything when You so obviously are in control of EVERYTHING? You orchestrated so much in history to accomplish Your perfect will, and You are still the God Who is in charge of my little life. Help me walk in faith today and in a ruthless and radical trust in You. I’m so thankful that You have the gall to love someone like me. I love You back!” – Michael
March 29th – “Happy Wife, Happy Life“
[Bible reading: Deuteronomy 11:1-12:32; Luke 8:22-39; Psalm 70:1-5; Proverbs 12:4]
“An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who causes shame is like rottenness in his bones.” – Proverbs 12:4
Later, in Proverbs 31:10, we read, “Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies.” This is a phrase that Boaz uses when speaking of Ruth, in Ruth 3:11, “…for all the people of my town know that you are a virtuous woman.” (Interesting note: In the Hebrew ordering of the Old Testament, the Book of Ruth comes immediately after the Book of Proverbs, which closes with a description of a”virtuous woman”). The word, “virtuous” literally means, “having or showing high moral standards, righteous, good, pure, saintly, angelic, ethical, upright, upstanding, exemplary, principled“. When a woman is this way, she is the very best thing about her husband (his “crown“). Conversely, when she is not this way, she can cause her husband shame. This shame is “like rottenness in his bones“, which is another way of saying, “she causes the loss of her husband’s joy and strength“. So, how a woman lives her life… how she walks with God… how she walks with integrity… actually affects her husband’s life as well.
I believe this goes both ways. I’ve seen the anguish on the faces of too many women who have found their husbands behaving sinfully. Whether they’ve caught their husbands viewing pornography or watched them lose their temper, the shame that a woman can feel can be draining to her. Likewise, when a woman has a husband who is chasing after Jesus and walking with integrity and holiness… it is a true blessing to his wife. When we make the choice to be married, we are making the choice to become ‘one’ with another human being. When we become ‘one’ with them, we must realize that how we behave from then on out will greatly affect our spouse, and others in our families (children, grandchildren). It is no longer just ‘our’ relationship with God that is on the line, it is our entire family’s relationships that could be on the line. This is one of the reasons why Scripture admonishes us to be “excellent at what is good and innocent of evil” (Romans 16:19). Our lives impact others, especially those closest to us.
“Father, thank You for my awesome wife! Other than Jesus, she is the greatest thing about my life. She is my pride and joy, my crown. Help me live my life in such a way as to make her proud of me too. Forgive me for the times I’ve caused shame to You, or to the ones closest to me. I truly do not deserve how much You’ve blessed me with a wife that is so awesome. I love You, Lord!” – Michael
March 30th – “12 Years A Slave”
[Bible reading: Deuteronomy 13:1-15:23; Luke 8:40-9:6; Psalm 71:1-24; Proverbs 12:5-7]
“And He said to her, ‘Daughter, be of good cheer; your faith has made you well. Go in peace.”…“But He put them all outside, took her by the hand and called, saying, ‘Little girl, arise.’ Then her spirit returned, and she arose immediately…” – Luke 8:48 & 54-55a
Two females experience restoration in these verses: one is a woman who has been bleeding for 12 years, the other is a 12 year old girl. This means that 12 years prior to this day, there were two very different stories beginning. The first story was of a husband and wife who had just given birth to a beautiful baby girl. She was their pride and joy, I’m sure. But at that same time, across town, there was a second story beginning… a woman who began to bleed. This would have been startling for her at first, and then become very concerning as days turned into weeks that turned into months. As years passed by, the baby girl grew older and brought her parents times of much joy, while the woman across town had become damaged and shamed and spent every last cent of her money on doctors who were no help whatsoever. One day, twelve years later, the young girl became sick herself and was “at death’s door”. Now she is desperate for help… like the other woman. Both women encounter Jesus. Both women are made well. Both women are revived… renewed… restored to their former health.
Everybody has a story. One person’s story may be beautiful and joyous, while the person living right next door to them is going through hell. However, Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33). Jesus is our Hope, He is our Deliverer, and Jesus is a Master at restoration. He is awesome at taking someone who is broken, damaged, used up, hurting, thrown out, and seemingly useless – and transforming them into something beautiful and useable once again. Whatever sin or hurt we may feel like slaves to, Jesus can set us free. Whether life is joyous or painful, my hope is always Jesus. Only He can bring life… and restore.
“Father, whether in good times or bad, teach me to look to You for hope and restoration. I know in my heart of hearts that in You alone is life, joy, peace, and healing. Set me free today, that I might be healed and whole and free to free others for Your glory. I love You!” – Michael
March 31st – “No Abracadabra”
[Bible reading: Deuteronomy 16:1-17:20; Luke 9:7-27; Psalm 72:1-20; Proverbs 12:8-9]
“Then He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the multitude.” – Luke 9:16
Jesus, before doing the mighty miracle of feeding the five thousand, stopped first to pray. The way this is worded it can be a bit confusing. Did Jesus bless the “bread and fish” and then break them, or did He “bless God for the bread and fish” and then break them. In John’s account of the same story he makes it a bit more clear, “And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted.” (John 6:11).
Have you ever prayed a prayer like this or heard someone pray this way before a meal; “Dear Lord, bless this food to the nourishment of our bodies” or “Our Father, bless this food and may it strengthen us to do your work, Amen”? While these are common and acceptable prayers, they perpetrate a widespread spiritual misunderstanding. According to the Bible, we should be blessing God and not the bread. Think about this for a second – if an outsider, not versed in our prayer rituals, would hear us ask God to “bless the food,” it may come across as superstitiously silly. It’s almost as if we invoke a magical incantation to envelop our macaroni and cheese.
To grasp the biblical foundation for blessing and thankfulness, it helps to understand Jesus’ Jewish world. The written Scriptures that Jesus grew up reading were the books from the Old Testament, and He would have had similar oral traditions as practiced by Jews living two thousand years ago. In the Bible, God blesses people’s fields, crops, livestock, and future offspring by making them fruitful and abundant (Deut. 7:13-15), and the people return the favor by thanking their Provider for His goodness and bounty. Jesus follows this practice in the New Testament, when He serves food to others, He offers prayers of thanksgiving and blessing to God (Luke 24:30, Luke 22:19, Mark 14:22, Matt. 26:26, I Cor. 11:24). The word “bless” in many of the Bible’s prayers means expressing thanks to God. An ancient Jewish blessing that is still pronounced today with the entrance of the Sabbath on Friday evenings, as participants sip wine from a cup is,; “Blessed are you, O Lord, Our God, King of the Universe who creates the fruit of the vine.” Another blessing, as members break bread is; “Blessed are you, O Lord, Our God, King of the Universe who brings forth bread from the earth.” These would probably have been very similar to the prayers that Jesus would have uttered during the famous “Last Supper”. Notice that in these “blessings”, God the Creator is being thanked for giving food (bread) and drink (wine), not the bread and wine. The next time we sit down to a big breakfast, we should thank God for it and not abracadabraize the pancakes. Bless God, not the bread. A prayer we learn in pre-school summarizes this perfectly, “God is great, God is good, Let us thank him for our food. Amen.” Let us remember to thank God the Creator of our meal, instead of enchanting the grub we’re about to eath with “God bless the food!”
“Father, thank You for always providing everything I need. Help me to slow down and give thanks to You before chowing down on anything. I love You!” – Michael
April 1st – “Cockroaches and Fakeness”
[Bible reading: Deuteronomy 18:1-20:20; Luke 9:28-50; psalm 73:1-28; Proverbs 12:10]
“A righteous man regards the life of his animal, but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.” – Proverbs 12:10
A person that treats animals well is usually a person that has a high regard for “life”. What Scripture is really getting at here is the comparison between the righteous man and the wicked man. To make the point, he assumes that most of us know that there is nothing esteemed much lower than an animal. To this lowest of creatures a righteous person still has regard (the dictionary defines, “regard” as; “showing consideration, care, concern, thought, notice, taking heed, or giving special attention”). However, a wicked person who believes they are showing “tender mercies” to this lowly creature, is in fact, still cruel. Both individuals feel they are being kind, but the big difference is that the righteous person really is being kind, while the wicked person is only being cruel.
Dr Livingston, who is famous from the phrase, “Dr. Livingston I presume?“, was absolutely fanatical about “life”. There is a story that is told where he received a piano when he was on the mission field. Upon opening up the back of the piano, hundreds of cockroaches poured out. The man he was with began to fervently stomp on them to kill them all. Supposedly, Dr. Livingston stopped him immediately by yelling something like; “What are you doing!? Those creatures have done nothing, except for what they were created to do. God created them, you should not end them!” Now, it may seem odd that a person would have such high regard for a cockroach, but that story has always amazed me. Why? Because, apparently Dr. Livingston really cared about “life”, and according to this Scripture… he was righteous.
“Father, even a wicked person when trying to be nice, is actually cruel. I think that is because we can’t fake what we really are inside. I want to be authenticly following You and walking uprightly. Convict me whenever I’m simply faking it. I long to please You with the way that I’m living. I love You so much.” – Michael