Bible

Tuesday Devotional: John 9

bibleRead John 9

John 9:31

“We know that God does not listen to sinners.  He listens to the godly man who does his will.”

 

Why does God engage with us?  When we are so are egregiously out of line in our defamation of His holy name.  When we are so frustratingly obstinate in our refusal to obey his will.  When we so easily dismiss the sacrificial work of Jesus Christ in order to justify our own self-righteousness and promote our own self-worship.  Why does God continue to engage within us?  What does a Holy God have to do with sinners?

Bacteria and a sterile environment cannot coexist.  Darkness cannot mingle with the light.  Sinfulness is a direct affront to holiness.  Why does God engage with us?  What the healed blind man spoke is true.  God in his righteous majesty is not expected or required to listen sinners like us.  Yet he does.  Why?  He listens to THE godly man who does his will.  And who has ever done his will in a way that honors the holiness of the living God?  None but Jesus.  Without the sacrificial lamb you have no chance.  There is no hope.  It is finished resulting in your eternal separation from the Father.  Yet, because of his wounds and by his blood it is finished resulting in an entirely different and far more miraculous way.  The condemnation of your sins is finished.  The punishment for your iniquities is finished.  The fear of death is finished.  Hallelujah!  It is by Jesus you have been saved, transformed, healed, welcomed back.  There is none but Jesus.

 

Tuesday Devotional: Luke 17

bibleRead Luke 17:4-10

The commands of Jesus are sweet but they must always bring us to cry out to God, “Increase our faith!”  The commands of Jesus are beyond what we are capable of achieving.  His ways are higher than our ways.  The commands of Jesus are not comfortable and they do not fit nicely and neatly with our way of life.  The way of Jesus is Holy and we are sinful.  These two natures are incompatible and contradictory to one another.  This is what we face when we read the words of Jesus and receive His proclamation over our lives.  We are called to enter the narrow gate.  We are called to count the cost.  We are commanded to die to self.  We are commanded to repent and submit our lives to the authority of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.  We are commanded to be reborn and to be transformed in the likeness of Jesus Christ.  We are commanded to leave everything and to lose everything of this world in order to receive and possess the love of Jesus Christ in our lives.  We are instructed to believe that with faith in Jesus even the most daunting and impassable obstacle in your life can be moved.  Believing that we can live the life Jesus commands us to live requires a faith that can only be revealed through faith in Jesus and by receiving the power of the Holy Spirit.  Beware of living a life following Jesus where you never utter the words, “Increase our faith.”  We cannot follow Jesus without pleading every day for God to increase our faith in Jesus Christ.  Christians who are loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled require faith and more of it that in Jesus all things are possible.  Heavenly Father, increase our faith!

 

Tuesday Devotional: Mark 13

Read Mark 13bible

Watch!  We are commanded to watch.  But what are we to watch?  Are we to watch and predict the timing of the end?  Are we to evaluate current events to gain insight into the timing of the end?  Are we to erect fortifications meant to protect the things we treasure in this world from the coming wrath and destruction associated with the end times?

No.  We are commanded to watch for other things.  We are commanded to be on our guard for those that make predictions and proclaim the end before it has been revealed by the living God.  We are commanded not to rely on our own strength and words to defend ourselves from the inevitable persecution we will encounter and endure as disciples of Jesus.  We are commanded to watch how we are trusting in the love of Jesus as we are cast out and abandoned by those closest to us, including our family.  We are commanded to guard against those coming in the name of Jesus who promote and glorify the miraculous works of their own hands and not the Christ.  We are commanded to watch out for the inevitable corruption and desolation of the House of God as the message of Jesus is replaced with a message of self-glorification.  Most importantly, we are to watch and pray that when the Son of Man comes like a thief in the night we are prepared to stand before the throne of the living God with sincerity of heart to declare our complete devotion to Jesus Christ and his commands to which we have submitted our entire lives.  Watch!

Tuesday Devotional: Matthew 11

bibleRead Matthew 11:1-18

If we cry out for the living God we must be prepared to receive the living God as He is, not as we want him to be.  If our desperation leads us to cry out for a savior we must be prepared to receive the savior as He is.  A starving person will not pass on food because it has not been cooked to their liking.  A drowning person will not refuse assistance because of a person’s hair color.  Be careful when you cry out to God.  To cry out to God is to be heard by the living God and the living God desires to answer you back.  However, it is the living God that desires to respond and not our idea of the living God.  The living God comes with mercy for all people, conviction of sin for all people and true life offered in the name of the one and only Messiah, Jesus Christ.  Count the cost.  When you cry out to God from your grief, suffering and desperation be prepared to be met by a God that has loved you longer than you know and desires to love you for eternity.  This is good news.  However, be prepared to be met by a God that places a demand on your life to be Holy because He is Holy.  The living God demands that you die to yourself and take up your cross and follow His son step after step.  When you cry out to God you will be heard.  He hears you.  He also desires to dwell within you, talk to you and guide you into His presence.  The living God knows your cry before you cry it.  This is good news.  However, the living God knows that you need saving from yourself more than you need anything else.  And he offers you the only savior powerful enough to defend and rescue you from yourself and his name is Jesus.  God knows more about you than you ever can.  He also is more aware of your suffering than you will ever know.  But to be saved by Jesus is to give up your life for Him.  To be saved is to for once quit in the most gloriously liberating way possible.  Stop resisting how God desires to save you and have ears to hear and eyes to see that He is saving you!

 

 

Tuesday Devotional: Malachi 2

bible Read Malachi 2

Malachi 2:16 (NKJV, emphasis added)

 16 “For the Lord God of Israel says
That He hates divorce,
For it covers one’s garment with violence,”
Says the Lord of hosts.
“Therefore take heed to your spirit,
That you do not deal treacherously.”

 Malachi 2:16 (NIV)

 16 “The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the Lord Almighty.

So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful.

 Malachi 2:9

“…you have not followed my ways but have shown partiality in matters of the law.”

 Teachers, Pastors, Priests, Christians: you are to follow the commands and words of our Lord without partiality.  The words of God are being changed, being softened and manipulated to speak to us in a way we feel we ought to be spoken to.  Both versions of Malachi 2:16 proclaim that divorce is wrong.  If we are to place our hopes in the words of our Lord and Savior promising everlasting life and peace from our strife in this world we are to hear the words of our Lord and God as He has said them without partialityThe nature of sin is to question God’s words, contemplate His motives and intentions and conclude that God could never be that strict and that uptight about how we ought to live.  We are merely human, right?  But He means what He says.  His words are strict to our sinful ears because His ways are higher than our ways. He is Holy and we are not.  His words are as uptight as they sound because the way of Jesus is a narrow gate that few enter because of the costly sacrifice and complete denial of self that following Jesus into eternal fellowship with the Father requires.

2 Timothy 4:3-4

For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

 Be shrewd as a serpent and gentle as a dove, Christian.  Our Heavenly Father demands that we be Holy as He is Holy.  The sin within us will always seek partiality concerning God’s Holy words.  It will always endeavor to weaken the sting of His rebuke in order to massage our weary soul from its burdensome struggle for Holy perfection and encourage us to seek the desires of our heart.  God is love, right?  And the gospel of Jesus is forgiveness and grace, right?  Yes on both counts.  But Jesus is still the narrow gate that came preaching repentance of sin and complete transformation in his image.  Holiness.  Righteousness.  Obedience to the Father.  Let the words of God sting you.  Let them stab you.  Let them cut you to the heart as a double-edged sword.  Protect and cultivate a relationship with our Lord that welcomes the sting of Holiness and the demands of it on our life.  The sting of God’s Holy words and the self-sacrifice of our sinfulness for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus is nothing compared to the sting of eternal separation from God that Jesus came to save us from.

 

 

Tuesday Devotional: Zechariah 2

Read Zechariah 2bible

God is for us.  This is often overlooked and often misunderstood.  But God is for us.  There is nothing that God takes more personally than when we, His beloved, are threatened and harmed.  While Jesus tells us that there is no value to a man gaining the whole world and forfeiting his soul, God proclaims to His children that there is nothing that He wants more than us.  He desires to be with us, to live among us, to unite us, to protect us, to lead and throughout all, to love us.  God is for us.  God is for you.  Do you know this?  Do you believe this?

“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” This is our news.  This is the news of Jesus Christ.  That God loved the world by sending his only son to carry and bear the iniquities of man’s collective sin in order to save what He deems most precious and beloved.  This is His love and His love is for us alone.  We exist to be loved by Him.  Everything thing we do and everything that we are has been carefully designed for the purpose of channeling the love our God has for us and then to worship Him in return.

We were designed for God and our God is for us.  And if God is for us, who can be against us?  What in this world can harm you if the creator God is on your side?  In the love of Jesus nothing can separate us from the love of our God.  We often reduce God to a helper, assistant, partner figure.  He comes to us ultimately in the name of Jesus proclaiming none of these identities.  He comes proclaiming to be the great “I am” of old and to be the chosen and anointed Christ, the Messiah.  Look upon the face of the savior Jesus and believe that God is for us.

 

The Resurrection: Saul to Paul

empty-tomb

While the debate concerning the identity of Jesus Christ as God himself as historical fact or fiction will forever continue, the figure of Paul is much less easily argued against. Paul comes down to us from the 1st century as a real man who wrote real documents, who preached faith in Jesus Christ and the Gospel.

Paul is a historical figure: very few people will object to that statement. However, while some attempt to legitimize the life of Paul and reject the life of Jesus, a closer look at the life of Paul will lead to the truth that Paul cannot exist as history presents him without the existence of Jesus as history presents him as well. The life of Paul without the resurrection of Jesus Christ is not worthy of anyone’s study. Without the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Paul is simply another Jewish Pharisee destined to be remembered only by his family, friends and colleagues. As we have it, with the resurrection, the name of Paul is possibly the second most important name in human history, second only to Jesus himself. The reason Paul is worthy of anyone’s study is because of his radical transformation on the road to Damascus.

Acts 9:1-22

Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.

In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”

“Yes, Lord,” he answered.

The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”

“Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”

But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.

Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?” Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah.

Over the course of three days, Paul transformed from Saul of Tarsus, a fiery Jewish Pharisee, devoted to the destruction of the Christian heresy, to Paul the Apostle, preaching the good news of Christ and changing the course of human history through his many missionary journeys, church planting and frequent correspondence with the early Christian Churches, comprising more than two thirds of the entire New Testament. We must ask the question, why?

Why would Paul suddenly change and become a member of the sect he was committed to destroy? Why would he forfeit his wealth and status to become poor and persecuted? Why would he endure hardships such as shipwrecks, stoning, floggings, imprisonment, and sickness for this heresy of Jesus Christ? Without the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the actions of Paul are those of a man gone insane. His transformation without the resurrection is unlikely and unreasonable. With the resurrection, the mission and promise of Jesus to Paul that he preach salvation in Christ to all nations, Jew and Gentile, suddenly thrusts the reality of Paul’s conversion into the reality of the Gospel, with the truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ on the third day.

Tuesday Devotional: Haggai 1

bibleRead Haggai 1

This is what the Lord Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord’s house.’”

Then the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?”

The time is now to follow the Lord.  The time is now to give to the Lord.  Take stock of what you have, what you own, what you possess.  What is yours?  What is God’s?

The truth of Jesus proclaims that everything you see belongs to God.  Everything you own is being loaned to you with one purpose: to honor, worship and glorify the living God in Jesus’ name.  Want to take a vacation?  Go ahead.  But honor God first.  Is your house in order before you buy your ticket?  Is your community in order before you buy your ticket?  Will your trip honor the spirit of Jesus that lives within you and will ultimately be on the trip alongside you?  Does your luxury glorify the selfless and sacrificial spirit of Jesus in your life, or will it stray from the path of Jesus in order to glorify yourself and celebrate your own status?

God gives us good things, but He gives us good things after we have given Him ALL things.  Giving to God cannot be separated from following Jesus.  To follow Jesus means to give God everything you have and everything you are.  The house of the Lord is not a house we can visit.  WE are the House of the Lord.  To leave the House of the Lord in ruins while we build palaces for ourselves has so much more to do with the spirit of Jesus within us in contrast to the spirit of Sin.

Are you feeding your sin or are you feeding the spirit of Jesus in your life?  The palace you build in your own name will fall and will leave you worse off than before you built it.  We were created to live in luxury, but in a luxury that is righteous and holy.  When we build we shall build for the Lord.  Where we live we shall live there for the Lord.  What we own we shall own under the rightful ownership of the Lord.  A palace that neglects and ignores the dwelling place of the Lord is a palace that, although beautiful from the outside, will be a haven for darkness and will collapse when the rains fall and the wind roars.  We cannot own anything before the Lord has rightfully written His name upon every last possession of ours.

This is not unfair, this is not unjust, this is not mean.  This is truth, and the truth, although challenging and illogical to the sin in our hearts, will always and forever set us free.  Minimalist living has proven to be a source of freedom to many people, but the Gospel is far more than that.  The Gospel says that to live without is not only about clarity in mind and spirit, it is about submission to a King who lavishes us with all we have ever wanted and who desires to do so for eternity.

Tuesday Devotional: Zephaniah 2

bibleThis is the city of revelry
that lived in safety.
She said to herself,
“I am the one! And there is none besides me.”
What a ruin she has become,
a lair for wild beasts!
All who pass by her scoff
and shake their fists.

The lie of sin is that we not only have the right to take the throne as King but that we will never be overtaken, deposed or removed.  What Kingdom has ever outlasted time?  What King has ever sat on a throne for eternity?  None.  All people pass.  All kingdoms collapse.  The most foolish thing we could possibly do is to ignore the words of the living God.

The second most foolish thing we could possibly do is to deny the historical record that proves God’s point. What you see today will not last.  What you do today will last for eternity.  Seek truth and find it, or pursue a lie and believe it.  In God’s great grace and mercy He has not hidden the truth from us.  He has revealed clearly and for all eyes to see where we’ve been and where we are going.

But sin runs deep and in sin is a king who has stolen the crown and will fight at all costs to retain control.  Don’t let it.  The fight to take the throne cannot be won, not should it ever be fought.  Fighting for control of the throne WILL precede a downfall and will destroy the kingdom and the king at the same time.  The throne and the power you think it gives you is a lie, and it can never give you what you hope it can.  The throne belongs to Christ. Only under His lordship can you find what you are truly looking for.  Look hard at Christ and turn your eyes upon Jesus.  His Lordship does not take anything from you other than the delusion that is slowly taking your life away one day at a time.  God has always intended for us to live and to live forever.  A life hidden in Christ will last forever and it will outlast all else.  Choose to live.  Choose life!

 

 

The Resurrection: Tradition to Transformation

empty-tomb

The lost tomb is one glaring example establishing that the disciples contradicted cultural norms as Israelites and began to blaze new trails in the name of Jesus, but the tomb is only one example of such radical reform. As the Jewish people were frequently raided, overrun, taken hostage, attacked and oppressed throughout history, it became extremely important for leaders to teach the legacy, ancestry and history of the Jewish people to future generations, not merely as a means of cultural emphasis, but to remind the future generations that the people of Israel held a unique place in the Creator God’s plans for humanity. Thus, while the tangible value of Israel wavered throughout history, the commands of God to Moses established in the Torah and the salvation displayed and promised by God to the people of Israel never faded. This longevity was due to the painstaking commitment made by the Jewish people to establish the Law, remind people of the Law and keep the Law. In this climate of extreme rule keeping and obedience, one witnesses in the Gospel narratives the disciples redefining the Law as established by Jesus, and following a new Law or covenant grounded in the deity of Jesus Christ. The disciples regularly break the long-established Law of the Sabbath by their activity on that holy day.

Matthew 12:1-2

At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.”

The new law established in and by Jesus changed the disciples’ paradigm. As a result, because Jesus resurrected on a Sunday, the disciples no longer worshipped the Lord on the common Holy day of Saturday (Sabbath) but moved their worship to Sunday in order to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The disciples revise the long-established tradition of the Passover meal as they not only ate the meal away from their immediate family but also seemed to forget the most important element of the meal, the lamb. Only the direct intervention of God could alter that God-established tradition.

Mark 14:12-25

And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, “Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?” And he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us.” And the disciples set out and went to the city and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover. And when it was evening, he came with the twelve. And as they were reclining at table and eating, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” They began to be sorrowful and to say to him one after another, “Is it I?” He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the dish with me. For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”

And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take, this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

In following the example of Jesus, the disciples repeatedly break laws concerning the clean and unclean, interacting not only with the physically unclean, such as lepers and the paralyzed, but also with the spiritually unclean, such as the prostitute and tax collector. Without the resurrection, the argument that these humble and unimportant men suddenly decided to simply revise and disobey the laws their forefathers followed for thousands of years becomes ridiculous. One must also consider that if Jesus did in fact die and remain buried in the tomb, the disciples themselves would want nothing to do with such a blasphemer, liar and heretic and would have continued awaiting the true Messiah. However, given the resurrection of Jesus, we find reason to believe that their newfound courage and unusual behavior were motivated by one truth and one reason alone. Jesus resurrected from the dead and fulfilled all of the Messianic prophecies that rooted the Law of Moses. They witnessed the sacrifice of God himself as Jesus Christ. They witnessed the resurrection of God himself as Jesus Christ. Thus, the law and the prophets were fulfilled in Christ, and in Christ the disciples were given a new covenant that overruled the previous law and requirements of their forefathers.

Hebrews 9:11-15

But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.