Devotional

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.

 

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!

 

 

Tuesday Devotional: Habakkuk 1

bibleHabbakuk 1

“Look at the nations and watch—
and be utterly amazed.
For I am going to do something in your days
that you would not believe,
even if you were told.”

I am raising up the Babylonians,
that ruthless and impetuous people,
who sweep cross the whole earth
to seize dwelling places not their own.”

God is unbelievable.  The Bible is unbelievable.  The Gospels are unbelievable.  Jesus is unbelievable.  Not because they cannot by trusted and therefore must be false,  but because they contradict our human nature and instincts as storytellers so much that if they could not possibly have been created for literary or moral purposes.  The Bible contains far more honesty than we like.  It contains far more justice than we are comfortable with.  It also contains far more wisdom than we are even able to fathom.

The God of the Bible never acts out of consideration for our feelings, interests or desires.  The God of the Bible ONLY acts on behalf of what is true and what is just.  Therefore, when we need correction, He gives it.  When we need instruction, He gives it.  When we need compassion and gentleness, He gives it.  When we need discipline, He gives it.  In fact, God challenges us to believe the unbelievable in regards to His approach to discipline and suffering.  Through Jesus we no longer have to fear punishment from God, but suffering persists.  Why?  If the suffering is not a sign of God punishment, what is it?

The purpose of our suffering or hard times has one purpose and one purpose only.  It is ONLY to see God as sovereign and us as entirely fallible.  As Jesus is Emmanuel and therefore with us in any and all situations, the purpose of the suffering is ONLY to move us to seek the face of Jesus, to take up His grace in order to carry us through the storm.  But let us never forget that suffering will persist.  Bearing the name of Christ not only means that suffering will persist but that it will inevitably increase. 

But in the face of increasing suffering we are never to disown the name of Jesus by interpreting our hard time as the divine punishment only Jesus has any right or claim to.  We were not and are not punished because Jesus already was.  Therefore, the suffering we experience is present with us to reveal the presence of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  And in His name and because of His Lordship we will prevail amidst the suffering and we will see His face in the storm.  The presence of God in our lives through Jesus does not yield to suffering and sin.  It overcomes sin and suffering entirely.  Jesus rose on the third victorious over sin and death proclaiming, “Where, O death, is your sting?  Where, O death, is your victory?”  God allows suffering to a degree of such intensity that to create such a God out of thin air would not only fail to appeal to anyone but would be mocked rather than worshipped.  While one side of the world writhes back in disbelief in the face of God’s grace and compassion, the other writhes back in the face of God’s justice.  The only message relevant to the entire world is a message that is true to both sides of the world.  In Jesus, truth is united at the cross, revealing God’s grace and justice simultaneously.  The extent of both God’s grace and His justice are truly unbelievable, but in Jesus they CAN be believed and they CAN do more than we think.

 

Tuesday Devotional: Nahum 2

Read Nahum 2bible

The world we live in is not a world of justice.  We strive for justice, we seek for it, we need it, but we are always left feeling that injustice retains its overwhelming presence in this world.

Why do we feel the need for justice?  What is it within us that cries out when justice is not done?  While we live in a world that believes that no one is truly wrong or that no one should ever be truly judged, deep down we desire justice to be done. We can easily recognize when injustice is playing out before our very eyes.

We all know this.  At times we deny it in the face of a judgmental crowd that is eager to judge our insensitive and unreasonable judgment.  However, as much as there is an inexplicable desire in all of us to love, there is equally a desire to see justice done when something or someone is left unloved.  The Gospel of Jesus promises many things, but with the grace of God also comes the judgment of God that is not only justifiable but necessary in the world that lacks justice even by our imperfect and fallen standards.  We need God’s justice.  The Gospel of Jesus promises that justice will ultimately be seen and done.

There will be a time upon Christ’s return when all will have to answer for the life they lived and for the lives they took.  There will be a time when excuses will no longer be worth anything, and fruit of the spirit will mean everything.  As a result of sin we have all contributed to the injustice in the world.  What’s important is not how much.  The point is that we have all inescapably contributed.  For this reason, the only acceptable decision is to face a perfect God, admit and take ownership of our injustice, ask for forgiveness and then, with the spirit of Jesus Christ, heal the world and put right what was once wrong.  With Jesus we can see justice now, and those still suffering have the eternal hope that justice will be done. There will be a time when they will live under the reign of the King of Kings who will administer the only perfect justice this world has and will ever know.