|April 2010 Daily Devotion Archive|
Jesus, Our Good Teacher
[Jesus was] sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers. ... And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. - Luke 2:46b-47, 52
Jesus was only 12 years old at this time but He was already very wise. He was already teaching and answering questions to the astonishment of those who heard Him speak. Even many non-Christians will admit that Jesus was a good teacher. However, that statement itself is a contradiction. Jesus specifically said He is the Son of God. Based on that, either He is the Son of God, or he was a liar, and I don't think a liar can be a very good teacher. If someone tries to convince you that Jesus was merely a good teacher, this is a good passage to quote in return. There are only two logical, rational choices: God's Son or complete and total liar. Considering everything else we know from the Bible, it's clear that He has to be God's Son!
Freedom in Christ, Part 2 of 2
For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another! - Galatians 5:13-15
This passage echoes last Friday's devotional but I feel it is such an important concept, and one that many Christians often miss, that it is worth another look. As I stated last week, freedom does not mean that we are "free" to act upon all our fleshly desires. That isn't freedom; Satan tries to convince us of that, but we actually become servants to those very desires. True freedom only comes from Christ. This passage also reminds us how important it is to love one another. How often do we see people within a church not being able to get along? That may even be happening in your church. It may sound simplistic, but it is still quite true: Love is the answer. Instead of finding new ways to argue with each other, let's find new ways to love one another!
Darkness and Light
Do not enter the path of the wicked,
And do not walk in the way of evil.
Avoid it, do not travel on it;
Turn away from it and pass on.
For they do not sleep unless they have done evil;
And their sleep is taken away unless they make someone fall.
For they eat the bread of wickedness,
And drink the wine of violence.
But the path of the just is like the shining sun,
That shines ever brighter unto the perfect day.
The way of the wicked is like darkness;
They do not know what makes them stumble.
- Proverbs 4:14-19
Perhaps this idea explains why some people tend to blame others for their mistakes. If they are walking in darkness, they cannot see what causes them to stumble and fall. As Christians it is our job not to walk the same path and cause it to be even darker but to be the light to the world, helping lead others to the light of Jesus.
April 4 (Easter Sunday):
He Is Risen!
Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, "Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again." - Luke 24:1-7
Now the Lord had said to Abram: "Get out of your country, from your family and from your father's house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." So Abram departed as the Lord had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. And Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. - Genesis 12:1-4
God commanded, and Abram went. He didn't ignore God to stay in the land that he knew, surrounded by family and friends. He didn't try to argue with God. He didn't even ask a question, according to the Biblical account. He just went. How often do we just follow where God is leading, and how often do we try to argue and question Him instead? We know how God blessed Abram because of how closely he followed and walked with God. We would be wise to do the same.
One Nation Under God?
"But if you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away, both you and your king." - 1 Samuel 12:25
This was Samuel's last warning to the Israelites before Saul took over as king, but I don't believe this warning merely applied to them. The Israelites were God's chosen people, but each time they wandered away from Him, He allowed them to be conquered. While we in America are not His chosen people, He has clearly blessed this nation ever since it was founded because we did follow Him. But a lot of time has passed since our country was founded and, just like the Israelites, we have wandered astray. The number of people claiming to be Christian and attending church regularly continues to steadily fall and many people who do answer "yes" to those two questions don't take God seriously and don't follow Him in their daily lives. As Christians, we can't simply hide in this secular world. We must stand up for what we believe in! If we don't, make no mistake--there is a good chance we will follow the same path that the Israelites followed so many centuries ago.
Micah's Messianic Prophecy
"But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting." Therefore He shall give them up, until the time that she who is in labor has given birth; then the remnant of His brethren shall return to the children of Israel. ... For now He shall be great to the ends of the earth; and this One shall be peace." - Micah 5:2-3, 4b-5a
This was written some 700 years before Jesus' birth, yet it accurately predicts His first and His future second coming. The One, Jesus, will come out of Bethlehem to rule over Israel. His "goings forth are from of old, from everlasting"--meaning, I think, that He has been in existence since the beginning. Then "He shall give them up" when He returns to heaven, until "she who is in labor" (meaning the earth, I believe, as described in Revelation) "has given birth", then all His children will return to Him. The last few words are key as well--Jesus was, and is, peace. What an amazing prophecy of Jesus as well as the End Times to come!
Elevate God, Help Others
"Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, We have Abraham as our father. For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones." ... He answered and said to them, "He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise." - Luke 3:8, 11
A mere human being should never be elevated above God. That's what the first verse tells us and it's something that John, who is speaking here, probably understood very well. Some people asked if he was the Christ, but he was merely preparing the way for Jesus. Many other religions do this, admiring a specific person who was supposedly a prophet. But in Christianity, we recognize God as our Father. When the people asked "What shall we do?" John responded with the second verse quoted above, indicating how important it must be to God that we take care of those who are in need. Given our current economic situation, that is as applicable now as it has ever been.
Walk in the Spirit, Part 1 of 3
I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. - Galatians 5:16-17
We have so many things going on in the world today, and even in our churches, that is completely against what the Bible teaches. We have pastors and other church leaders practicing things like adultery and homosexuality, and some denominations are even starting to say that the latter is okay. They desperately need to read and study these two verses! God tells us very specifically, though Paul in this case, that we will experience fleshly desires that are contrary to the Spirit that lives within us. That is nothing new! What is new is that we live in a world that has become increasingly more tolerant of such things, and sadly that tolerance is making its way into our churches. We have to stand up for what is right! Otherwise, we will never be able to make a difference in the world for Christ.
For the lips of an immoral woman drip honey,
And her mouth is smoother than oil;
But in the end she is bitter as wormwood,
Sharp as a two-edged sword.
Her feet go down to death,
Her steps lay hold of hell.
Lest you ponder her path of life--
Her ways are unstable;
You do not know them.
Therefore hear me now, my children,
And do not depart from the words of my mouth.
Remove your way far from her,
And do not go near the door of her house,
Lest you give your honor to others,
And your years to the cruel one.
- Proverbs 5:3-9
This passage can apply to both men and women. Be careful never to let yourself be led astray by someone whose words are as sweet as honey and as smooth as oil. Many, many people have brought ruin upon themselves by falling into the sensual trap of another person.
The fool has said in his heart,"There is no God."
They are corrupt,
They have done abominable works,
There is none who does good.
The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men,
To see if there are any who understand, who seek God.
They have all turned aside,
They have together become corrupt;
There is none who does good,
No, not one.
Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge,
Who eat up my people as they eat bread,
And do not call on the Lord?
There they are in great fear,
For God is with the generation of the righteous.
You shame the counsel of the poor,
But the Lord is his refuge.
Oh, that the salvation of Israel would come out of Zion!
When the Lord brings back the captivity of His people,
Let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad.
- Psalm 14:1-7
It's Just a Little White Lie
And it came to pass, when he was close to entering Egypt, that he said to Sarai his wife, "Indeed I know that you are a woman of beautiful countenance. Therefore it will happen, when the Egyptians see you, that they will say, This is his wife; and they will kill me, but they will let you live. Please say you are my sister, that it may be well with me for your sake, and that I may live because of you." - Genesis 12:11-13
Despite Abram's close relationship with God, he still didn't always do what was right. He acted rather selfishly here, asking his wife to lie because he was afraid the Egyptians would kill him in order to take her because she was so beautiful. Later on in verse 17, we learn that God plagued the house of Pharaoh as a result of this lie, and Pharaoh told Abram and his family to leave. A lie, even a seemingly small one, always has consequences. Being honest is always the better option. On a larger scale, if Abram had trusted in God completely, he should have known that God had a plan for him and that he wouldn't be killed.
Controlled By Revenge
And the men of Israel were distressed that day, for Saul had placed the people under oath, saying, "Cursed is the man who eats any food until evening, before I have taken vengeance on my enemies." So none of the people tasted food. ... But Jonathan had not heard his father charge the people with the oath; therefore he stretched out the end of the rod that was in his hand and dipped it in a honeycomb, and put his hand to his mouth; and his countenance brightened. - 1 Samuel 14:24, 27
Saul had become so consumed by his desire to take vengeance on his enemies that he told the Israelites who were with him that they could not eat until he had gotten revenge. Saul originally stuck with his oath and was going to kill his son Jonathan, but the people rescued him and he did not die. What can we learn from this? Forgive and trust God to handle everything else. What was gained by telling the Israelites not to eat? Nothing that I know of; the desire for revenge can cause a person to make illogical demands and bad choices, some of which can have disastrous, unintended consequences.
Faith and Trust
Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls--yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer's feet, and He will make me walk on my high hills. To the Chief Musician. With my stringed instruments. - Habakkuk 3:17-19
This is a beautiful picture of having faith and trust in God no matter the circumstances. Even if there is no fruit, no food in the fields, and no herd of animals, Habakkuk will still have joy in God. He realizes that God is always his strength, not only in the good times but especially in the bad when he needs that strength the most. If you are going through a difficult time, I hope that this passage can be an encouragement to you.
Spending Time in the Bible
And the devil said to Him, "All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours." And Jesus answered and said to him, "Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve. " - Luke 4:6-8
This is a portion of the well-known story about Jesus being tempted by Satan while He was in the desert. Satan may be deceitful, but as we see here, he isn't very smart. Did he actually think he could trick God's own Son into serving him? Everything already belonged to God! Perhaps Jesus just needed to experience temptation first-hand in order to understand it in the same way that we do, and also to give us an example to follow. Notice that He quoted Scripture in response to each temptation. (It should be noted that Satan even quoted Scripture the last time, but of course it was out of context.) That is just one reason why reading the Bible on a daily basis is so important: We can use what we learn to help defend ourselves against temptations.
Walk in the Spirit, Part 2 of 3
Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. - Galatians 5:19-21
Paul goes on to list some of the lusts of the flesh in detail. Why do so many Christians seem to suddenly believe that it is okay to give in to these desires? It most certainly is not! The world may have changed in the last 2,000 years, but God's Word has not. If you are involved in any of these activities on a regular basis, I strongly urge you to make things right with God. If you know someone else who is, I encourage you to talk to that person using the fifth chapter of Galatians as your guide. Our world is falling deeper and deeper into sin with each passing day. The Church cannot afford to follow it down that path!
Go to the ant, you sluggard!
Consider her ways and be wise,
Which, having no captain,
Overseer or ruler,
Provides her supplies in the summer,
And gathers her food in the harvest.
How long will you slumber, O sluggard?
When will you rise from your sleep?
A little sleep, a little slumber,
A little folding of the hands to sleep--
So shall your poverty come on you like a prowler,
And your need like an armed man.
- Proverbs 6:6-11
Laziness is becoming a big problem in our society today. It seems that more and more people want to be given everything instead of working for it, in stark contrast to the hard work that our ancestors were known for. But this proverb encourages us to work hard and take care of ourselves. Certainly, God will also take care of us, but He doesn't want us to become lazy in the process because laziness harms us as well as the work we need to be doing for Him.
Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle?
Who may dwell in Your holy hill?
He who walks uprightly,
And works righteousness,
And speaks the truth in his heart;
He who does not backbite with his tongue,
Nor does evil to his neighbor,
Nor does he take up a reproach against his friend;
In whose eyes a vile person is despised,
But he honors those who fear the Lord;
He who swears to his own hurt and does not change;
He who does not put out his money at usury,
Nor does he take a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things shall never be moved.
- Psalm 15:1-5
When Possessions Come First
Lot also, who went with Abram, had flocks and herds and tents. Now the land was not able to support them, that they might dwell together, for their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together. And there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram's livestock and the herdsmen of Lot's livestock. - Genesis 13:5-7a
Like the vast majority of people in our country today, it appears that Abram and Lot just had too much "stuff". Apparently it never occurred to either man to sell some of their possessions so they could continue to live side-by-side. They had so many possessions that their "stuff" had become more important than family. It's very easy to let possessions come between you and your family in a variety of different ways. Television especially has a strong negative impact in that area, and other gadgets can have similar effects if you spend too much time using them and too little time with your family. Possessions can be very powerful, if you choose to give them that power. If you use them too much, they even have the power to strain your relationship with God.
A Picture of Complete Love
"Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey." ... But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were unwilling to utterly destroy them. ... Now the word of the Lord came to Samuel, saying, "I greatly regret that I have set up Saul as king..." - 1 Samuel 15:3, 9a, 10-11a
Our God of love couldn't have taken pleasure in commanding Israel to utterly destroy this group of people. However, it is because of love that He had to do just that. The Amalekites had ambushed Israel when they were returning from Egypt and were clearly against God. God knew that, if any part of their culture survived, it would begin to contaminate the Israelites and some of them would fall away from Him (this happens several times in the Old Testament). God's love isn't always warm and fuzzy, but it is true and complete. He loved His people enough that He wanted to ensure they would not be corrupted by the Amalekites.
A Fulfilled Prophecy
"I will stretch out My hand against Judah, and against all the inhabitants of Jerusalem. I will cut off every trace of Baal from this place, the names of the idolatrous priests with the pagan priests." - Zephaniah 1:4
And the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest, the priests of the second order, and the doorkeepers, to bring out of the temple of the Lord all the articles that were made for Baal, for Asherah, and for all the host of heaven; and he burned them outside Jerusalem in the fields of Kidron, and carried their ashes to Bethel. Then he removed the idolatrous priests whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense on the high places in the cities of Judah and in the places all around Jerusalem, and those who burned incense to Baal, to the sun, to the moon, to the constellations, and to all the host of heaven. - 2 Kings 23:4-5
Here we find a prophecy that was fulfilled. Zephaniah likely made this prophecy just a few years before King Josiah fulfilled it. Israel had (again) wandered away from God, but Josiah restored true worship and led Israel back to the Lord.
And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business. When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers' money and overturned the tables. And He said to those who sold doves, "Take these things away! Do not make My Father's house a house of merchandise!" - John 2:14-16
Jesus was angry. Anger is a valid response if the reasons for that anger are justified in God's eyes. These people were completely disregarding the holiness of the temple and they were doing business in there, selling animals (and probably at high prices) that people could then use to sacrifice with. As Christians, we should love God enough that we feel anger if something sacred like a church or a Bible is being completely disrespected. We also need to value those things ourselves, taking care of things like our Bibles and church facilities and treating them with more care than ordinary things.
Walk in the Spirit, Part 3 of 3
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. - Galatians 5:22-25
Often people will quote the part about the fruits of the Spirit while completely ignoring all the warnings that Paul writes just before these verses. People like to hear "feel-good" parts of the Bible, but it won't feel very good when we get to heaven if God is disappointed in us because we gave into our lusts of the flesh. These are the attributes we need to show on a daily basis. We don't need to give in to every lust or desire, but we do need to show love, kindness, and all these other traits to others. By doing so, and by not giving into our fleshly desires, we will feel that joy and peace that God promises to us and we will stand a much better chance of making a difference for Him in this fallen world.
A worthless person, a wicked man,
Walks with a perverse mouth;
He winks with his eyes,
He shuffles his feet,
He points with his fingers;
Perversity is in his heart,
He devises evil continually,
He sows discord.
Therefore his calamity shall come suddenly;
Suddenly he shall be broken without remedy.
- Proverbs 6:12-15
Preserve me, O God, for in You I put my trust.
O my soul, you have said to the Lord,
"You are my Lord,
My goodness is nothing apart from You."
As for the saints who are on the earth,
"They are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight."
Their sorrows shall be multiplied who hasten after another god;
Their drink offerings of blood I will not offer,
Nor take up their names on my lips.
For You will not leave my soul in Sheol,
Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.
You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
- Psalm 16:1-4, 10-11
So Abram said to Lot, "Please let there be no strife between you and me, and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen; for we are brethren. Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me. If you take the left, then I will go to the right; or, if you go to the right, then I will go to the left." - Genesis 13:8-9
Last week we talked about how Abram and Lot had to separate because they had too many possessions, which apparently had become more important than staying together as a family. However, Abram makes a wise and very unselfish decision this time. Instead of possibly getting into a major argument over who will move where, he lets Lot have first choice. Think about some occasions when you and a friend or family member faced a similar dilemma. Were you unselfish like Abram, simply letting the other person make the choice, or did you argue and try to get what you wanted? The latter may get you what you want in the short term, but the former is ultimately better for your relationship with that person.
Obedience: Better Than Sacrifice
So Samuel said: "Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams." - 1 Samuel 15:22
Even in Old Testament times, I don't believe God ever desired just a sacrifice. But there had to be atonement for sin, and that was the way He decided it needed to be done. The sacrifice of blood atones for sin in both the Old Covenant and the New Covenant (Jesus' blood on the cross). What God truly desired, though, was that His people would follow Him and obey His commands. Saul made the excuse that the Israelites kept the best animals when they attacked the Amalekites in order to sacrifice them to the Lord. However, God had made it clear that they were to destroy everything. He just wanted their obedience, not the act of sacrifice which went against His commands. That's what He wants most from us today as well: Not people who just attend church on Sundays and do what appears to be right, but people who truly follow Him with their hearts and their lives.
Do It For the Lord
Then the word of the Lord of hosts came to me, saying, "Say to all the people of the land, and to the priests: When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months during those seventy years, did you really fast for Me--for Me? When you eat and when you drink, do you not eat and drink for yourselves?" - Zechariah 7:4-6
When you go to church, is it to worship God or so other people won't think less of you? If you pray in public, are you simply talking to God or are you trying to impress the people around you? This same idea can be applied to many different things. What other people think of you should not matter, but it does matter to many people. If you think you may be one of those people, consider this: When you die and you (hopefully) enter heaven, whose opinion will be important then? Will it matter what other people thought of something you did? No, it won't. All that will matter is God's opinion. If we all lived our lives with that mindset, we would be much better off and we would have a closer walk with God.
Jesus answered and said to them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." Then the Jews said, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?" But He was speaking of the temple of His body. Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said. - John 2:19-22
First of all, we should never underestimate the power of God. Jesus was certainly capable of rebuilding the temple in three days if He had wanted to. However, in this case, He was speaking of His own body. He knew that temple of His body would be destroyed--crucified--and He would rise again on the third day. That temple should be respected by us in every way. We should honor Jesus by following His commands and living Christ-like lives. We should respect Him by not misusing His precious name. Let's not forget or take for granted what He did for us on the cross.
All Sins are Equal
Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. - Galatians 5:26
To God, sin is sin. No one sin is greater than another. We often forget that, thinking thoughts such as "I may not be perfect, but I'm certainly better than that person over there!" That is a very dangerous road to travel. I'll be honest: This is something I struggle with sometimes. While I certainly wouldn't call myself conceited, I also don't feel like I'm as humble as I should be when it comes to my relationship with Christ. That is probably because I generally tend to do what's right. But regardless of how "good" or "bad" we believe ourselves to be, we need to learn from some of the people in the Bible who were known for their humility. Paul, who wrote this verse, is one good example. Jesus' mother, Mary, is another, and there are many more as well. If we don't feel like we are better than anybody else, there will be no room for conceit to form. If we are all secure with ourselves as children of God, created just as He wanted us to be, envy should not be able to develop, either.