Living for Christ

September 2010 Daily Devotion Archive

September 1:
The Preincarnate Jesus

"Look!" [King Nebuchadnezzar] answered, "I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God." - Daniel 3:25

Many people believe that this fourth man was in fact the preincarnate Jesus--that is, Jesus before he was sent to earth later on to die for our sins. This is another wonderful example of how Jesus is present throughout the entire Bible, not just in the New Testament. Not only did God spare these three men who were sent into the fiery furnace, but He actually sent Jesus down there to watch over them. That had quite an impact on the king, which we will take a closer look at next week. But just imagine how things would have been different if these three men had simply chosen to give in and bow down to the king's gold statue. None of this would have happened, and God would have been robbed of an outstanding opportunity to show His power, love, and grace. Always stand up for what you believe in, even when it's hard, so that you can offer those same opportunities to God.

September 2:
Breaking Down Barriers

Then behold, men brought on a bed a man who was paralyzed, whom they sought to bring in and lay before Him. And when they could not find how they might bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the housetop and let him down with his bed through the tiling into the midst before Jesus. When He saw their faith, He said to him, "Man, your sins are forgiven you." - Luke 5:18-20

These men would stop at nothing to get their friend near Jesus so that he could be healed! They trusted Jesus, they knew that He could heal this man, and they were determined to get him close to Jesus. They were so confident in Jesus' power that they went to great lengths to lower this man through the roof to where Jesus was. Even that barrier, the roof, didn't stand in their way. Nothing could stop them! What great faith they showed, and that great faith was rewarded with healing from Jesus. Is your faith that strong? Do you let anything get in the way between you and Jesus?

September 3:
A Strong Work Ethic

Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. - Ephesians 4:28

To me, it sounds like this verse isn't exactly speaking to people who steal or rob people in the sense that we usually think about it, but rather to those people who are lazy and just take what the government gives them. In effect, they are stealing from others who do work hard and pay taxes. We see multiple times in the Bible that God believes in hard, honest work and a strong work ethic; He doesn't want us to be lazy. Yes, a few people do have legitimate reasons for not being able to work, but many more simply don't want to, and to God, that is definitely not an acceptable excuse. He commands us to work and earn our wages, and then in turn we can help those who are not lazy but for whatever reason truly need some extra assistance.

September 4:
A Solid Foundation

The blessing of the Lord makes one rich,
And He adds no sorrow with it.
To do evil is like sport to a fool,
But a man of understanding has wisdom.
The fear of the wicked will come upon him,
And the desire of the righteous will be granted.
When the whirlwind passes by, the wicked is no more,
But the righteous has an everlasting foundation.
- Proverbs 10:22-25

The last verse in this passage reminds me of Jesus' words about the two men who each built a house--one on the rock and one on the sand. In the modern day, it can better be applied to people who put their hope and faith in worldly possessions, money, or things like the stock market or the housing market. None of those things last forever, and in recent years we have seen some of them crumble in a whirlwind. God is our Rock and the only everlasting foundation; He is the one in which we need to place our hope and faith!

September 5:
Show me Your ways, O Lord;
Teach me Your paths.
Lead me in Your truth and teach me,
For You are the God of my salvation;
On You I wait all the day.
- Psalm 25:4-5

September 6:
Total Faith, Part 2 of 2

So Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and the two of them went together. But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, "My father!" And he said, "Here I am, my son." Then he said, "Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?" And Abraham said, "My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering." So the two of them went together. - Genesis 22:6-8

Was Abraham speaking deceitfully so he wouldn't alarm Isaac, whom God had told him to sacrifice? I don't believe so. Instead, I think this is yet another indication of just how strong Abraham's faith truly was. As I mentioned last week, I think Abraham knew deep down that God wouldn't actually ask him to sacrifice his own son. Therefore, it stands to reason that God Himself would in fact provide the lamb for the sacrifice. I don't believe those were merely empty words that Abraham spoke to his son; instead, they are words of total faith in God.

September 7:
In God's Hands

But David said to Abishai, "Do not destroy him; for who can stretch out his hand against the Lord's anointed, and be guiltless?" David said furthermore, "As the Lord lives, the Lord shall strike him, or his day shall come to die, or he shall go out to battle and perish. The Lord forbid that I should stretch out my hand against the Lord's anointed. But please, take now the spear and the jug of water that are by his head, and let us go." - 1 Samuel 26:9-11

Saul was asleep, and David had the perfect opportunity to kill him in revenge for the times when Saul had attempted to kill David out of jealousy. David's companion Abishai even tried to convince David to kill Saul. But David refused. He knew that Saul's life, just like the lives of all people, belonged to God and not to him. It wasn't his decision to make. He trusted God and placed the decision in His hands instead. He took Saul's spear and jug of water in order to prove to him the next day that he had an opportunity to kill him, but he spared his life. Next week, we will see the result of that action.

September 8:
Standing Up For God, Part 1 of 2

Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying, "Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who sent His Angel and delivered His servants who trusted in Him, and they have frustrated the king's word, and yielded their bodies, that they should not serve nor worship any god except their own God! Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation, or language which speaks anything amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made an ash heap; because there is no other God who can deliver like this." - Daniel 3:28-29

These three men stood up for God in the most difficult of circumstances, being thrown into the fiery furnace for their beliefs. But look at what happened because of the stand they took. Not only did God save them from death, but this event also had a profound impact on the king and all the people of this land. Because of what happened in the furnace, King Nebuchadnezzar himself started to believe in God and sent out a decree supporting God to all his people.

September 9:
Too Much Thinking?

And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, "Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?" But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, He answered and said to them, "Why are you reasoning in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, Your sins are forgiven you, or to say, Rise up and walk? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins"-He said to the man who was paralyzed, "I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house." - Luke 5:21-24

Some people needed to see a sign before they could believe in Jesus. Sadly, those people were often among the religious leaders of that time. They were trying to apply all of their theological knowledge of the Old Testament to what they saw and they had trouble making sense of it all. Sometimes I believe we have a tendency to put too much thought into such matters. Yes, theological debate can be a good thing at times, but other times it only serves to divide us when we should work together to reach the rest of the world for Christ. After all, isn't that what the Great Commission tells us to do?

September 10:
Unwholesome Talk, Part 1 of 2

Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. - Ephesians 4:29

I actually prefer the NIV's translation of this particular verse; it uses the word "unwholesome" in place of "corrupt." Either way, the idea is the same. How often does one person tear down another person just with some harsh words? Even more disturbing, how often do we see that happen within the church? That is never how God intended us to treat one another! But it happens far too often. What can we do instead? First, don't assume. An assumption made about another person's ideas or motives in the heat of the moment often tends to be wrong. Second, if someone does criticize you, try saying something kind to that person in return. That's not our natural reaction, but it's a great way to put a sudden stop to a heated argument! Above all, we just need to speak out of love. If we could truly do that, we would have very few problems in the church.

September 11:
The fear of the Lord prolongs days,
But the years of the wicked will be shortened.
The hope of the righteous will be gladness,
But the expectation of the wicked will perish.
The way of the Lord is strength for the upright,
But destruction will come to the workers of iniquity.
The righteous will never be removed,
But the wicked will not inhabit the earth.
The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom,
But the perverse tongue will be cut out.
The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable,
But the mouth of the wicked what is perverse.
- Proverbs 10:27-32

September 12:
Remember, O Lord, Your tender mercies and Your lovingkindnesses,
For they are from of old.
Do not remember the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions;
According to Your mercy remember me,
For Your goodness' sake, O Lord.
Good and upright is the Lord;
Therefore He teaches sinners in the way.
The humble He guides in justice,
And the humble He teaches His way.
All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth,
To such as keep His covenant and His testimonies.
For Your name's sake, O Lord,
Pardon my iniquity, for it is great.
- Psalm 25:6-11

September 13:
Who Are Tests For?

Then they came to the place of which God had told him. And Abraham built an altar there and placed the wood in order; and he bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, upon the wood. And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the Angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, "Abraham, Abraham!" So he said, "Here I am." And He said, "Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me." - Genesis 22:9-12

As I read this passage again just now I started to wonder, who was this test really for? God knows the hearts of all people and He exists outside of time. Because of that, wouldn't He have known how strong Abraham's faith was without this test? For that reason, I believe this test, and other tests that we face sometimes, are really more for us. What was gained from this test? Abraham learned how strong his faith was, Isaac learned a significant lesson about faith from his father, and we still have this example to follow today.

September 14:
Returning Good For Evil, Once Again

Then Saul said, "I have sinned. Return, my son David. For I will harm you no more, because my life was precious in your eyes this day. Indeed I have played the fool and erred exceedingly." - 1 Samuel 26:21

For a second time David has an opportunity to kill Saul in return for the attempts Saul had made on David's life, but David spares Saul's life instead. Saul realizes the significance of that act and seems to repent from his own actions, admitting that he had been a fool. I cannot stress how important it is that we, as Christians, repay evil with kindness. Other people, especially non-believers, expect something evil in return. If they insult you, they expect to be insulted back. If they hit you, they expect to be hit in return. That is the natural way, and for non-believers, that's all they have. But if you're a Christian, you also have the love of Christ within you. Show that love to other people instead, and they just might repent the same way King Saul did here.

September 15:
Standing Up For God, Part 2 of 2

Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying, "Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who sent His Angel and delivered His servants who trusted in Him, and they have frustrated the king's word, and yielded their bodies, that they should not serve nor worship any god except their own God! Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation, or language which speaks anything amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made an ash heap; because there is no other God who can deliver like this." - Daniel 3:28-29

Just as these three men had a profound impact on the king and the people of this land, we can also have a profound impact by taking a stand for God. Far too many Christians today are entirely too casual when it comes to God. But all it takes is one person or a small group to take a stand for the truth, and God may use that to advance His kingdom in powerful ways just as he did way back during the time of Daniel. Won't you allow God to use you today?

September 16:
Jesus' Authority

Then they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and taught. And they were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. - Mark 1:21-22

Above all, of course, Jesus came to be our Savior. But during His time here on earth, He was primarily a teacher, providing us with incredible wisdom on how we should live as Christians. These two verses cite one of the many examples when Jesus taught and the people were amazed and astonished. They were used to hearing the scribes teach from the Bible. Now the scribes knew the words in the Bible very well because their primary task was to make hand-written copies of the Bible. But knowing the words that are in the Bible and truly knowing and understanding what is in there are two entirely different things. They knew the words and could recite the laws, but we are left with the impression that many of them did not have a true understanding of it. But Jesus could teach with authority because He doesn't just know the Word; He IS the Word.

September 17:
Unwholesome Talk, Part 2 of 2

Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. - Ephesians 4:29

This week I want to look at this verse from a different perspective. One category of unwholesome or corrupt talk that is becoming more and more prevalent in our society is foul language. As Christians, I believe we shouldn't tolerate that, but many Christians not only tolerate it but join right in, using the same foul language that non-Christians use. As far as I know, there is no specific command in the Bible that tells us to avoid using such language. However, God does command us to watch what we say and to have clean, pure thoughts. If that type of language is a part of your regular vocabulary, then you cannot possibly be following either of those commands. In addition, this also provides another way for Christians to stand out from the rest of the world, and only when we stand out in our day-to-day lifestyle will we begin to have a chance to make a difference in this world.

September 18:
Dealing Honestly

Dishonest scales are an abomination to the Lord,
But a just weight is His delight.
- Proverbs 11:1

I think the primary message here is to be honest when dealing with others. Back during the time that this was written, I assume scales were perhaps used to weigh fruits and vegetables, fish and seafood, currency, or other things that were traded back and forth. That type of thing isn't done as much these days, but the principle of dealing honestly and truthfully with other people still stands. For example, if you are selling something, be truthful about it and about any problems that it may have. Don't try to cover those things up just to make a sell like some people do. A small lie or a lie of omission is still a lie, and any type of lie is sinful to God. If you're honest about something, you may or may not still sell it, but your actions will be more pleasing to God, and isn't that of greater importance?

September 19:
Eyes on the Lord

Who is the man that fears the Lord?
Him shall He teach in the way He chooses.
He himself shall dwell in prosperity,
And his descendants shall inherit the earth.
The secret of the Lord is with those who fear Him,
And He will show them His covenant.
My eyes are ever toward the Lord,
For He shall pluck my feet out of the net.
- Psalm 25:12-15

David wrote that his eyes "are ever toward the Lord." Are yours? Is your primary focus on God or on the things of this world?

September 20:
The Lord Will Provide

Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son. And Abraham called the name of the place, The-Lord-Will-Provide; as it is said to this day, "In the Mount of the Lord it shall be provided." - Genesis 22:13-14

Abraham had told his son Isaac that "God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering," and that is exactly what happened. Even under what must have been unusually difficult circumstances for Abraham-being told to go and sacrifice his long-awaited son-he still trusted God and knew that He would provide. Yahweh Yireh, "The Lord Will Provide," is one of the names of God, and indeed He will always provide for His people. It may not always seem that way, but more often than not that is because of misplace priorities on our part. If you put God first and give back to Him instead of buying things you don't need, you can always depend on Him to supply all your needs-not necessarily your wants, but He will take care of your needs.

September 21:
David's Ultimate Concern

"And indeed, as your life was valued much this day in my eyes, so let my life be valued much in the eyes of the Lord, and let Him deliver me out of all tribulation." - 1 Samuel 26:24

After everything that had taken place, with Saul attempting to kill David and David sparing Saul's life in return, you would think that David would want Saul to value his life. But that isn't what he says here. Instead, he is still ultimately concerned with what God thinks, which implies that he spared Saul's life in order to please God. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why David was said to be a man after God's own heart. Certainly he wanted to make peace with Saul, but his biggest concern was that his life was valued by God. When you make a choice, is your decision based on other people's opinions or on God's opinion?

September 22:
The King's Beliefs Persist

I thought it good to declare the signs and wonders that the Most High God has worked for me. - Daniel 4:2

These are the words of King Nebuchadnezzar as he wrote to his people. Many times in the Bible we see where someone briefly starts to believe in God, but then falls back into old habits. This is especially true with kings and other leaders. In fact, King Nebuchadnezzar himself did this in the third chapter of Daniel. But what the king saw in the fiery furnace had such a tremendous impact on him that he continued to believe, and he continues to attribute many things to God throughout the rest of his life! We should be amazed that the stand which Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego took had such a powerful impact, and we should be compelled to follow their example when given the opportunity. You may not literally be threatened in the same way that these men were, but there are many people in today's world who think it's silly to believe in God just as the king did prior to this event. Challenge those people and stand up for what's true. You just may have an eternal impact in the lives of many people.

September 23:
Examining Satan, Part 1 of 3

Now there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, saying, "Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us? I know who You are--the Holy One of God!" ... and [Jesus] cast out many demons; and He did not allow the demons to speak, because they knew Him. - Mark 1:23-24, 34b

The demons who are written about here as well as in other parts of the Bible are clearly in league with Satan. Yes, Satan is a very real being, despite how unpleasant it may be to think about him and the place in which he dwells. He is specifically named many times throughout the Bible, especially in the New Testament but also in the first two chapters of Job and also in 1 Chronicles 21:1. Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 describe Satan's fall from heaven. Also in Ezekiel 28, it is mentioned that he was originally created as the most beautiful angel in heaven. That makes me think about how people who have beauty, wealth, power, fame, or other worldly attributes tend to be much less likely to be devoted to God.

September 24:
Grieving the Holy Spirit

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. - Ephesians 4:30

I have written a couple of devotionals on the subject of grieving God's heart based on the words found in Genesis 6:5-6. Here we find a similar idea, written some 1500 years later in Paul's letter to the Ephesians. Yes, it is true that our sins are forgiven once we accept Jesus Christ as Savior. But that doesn't mean it's okay to sin because of that forgiveness. The Bible seems to be quite clear that our sins grieve God's heart and the Holy Spirit. That's the same Holy Spirit that dwells within each of us (if you're a Christian)--the same Holy Spirit you take along for the ride each and every time you sin against God. We simply need to act in a way that is pleasing to God. It may sound easier said than done, but with the power of the Holy Spirit, it is certainly possible. If you're about to sin and you're facing that choice, try to remember two things: If you do, you will grieve God's heart and you will be taking the Holy Spirit with you as you sin.

September 25:
Pride & Humility

When pride comes, then comes shame;
But with the humble is wisdom.
- Proverbs 11:2

Not only is pride a sin and something God hates (Proverbs 6:17), but it can also cause you to do all kinds of silly things. Pride can make you think too much of yourself, it can make you think you're capable of doing something on your own when you really aren't, and it can cause you to think that you don't need to ask others for help. Those are just a few general examples. Worst of all, pride can cause you to think so much of yourself that you think you don't need God, and that kind of attitude will most certainly lead to failure and shame. Humility is the way to go instead, just as Jesus showed us over and over by His example. Pride is very restrictive, but humility allows us to freely serve God and others without worrying so much about ourselves.

September 26:
Can You Say This?

Vindicate me, O Lord,
For I have walked in my integrity.
I have also trusted in the Lord;
I shall not slip.
Examine me, O Lord, and prove me;
Try my mind and my heart.
For Your lovingkindness is before my eyes,
And I have walked in Your truth.
I have not sat with idolatrous mortals,
Nor will I go in with hypocrites.
I have hated the assembly of evildoers,
And will not sit with the wicked.
- Psalm 26:1-5

This is a good prayer to use for self-examination. Read it and take a close look at yourself. No one is perfect, of course, but how close do you come? Could you pray this same prayer?

September 27:
The Rewards of Obeying

Then the Angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time out of heaven, and said: "By Myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son-blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice." - Genesis 22:15-18

We see many times in the Bible that there are consequences for disobeying God, and sometimes those consequences go on for many generations. Here, we find a long-lasting reward that Abraham received for obeying God and having complete faith in Him. I believe the key here is that Abraham did not withhold anything from God. He didn't try to do things his way. That can be a difficult thing to do, but if you can truly submit to God as Abraham did, then I believe God will richly bless you as well.

September 28:
David Still Seeks God's Direction

So David inquired of the Lord, saying, "Shall I pursue this troop? Shall I overtake them?" And He answered him, "Pursue, for you shall surely overtake them and without fail recover all." ... So David recovered all that the Amalekites had carried away, and David rescued his two wives. And nothing of theirs was lacking, either small or great, sons or daughters, spoil or anything which they had taken from them; David recovered all. - 1 Samuel 30:8, 18-19

If someone had taken your spouse captive, how would you react? The Amalekites had attacked a city and taken David's two wives (it was a different culture back then) into captivity. But David didn't immediately react. He didn't just chase after those people with his army. Instead, despite the heartache and pain he must have been feeling, he sought God's guidance before he did anything. God told him to pursue the Amalekites and recover everything, and that is exactly what happened. When we seek God's guidance first rather than just acting on our own impulses, things tend to turn out much better in the end.

September 29:
Old Habits

Then the magicians, the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers came in, and I told them the dream; but they did not make known to me its interpretation. But at last Daniel came before me (his name is Belteshazzar, according to the name of my god; in him is the Spirit of the Holy God), and I told the dream before him. - Daniel 4:7-8

Old habits can be hard to break. Despite the fact that King Nebuchadnezzar developed a belief in God after the incident at the fiery furnace, the next time he had a dream that needed to be interpreted, he still chose to seek out his magicians and astrologers before he went to Daniel. He had to know that dream most likely came from God, but he still went back to his old habits. That doesn't mean that he stopped believing in God; it just means that something compelled him to hang on to his old way of doing things. That can be a difficult problem to overcome, especially if you don't become a Christian until you are an adult. But remember that Jesus came to free us from those old habits, and we need to give them up and focus on Him instead.

September 30:
Examining Satan, Part 2 of 3

Now there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, saying, "Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us? I know who You are--the Holy One of God!" ... and [Jesus] cast out many demons; and He did not allow the demons to speak, because they knew Him. - Mark 1:23-24, 34b

Isn't it interesting that the very same Satan who does everything in his power to pull people away from Jesus believes in Jesus himself? At least, he knows that Jesus exists, but of course he doesn't believe "in" him as Savior. Satan still believes he can win the war (and there is most certainly an ongoing spiritual war), so he doesn't need a Savior. I would argue (though I am not certain of this) that he also doesn't believe that there is such a thing as sin; he has certainly managed to trick a lot of people here on earth into believing that lie. That may be his most powerful weapon of all. If you don't believe you're a sinner, then why would you need a Savior in the first place? But Satan is deceitful above all else, and we all desperately need a Savior.