Living for Christ

July 2011 Daily Devotion Archive

July 1:
Achieving Unity, Part 1 of 2

Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. - Philippians 2:1-4

Paul gives us invaluable wisdom regarding unity. Apparently this was a problem in the early church, and it is definitely a big problem in our churches today. Within a single church, there are often too many people who want things done their own way and who refuse to cooperate with others in doing the work of the church. Are you one of those people? Take a close and honest look at yourself and pray about it if you're not sure; most people who fall into this category do not realize it. Do you know someone like this? Be honest; speak up and say something! It's far better to offend or upset the person than to compromise the Lord's work.

Question to Ponder: Do you ever let your own ideas or ambitions get in the way of doing the Lord's work?

July 2:
In all labor there is profit,
But idle chatter leads only to poverty.
The crown of the wise is their riches,
But the foolishness of fools is folly.
A true witness delivers souls,
But a deceitful witness speaks lies.
In the fear of the Lord there is strong confidence,
And His children will have a place of refuge.
The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life,
To turn one away from the snares of death.
- Proverbs 14:23-27

July 3:
"Lord, make me to know my end,
And what is the measure of my days,
That I may know how frail I am.
Indeed, You have made my days as handbreadths,
And my age is as nothing before You;
Certainly every man at his best state is but vapor. Selah
Surely every man walks about like a shadow;
Surely they busy themselves in vain;
He heaps up riches,
And does not know who will gather them.
"And now, Lord, what do I wait for?
My hope is in You.
Deliver me from all my transgressions;
Do not make me the reproach of the foolish."
- Psalm 39:4-8

July 4:
Joseph Continues to Trust and Obey

Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh, and went throughout all the land of Egypt. Now in the seven plentiful years the ground brought forth abundantly. So he gathered up all the food of the seven years which were in the land of Egypt, and laid up the food in the cities; he laid up in every city the food of the fields which surrounded them. Joseph gathered very much grain, as the sand of the sea, until he stopped counting, for it was immeasurable. - Genesis 41:46-49

Joseph placed complete trust in the vision God had given him, and everything happened according to that vision. Joseph knew that seven years of famine were coming, so he led the people throughout all of Egypt to gather and store food during the seven plentiful years. Joseph trusted in God's plan through a considerable amount of adversity prior to this time, and now that God has placed him in a position of power and influence, he continued to follow God's plan, in contrast to many other leaders.

Question to Ponder: If God delivered you from adversity into a position of power, would you remember to still follow Him?

July 5:
David's Big Sin, Part 12

Then Nathan departed to his house. And the Lord struck the child that Uriah's wife bore to David, and it became ill. David therefore pleaded with God for the child, and David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground. ... Then on the seventh day it came to pass that the child died. - 2 Samuel 12:15-16, 18a

David sinned with Bathsheba, and sin always has consequences. Sometimes those consequences are more dire than others, but there are always consequences. In David's case, the consequences were extreme. Honestly, from a human point of view, I look at this story and wonder why God had to let this child die, since the child himself was innocent. But I trust God enough to know that He is always completely just and fair and I know there is a reason why He had to allow this to happen to David's illegitimate son. God is our judge, and sin will never go unpunished. I, for one, am thankful that our God loves us enough to punish us for our sins and to teach us right from wrong! If He didn't, then He wouldn't be showing us true love.

Question to Ponder: Are you thankful to God for punishing you when you sin, to help teach you right from wrong?

July 6:
Obey or Rebel?

"Come now, and let us reason together,"
Says the Lord,
"Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They shall be as wool.
If you are willing and obedient,
You shall eat the good of the land;
But if you refuse and rebel,
You shall be devoured by the sword";
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken
- Isaiah 1:18-20

Are you willing and obedient to do what the Lord wants you to do? Or do you refuse to listen to Him, rebelling and choosing your own path? The words contained within these verses make it clear how God responds to both groups of people. God's way is always best, and if we follow His path instead of trying to make our own way, He will bless us for that.

Question to Ponder: Which do you do more often--obey God or rebel against Him?

July 7:
Like Children

And the Lord said, "To what then shall I liken the men of this generation, and what are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another, saying: We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we mourned to you, and you did not weep. For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, He has a demon. The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners! But wisdom is justified by all her children." - Luke 7:31-35

Jesus was primarily speaking to the Pharisees (religious leaders) who complained and condemned Jesus and His followers no matter what they did. He draws an analogy with children who never seem to be pleased. Ultimately, though, these men were simply looking for a way to trap Jesus to try and stop Him and His followers from spreading God's message. In that sense, they were also acting like children--immature and selfish children intent on getting their own way, no matter what.

Question to Ponder: What immature and/or selfish actions and attitudes do you observe in yourself or in others?

July 8:
Achieving Unity, Part 2 of 2

Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. - Philippians 2:1-4

Last Friday we applied these verses to people within a church. This week, we will work on a broader scale. Our churches desperately need to work together to spread the Good News of Jesus to the world around us! Some churches do cooperate in some areas, but we can still do far better. Regardless of denomination or (relatively minor) differences in doctrine, all churches that believe the Truth that Jesus is our Savior need to come together to spread that message! Nothing else is as important as that. We should be less concerned with the little things that separate us and more concerned with leading people to Christ.

Question to Ponder: How can your church work more closely with other churches to lead more people to Christ?

July 9:
He who is slow to wrath has great understanding,
But he who is impulsive exalts folly.
A sound heart is life to the body,
But envy is rottenness to the bones.
He who oppresses the poor reproaches his Maker,
But he who honors Him has mercy on the needy.
The wicked is banished in his wickedness,
But the righteous has a refuge in his death.
Wisdom rests in the heart of him who has understanding,
But what is in the heart of fools is made known.
Righteousness exalts a nation,
But sin is a reproach to any people.
- Proverbs 14:29-34

July 10:
I waited patiently for the Lord; And He inclined to me,
And heard my cry.
He also brought me up out of a horrible pit,
Out of the miry clay,
And set my feet upon a rock,
And established my steps.
He has put a new song in my mouth--
Praise to our God;
Many will see it and fear,
And will trust in the Lord.
- Psalm 40:1-3

July 11:
Praising God, No Matter What

And to Joseph were born two sons before the years of famine came, whom Asenath, the daughter of Poti-Pherah priest of On, bore to him. Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh: "For God has made me forget all my toil and all my father's house." And the name of the second he called Ephraim: "For God has caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction." - Genesis 41:50-52

Think briefly about the story of Joseph's life up to this point. His jealous brothers sold him into slavery, and eventually he was thrown in prison for two years for a crime he didn't commit. But Joseph never gave up on God and never stopped praising Him, even when things were really difficult for him. Now, everything has changed, and Joseph has finally reached the light at the end of the tunnel. Not only is he out of prison, but he has been given a high-ranking position under Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. Now, he is continuing to praise God, and even gave his sons names that honor and recognize all that God has done for him.

Question to Ponder: If you had lived Joseph's life, would you still be able to praise God in the good times and the bad?

July 12:
David's Big Sin, Part 13

Then on the seventh day it came to pass that the child died. And the servants of David were afraid to tell him that the child was dead. For they said, "Indeed, while the child was alive, we spoke to him, and he would not heed our voice. How can we tell him that the child is dead? He may do some harm!" When David saw that his servants were whispering, David perceived that the child was dead. Therefore David said to his servants, "Is the child dead?" And they said, "He is dead." So David arose from the ground, washed and anointed himself, and changed his clothes; and he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. - 2 Samuel 12:18-20

The lesson I see here is that we need to use caution in how we respond to other people. Complete honesty is something that is extremely important to me, but some people don't really let you be completely honest with them because they allow themselves to get offended or upset very easily. Apparently David treated his servants in such a way that they were afraid to tell him that his child had died. If we could all allow one another to be more honest, I think we could all have closer and stronger relationships.

Question to Ponder: Do you typically respond in a manner that allows others to be completely honest with you?

July 13:
Straying From God, Part 1 of 3

How the faithful city has become a harlot!
It was full of justice;
Righteousness lodged in it,
But now murderers.
Your silver has become dross,
Your wine mixed with water.
Your princes are rebellious,
And companions of thieves;
Everyone loves bribes,
And follows after rewards.
They do not defend the fatherless,
Nor does the cause of the widow come before them.
- Isaiah 1:21-23

Once again Isaiah is writing a prophecy concerning Israel's wickedness, and once again we can apply it to our country today. This nation used to be faithful to God and was founded on Christian principles (despite what some "scholars" try to claim), but we have strayed far from that. Even the line about bribes can be used to describe so many of our politicians and other leaders. Next Wednesday we will see what punishment God has in store.

Question to Ponder: Is the United States still a Christian nation? Why or why not?

July 14:
Judging Too Quickly

And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil. Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, "This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner." - Luke 7:37-39

This Pharisee was so quick to judge Jesus that he didn't stop to think about why Jesus was behaving in this manner (allowing the "sinner" to even touch Him). Instead, he jumped to a wrong conclusion and an unfair judgment. Many of us do the same thing in our interactions with other people. We assume that we know the other person's motives when we may be completely wrong. Be careful not to misinterpret other people's motives, and if you aren't sure, just ask!

Question to Ponder: Are you too quick to judge others, incorrectly assuming what their motives or intentions may be?

July 15:
The Character of Jesus, Our Savior

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. - Philippians 2:5-7

I would encourage you to read these verses a few times in order to really absorb the words and let them soak in. Then, take a moment to stop and think about the character of Jesus. He is God, in the form of the Son, part of the Holy Trinity. He could have come to this earth any way that He wanted. He could have had parades or armies or any kind of welcoming party. He could have waited to come until a more modern time when His face would have been spread all over the news and the internet, giving Him fame all around the world. But He didn't do any of those things. Instead, He came to earth as a lowly baby in a manger, the Son of a lowly carpenter. As He grew older, He remained humble, serving others rather than demanding to be served Himself. This is the God that we serve, and we should serve Him with a willing, humble heart.

Question to Ponder: Do you follow Jesus' example as you serve God and other people?

July 16:
A soft answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.
The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly,
But the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness.
The eyes of the Lord are in every place,
Keeping watch on the evil and the good.
A wholesome tongue is a tree of life,
But perverseness in it breaks the spirit.
A fool despises his father's instruction,
But he who receives correction is prudent.
- Proverbs 15:1-5

July 17:
Blessed is that man who makes the Lord his trust,
And does not respect the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies.
Many, O Lord my God, are Your wonderful works
Which You have done;
And Your thoughts toward us
Cannot be recounted to You in order;
If I would declare and speak of them,
They are more than can be numbered.
Sacrifice and offering You did not desire;
My ears You have opened.
Burnt offering and sin offering You did not require.
- Psalm 40:4-6

July 18:
Life Lessons from Joseph

The famine was in all lands, but in all the land of Egypt there was bread. So when all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread. Then Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians, "Go to Joseph; whatever he says to you, do." - Genesis 41:54b-55

God's timing is rarely the same as ours. We want things to happen on our timetable (usually, right now), and we don't want to have to wait on God. But, God's timing is perfect. I think most Christians will readily admit this, but sometimes it's harder to actually live by it. As Joseph's story starts to come to an end, we see the result of what can happen when we wait on God. Joseph endured a lot of suffering prior to this point in time, but now he has a leading role in God's plan--to help the people of Egypt during this famine. He had to have patience, perseverance, and complete faith and trust in God during some very difficult times, and he did. His faith never wavered. I believe that's the most significant thing we can learn from the story of Joseph. We need to have complete faith and trust in God, during the good times and the bad, and we need to trust in God's timing because it is perfect.

Question to Ponder: Do you place complete trust in God's timing?

July 19:
David's Big Sin, Part 14

Therefore David said to his servants, "Is the child dead?" And they said, "He is dead." So David arose from the ground, washed and anointed himself, and changed his clothes; and he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. Then he went to his own house; and when he requested, they set food before him, and he ate. - 2 Samuel 12:19b-20

By this time, I think David had finally developed a deep understanding of the sin he had committed against God. That would explain his reaction to the news of his son's death. I'm sure he was deeply sad, but he didn't get angry or upset over it and he didn't start to blame God. He realized that this was the result of his sin, and although he prayed for a different outcome, he accepted the consequences of his sin. Perhaps most remarkably, he immediately went to worship the Lord! To me, this shows that David was repentant of his sin and he wanted to make things right with God and to restore and renew his relationship with the Lord which had been damaged by his sin. David was still a man after God's own heart (1 Samuel 13:14).

Question to Ponder: How would you respond to a just and fair punishment from God?

July 20:
Straying From God, Part 2 of 3

Therefore the Lord says,
The Lord of hosts, the Mighty One of Israel,
"Ah, I will rid Myself of My adversaries,
And take vengeance on My enemies.
I will turn My hand against you,
And thoroughly purge away your dross,
And take away all your alloy.
I will restore your judges as at the first,
And your counselors as at the beginning.
Afterward you shall be called the city of righteousness, the faithful city."
Zion shall be redeemed with justice,
And her penitents with righteousness.
- Isaiah 1:24-27

This is the punishment that God was planning for Israel after they strayed from Him. I believe that we can use this as a warning to ourselves as well. God doesn't take the matter lightly when a nation drifts away from Him and falls into moral decay. If we don't straighten up and start standing up for what's right, we very well may face a similar punishment in the not-too-distant future.

Question to Ponder: Does the United States deserve a similar punishment from God? Why or why not?

July 21:
Realizing Our Need For Forgiveness, Part 1 of 2

And Jesus answered and said to him, "Simon, I have something to say to you." So he said, "Teacher, say it." "There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?" Simon answered and said, "I suppose the one whom he forgave more." And He said to him, "You have rightly judged." - Luke 7:40-43

This is why "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God" (Luke 18:25). So many people fall into the trap of believing that they are basically good and can make it into heaven because of that. Naturally, if you are good, then you don't need a Savior. But we "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23) and therefore we are all in need of a Savior, since none of us is perfect and sinless. Those who have lived a life filled with sin and then are made aware of it are much more likely to realize their need for a Savior to forgive them for all of their sins.

Question to Ponder: Which debtor is more like you, the one who only owed fifty denarii or the one who owed five hundred?

July 22:
The Obedience of Jesus, Our Savior

And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. - Philippians 2:8

Today's devotional is shorter than normal because I want to ask you to take a few moments just to reflect on the significance of the words in this verse. Jesus was obedient to God the Father to the point of His own death on the cross. He didn't try to choose a less difficult path to take. He obeyed to the very end. Would you do the same for Him in return?

Question to Ponder: When it comes to God's will for your life, how obedient are you?

July 23:
In the house of the righteous there is much treasure,
But in the revenue of the wicked is trouble.
The lips of the wise disperse knowledge,
But the heart of the fool does not do so.
The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord,
But the prayer of the upright is His delight.
The way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord,
But He loves him who follows righteousness.
Harsh discipline is for him who forsakes the way,
And he who hates correction will die.
- Proverbs 15:6-10

July 24:
Then I said, "Behold, I come;
In the scroll of the book it is written of me.
I delight to do Your will, O my God,
And Your law is within my heart."
I have proclaimed the good news of righteousness
In the great assembly;
Indeed, I do not restrain my lips,
O Lord, You Yourself know.
I have not hidden Your righteousness within my heart;
I have declared Your faithfulness and Your salvation;
I have not concealed Your lovingkindness and Your truth
From the great assembly.
- Psalm 40:7-10

July 25:
Why a Famine?

The famine was over all the face of the earth, and Joseph opened all the storehouses and sold to the Egyptians. And the famine became severe in the land of Egypt. So all countries came to Joseph in Egypt to buy grain, because the famine was severe in all lands. - Genesis 41:56-57

Some of you may wonder, why was there a famine in the first place? Why did Joseph have to endure so much suffering in order to ultimately deliver all these people from a famine which God could have prevented if He had wanted to? One obvious reason is that the famine ultimately allowed Joseph to be reunited with his long-lost family, as we will see over the next few Mondays. However, I believe there are many more reasons than that, some of which we can only speculate about. We do know that God can bring so much good out of seemingly bad situations. A difficult situation can cause people to draw closer to God, to build stronger relationships with Him as well as with other people, and to strengthen their own character and perseverance.

Question to Ponder: Are you thankful for the good things that can come out of difficult situations?

July 26:
David's Big Sin, Part 15 (Conclusion)

Then David comforted Bathsheba his wife, and went in to her and lay with her. So she bore a son, and he called his name Solomon. Now the Lord loved him, and He sent word by the hand of Nathan the prophet: So he called his name Jedidiah, because of the Lord. - 2 Samuel 12:24-25

God forgives and restores. David sinned when he committed adultery with Bathsheba, and they lost their son as a consequence of that sin. However, since her husband has since been killed in battle, David is now trying to make things right (or at least as "right" as possible). He married Bathsheba and they had another son. This time, newly restored, they were within God's will, and God blessed this child, who was named Solomon. A single moment of lust led to a big sin and some serious consequences for David and others around him, but God never gave up on him. David confessed his sin and God still had to punish him, but God forgave him as well. In the end, David's relationship with the Lord was restored and renewed.

Question to Ponder: What is the most significant thing you have learned from this study of David's big sin?

July 27:
Straying From God, Part 3 of 3

The destruction of transgressors and of sinners shall be together,
And those who forsake the Lord shall be consumed.
For they shall be ashamed of the terebinth trees
Which you have desired;
And you shall be embarrassed because of the gardens
Which you have chosen.
For you shall be as a terebinth whose leaf fades,
And as a garden that has no water.
The strong shall be as tinder,
And the work of it as a spark;
Both will burn together,
And no one shall quench them.
- Isaiah 1:28-31

We, too, as a nation, should be ashamed of our attitude toward God. We are becoming immersed in sin and most people really don't seem to care. Again, the warning in these verses was given to Israel, but I believe that we should heed it as well. God takes sin seriously, and if we don't as a nation, our fair and just God could very easily serve justice on this country.

Question to Ponder: Should the United States be ashamed of its moral condition? Why or why not?

July 28:
Realizing Our Need For Forgiveness, Part 2 of 2

Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little." Then He said to her, "Your sins are forgiven." And those who sat at the table with Him began to say to themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?" Then He said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you. Go in peace." - Luke 7:44-50

This is the conclusion of the story that goes along with last week's parable of the debtors (Luke 7:40-43). This woman knew she was a sinner in need of forgiveness from Jesus, and she was granted that forgiveness. In stark contrast, the religious leaders were questioning who Jesus is, so wrapped up in themselves that they continued to miss the signs that were all around them.

Question to Ponder: How would you treat Jesus if He came into your house for dinner, like Simon or like the woman?

July 29:
Every Knee Shall Bow and Every Tongue Confess

Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. - Philippians 2:9-11

Our God loves us enough to give us the opportunity to come to Him by choice, and sadly, many people choose not to. But the day will come (either when a person dies or after the rapture and tribulation period) when everyone will know that Jesus is our Lord and Savior! Why not make that choice now? What is standing in your way? For many people, it is a desire to do things their own way. If that describes you, let me ask you a question: How is that working out for you? Even if you are successful in a worldly sense, how would you classify your level of joy and peace in life? Those are two of the things that Jesus provides in abundance if you will just come to Him and ask Him to come into your heart. Someday, you will know the truth. Why wait?

Question to Ponder: Do you confess Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior?

July 30:
A scoffer does not love one who corrects him,
Nor will he go to the wise.
A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance,
But by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.
The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge,
But the mouth of fools feeds on foolishness.
All the days of the afflicted are evil,
But he who is of a merry heart has a continual feast.
Better is a little with the fear of the Lord,
Than great treasure with trouble.
Better is a dinner of herbs where love is,
Than a fatted calf with hatred.
- Proverbs 15:12-17

July 31:
Do not withhold Your tender mercies from me, O Lord;
Let Your lovingkindness and Your truth continually preserve me.
For innumerable evils have surrounded me;
My iniquities have overtaken me, so that I am not able to look up;
They are more than the hairs of my head;
Therefore my heart fails me.
Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me;
O Lord, make haste to help me!
Let all those who seek You rejoice and be glad in You;
Let such as love Your salvation say continually,
"The Lord be magnified!"
But I am poor and needy;
Yet the Lord thinks upon me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
Do not delay, O my God.
- Psalm 40:11-13, 16-17