Daily Devotions Archive - February 2009
February 1, 2009: The Lord is Our Refuge
The LORD also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. And those who know Your name will put their trust in You; for You, LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You. - Psalm 9:9-10
God is always there. No matter how alone you may feel from time to time or even if you sometimes wonder if anyone cares about you, if you have a relationship with God, you can know without a doubt that He is always close by, looking after you and taking care of you. The Lord is our refuge; when you're hurting, He wants you to go to Him and cast all your troubles on Him. He can certainly handle them, and once He knows that you have placed that level of trust in Him, He knows that you are ready to accept the kind of peace and comfort that only He can offer.
February 2, 2009: Judge Not
Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. ... For there is no partiality with God. - Romans 2:1-2, 11
As Christians, it is sometimes easy for us to judge those around us when they are not acting as we think they should. On a personal level, this is perhaps my biggest struggle. It can be very easy to jump to a conclusion about someone without thinking through it first. But God makes it very clear that it is not our place to judge others, because we are all sinners, and we are only saved by His grace. God is the ultimate judge. We don't need to waste our time pronouncing judgments on others because all people will be judged by Him someday and, as verse 11 tells us, He is the fairest judge of them all.
February 3, 2009: Walking Upright
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. - Psalm 1:1-2
This is just one of many places in the Bible where we are told who will receive God's blessing. As Christians, it is vitally important that we stand apart from the ungodly and avoid the paths of sinners. While it is important to reach out to the unsaved, we should be careful not to get too close to an unsaved person or we will risk being pulled down with him or her. We should always delight in the Lord, and in order to draw closer to Him, we should spend time every day in His Word and in prayer. Even when things aren't going as well as we'd like, God loves us unconditionally and promises to bless us if we stay close to Him and don't slip away in sin.
February 4, 2009: Having Joy During Trials
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. - James 1:2-3
Paul writes about this idea several times, and James mentions it in his letter as well. From the world's point of view, it's silly to experience joy when in the midst of a trial. But we should look at things from God's point of view, not the world's. Maybe you are experiencing a trial right now or perhaps you will in the near future. Even though things seem bad now, God is always with you, and He is always looking much farther ahead than we can. He uses each trial you face to teach you and to mold you more into the person He wants you to be. If you are currently facing a difficult time or the next time you do, I encourage you to look farther ahead and let yourself be filled with joy and anticipation at the good things God will most certainly do in your life during that time.
February 5, 2009: God Hears and Heals, Part 1 of 2
O LORD, do not rebuke me in Your anger, nor chasten me in Your hot displeasure. Have mercy on me, O LORD, for I am weak; O LORD, heal me, for my bones are troubled. My soul also is greatly troubled. ... I am weary with my groaning; all night I make my bed swim; I drench my couch with my tears. - Psalm 6:1-3a, 6
In the first part of Psalm 6, David is aware that he has sinned. We don't know what that sin was, but whatever it was greatly troubled David in his soul and made him feel weak. He sounds even more miserable in the middle part of this psalm, as demonstrated in verse 6. He feels absolutely miserable about the sin that he has committed. Most Christians feel that way at one time or another. Just like David, though, we should pray to God and ask for his forgiveness and mercy instead of running away and trying to hide our sin.
February 6, 2009: God Hears and Heals, Part 2 of 2
Depart from me, all you workers of iniquity; for the LORD has heard the voice of my weeping. The LORD has heard my supplication; the LORD will receive my prayer. Let all my enemies be ashamed and greatly troubled; let them turn back and be ashamed suddenly. - Psalm 6:8-10
David's tone suddenly changes in the last three verses of Psalm 6. Why is the change so sudden? God has heard his prayer, and David knows it. David knows that, in spite of his sin, he has God on his side, and God will put all his enemies to shame. As Christians, we can know that, too. God has already forgiven us no matter what we may do or how bad it may seem to us. We should never fail to turn to Him and trust Him to stand behind us and push our enemies (which may be people or sins) away.
February 7, 2009: Godís Gift to Us
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. - Romans 6:23
Letís make sure we donít take Godís awesome gift for granted and forget what we deserve. Weíre all sinners. No one truly deserves to spend eternity with God. But, as John 3:16 says, He loved us so much that He sent His only son to die for us, so that we could spend eternity in heaven with Him if we so choose to accept His gift. There isnít much commentary I can add to this particular verse because it says it all itself. I simply encourage you to take a moment to stop and think about how perfect God is, how sinful each one of us is, and how powerful and amazing His gift to us truly is.
February 8, 2009: The Loving Creator
When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him? - Psalm 8:3-4
Let us not lose sight of who God is. He created the entire universe from nothing. All planets, near and far, all stars, including our sun, and everything else in the universe came from His hand alone. Every living creature, every flower and tree, and everything else on the Earth came from His hand as well. Yet this is the same God who loves and cares so deeply for each and every one of us. I encourage you to take a moment to think about that the next time you're feeling a little down. You are special and important enough that the Creator of the heavens and the earth has you on His mind all the time.
February 9, 2009: The Danger of Hypocrisy
You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? You who say, "Do not commit adultery," do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law? For "the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you," as it is written. - Romans 2:21-24
As Christians, we have been given a very important task: teach others and be a light in their lives. At the same time, though, we need to make sure that we are listening when we teach. "Actions speak louder than words," as the old saying goes, and that is a very good saying to remember in our daily lives. If a non-Christian sees a Christian doing something he or she supposedly believes is wrong, what kind of an impression does that give the non-Christian? It is also probably easier for the non-Christian to justify blasphemy when Christians don't appear to be taking God seriously.
February 10, 2009: Looking Beyond the Surface
For circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the law; but if you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision? And will not the physically uncircumcised, if he fulfills the law, judge you who, even with your written code and circumcision, are a transgressor of the law? - Romans 2:25-27
Looking beyond the surface is precisely what we have to do when interpreting today's passage of Scripture. While on the surface it is talking about Jewish law and customs related to circumcision, there is a much deeper meaning. God doesn't want any of his children to be extremely religious (metaphorically, circumcised) on the outside, appearing to be the perfect Christian on Sundays, while acting on hatred, lust, greed, or other sinful desires during the rest of the week. He would much prefer that we all devote ourselves fully to Him all the time, even when that means admitting our faults and mistakes. To God, what's on the inside is infinitely more important than what's on the outside.
February 11, 2009: Are Humans Good or Bad?, Part 1 of 2
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. - Romans 3:23-24
Many non-Christians will argue that people are generally good, and if that's true, then why do we need a savior? The problem is, that's not true. Each one of us is born into a life of sin. That doesn't mean we can't find good within people; most people have plenty of good things to offer. However, at the core, we are sinful. If that wasn't the case, why would we be tempted by evil desires? That's why the "people are basically good" argument is illogical. The people who try to make that claim forget one other very important point as well: We're not to compare ourselves to each other, but to Jesus. Compared to murderers, for example, a lot of us appear to be pretty good. But Jesus is perfect, and though we should all strive to be more like Him, no one can possibly live up to that level of perfection.
February 12, 2009: Are Humans Good or Bad?, Part 2 of 2
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. - Romans 3:23-24
People are sinners, not "basically good" as some in the world will try to claim, because we must compare ourselves with Jesus. Jesus knew no other human could be perfect, though, which is why He died for our sins. All we have to do is ask for His forgiveness and accept Him as our Lord and Savior. Romans 3:23, the "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" portion of the above Scripture passage, is one of the most frequently quoted verses in the Bible, yet it's also one of the shortest and easiest to understand. Among other things, that can remind us of how important yet how simple God's gift of salvation is. It's anything but simple in meaning and importance, but it is very simple for us to receive. God is waiting and He never gives up hope; all you have to do is ask!
February 13, 2009: The Lord is Our Judge
The LORD shall judge the peoples; judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness, and according to my integrity within me. - Psalm 7:8
David asked the Lord to judge him in Psalm 7. We can take two reminders with us from this psalm. First, God will judge each and every one of us on an appointed day. Keeping that fact in mind might be just enough to stop us sometimes when we are struggling and close to committing a sin. The second point to remember is that God, not people, is the One who judges. Far too many people, even many Christians, live their lives trying to please other people. Certainly we should do what we can to help others and it's good to live in harmony as much as possible, but we don't need to go to extremes to please people. No matter what decision we make, somebody won't be happy with it, just because we're all different. But our calling as Christians is to please God, not people.
February 14, 2009: The Root of Temptation
Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. - James 1:13-15
Some people may ask why God tempts them, but that is logically impossible. God is purely good and is the complete opposite of evil and therefore cannot possibly tempt anyone, no matter what. A combination of Satan and the sinful human nature that we are all born into is responsible for the temptations that we face. The rest of this passage reminds me of a recent song by Casting Crowns called "Slow Fade." One line of that song is, "people never crumble in a day." The message of that song is that it takes a while for sin to gain control over a person, but it happens one tiny compromise at a time. Be on guard against your sinful desires and try to overcome them when they are still little desires, because it's much harder to stop sinning once something has become a habit.
February 15, 2009: Reward for Enduring Temptation
Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. - James 1:12
God knows that it isn't easy to resist temptation and that many people, even many of His own children, succumb to temptation in one way or another. That's why He promises to reward those who are able to endure and overcome a temptation. In part, overcoming temptation requires looking at the long-term benefits instead of short-term benefits. A sinful activity may seem to bring pleasure for a short time, but there will always be long-term consequences. On the other hand, doing what's right may not bring that moment of pseudo-pleasure that comes with sin, but it brings much better long-term results, including eternal rewards from our Heavenly Father.
February 16, 2009: Long-Lasting Faith
Make yourself an ark of gopherwood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and outside with pitch. - Genesis 6:14
Abraham had to have incredible faith when he was willing to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, when God asked him to. But I'm not sure anyone has shown such a long duration of faith as did Noah as he built the ark. It's not known exactly how long it took; the common figure is 120 years, but I don't think the timeline of the Bible quite supports that and I feel like a period of 50 to 80 years is more accurate. Regardless, Noah spent many decades working on the ark. Can you imagine the ridicule he had to endure? Not only did evil prevail around him, but it had never rained, so no one knew what a flood was! If you are in a situation where you are being ridiculed in some way for your beliefs, stand strong and endure it, because God is standing with you. If you need a little added inspiration, simply think about everything Noah had to endure, and the reward that ultimately came to him because of his faith and righteousness.
February 17, 2009: The Ten Commandments for Today, Part 1 of 18
And God spoke all these words, saying... - Exodus 20:1
That verse in itself tells us how important the Ten Commandments are in our daily lives. God spoke directly to Moses to give these commandments to the Israelites. How can we be sure that it really happened? It's in the Bible, and by faith I believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. If you or someone you know needs a little more convincing, though, consider this: Moses did write the book of Exodus himself, but he was a humble man and was even willing to write about a time when he angered God (Exodus 4:14). He also had Aaron and the entire nation of Israel as eyewitnesses. Moses had no reason to make them up, and the Ten Commandments are so comprehensive and concise that they most certainly came directly from God. Even though they appear in the Old Testament, they still provide us with invaluable wisdom in our daily lives.
February 18, 2009: The Ten Commandments for Today, Part 2 of 18
"I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage." - Exodus 20:2
God did so much for the Israelites and all He asked in return was for them to follow Him and a fairly short list of commandments, yet most of the people had a hard time even doing that. We may wonder how they could have been so quick to forget about God and all he had done for them, but how often do we do the same thing today? Maybe God's works aren't quite as obvious (He hasn't come in and delivered an entire nation from slavery in recent times), but they still happen on a daily basis. Most of all, God gave us the gift of forgiveness through His Son, Jesus. He delivered us from the slavery of sin just as He delivered Israel from their slavery in Egypt. After all He's done for us, I think we owe it to Him to do our very best to follow His commands in our day-to-day lives.
February 19, 2009: The Ten Commandments for Today, Part 3 of 18
"You shall have no other gods before Me." - Exodus 20:3
A "god" can take the form of many things. For some, money is their idol. Maybe they take a promotion at work that means more money but more time away from church and family and less happiness. Maybe they are into gambling or other "get rich quick" ideas. For others, Friday and Saturday nights become idols. They look so forward to drinking and partying at the end of the week that it consumes their thoughts from Monday morning through Friday afternoon. Activities and hobbies can also become an idol. Even if they aren't inherently bad, if they take up so much of your time that you don't have time to spend with God, they become idols. There are many other things that can become idols, too. Take a close look at the priorities in your life. Does God always come first?
February 20, 2009: The Ten Commandments for Today, Part 4 of 18
"You shall not make for yourself a carved image--any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them." - Exodus 20:4-5a
We don't have as big of a problem with literal carved idols as they did in Moses' time, but we still need to be on guard against similar sins. Whom do you serve? Do you serve God completely, with all your heart and with no reservations? Or do you serve other things first--maybe a Saturday night party or a Sunday football game? What comes first, giving to church and charities or buying that new big-screen TV that you probably don't really need anyway? Who comes first, your spouse, your children's numerous activities, or God? If you're serving God first, I can promise you that everything else in your life will fall into place much better.
February 21, 2009: The Ten Commandments for Today, Part 5 of 18
"For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments." - Exodus 5b-6
I'm honestly not sure if the first part of this verse still applies, or if it was part of the Old Covenant, replaced when Jesus died on the cross. Still, I think there are two other important things we can learn from this brief passage. First, our sins can have costly consequences for a very long time. Children often pick up on the habits of their parents, and sinful habits can be passed down for generations to come. Second, we see another one of God's promises: He promises to show mercy to those who love Him and keep His commandments. Obviously this was before the time of Jesus, so the application is a little different. Still, we should show love and obedience to God.
February 22, 2009: The Ten Commandments for Today, Part 6 of 18
"You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain." - Exodus 20:7
Speaking straight from my heart, I cannot understand how some people use God's name in the ways that they do, saying "oh my gosh" except with God's name instead of "gosh" and not even thinking about it. (I can't bring myself to even type that phrase in this example, if that shows you how strongly I feel about this.) It is somewhat understandable that non-believers would use His name like that, though I do find it strangely ironic for the people who don't believe in a God at all. But as Christians, we know how holy and precious God's name is. To use God, Lord, Jesus, or any other names of God in vain is something we should take very seriously. God's name should be respected above all else.
February 23, 2009: The Ten Commandments for Today, Part 7 of 18
"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter.... For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it." - Exodus 20:8-10a,11
I have great admiration for places like Chick-fil-a that still respect God enough to honor His day. Those businesses are few and far between. Admittedly, I sometimes go to the grocery store or someplace else on Sunday and it's nice that they're open, but I wouldn't mind waiting an extra day if they decided to close on Sundays. I think the main point of this commandment, though, is that we need to set aside one day a week to honor God. I believe Sundays should be about church and family and we should limit work or any other activities. God gives us so much every single day, and He just asks for every seventh day in return. When we don't do that, He can quickly get lost in the busyness of everyday life.
February 24, 2009: The Ten Commandments for Today, Part 8 of 18
"Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you." - Exodus 20:12
Parents should be honored and respected. Not just parents, but other relatives and all figures of authority. However, that respect should be mutual. A lot of kids and teens these days act very disrespectfully to others, but for many of them, it's because that's the environment they're surrounded with at home. I think the bigger message that we can take from this commandment is that it is crucial that we all respect one another, especially those close friends and relatives that we love and care about. If you spend a lot of your time yelling at your spouse or children, think about the long-term impact that can have on them. A little extra effort in the area of showing respect can go a long way.
February 25, 2009: The Ten Commandments for Today, Part 9 of 18
"You shall not murder." - Exodus 20:13
I think it's safe to say that this is the commandment that is easiest for most Christians to keep. Most of us would never even think of committing murder, and fewer still would actually do it. On a related note, though, we need to be careful about the things we expose ourselves to on a regular basis. For example, kids who play a lot of violent video games or watch a lot of violent movies are going to have that kind of behavior ingrained in them as they grow older. Adults are less likely to be influenced by those things, but it can still happen. As a Christian, I believe it is important for us to fill our minds with things that are positive and uplifting instead (Philippians 4:8), and to do our part to protect the children that are around us from being exposed to too much violence.
February 26, 2009: The Ten Commandments for Today, Part 10 of 18
"You shall not commit adultery." - Exodus 20:14
While the previous commandment (murder) is probably easiest for most people to keep, this one seems to be getting increasingly difficult for many. We commonly think of adultery as occurring when one spouse cheats on the other, but even simply divorcing and remarrying also counts as adultery, according to the Bible (Mark 10:11-12). It is an example of people trying to break apart what God has joined (Matthew 19:6). Divorce has unfortunately become far too common in our modern culture. Based on the Bible, God permits one to divorce and remarry only if that person has been the victim of adultery. Otherwise, divorce is not what God wants. (To be continued tomorrow...)
February 27, 2009: The Ten Commandments for Today, Part 11 of 18
"You shall not commit adultery." - Exodus 20:14
(Continued from yesterday...) The Bible makes it clear that divorce is a form of adultery, and many people get divorced for no reason at all; they just don't want to put a little effort into working out their problems. But Malachi 2:16a leaves no room for error in understanding how God feels about it: "For the LORD God of Israel says that He hates divorce." It's also easy to overlook another form of adultery: lust (Matthew 5:28). If you are married (or even in a serious relationship, in my opinion), you commit adultery against your spouse anytime you lust after another person, even someone on TV or pictured in a magazine, with your eyes and/or heart. God calls each person to be totally committed to his or her spouse.
February 28, 2009: The Ten Commandments for Today, Part 12 of 18
"You shall not steal." - Exodus 20:15
This commandment is fairly easy for most people to keep, too, but some people do find it easy to get away with stealing a little something here and there. Examples include taking a pen or some stamps from work, not returning something you borrowed from a friend, or picking up some money someone dropped and keeping it for yourself. Anytime you take something that doesn't belong to you, it is stealing, no matter how minor it might seem. Everything ultimately belongs to God, and when you steal, you're taking something for yourself that God gave to someone else. God makes it clear that all stealing, whether big or small, is wrong.