Daily Devotions Archive - March 2009

March 1, 2009: The Ten Commandments for Today, Part 13 of 18

"You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor." - Exodus 20:16

I believe the best way to keep this commandment is to simply avoid talking about people, at least in negative ways. I think the commandment itself covers false testimony as well as things like gossip, which is often dishonest and hurtful. Going beyond that, though, I believe that God much prefers Christians to encourage and uplift one another instead of criticizing each other or talking about people behind their backs. The next time you start to talk negatively about a person to someone else, remember that you have your faults, too--no one is perfect. Let's all try to focus more on Jesus' example, treating one another with lovingkindness and uplifting each other instead of tearing people down. Chances are, you'll feel much better about yourself as well.

March 2, 2009: The Ten Commandments for Today, Part 14 of 18

"You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor's." - Exodus 20:17

If this commandment were rewritten today, it would probably read more like this: "You shall not covet your neighbor's house, spouse, car, wealth, career, clothes, electronic gadgets, or anything that is your neighbor's." The types of things we own have changed dramatically in the 3500 or so years since the Ten Commandments were given, but the principle of this one is the same. Coveting can be nearly as sneaky as lust. If you see someone driving a new car, wearing new clothes, or buying an iPod or a Wii, and if you feel a little jealous of that person and want that item, then you are coveting in your heart. (To be continued tomorrow...)

March 3, 2009: The Ten Commandments for Today, Part 15 of 18

"You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor's." - Exodus 20:17

(Continued from yesterday...) Coveting is sinful for several reasons. By definition, it causes another sin--jealousy. It also takes your focus off God and puts it on material things (unless you are coveting someone's significant other, which is even worse). So, how can you avoid it? Probably 99% of the time, it isn't something you really even need. So pause for a moment to consider what's really important. If you owned that item, would you even remember it 10 years from now? Chances are, you wouldn't, because that's the case with most material things. As another well-known verse says, store up your treasure in heaven where rust does not destroy. Keep your focus on God, which is infinitely more meaningful than getting that shiny new car.

March 4, 2009: The Ten Commandments for Today, Part 16 of 18

Now all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood afar off. Then they said to Moses, "You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die." And Moses said to the people, "Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin." - Exodus 20:18-20

We can imagine God's power on display once he gave Moses the Ten Commandments, and we can also be reminded of an important idea. I don't believe most Christians fear God as we should. What does it mean to fear God? His children don't literally need to be scared of Him, but what it does mean is that we need to develop a healthy respect for Him. We need to remember that God is all-knowing and all-powerful, and that He created everything from nothing. Most significantly in our day-to-day lives, we need to keep in mind that, while He forgives easily, we shouldn't use that as an excuse to continue sinning. We should fear and respect Him enough to want to live our lives in a way that pleases Him.

March 5, 2009: The Ten Commandments for Today, Part 17 of 18

Then the LORD said to Moses, "Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: 'You have seen that I have talked with you from heaven. You shall not make anything to be with Me--gods of silver or gods of gold you shall not make for yourselves.'" - Exodus 20:22-23 I found it interesting that this, sort of a combination of the first two commandments, is all that gets repeated within the remainder of the 20th chapter of Exodus. It tells me that this idea is very important to God, and it also tells me that He knew it might be the hardest one for the Israelites to keep. After all, it was a very short time before they got restless and made a golden calf to worship (Exodus 32). After everything God had done for them, it still seemed to be very easy for them to wander astray. Isn't it a lot like that today? (To be continued tomorrow...)

March 6, 2009: The Ten Commandments for Today, Part 18 of 18

Then the LORD said to Moses, "Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: 'You have seen that I have talked with you from heaven. You shall not make anything to be with Me--gods of silver or gods of gold you shall not make for yourselves.'" - Exodus 20:22-23

(Continued from yesterday...) God may not be with us in ways as obvious as He was with Moses and the Israelites, but He is most definitely still there, keeping watch over us day and night. He created the whole earth, each one of us, and gives us unconditional, everlasting love. He simply asks in return is for His children (those who have accepted Jesus as Savior) to honor Him by living a godly life. It isn't easy, in a world full of things that fight for your attention and try to pull you farther and farther away from God. But He promises that, if we do live our lives for Him in this fallen world, He will bless us on earth and we will have unimaginable rewards waiting for us in heaven.

March 7, 2009: Suffering for God's Glory

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. - Romans 8:18

People can suffer for Christ in a variety of ways. For many of us in the United States, our suffering will be insignificant compared to other parts of the world, where Christians are imprisoned or even killed. Paul himself suffered greatly during his lifetime because he was spreading the news of Jesus. However, we can still apply this verse to our daily lives. Whenever anyone treats you differently and/or poorly because you are a Christian, don't hesitate to stand up for what you believe in. Don't back down and appear weak in your faith, but stand up for Jesus, even if you do have to endure a little bit of suffering along the way. The world needs to see that Christians take our faith seriously, and any type of suffering or persecution in the name of Jesus will only serve to bring glory to God.

March 8, 2009: Die to Sin

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? - Romans 6:1-2

A question I've heard before from a non-believer is, "What's the point of being saved if you can continue doing whatever you want because you know you'll be forgiven?" While that technically may make sense, it doesn't turn out to be logical for anyone who truly understands what it means to be born again in Christ. Yes, all our sins are forgiven through Jesus, but if we have truly accepted him as our Lord and Savior, then we are reborn in Him and therefore we should no longer want to sin. Temptations still exist, though, and some people struggle longer to break addictions than others once they do become saved. But if we can truly give ourselves freely and completely to God, I believe He has the power to help us overcome any temptation.

March 9, 2009: God In Three Persons

Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." - Genesis 1:26

This single verse gives us astounding proof that Jesus and the Holy Spirit have always existed in some way. Take note of the word "Us" that God uses. If you're not familiar with the timeline of the Old Testament, Moses wrote Genesis (along with the rest of the first five books) around 1450 B.C. I don't think there is any possible way Moses could have imagined the Trinity or had knowledge of either Jesus or the Holy Spirit nearly 1500 years before Jesus was born and centuries before there were even any prophecies about His coming. So, why did Moses use the word "Us" in this verse? He would have had no reason to himself, which tells me these words, just like the rest of the Bible, must have come straight from God.

March 10, 2009: The Answer: No One

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? - Romans 8:31

This is one of those short but powerful verses that says so much itself that it leaves little room for any additional commentary. I think this verse is as important today as it has ever been, with a society that seems increasingly unfriendly toward Christians. We can be assured, though, that God protects and cares for His children without ceasing. Some people have to endure difficult situations, most often at work, because of their Christian beliefs. Those beliefs may bring about ridicule from nonbelievers or, in extreme cases, could cost someone his or her job. But consider this verse along with Romans 8:28. All things work together for good for those who love God. Even when it seems like the world is against you, God is for you, and He will always make things work out for good. I know I would choose God over the world any day!

March 11, 2009: Far-Reaching Consequences

To the woman He said: "I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; in pain you shall bring forth children; your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you." Then to Adam He said, "Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, 'You shall not eat of it': Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life." - Genesis 3:16-17

Adam and Eve's sinful choice affected all of humanity from that point forward. While the consequences of any sinful decision you may make obviously won't be that severe, don't underestimate the potential consequences of sin. When you're being tempted, consider not only the potential harm that could come to yourself but also the harm that could come to others if you make the wrong choice. Never underestimate the power of sin--its consequences can reach farther than you would have ever thought.

March 12, 2009: Acting Out in Anger

So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. - James 1:19-20

Allowing yourself to become angry, and especially taking that anger out on someone, does not accomplish anything. I'm not sure if anger itself is a sin (that's a question for someone with more theological knowledge than I have), but it certainly produces similar results to other sinful actions. Acting in anger can appear to have short-term benefits, because you're expressing how you feel to someone who you feel has wronged you. But the consequences of acting out of anger can be long-lasting, damaging relationships and harming people emotionally and perhaps even physically. Instead, I encourage you to follow the wisdom of James in these two verses. Listen and think before doing anything, and don't allow yourself to become easily angered. Showing a little love and compassion can produce much better results.

March 13, 2009: Consequences of Self-Glorification

And they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth." [The Lord said] "Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another's speech." Therefore its name is called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth. - Genesis 11:4, 7, 9

The consequences that can come as a result of people choosing to glorify themselves instead of God can be catastrophic. In this case, because the people were building the Tower of Babel to bring glory to themselves, God scattered them and made them all speak different languages so they could no longer communicate. Did this story happen in the literal sense? I believe so, because people in those times passed down stories verbally and did so with great accuracy, and because Moses would have had no logical reason to make up this story himself when he wrote the book of Genesis. Regardless, it provides us with a good lesson. Everything that we accomplish is only possible through God (Philippians 4:13). Disaster can strike when we try to take the credit and give glory to ourselves, but when we give the glory to Him, He will never fail to take care of us.

March 14, 2009: Lay Aside Wickedness

Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. - James 1:21-22

James says it bluntly in the first of these two verses, to the point that little additional commentary is needed. We do need to lay aside wickedness, despite how prevalent it is in the world around us, because Jesus can save our souls. It's important to learn more about Jesus by reading God's Word but God doesn't want us to just be hearers--He wants us to be doers. It is true that we are saved by faith alone, but what are we accomplishing if we stop right there? We're missing out on the opportunity to improve ourselves as well as the chance to help others in need and maybe even share the good news of Jesus with them.

March 15, 2009: God Triumphs Over Evil

Why do You stand afar off, O Lord? Why do You hide in times of trouble? For the wicked boasts of his heart's desire; he blesses the greedy and renounces the Lord. ... Arise, O Lord! O God, lift up Your hand! Do not forget the humble. ... The Lord is King forever and ever; the nations have perished out of His land. [You will] do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, that the man of the earth may oppress no more. - Psalm 10:1, 3, 12, 16, 18

In a world that seems to be drifting farther and farther away from God, do you ever feel like God feels far away? If you do, Psalm 10 may prove to be quite inspiring for you. The anonymous author of this psalm starts off by asking God where He is, with all the wickedness going on in the world. He continues with that theme for a while, but then in verse 12, he suddenly feels more hopeful, asking the Lord to arise. By the end of this psalm, the author makes the point that the Lord is indeed King forever and ever and that, just as He has promised, He will pass judgment on the wicked. The last few words can provide hope and encouragement to all of us: God is always in control, and even when evil may appear to be winning out on earth, we can rest assured that God will have the final word!

March 16, 2009: Lessons in Trusting God from Abraham, Part 1 of 5

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. 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 12:1-2, 4

We can learn a lot about trusting God from the life of Abram (later renamed Abraham by God). His first experience in trusting God came here, when God told Abram to leave his country and go into a new and unknown land. Abram could have stayed put; he could have doubted God or tried to debate with God. However, he didn't do any of those things. He followed God's command with absolutely no hesitation, the first sign we see of his complete faith and trust in God. He didn't even ask God where he was going--he just went. We can apply that lesson to our lives, too. God always knows the destination, but He doesn't always reveal it to us. When He doesn't, we need to trust Him just like Abram did.

March 17, 2009: Lessons in Trusting God from Abraham, Part 2 of 5

And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, "This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir." Then He brought him outside and said, "Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them." And He said to him, "So shall your descendants be." And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness. - Genesis 15:4-6

We don't know exactly how old Abram was at this time, but we can be certain that he was already fairly advanced in age. He was afraid that someone else would be his heir because he had not yet had any children of his own. But God told him that he would still have a child and that his descendants would eventually be as numerous as the stars in the sky. Once again, what kind of reaction do we see from Abram? Do we see doubt or worry? No. Instead, we again see complete faith and trust in God. The Lord told Abram that he would have a child and Abram knew that God cannot lie, so that was enough to put his mind at ease.

March 18, 2009: Lessons in Trusting God from Abraham, Part 3 of 5

So Sarai said to Abram, "See now, the Lord has restrained me from bearing children. Please, go in to my maid; perhaps I shall obtain children by her." And Abram heeded the voice of Sarai. Then Sarai, Abram's wife, took Hagar her maid, the Egyptian, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan. So he went in to Hagar, and she conceived. And when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress became despised in her eyes. - Genesis 16:2-4

Sarai did not trust God as completely as Abram did, and we see the disastrous consequences that can occur as a result of not trusting God. She told Abram to have a child with their servant, which he did. Abram and Sarai took things into their own hands instead of having patience and continuing to trust in God. We do the very same thing today, and there are always consequences. For Abram, his son Ishmael was punished by God (see Genesis 16:9-12), and although this is uncertain, I believe that this may have been where the Muslim faith originated. Taking things into our own hands and not trusting God can have long-lasting and extreme consequences.

March 19, 2009: Lessons in Trusting God from Abraham, Part 4 of 5

And I will bless [Sarah] and also give you a son by her; then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall be from her." Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, "Shall a child be born to a man who is one hundred years old? And shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?" - Genesis 17:16-17

It can easily happen to the best of us. As strong as Abraham's faith was, even he began to doubt and lose faith in God's power. He even laughed at what God had told him as though it was impossible! But of course, nothing is impossible with God. He is always in control and He ultimately has the power to do anything He wishes. He also never fails to keep a promise. We know that God did in fact give Abraham and Sarah a son, Isaac, at the exact time He had promised He would. We can apply this to our lives in several ways. God always has a plan, He always keeps His promises, and His timing is always better than anything we have in mind. Doubt may begin to creep in as time passes, but we can take comfort in the fact that God will never fail to do those three things for us.

March 20, 2009: Lessons in Trusting God from Abraham, Part 5 of 5

Then [God] said, "Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you." ... 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!" 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 22:2, 10-11a, 12

I'm not sure anyone in the Bible or anyone who has lived since has had faith strong enough to compare to that of Abraham. He had such complete and total faith in God that he was willing to offer his son, the son he had waited so long for, as a sacrifice upon God's request. Ultimately, though, God just wanted to test Abraham. I think He still does that with us today. He may let you go in a direction in which you have two or more choices to see if you will follow Him or if you will be led astray. Other paths may appear tempting, but eternal peace and joy can only come from putting our complete trust and faith in God. Whenever you're having a hard time trusting God's plan, take a look back at the experiences of Abraham for encouragement.

March 21, 2009: The Struggle

For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. - Romans 7:15

How many times have you had the struggle that Paul describes here? He doesn't understand what he is doing. He knows that he doesn't do the things he wants to do, but instead he does the things he hates. Paul speaks in general terms, and because of that, this verse can relate to a wide variety of sinful behaviors. Is there something in your life that you continue to do, even though you know it's wrong and you want to stop? Keep trying to stop and don't give up, because in the end, it'll be worth it. When you're finally able to hold onto Jesus long enough to free yourself from that sinful habit, the feeling of freedom is certain to be worth every bit of the struggle.

March 22, 2009: Praise the Lord!

Praise the Lord! Praise God in His sanctuary; praise Him in His mighty firmament! Praise Him for His mighty acts; praise Him according to His excellent greatness! Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet; praise Him with the lute and harp! Praise Him with the timbrel and dance; praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes! Praise Him with loud cymbals; praise Him with clashing cymbals! Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord! - Psalm 150:1-6

I don't have much commentary to add today; I just felt led to praise the Lord, and I don't think any Scripture passage does a better job of that than Psalm 150! Even if you're facing a difficult time right now, and I know many people are, I encourage you to remember that God is always taking care of you, and we should never fail to praise Him for all that He's done. Let's not be led astray by worldly things and instead let's give God all the honor and praise that He deserves!

March 23, 2009: How to Resolve Disputes, Part 1 of 2

So Abram said to Sarai, "Indeed your maid is in your hand; do to her as you please." And when Sarai dealt harshly with [Hagar], she fled from her presence. Now the Angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur. And He said, "Hagar, Sarai's maid, where have you come from, and where are you going?" She said, "I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai." - Genesis 16: 6-8

This passage takes place after, due to a lack of trust in God's plan, Sarai told Abram to conceive a child with their servant Hagar. When Hagar became pregnant, she suddenly started to dispise Sarai. Then, instead of trying to improve the situation she made a second poor decision and ran away. An angel caught up to her in the wilderness and eventually Hagar did go back, but things would have been much better had she never run away in the first place. We can learn from Hagar that running away is never the solution to a problem. Tomorrow, we'll look at another dispute that was handled much better.

March 24, 2009 (Website Down)

March 25, 2009: How to Resolve Disputes, Part 2 of 2

Now the land was not able to support [both Lot and Abram], that they might dwell together, for their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together. 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 13:6, 8-9

Abram shows here that he had a great deal of wisdom and knew the best way to settle this dispute! We can learn several things from him. First, talking is always the way to go. Abram didn't try to avoid Lot; instead, he went right to him to get their dispute settled without wasting any time. Secondly, try to avoid a big argument if at all possible. If there doesn't appear to be a quick solution, just give in. Sometimes the other person will really respect you for that; other times, (s)he may not. Some people seem to think that they should always get their way. But it doesn't matter because, by giving in, we are showing the gentleness and love of Jesus to the other person. Most arguments are quickly forgotten, but that kind of response may have a long-lasting impact on that person.

March 26, 2009: Being "Religious"

If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one's religion is useless. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. - James 1:26-27

Do you know people who just go to church on Sundays but don't live like Christians the rest of the week? Maybe you're even like that yourself. In these two verses, James doesn't hold back when he lets us know how God feels about people like that, saying that their religion is "useless." Why? Because it's hypocritical to act one way for an hour or two on Sundays and live another way the rest of the time, and the only thing a hypocritical Christian can accomplish is pulling people away from God. (Imagine someone saying, "Why should I become a Christian if (s)he's a Christian and (s)he lives like that?") What does God want instead of that? He wants us to be the hands and feet of Christ in the world, helping those in need. At the same time, we need to be careful not to be led astray from the sinful temptations that exist in the world to keep ourselves unspotted, as James writes. God doesn't want religious people; He wants people who openly serve Him every single day.

March 27, 2009: A Consequence of a Sinful Lifestyle

So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who had married his daughters, and said, "Get up, get out of this place; for the Lord will destroy this city!" But to his sons-in-law he seemed to be joking. - Genesis 19:14

Lot's sons-in-law didn't take him seriously when he tried to warn them. Why? Because, if you're not familiar with the story, Lot had fallen into sin along with the rest of the city of Sodom. People ask why it matters if Christians live a godly lifestyle if we're going to be forgiven anyway; there are many reasons for that, but this is certainly one of them. We can't effectively have a positive impact on others if we're living in sin right along with them. If Lot had remained close to God, living the way he should have instead of falling into sin, his sons-in-law would have been more likely to take him seriously, knowing that he had that kind of character. But instead, since he did fall into sin, he looked just like everyone else, and they had no reason to take him seriously. Lot's sons-in-law did not escape and were apparently killed when God destroyed the city. If you're living in sin, you are likely missing out on opportunities to save people in another way--opportunities to share Jesus with them and show how He can change lives.

March 30, 2009: Rejoice!

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! - Philippians 4:4

It's such a simple word and really a simple concept, yet it's something that so many of us seem to miss in our day-to-day lives. Yes, things are pretty bad in the world right now and some of you may not feel like you have much reason to rejoice. But for Christians, this world is not our home, and if you ever find yourself feeling like you don't have a reason to rejoice, I urge you to just stop for a minute and think about everything God has done for you. He cares for you and loves you all the time, no matter what. His love doesn't depend on how good of a person you are but it's unconditional, always there regardless of how you may have sinned. He's always with you, looking out for you and protecting you, and don't forget that He always has a plan--nothing catches God by surprise! If you've lost your job, chances are He has something better planned for you, but you have to trust Him and follow Him with all your heart. Most importantly, He sent His Son to die for us so we get to spend all eternity with Him! No matter how bad things may seem, when you stop to think about everything God has done for you, it's hard to do anything but rejoice!

March 31, 2009: The Power of Gentleness

Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. - Philippians 4:5

The title of today's devotion may seem like a bit of an oxymoron, but I assure you it isn't. Many people in the world today think they need to show power in a variety of ways, whether by strength (fighting), by money, by fame, or in some other way. Those things may seem powerful, but only for an instant. Treating someone with gentleness as Paul suggests, especially if you're in the midst of an argument, actually has much more power. Why? The primary reason is because it catches the other person by surprise. If (s)he is expecting you to respond with harsh words or start a fight but you suddenly offer a gentle word instead, it is likely to completely surprise the other person. While this won't always be the case, it will likely end the argument as well. More significantly, you're shining the light of Jesus in a difficult situation, and you never know what kind of impact that could eventually have on the other person--it could even change a life!