|February 2010 Daily Devotion Archive|
February 1: One In Marriage
Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. - Genesis 2:24
God, through the writing of Moses, makes it very clear to us. A man and a wife shall be joined and shall become one flesh. If you are married, do you feel that your marriage is like this? Is it one flesh, two people working together in harmony, or does it feel more like the two people are working against each other? God intended for the two to become one and work together in harmony, but far too often in today's world it seems that married couples mostly want to fight against each other. If you're married, see if you and your spouse can try to work together better, compromising and doing things for each other instead of doing things against one another. If you're not yet married, be careful not to settle out of desperation. Wait for the one person God has planned for you so that you can join together with that person and become one flesh, living in the harmony that God always intended.
February 2: God's Power On Display
And when they arose early the next morning, there was Dagon, fallen on its face to the ground before the ark of the Lord. The head of Dagon and both the palms of its hands were broken off on the threshold; only Dagon's torso was left of it. - 1 Samuel 5:4
By this time the Philistines had captured the ark of the covenant. It's hard to understand why God would allow His ark to be captured, but I am certain He had a reason as He saw the bigger picture. That reason may have simply been to demonstrate His power to the Philistines as He does here. The ark is sitting next to Dagon, a statue representing one of the Philistines "gods." Yet Dagon seems absolutely powerless as each night it is affected by the presence of the Lord--bowing before the ark of the Lord on two consecutive nights and even having his head and arms broken off on the second night, as described in this verse. The moral of the story? Some people worship statues and others worship money or other worldly things, but none of it can stand tall against our God!
February 3: Marital Bliss
Can two walk together, unless they are agreed? - Amos 3:3
The one and only way to have a good, healthy, stable marriage is for both husband and wife to have a strong relationship with Christ and to put Him at the center of the relationship. Yes, sometimes people can have long-lasting marriages apart from Christ, but they cannot be as healthy with that critical piece missing. This verse is most often quoted to support the position that a believer and a non-believer should not get married, which is very good advice indeed. God doesn't want to ruin things for you if you feel like you have fallen in love with a non-Christian; He wants to keep you from ruining things for yourself. He knows what almost always happens in these situations: The non-believer has a stronger influence in the relationship and, over time, the believer falls away from the Lord. If you are facing such a decision right now, remember that no matter how you may feel about the other person, your relationship with God should always come first.
February 4: God's Perfect Timing
And [Zacharias and Elizabeth] were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years. ... [The angel said,] "For [John] will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb." - Luke 1:6-7, 15
It can be difficult if you are waiting for something and God takes a long time to respond. But if you trust in Him, you can be certain He hasn't forgotten about you. Zacharias and Elizabeth had not been able to have a child and she had been praying for one for a very long time. Ultimately, she gave birth to John the Baptist. God knew that in order for everything to work out just right, John had to be born at a certain time shortly before Jesus was born. Elizabeth had a long wait and may have even felt like God had forgotten about her or ignored her request, but God always has a plan--we just have to wait until the timing is right.
February 5: God Doesn't Play Favorites
God shows personal favoritism to no man--for those who seemed to be something added nothing to me. - Galatians 2:6b
This may or may not have been what Paul was thinking about when he wrote this verse, but I hope it can offer some encouragement to you if you are discouraged, feeling like bad things just keep happening to you and there's no end in sight. God loves all His children the same and does not show favoritism to one over another. I think back to the story of Joseph (portions of Genesis 37-45), how his brothers sold him as a slave and he ended up in Egypt, even in jail at one point. But God had a big plan through all of this, and even though it took many years for it to come to fruition, Joseph eventually helped to save his family from the famine. No matter how bad things may seem at times, you can refer to this verse and to Joseph's story as reminders that God will never forget about you.
When wisdom enters your heart,
And knowledge is pleasant to your soul,
Discretion will preserve you;
Understanding will keep you,
To deliver you from the way of evil,
From the man who speaks perverse things,
From those who leave the paths of uprightness
To walk in the ways of darkness;
Who rejoice in doing evil,
And delight in the perversity of the wicked;
Whose ways are crooked,
And who are devious in their paths;
To deliver you from the immoral woman,
From the seductress who flatters with her words,
Who forsakes the companion of her youth,
And forgets the covenant of her God.
For her house leads down to death,
And her paths to the dead;
None who go to her return,
Nor do they regain the paths of life--
So you may walk in the way of goodness,
And keep to the paths of righteousness.
- Proverbs 2:10-20
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;
But You, O Lord-how long?
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 6:1-3, 8-10
February 8: Satan's Crafty Deceitfulness
"...but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die." Then the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." - Genesis 3:3-5
The serpent was very crafty, just as Satan is today. If you read the serpent's words carefully, you can see that he technically did not even lie to Eve. He told Eve that she would not surely die, but when he said that he meant that she wouldn't die immediately, while God's earlier warning simply meant that she would die someday if she ate from that tree. He told her that she would become like God, knowing good and evil--and that is exactly what happened. Unfortunately, the serpent made that sound like a good thing. If we look around at our sinful world today, clearly it was not. Satan is very crafty. Sometimes he doesn't even have to lie in order to try to trick us; he can just stretch the truth as the serpent did here. Always be on guard against his deceit.
February 9: Still Doubting
"And watch: if it goes up the road to its own territory, to Beth Shemesh, then He has done us this great evil. But if not, then we shall know that it is not His hand that struck us--it happened to us by chance." - 1 Samuel 6:9
It never fails to amaze me how stubborn people can be and how far they can go to try to disprove God and His power. To set the background, the ark of the covenant has now been in the land of the Philistines for seven months and the Lord's power had caused a lot of suffering among the Philistines. They just wanted to get rid of it, but they gave it one final test: They set the ark on a cart and attached it to two cows and then just let it go, watching to see if the Lord was powerful enough to lead the cows in the right direction. Simply having the ark in their possession had already caused mass destruction among several Philistine cities, yet they still doubted God's power. Even today many people are so self-centered and unwilling to give up control that they will do almost anything to disprove the existence of God.
February 10: The Power of Prayer
Thus the Lord God showed me: Behold, He formed locust swarms at the beginning of the late crop; indeed it was the late crop after the king's mowings. And so it was, when they had finished eating the grass of the land, that I said: "O Lord God, forgive, I pray! Oh, that Jacob may stand, for he is small!" So the Lord relented concerning this. "It shall not be," said the Lord. - Amos 7:1-3
Amos prayed and the Lord relented. This is just another example of the power that prayer truly has. I have made the statement before that prayer has the potential to change God's mind, but recently I have felt like that choice of words was just slightly off. Considering God already knows what's going to happen, I'm not sure it's really possible to change His mind. However, I do know that He wants us to trust Him and come to Him in prayer with our needs. So I think a better way to say it is like this: Because God wants us to trust Him, He may choose not to act on something until we come to Him in prayer. If we don't come to Him at all, then He may choose not to act at all, and that is why prayer is indeed very powerful.
February 11: Mary's Humility
And Mary said: "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; for behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed." - Luke 1:46-48
This passage offers at least one reason why Mary was the one God chose to give birth to His Son. She was clearly a devout servant of God and a very humble young woman. We see a similar humility in Jesus throughout His time on this earth. Mary treats God with the respect and reverence He deserves, which is unfortunately quite different from the way many people, even many believers, treat Him today. In closing I ask you to read this passage again, ponder it, and decide for yourself what you can learn from Mary's humility.
February 12: Live Apart From the World
But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, "If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews?" - Galatians 2:14
Paul was warning the people of Galatia to stop living as the Gentiles do and to start living as Jews should, in obedience to Christ. Now reread this passage, substituting "modern Christians" for "Jews" and "secular people" for "Gentiles." Doesn't that describe a lot of what's going on in our country today? If you look at yourself honestly, you may even find that it describes you. Far too many Christians simply blend into the world to such an extent that those who are not believers cannot see any difference between us and the rest of the world. But we cannot simply blend in if we hope to accomplish anything for Jesus! We need to stand out and live our faith boldly, standing up for what is right and not giving in to the sinful ways of the world. If we as Christians live as the rest of the secular world does, how can we possibly compel those secular people to live as Christians?
February 13: Wisdom Brings Peace
My son, do not forget my law,
But let your heart keep my commands;
For length of days and long life
And peace they will add to you.
Let not mercy and truth forsake you;
Bind them around your neck,
Write them on the tablet of your heart,
And so find favor and high esteem
In the sight of God and man.
- Proverbs 3:1-4
Today I want to briefly focus on part of verse 2 (the fourth line of this passage). Solomon writes that using wisdom can add peace. A person who uses wisdom and routinely makes wise choices doesn't have a lot of negative consequences to deal with, in contrast to someone who does not make the same wise decisions. Therefore, such a person can focus less on this world and more on God, allowing His wonderful peace to flow freely into his or her heart and mind.
God is a just judge,
And God is angry with the wicked every day.
If he does not turn back,
He will sharpen His sword;
He bends His bow and makes it ready.
He also prepares for Himself instruments of death;
He makes His arrows into fiery shafts.
Behold, the wicked brings forth iniquity;
Yes, he conceives trouble and brings forth falsehood.
He made a pit and dug it out,
And has fallen into the ditch which he made.
His trouble shall return upon his own head,
And his violent dealing shall come down on his own crown.
I will praise the Lord according to His righteousness,
And will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High.
- Psalm 7:11-17
February 15: Hiding From God
And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. - Genesis 3:8
Do you ever try to hide from God? Even if it's not in the literal sense as it is in this verse with Adam and Eve in the garden, do you try to hide something you've done from Him? We all know that God is all-seeing and all-knowing, but sometimes it can be easy to overlook that right after doing something that displeases Him. The better way to handle it, though, is to confess it right away and begin to move on. God already knows what you did, so it isn't like it's a big surprise to Him. The benefit of confession is that He will forgive you for whatever you have done and for His peace to return to you. Once you know that you've made things right with God again, it's easier for you to move on with your life. The alternative is that you become trapped in guilt which is an unnecessary burden that God never wanted you to bear.
February 16: Returning to God
Then Samuel spoke to all the house of Israel, saying, "If you return to the Lord with all your hearts, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths from among you, and prepare your hearts for the Lord, and serve Him only; and He will deliver you from the hand of the Philistines." So the children of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtoreths, and served the Lord only. - 1 Samuel 7:3-4
As they did many times throughout Biblical history, Israel had wandered away from God. That is perhaps why they were defeated by the Philistines in the first place. But Samuel told them what they needed to do to return to God, and they followed his advice. If you read down to verses 9 and 10, you will see that God did indeed deliver Israel from the Philistines shortly thereafter. Do you have an idol in your life that is keeping you from serving God wholeheartedly and that is keeping God from providing victories in your life? All He asks is that you follow Him with all your heart. Don't let worldly things that have no eternal value get in the way.
February 17: A Fulfilled Prophecy
"Behold, the days are coming," says the Lord, "when the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him who sows seed; the mountains shall drip with sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it. I will bring back the captives of My people Israel; they shall build the waste cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink wine from them; they shall also make gardens and eat fruit from them. I will plant them in their land, and no longer shall they be pulled up from the land I have given them," says the Lord your God. - Amos 9:13-15
If I am interpreting this passage correctly, this prophecy was fulfilled in 1948, some 2700 years after it was written by Amos. That is the year in which Israel was restored to its homeland. And, in line with verse 15, they have not been uprooted from that land since, despite several efforts by surrounding countries to defeat them. The next time someone disputes the truth of the Bible, this may be a good passage to share with that person since it is an ancient prophecy that has only recently come true.
February 18: God Can Use Anyone
And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. - Luke 2:1-3
God can use anyone--believer or non-believer--to accomplish His will. This is perhaps the best example of this fact in the entire Bible. In this case, He used a powerful ruler (Caesar) in order to fulfill the prophecy in Micah 5:2 which says that the Savior would be born in Bethlehem. Joseph and Mary did not live in Bethlehem but had to travel there to register for the census, and thus the prophecy was fulfilled when Mary gave birth during their visit. In addition, if not for the census, Mary would probably have given birth in her own home, and we would have lost the entire nativity story that is such an integral part of what makes the Christmas celebration so special and meaningful. God accomplished all of this simply by leading Caesar to take a census. As a side note, this also gives us a reminder that God is certainly more powerful than any government and is always in control.
February 19: For Whom Do You Live?
"I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." - Galatians 2:20
If everyone truly followed these twelve simple words, "it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me," that would pretty much put an end to selfish behavior and it would also put an end to a lot of our sinning. Think back to yesterday for a moment. How many times did you do what you wanted to do without thinking about God? God cannot fully use you unless you choose to fully submit yourself to Him and His will. But most of us either only partially do that or don't do it at all. We don't like to give up control. If you had a choice between going to something like a sporting event or concert, or participating in a church activity, which would you choose? If you have the opportunity to buy a new expensive TV or send even a fraction of that money to help hungry children around the world, which would you choose? How do your choices line up with what God would want you to do?
February 20: Trust in the Lord, Not in Yourself
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.
Do not be wise in your own eyes;
Fear the Lord and depart from evil.
It will be health to your flesh,
And strength to your bones.
- Proverbs 3:5-8
Verses 5 and 6 of this passage are two of the most frequently quoted verses in the entire book of Proverbs. I want to ask you to reflect on yourself for a moment. How often do you truly "trust in the Lord with all your heart"? How often do you do what He leads you to do and follow His commands without hesitation? So often we want to understand what God is doing, but we can't always see the big picture like He can. But if we follow Him regardless of whether or not we understand what He is trying to do, then we have learned what faith is all about.
O Lord, our Lord,
How excellent is Your name in all the earth,
Who have set Your glory above the heavens!
Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants
You have ordained strength,
Because of Your enemies,
That You may silence the enemy and the avenger.
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?
For You have made him a little lower than the angels,
And You have crowned him with glory and honor.
O Lord, our Lord,
How excellent is Your name in all the earth!
- Psalm 8:1-5, 9
February 22: Misplaced Anger
And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. - Genesis 4:3-5
You all know this story. But my question today is, why did Cain get so angry at his brother that he killed him? Did Abel do anything wrong? Obviously he did something right, since his offering was pleasing to God while Cain's was not. However, instead of accepting responsibility and blaming himself, Cain let jealousy and anger overtake him. Do you ever let that happen? Even if you haven't taken such drastic action, have you blamed others for something when the blame should fall on your own shoulders? As a responsible Christian it is your duty to stand up and take responsibility for your own actions. If you make a mistake, admit it and see what you can learn from it so that it is less likely to happen again. Trying to cover it up or blame someone else doesn't accomplish anything and will ultimately hurt yourself along with those who you try to blame.
February 23: Giving God the Credit
Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen, and called its name Ebenezer, saying, "Thus far the Lord has helped us." - 1 Samuel 7:12
If you recall last week's devotional, once Israel returned to the Lord, He delivered them from the hand of the Philistines. What happened next is an act that we would all be wise to follow: Samuel set up a memorial to give God the credit for what He had done. He could have taken the credit himself for the victory, but he knew it wasn't his own leadership that won the battle. It was God's hand at work. When God does something for you, give Him the credit He deserves. If you take the credit instead, not only are you being dishonest, but you are missing out on a great opportunity to share what God has done for you as a witness to others.
February 24: Fleeing From God
"Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me." But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. - Jonah 1:2-3
Similar to how Adam and Eve tried to hide from the Lord after committing their first sin, Jonah now tries to flee from the Lord's presence after He told Jonah to go preach to the city of Nineveh. Now, Nineveh was a very large city by the standards of that day and it was apparently a very evil place, so we can certainly understand Jonah's fear and reluctance. But is it ever really possible to flee from God, who sees all and knows all? Have you ever tried to run away from God? He still sees you and He still knows what you are doing, so why not run toward Him instead? Without exception, following God is always better than trying to run away from him.
February 25: Jesus, Why? (Part 1 of 3)
And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. - Luke 2:7
Over the next three Thursdays, we will take a look at three questions surrounding the birth of Jesus. First, why did Jesus come as He did? He could have had a spectacular birth in a palace or a temple. God was certainly able and Jesus was certainly deserving. But a birth like that would not have captured the essence of what Jesus is. He came with total humility and He came to serve, and His lowly birth in a manger provided just the right beginning to a humble life devoted to serving others. The peace and love that surrounded His birth echo two more of Jesus' wonderful qualities. So many of Jesus' teachings are contrary to our common way of thinking, such as "blessed are the meek" and "love your enemies", so it is only fitting that His own birth is also the exact opposite of the glory that He deserved.
February 26: Good Works vs. Faith
"I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain." - Galatians 2:21
A slightly different interpretation of this verse reads, "...then Christ died for nothing." There are still some people of the Christian faith today who believe that works can help get them into heaven. The Catholic Church is especially well-known for this belief. Now, I do believe Catholics are Christians, they have just fallen astray a bit in some areas including this one. Think carefully about what Paul is saying here. If righteousness comes through the law--in other words, if we can earn our salvation by following the law and doing good works--then Christ died for nothing. Now as Christians we are expected to follow Jesus' example in our everyday lives, but that cannot earn us a place in heaven. If you have to do something to earn your salvation other than simply having faith in Jesus and following Him with your life, then His death and resurrection served no purpose. If you have believed that you have to do good works, you are implying that God is not powerful enough to save you by Himself.
February 27: Honor God with Possessions
Honor the Lord with your possessions,
And with the firstfruits of all your increase;
So your barns will be filled with plenty,
And your vats will overflow with new wine.
- Proverbs 3:9-10
The first line of this passage gives us some pretty clear instructions. The question is, do you live your life in such a way as to honor the Lord with your possessions? Perhaps you're not even sure what that means. To me, it means that everything ultimately belongs to God. While I think God is okay with us making an occasional purchase just for pleasure or entertainment, we should not go around spending a whole lot of money on ourselves when so many people across the world have absolutely nothing compared to all that we have been blessed with in this country. If we honor God first, giving away as much as we can to help those in need, He will bless us in return, and we will always have everything that we need (not "want" but "need"). But you have to first trust God enough to do what seems unnatural: Give more away in order to receive more in return.
I will praise You, O Lord, with my whole heart;
I will tell of all Your marvelous works.
I will be glad and rejoice in You;
I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High.
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.
Sing praises to the Lord, who dwells in Zion!
Declare His deeds among the people.
When He avenges blood, He remembers them;
He does not forget the cry of the humble.
- Psalm 9:1-2, 9-12