|March 2010 Daily Devotion Archive|
Grieving God's Heart
Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. - Genesis 6:5-6
Do you ever think about God's heart? We were made in His image, so it's only reasonable to think that He has a heart just as we do. His heart isn't deceitful like ours, of course, but apparently it can feel pain and grief. I imagine that God is grieved every time one of His children sins--which, as we all know, is quite often. Now, that doesn't mean He is up in heaven feeling sad all the time, but He knows how destructive sin can be, and just like any good father, He hates to see us put ourselves through those consequences. Ask yourself, what have you done today or over the last week that may have grieved God's heart? Would you have acted differently in a certain situation if you had thought about it in that way?
Just Like Everyone Else, Part 1 of 2
Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, "Look, you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations." But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, "Give us a king to judge us." So Samuel prayed to the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, "Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them. - 1 Samuel 8:4-7
There is a powerful message for us hidden within this historical account. Israel had been set apart by God. They were His chosen people. Yet that didn't seem to be enough for them, as we see so often in the Old Testament. They wanted a king so they could be just like all the other nations. As a Christian, you have an opportunity to stand out from the crowd in your day-to-day life. Do you? Do you stand up for Christ and live by His example? Or, despite the new life in Christ you have been given, set apart by Him, do you still try to fit in with the secular world around you?
God Can Use Anyone
But the Lord sent out a great wind on the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship was about to be broken up. ... Then the men were exceedingly afraid, and said to him, "Why have you done this?" For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them. ... So they picked up Jonah and threw him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging. Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice to the Lord and took vows. - Jonah 1:4, 10, 15-16
This is just a brief excerpt; I encourage you to read through the entire story (Jonah 1:4-16). Basically, Jonah is still trying to flee from the Lord, so he has boarded a ship that is headed in the opposite direction of Ninevah. However, the Lord strikes the ship with a storm. Eventually, the other people on the ship learn that God's anger with Jonah caused the storm, so they toss Jonah overboard and the storm subsides. The lesson for us is that God can use anything and anyone to bring glory to His name. Even through Jonah's disobedience, the other people on that ship came to recognize the power of God.
Jesus, Why? (Part 2 of 3)
Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. - Luke 2:8
Our Thursday series of questions continues today. Of all the people the angels could have appeared to that night, why did they appear to shepherds? I believe shepherds were the perfect choice for a multitude of reasons. They were the humble people of the day, echoing the humility of Jesus. They were generally out by themselves and most other people chose to not associate with them, rejected by the masses a lot like Jesus eventually was. The best reason, though, is because Jesus is so often compared to a shepherd Himself, guiding His flock of sheep--His followers (such as in Psalm 23:1 or John 10:11-16). God pays very close attention to every detail and I am certain that the fact that the angels appeared to the shepherds first was quite intentional, for these reasons and perhaps others that we are not even aware of.
Why Jesus Had to Come
Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law. - Galatians 3:21
This is why Jesus had to come--because the law could never give life in the same way that He does. In the days before Jesus came, people tried to follow the law, but when they broke a part of it, they had to go to a priest to make atonement for their sin(s) which was done by sacrificing some type of animal. There has to be a consequence and an act of atonement when we sin, and God decided that bloodshed was the way to do that. But that sacrifice did not cause a change on the inside; it was merely an action on the outside. The sacrifice nor the priest could change anyone on the inside and give life in the way that Jesus does. As a side note, I have recently learned that the book of Hebrews (though it may appear intimidating as it did to me for a long time) explores this idea in great detail if you would like to read more about it.
Correction = Love
My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord,
Nor detest His correction;
For whom the Lord loves He corrects,
Just as a father the son in whom he delights.
- Proverbs 3:11-12
This is one key part of God's love that fewer and fewer people seem to fully understand as time goes on. Why does God present so many rules and guidelines for us to follow? Some people believe that God doesn't want us to have any fun, but that couldn't be farther from the truth. He just knows the pain and unnecessary drama that so often results when people do things that seem "fun" in a worldly sense. For example, look at adultery and divorce, two sins that are rampant in our society today. Jesus specifically tells us not to do those things because He loves us so much that He doesn't want us to have to go through the pain that, in one way or another, always accompanies those sins. Just as a loving parent corrects a child's mistakes (though, sadly, many parents have become misguided in this area), our Father corrects our mistakes because of how much He loves us.
One Nation Under God?
The nations have sunk down in the pit which they made;
In the net which they hid, their own foot is caught.
The Lord is known by the judgment He executes;
The wicked is snared in the work of his own hands.
The wicked shall be turned into hell,
And all the nations that forget God.
For the needy shall not always be forgotten;
The expectation of the poor shall not perish forever.
Arise, O Lord,
Do not let man prevail;
Let the nations be judged in Your sight.
Put them in fear, O Lord,
That the nations may know themselves to be but men. Selah
- Psalm 9:15-20
We wonder why our country is having so many problems...this passage, among others, leaves no doubt. This nation as a whole has forgotten God and all that He has done for us, and now we are reaping the consequences. Things won't get much better unless our nation turns back to God.
And God said to Noah, "The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold, I will destroy them with the earth." - Genesis 6:13
Think about how Noah must have felt. We know the people around him were very evil and wicked. They probably already teased him for following his God instead of going along with their sinful ways, just as some non-believers do to Christians today. Then, he suddenly starts building this giant ark because God told him to. In addition, it is believed that the atmosphere was different then and it had never rained before (Genesis 2:5-6). I'm sure all those sinful people had a marvelous time mocking this man who was simply trying to do what he knew was right. But Noah persevered through what were likely very difficult times in his life because he knew that God would protect him and care for him, just as He does for us today. Sometimes circumstances seem very difficult; sometimes God asks you to do something that seems nearly impossible. But rest assured, He is always with you.
Just Like Everyone Else, Part 2 of 2
And [Samuel] said, "This will be the behavior of the king who will reign over you: ... And you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, and the Lord will not hear you in that day." Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, "No, but we will have a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles." - 1 Samuel 8:11a, 18-20
Even after Samuel described all the things this king would do, the Israelites still wanted a king. Despite the dire warnings, they still had such a strong desire to be just like everyone else. But God set them apart, and God also set you apart. I decided to spend two weeks on this subject because it is vitally important to today's Christians, many of which simply blend in with the world around them. But a true friend loves someone enough to care where (s)he will spend eternity. We're also not doing our friends and acquaintances any favors by not showing Christ's example to them. We have to be Jesus' light to the world.
The Great Fish
Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. - Jonah 1:17a
Some people may try to argue that the story of Jonah is fiction, that it may be in the Bible to teach us something but that it didn't really happen. After all, how could a man really survive inside a "great fish" for three full days? I believe that the Bible is literal and that things did happen just as it says, except in obvious cases like the parables of Jesus. We usually assume that this great fish was a whale, but the Bible doesn't actually tell us what kind of fish it was. As I read this verse recently, a new idea popped into my mind: What if it isn't any type of known fish? This verse does say that God prepared a fish for Jonah. Could it be that God designed this particular fish especially for this task and that there was no other fish like it? We can't know for sure, but that makes more sense to me than just assuming that some random fish swallowed a man. If God can create the entire universe, he could certainly create a special fish! To me, that idea gives even more credibility to this miraculous story.
Jesus, Why? (Part 3 of 3)
For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. - Luke 2:11
Why did Jesus come at all? I will focus on one of the many answers that exist. Prior to Jesus' coming, people were required to make sacrifices for their sins. Obviously that required a lot of time and effort, and I believe that God had a desire to make things easier for us so that as many people as possible could come to know Him. Perhaps God Himself longed for a closer, more personal relationship with us (we know that He has a heart like we do; see Genesis 6:6 for an example). If He just wanted to make it easier, though, why not send Jesus from the very beginning? One reason may be that He knew what would happen over time if He did make it easy for us. Take a look around the world today and compare it to the early history of the Bible. Staying in close contact with God and making frequent sacrifices, most of those people took their faith seriously. Sadly, most people today do not. Sometimes I wonder if God made it too easy for us to come to Him, and now we take Him for granted.
Simply God's Children
For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. - Galatians 3:26-29
We divide ourselves into so many different groups based on things that really don't even matter, such as appearance, race, gender, or class. But we don't need to do that. In God's eyes, we're all simply His children. We're all simply followers of Christ. We need to work together as children of God to build up His kingdom, not tear ourselves apart based on petty differences that are irrelevant in the big picture. Regardless of someone's skin color, how they are dressed, or how much money they make, God loves us all just the same. Keep that in mind the next time you find yourself ready to prejudge someone, or the next time you have to work closely with someone who is different from yourself in one of those areas.
Happy is the man who finds wisdom,
And the man who gains understanding;
For her proceeds are better than the profits of silver,
And her gain than fine gold.
She is more precious than rubies,
And all the things you may desire cannot compare with her.
Length of days is in her right hand,
In her left hand riches and honor.
Her ways are ways of pleasantness,
And all her paths are peace.
She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her,
And happy are all who retain her.
- Proverbs 3:13-18
Why do You stand afar off, O Lord?
Why do You hide in times of trouble?
The wicked in his pride persecutes the poor;
Let them be caught in the plots which they have devised.
For the wicked boasts of his heart's desire;
He blesses the greedy and renounces the Lord.
The wicked in his proud countenance does not seek God;
God is in none of his thoughts.
His ways are always prospering;
Your judgments are far above, out of his sight;
As for all his enemies, he sneers at them.
Arise, O Lord!
O God, lift up Your hand!
Do not forget the humble.
Lord, You have heard the desire of the humble;
You will prepare their heart;
You will cause Your ear to hear,
To do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,
That the man of the earth may oppress no more.
- Psalm 10:1-5, 12, 17-18
God and Science, not God vs. Science
And God said: "This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth." - Genesis 9:12-13
God cleansed the entire world when He sent the great flood. After it is over, we receive evidence that God keeps His promises. He has never again flooded the earth and we still see rainbows today. Can the reason for the appearance of rainbows be explained scientifically? Yes. So can most weather events, even though God is still in control of the weather. God is not opposed to science; indeed, I believe that He created the world in such a way that we would be able to understand much of it scientifically. In fact, many scientific discoveries have been made in recent years that support the Bible; they don't contradict it. For people who have an open mind toward God, Science and the Bible can work hand-in-hand and do not have to compete.
Less Obvious Works of God
Now the donkeys of Kish, Saul's father, were lost. And Kish said to his son Saul, "Please take one of the servants with you, and arise, go and look for the donkeys." ... Now the Lord had told Samuel in his ear the day before Saul came, saying, "Tomorrow about this time I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin, and you shall anoint him commander over My people Israel." - 1 Samuel 9:3, 15-16a
Sometimes God works in ways that are not so obvious to us. In this example, Saul just thought some of his father's donkeys had wandered off so he went to search for them. But look at what God said to Samuel--"I will send you a man", meaning that God had planned the whole sequence of events that led Saul to Samuel ahead of time so that Samuel could proclaim Saul the first king of Israel. As you live from day to day, take some time to look for God in the not-so-obvious places. Remember that He makes all things, even the small ones, work together for good (Romans 8:28).
When God Gets Our Attention
"But I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord." - Jonah 2:9
Sometimes we just don't listen, and sometimes God has to take drastic actions to get our attention. Such was the case with Jonah, when God commanded him to go and preach to the wicked city of Nineveh but he didn't want to go. He tried to run away instead and ended up inside the great fish that God had prepared just for him. While inside, Jonah repented and decided he would follow God. I guess he realized that God was serious about His command by that point! But sometimes God had to do big things to get our attention, too. Sometimes those things are harmless (as this experience ultimately was for Jonah) and sometimes bad things do happen. But remember that God is working through all situations and is always looking after His children. If you find yourself in a situation like that, most likely He is trying to teach you something or guide you someplace as well.
Daniel and the Wise Men
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him." - Matthew 2:1-2
Fairly recently I learned that these wise men most likely came from Persia after studying the writings of Daniel from some 500 years earlier. They learned that a king was going to be born and followed the star that led them straight to Jesus. It amazes me how many people in Jesus' own hometown didn't believe that He was actually their Savior, yet these wise men traveled a great distance just to pay their respects to Him. It also reminds me, in a way, of how complacent many American Christians have become regarding their faith while people in other parts of the world are struggling and even being killed for having faith in Christ. It's no wonder we face some difficult journeys at times--God knows that's the best way to grab our attention.
Serving God, not gods
But then, indeed, when you did not know God, you served those which by nature are not gods. - Galatians 4:8
We all serve something or someone. They may not realize it, but non-Christians serve some type of "god" as well, be it another religion, money and possessions, alcohol and drugs, or their own lustful desires, just to name a few. If you were saved by Christ at a young age as I was, you may not have had that experience. However, if you were not saved until later in life, you can probably think back and recall some of those "gods" you used to serve. How does this verse apply to the average Christian today? First, we need to make sure we are not still serving some other god. Many temptations are out there in our culture and it can be easy to fall for some of them. Second, if you are sharing the Gospel with someone else, especially an agnostic or atheist, you may want to quote this verse and explain to them that they are already serving a god in some sense, so why not choose to serve the one true living God instead?
My son, let them not depart from your eyes--
Keep sound wisdom and discretion;
So they will be life to your soul
And grace to your neck.
Then you will walk safely in your way,
And your foot will not stumble.
When you lie down, you will not be afraid;
Yes, you will lie down and your sleep will be sweet.
Do not be afraid of sudden terror,
Nor of trouble from the wicked when it comes;
For the Lord will be your confidence,
And will keep your foot from being caught.
- Proverbs 3:21-26
Help, Lord, for the godly man ceases!
For the faithful disappear from among the sons of men.
They speak idly everyone with his neighbor;
With flattering lips and a double heart they speak.
May the Lord cut off all flattering lips,
And the tongue that speaks proud things,
Who have said,
"With our tongue we will prevail;
Our lips are our own;
Who is lord over us?"
"For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy,
Now I will arise," says the Lord;
"I will set him in the safety for which he yearns."
The words of the Lord are pure words,
Like silver tried in a furnace of earth,
Purified seven times.
You shall keep them, O Lord,
You shall preserve them from this generation forever.
- Psalm 12:1-7
Following Noah or the Crowd?
The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth." And God said to Noah, "This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth." - Genesis 9:16-17
God has never failed to keep a promise and He never will. He established this covenant with us and He will always care for His children. Which group do you fall into? I'm not asking whether or not you go to church or whether or not you say that you're a Christian. If you were alive during this time, would you be that person who stands out from the crowd, trying to do what's right in spite of all the evil in this world? Or would you be among the large crowd who does evil and doesn't follow God's commands? Assess yourself honestly, and if you believe you do fall into that second group, it's not too late to change. Let this new decade be a brand new beginning for you.
Why Do Bad Things Happen?
"And when they forgot the Lord their God, He sold them into the hand of Sisera ... Then they cried out to the Lord, and said, We have sinned, because we have forsaken the Lord ... And the Lord sent Jerubbaal, Bedan, Jephthah, and Samuel, and delivered you out of the hand of your enemies on every side; and you dwelt in safety." - 1 Samuel 12:9a, 10a, 11
I write these devotionals in advance, and as I write this one, the Haiti earthquake just occurred a few days ago. Many people ask, how can a loving God let bad things happen? We can look to the experiences of the Israelites for an answer. Every time they wandered away from God, He let them be captured. That was apparently the only thing that would get their attention, and He loved them so much that He wanted them to return to the right path. I believe that is one big reason why disasters happen. One example is the tsunami that hit Indonesia a few years ago; many, many people have been led to Christ in that part of the world after that calamity. Bad things have a purpose and through God all things work together for good (Romans 8:28).
Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, "Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you." So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. ... Then he cried out and said, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!" So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them. - Jonah 3:1-3a, 4b-5
Nineveh was a wicked place, but they listened to Jonah's warning and repented! Jonah had to be surprised. The Bible doesn't tell us specifically, but it is possible that he didn't want to go when God first asked because it was such a wicked place and he didn't believe the people would listen to him. But they did, and the city underwent a miraculous change! I think sometimes we have a tendency to underestimate what God can do. Granted, the outcome isn't always so astounding. But we should always keep in mind that God is more than capable of doing amazing things when we follow His commands!
Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men. - Matthew 2:16
Herod was so paranoid about losing his authority as king that he killed every young boy in the land in the hopes that this new King, Jesus, would be among them. Jealousy, anger, and self-centeredness rarely has such a dramatic impact, but those feelings almost always result in something negative. Someone acting on those feelings may not literally destroy lives (though that does happen on occasion), but lives can be destroyed in another sense--they can be drastically altered forever. Do you ever feel the urge to get revenge on someone? Before you act, consider all the potential consequences, not only to that one person but perhaps to others and to yourself as well. Rely on prayer instead and trust God to handle your problems for you.
Freedom in Christ, Part 1 of 2
Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. - Galatians 5:1
We are free in Christ! We have the liberty and freedom that He gives us at our disposal. Why, then, do so many Christians still seem to be entangled in some sort of bondage? The answer is simple: Satan attacks, and we give in. But as Paul writes to the Galatians in this verse, that isn't the way God wanted things to be. Trusting Christ isn't simply the right thing to do for a believer but it also gives us true peace and freedom. Despite what the world may tell you, freedom doesn't come from being "free" to act upon all your desires. When you do that, you instead become a slave to those very desires. But when we fully trust Christ--not doubting but placing all our faith in Him to take care of us, only then will we experience true freedom.
Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
When it is in the power of your hand to do so.
Do not say to your neighbor,
"Go, and come back,
And tomorrow I will give it,"
When you have it with you.
Do not devise evil against your neighbor,
For he dwells by you for safety's sake.
Do not strive with a man without cause,
If he has done you no harm.
- Proverbs 3:27-30
God Never Forgets You
How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
How long shall I take counsel in my soul,
Having sorrow in my heart daily?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and hear me, O Lord my God;
Enlighten my eyes,
Lest I sleep the sleep of death;
Lest my enemy say,
"I have prevailed against him";
Lest those who trouble me rejoice when I am moved.
But I have trusted in Your mercy;
My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
Because He has dealt bountifully with me.
- Psalm 13:1-6
David feels like God has forgotten him, so obviously something very bad has happened in his life. Even so, by the end of this psalm, he still rejoices in the Lord's mercy and salvation. Remember that if you ever feel like God has forgotten about you.
Tower of Babel
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." ... "Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another's speech." - Genesis 11:4, 7
With the exception of obvious passages such as Jesus' parables, I believe the Bible is intended to be taken literally, including this part. It is a shame that God had to do that in order to keep people from bringing so much glory to themselves, but sometimes we force Him to take extreme measures. On a different topic, this is the third time so far in Genesis that we see a reference to Jesus and the Trinity, as God says "Us" and not just "Me". It is fascinating to me that Moses, while likely not knowing anything about the Messiah who would come some 1500 years later, wrote in a way that indicated His presence. It's another sign of God's hand at work throughout the Bible.
"And do not turn aside; for then you would go after empty things which cannot profit or deliver, for they are nothing. ... Only fear the Lord, and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you." - 1 Samuel 12:21, 24
I have read verse 21 a couple of times in the past, but unfortunately I guess I wasn't paying very close attention to what it is saying. When I read it this time, it really jumped out at me and I love the way it is worded. This is when Samuel was crowning Saul the first king of Israel, and he gives Israel several warnings at the same time. One such warning is to not "go after empty things which cannot profit or deliver." That's a verse many people in this country need to hear! Our country as a whole has gotten so caught up in materialistic desires; we have so much and we want even more. What does Samuel say about such things? He doesn't merely say that they are unimportant or unnecessary. He says "they are nothing." Material possessions are empty and completely meaningless compared to what we have in Christ. Please don't let them rule your life.
God's Forgiveness; Our Selfishness
Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it. But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry. - Jonah 3:10-4:1
This passage does not explain clearly why Jonah got so angry, but based on the discussion that follows between Jonah and God, I believe that Jonah was angry because God forgave the people of Nineveh in spite of how evil they had been. We know God forgives, but do we always want Him to? Especially if you're a person who generally does what's right, is it fair for Him to forgive both you and a murderer who later accepts Jesus into his heart? As humans, we sometimes have a hard time seeing things the way God sees them. But if we truly love our neighbors, we should want all of them to go with us to heaven, not just the "good" ones. Let us not be selfish or self-righteous and instead just show the love of God to everyone, regardless of what some of them may have done in the past.