Living for Christ

May 2010 Daily Devotion Archive

May 1:
Abominations to the Lord

These six things the Lord hates,
Yes, seven are an abomination to Him:
A proud look,
A lying tongue,
Hands that shed innocent blood,
A heart that devises wicked plans,
Feet that are swift in running to evil,
A false witness who speaks lies,
And one who sows discord among brethren.
- Proverbs 6:16-19

I find it interesting that most of these things that are called abominations to the Lord are things that many people consider to be "not all that bad." Being overly proud, lying, or causing discord in the church--those may not sound like they would be at the top of the list of things God hates, but clearly they are. The third item on the list (hands that shed innocent blood) probably doesn't apply to you, but what about the other six? Examine yourself closely and honestly to see if you have been guilty of doing any of those things, and remember this passage the next time you are tempted to do them again.

May 2:
Hear a just cause, O Lord,
Attend to my cry;
Give ear to my prayer which is not from deceitful lips.
Let my vindication come from Your presence;
Let Your eyes look on the things that are upright.
You have tested my heart;
You have visited me in the night;
You have tried me and have found nothing;
I have purposed that my mouth shall not transgress.
Concerning the works of men,
By the word of Your lips,
I have kept away from the paths of the destroyer.
Uphold my steps in Your paths,
That my footsteps may not slip.
- Psalm 17:1-5

May 3:
Making Wise Choices

And Lot lifted his eyes and saw all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere (before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah) like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt as you go toward Zoar. Then Lot chose for himself all the plain of Jordan, and Lot journeyed east. And they separated from each other. Abram dwelt in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelt in the cities of the plain and pitched his tent even as far as Sodom. But the men of Sodom were exceedingly wicked and sinful against the Lord. - Genesis 13:10-13

Lot chose the land that looked better from his human perspective, the land that looked better for him and his livestock. But he failed to consider other possible consequences. He ended up living among the "exceedingly wicked" people in Sodom and he fell away from the Lord over time. When you have to make a choice, be careful to consider all the consequences, both good and bad. Don't just look on the surface (in this case, the fertile land), but look deeper (the sinful hearts of these people). Don't just look at short-term gain, but look at what may happen in the long term.

May 4:
Impress God, Not People, Part 1 of 3

So it was, when they came, that he looked at Eliab and said, "Surely the Lord's anointed is before Him!" But the Lord said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." - 1 Samuel 16:6-7

Many of my favorite Bible verses are in the New Testament, but among the Old Testament, 1 Samuel 16:7 may well be my favorite. The world tells you that your outer apperance is important. God doesn't see it that way. I think about people who put a lot of effort into dressing nicely for church, but they just want to impress other people and don't really want to be there. Now don't get me wrong, I think it is important to at least dress up a little when going to church simply to help set it apart from your everyday life. But God would much rather have someone with a heart for God walk into church in old, worn-out jeans because that's all (s)he has to wear than have someone who doesn't have such a heart for God dress up to impress other people.

May 5:
Zechariah's First Messianic Prophecy

"Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey. I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the horse from Jerusalem; the battle bow shall be cut off. He shall speak peace to the nations; His dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth." - Zechariah 9:9-10

Here we find Zechariah's first prophecy about the coming King, or Messiah. He goes on to list a number of traits of this King. Jesus is fair and just, as God the Father is, and Jesus is of course the root of salvation. He came in a lowly way and lived very humbly, and He did ride in on a donkey during the Triumphal Entry. He spoke about peace and was even called the "Prince of Peace" and He does continue to rule from His home in heaven all the way to the ends of the earth. Altogether, this is a powerful prophecy of the coming Messiah written roughly 480 years before His birth.

May 6:
Being Born Again

Jesus answered and said to him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Nicodemus said to Him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?" Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." - John 3:3-6

This is the key thing that separates Christianity from all other religions--the idea of being born again, born into the Spirit and experiencing the kind of change on the inside that can only come from God. Other religions focus more on "me"--on works that individuals can do to hopefully be good enough to make it into "heaven." That's where those religions fail. Christianity is the only one in which a believer experiences a change of heart on the inside and is born again of the Spirit. That significant change comes from the only God who is true and alive.

May 7:
Good Intentions and Common Sense

Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. - Galatians 6:1

The warning Paul gives us here is to be careful when dealing with temptations. If you see a fellow Christian who has fallen into some kind of sin, you need to help--but not at your own expense. Satan is always eager to attack, especially if you are subject to being trapped by the same sin as that other person. Perhaps you could get someone else (who isn't tempted by that particular thing) involved as well, or you could even go to someone like a pastor. Many people start out trying to do something good but end up unintentionally bringing harm to themselves in the process. This can also be true in a financial sense, if you try to help someone out but end up getting yourself into a poor financial situation. The point here is to be careful and use common sense when trying to help another person. Good intentions are commendable, but common sense is an essential part as well.

May 8:
The Parent-Child Relationship

My son, keep your father's command,
And do not forsake the law of your mother.
Bind them continually upon your heart;
Tie them around your neck.
When you roam, they will lead you;
When you sleep, they will keep you;
And when you awake, they will speak with you.
- Proverbs 6:20-22

This passage has lessons for both parents and children. Children need to remember to respect their parents and their rules, as is repeated in other parts of the Bible as well. At the same time, however, parents need to be there to make those rules in the first place. Our world is filling up quickly with parents who do not want the responsibility; they just want to be friends with their child(ren). However, that isn't good for anyone involved. Children need a set of rules to follow; they need order and discipline to learn the difference between right and wrong. That is the way God intended for the relationship to work.

May 9:
To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David The Servant of the Lord, Who Spoke to the Lord The Words of This Song on the Day that the Lord Delivered Him from the Hand of All His Enemies and from the Hand of Saul. And He Said:
I will love You, O Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer;
My God, my strength, in whom I will trust;
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised;
So shall I be saved from my enemies.
The pangs of death surrounded me,
And the floods of ungodliness made me afraid.
The sorrows of Sheol surrounded me;
The snares of death confronted me.
In my distress I called upon the Lord,
And cried out to my God;
He heard my voice from His temple,
And my cry came before Him, even to His ears.
- Psalm 18:1-6

May 10:
Melchizedek and Jesus

Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. - Genesis 14:18

We find just a few short verses about the high priest Melchizedek in the Bible, yet he is the basis for a significant portion of the book of Hebrews. Have you ever wondered why that is the case? I know I have, especially before some recent studies have begun to clarify the book of Hebrews for me. For one, this mysterious quality (he seemingly appears out of nowhere because Genesis contains no record of his birth or death) allows the author of Hebrews to compare Melchizedek with Jesus, who is eternal. Additionally, Melchizedek was both a king and a high priest, just as Jesus is. These comparisons, among others, allow the author of Hebrews to compare Melchizedek and Jesus and further explain why the Old Covenant was not working and why Jesus had to come. I believe the brief account of Melchizedek in Genesis (written over 1500 years before Hebrews) was placed there solely for that purpose, which gives us further evidence of how God's hand is at work throughout the Bible.

May 11:
Impress God, Not People, Part 2 of 3

So it was, when they came, that he looked at Eliab and said, "Surely the Lord's anointed is before Him!" But the Lord said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." - 1 Samuel 16:6-7

It pains me to see how many people have bought into society's lie that outer appearance is important. This especially seems to be a problem for women, but plenty of men are guilty of it as well. So many people waste so much time working on their outer appearance every single day and they don't even realize how irrelevant it truly is. Do you fall into that category? You very well may; in my opinion, the majority of people do. If so, I want to pose a challenge to you. For the next week, don't spend any extra time on yourself besides the basics of cleaning and washing. Instead, spend that time working on your inside--read your Bible (and other Christian books if you have the time), pray, and do things for other people instead of for yourself.

May 12:
Zechariah's Second and Third Messianic Prophecies

"And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn. In that day there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning at Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo." ... "Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, against the Man who is My Companion," says the Lord of hosts. "Strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered; then I will turn My hand against the little ones." - Zechariah 12:10-11, 13:7

We find more prophecies from Zechariah in these two passages. I especially like the phrase "then they will look on Me whom they pierced," a reference to Jesus being pierced on the cross as all the people gathered to watch, but since it is God giving this prophecy to Zechariah and He uses the word "Me" it also offers subtle proof of the Trinity. The second passage uses the frequent comparison of the Savior and a Shepherd, and now His sheep (Christians) are scattered throughout the world.

May 13:
He's No False Prophet

"Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness." - John 3:11

It is a subtle reference, but this verse does refer to the Trinity because of the plural words that are used. A capitalized "We" is used three times and "Our" is used once, signifying not only that Jesus Himself is of divine origins but that He and God the Father are connected in some way. But Jesus isn't trying to convince anyone that He is the Son of God in this verse; He is merely speaking as if it is assumed to be true, which I believe makes His witness even more powerful. If some type of false prophet is trying to get you to believe something, (s)he will work hard to convince you that whatever (s)he is saying is true. But Jesus doesn't do that. He knows the truth and has complete confidence in it, and He speaks based on that truth. A false prophet could never be so confident and certain when speaking to others.

May 14:
Bear Your Own Load, Part 1 of 2

Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. ... For each one shall bear his own load. - Galatians 6:2, 5

I have mentioned before that I write these devotionals ahead of time, and I am actually writing this one on the day after the national health care bill was officially signed into law. I don't believe that is the kind of law that Jesus would have supported if he were on the Earth today. Of course, He loves and cares greatly about all of us, but He also encourages us to do things for ourselves. Paul backs up that idea with these two verses. We each need to be responsible for ourselves. There's nothing wrong with getting help from others from time to time, which I believe is what the first verse is saying, but Paul is also quite clear that we should each bear our own load. We continue to see an increase in this country in the number of lazy people who just expect the government to give them everything. To a large degree, we have lost the hard work ethic that many of our ancestors had. If this country is going to prosper again, that is one of the many areas which need improvement.

May 15:
For the commandment is a lamp,
And the law a light;
Reproofs of instruction are the way of life,
To keep you from the evil woman,
From the flattering tongue of a seductress.
Do not lust after her beauty in your heart,
Nor let her allure you with her eyelids.
For by means of a harlot
A man is reduced to a crust of bread;
And an adulteress will prey upon his precious life.
Can a man take fire to his bosom,
And his clothes not be burned?
Can one walk on hot coals,
And his feet not be seared?
- Proverbs 6:23-28

May 16:
The Lord thundered from heaven,
And the Most High uttered His voice,
Hailstones and coals of fire.
He sent out His arrows and scattered the foe,
Lightnings in abundance, and He vanquished them.
Then the channels of the sea were seen,
The foundations of the world were uncovered
At Your rebuke, O Lord,
At the blast of the breath of Your nostrils.
He sent from above, He took me;
He drew me out of many waters.
He delivered me from my strong enemy,
From those who hated me,
For they were too strong for me.
They confronted me in the day of my calamity,
But the Lord was my support.
He also brought me out into a broad place;
He delivered me because He delighted in me.
- Psalm 18:13-19

May 17:

And he gave him a tithe of all. - Genesis 14:20b

This is the first mention of a tithe in the Bible, as Abram gives one-tenth of his possessions to the high priest Melchizedek. We need to follow his example and the other examples of tithing and giving that we find in the Bible. Do you tithe? Do you give at least one-tenth of what you earn back to God in some way? If you do not (and sadly, many people don't), I want to challenge you today. Do you have a desire to hold on to what you have earned? It really isn't even yours; everything belongs to God; He has entrusted some part of it to you and it is your responsibility to obey His commands. Do you feel like you can't afford to tithe? I agree with my pastor's response to that question: You can't afford NOT to tithe. The more you give, the more God will be able to trust you and He will bless you even more (monetarily or otherwise). I know the idea of giving in order to receive more blessings sounds contrary to common thinking, but Jesus often gave us wisdom that is also contrary to the way we think.

May 18:
Impress God, Not People, Part 3 of 3

So it was, when they came, that he looked at Eliab and said, "Surely the Lord's anointed is before Him!" But the Lord said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." - 1 Samuel 16:6-7

Not only was God not impressed by Eliab, who was presumably the strongest and most handsome of Jesse's sons, but He had completely refused him as He was choosing who the next king would be. Physical appearance does not matter at all to God. If you cover part of yourself with make-up, you are covering up some of the work God did with His own hands and you're telling Him that He didn't do a good enough job when He created you. You're also wasting valuable time on yourself that you could be using to further His kingdom. Anything you do to alter your physical appearance can fall into this category. God created you just the way He wanted you to be. Don't try to change that; instead work on changing your inside and growing closer to God.

May 19:
His Great Name

"For from the rising of the sun, even to its going down, My name shall be great among the Gentiles; In every place incense shall be offered to My name, and a pure offering; for My name shall be great among the nations," says the Lord of hosts. - Malachi 1:11

Malachi writes these words from the Lord which tell us that He will no longer just be the God of the Israelites, but that His name will be great among the Gentiles as well. That is exactly what happened when Jesus came and died on the cross for all of us. When the veil of the temple was torn (Matthew 27:51), we all gained open access to God through His Son Jesus. The whole world could find hope in this verse and that same hope still exists for the whole world today. Thanks to missionaries, we can find believers in all corners of the world! But now, especially as certain groups of people try to silence anything related to Christianity, we need to continue to make sure the name of the Lord is still great among all groups of people all over the world.

May 20:
Saved, Not Condemned

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." - John 3:16-17

We all know the first of these two verses; it is probably the most-quoted verse in the entire Bible. But what about the second verse? It has just as much significance, especially when dealing with non-believers. I have often heard the argument that I, as a Christian, am somehow condemning those who don't believe the same way I do--or even worse, that Jesus and/or God condemns them. But that couldn't be farther from the truth. Jesus didn't come to condemn; He came to save! All we have to do is believe in Him. Don't let people who are too stubborn to see the truth convince you that Jesus came to condemn anyone, because that could not be farther from the truth.

May 21:
Bear Your Own Load, Part 2 of 2

Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. ... For each one shall bear his own load. - Galatians 6:2, 5

We each need to work hard and be responsible for ourselves. If you accidentally do something you shouldn't have done, stand up and take responsibility for it; don't try to blame somebody else. That's a big part of the reason why our court system is backed up--people don't want to take any responsibility. The same reasoning can be used to explain why we are producing a new generation of kids, many of which are lazy and don't want to work hard. No one wants to be responsible for anything anymore. (Certainly there are some exceptions, but I am speaking in general terms.) We need to work hard and be responsible for our own actions. Those are some of the principles on which our country was founded, and it is what the Bible commands us to do.

May 22:
Adultery Destroys Your Own Soul

Whoever commits adultery with a woman lacks understanding;
He who does so destroys his own soul.
Wounds and dishonor he will get,
And his reproach will not be wiped away.
- Proverbs 6:32-33

Adultery is a sin that is becoming more commonplace. But make no mistake about it--if you go down that road, as this passage clearly says, you will destroy your own soul. The act of adultery carries with it serious consequences that will last for the rest of your life. Even if you are fortunate enough to restore your family life back to normal after the fact, you will never be able to change what happened. Committing adultery also shows complete and total selfishness, as you are only concerned with how you feel and getting pleasure for yourself without thinking about the impact on your spouse. I urge you, don't alter the rest of your life for one fleeting moment in which you feel the illusion of pleasure. It is never worth the price you'll pay from that point forward.

May 23:
The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness;
According to the cleanness of my hands
He has recompensed me.
For I have kept the ways of the Lord,
And have not wickedly departed from my God.
For all His judgments were before me,
And I did not put away His statutes from me.
I was also blameless before Him,
And I kept myself from my iniquity.
Therefore the Lord has recompensed me according to my righteousness,
According to the cleanness of my hands in His sight.
With the merciful You will show Yourself merciful;
With a blameless man You will show Yourself blameless;
With the pure You will show Yourself pure;
And with the devious You will show Yourself shrewd.
For You will save the humble people,
But will bring down haughty looks.
- Psalm 18:20-27

May 24:
Looking Beyond the Short-Term

Now the king of Sodom said to Abram, "Give me the persons, and take the goods for yourself." But Abram said to the king of Sodom, "I have raised my hand to the Lord, God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth, that I will take nothing, from a thread to a sandal strap, and that I will not take anything that is yours, lest you should say, I have made Abram rich." - Genesis 14:21-23

Abram was rescuing some people, including his nephew Lot, who had been captured by the king of Sodom. He just wanted to rescue them, though, and did not want to take any material possessions that belonged to the king. If he had taken some of those things, the king would have been able to get glory for himself, claiming that he had made Abram rich. Abram wasn't blinded by the chance for short-term gain; he kept his eyes on the bigger picture. There are many opportunities for short-term gain in our world today, but they almost always include some type of trap. Keep your eyes on what is truly important and don't get trapped by the lure of things such as money or possessions which have no eternal value.

May 25:
Seeing as God Sees

And Samuel said to Jesse, "Are all the young men here?" Then he said, "There remains yet the youngest, and there he is, keeping the sheep." And Samuel said to Jesse, "Send and bring him. For we will not sit down till he comes here." So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with bright eyes, and good-looking. And the Lord said, "Arise, anoint him; for this is the one!" - 1 Samuel 16:11-12

I think this passage illustrates just how differently man and God view other people. As we've been discussing the last few Tuesdays, man looks at the outer appearance while God looks at the heart. In this situation, not only did the people not think God would choose Jesse's youngest son to be the next king, they were so confident of that fact that they didn't even think to bring him (David) out with the rest of his brothers. It's like it didn't even occur to them that God could choose a lowly shepherd boy, similar to the way in which it doesn't occur to most people that they are putting far more effort into their physical appearance than they should. Stop and ask yourself honestly, are you among that group of people?

May 26:
Prophecy For John

"Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight. Behold, He is coming," says the Lord of hosts. - Malachi 3:1

This messenger was John the Baptist, who indeed came to prepare the way for Jesus to come. Both arrivals were sudden and unexpected, as this prophecy indicates--they didn't occur for some 400 years after this prophecy was written. But Malachi writes with certainty that "He is coming," and indeed He did come. This prophecy also speaks of another messenger, the "Messenger of the covenant." Since that one is capitalized, it refers to Jesus instead of John. Jesus was the Messenger who brought about the change from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant, which is what that phrase refers to. God's messenger, John, prepared the way for the ultimate Messenger: Jesus.

May 27:
Preferring Darkness

"And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God." - John 3:19-21

Jesus tells us exactly why some people choose not to believe, and His words still ring true today. So many non-believers choose to ignore the truth because they enjoy the darkness; they don't want to have to admit that the way they live their lives is wrong. They want to stay in the darkness because it seems pleasurable to them. But that false sense of pleasure is temporary. True joy comes only from Christ. We have to be the light to the world, showing the world that the light is a good thing and that, despite how dark some people's lives may be, Jesus has the power to cleanse them and make them pure again.

May 28:
Do Not Grow Weary

And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. - Galatians 6:9

I think Paul understands that doing good is not always easy. Sometimes hard work is involved and we may not see the rewards right away, while people who go off and do something sinful appear to have a lot more fun (even though their fun is merely an illusion). So, Paul is offering encouragement to the people of Galatia and to us as well. We will reap the rewards of doing good. It may take a while, and in some cases we may not even fully understand the results of our hard work until we reach heaven and see things differently. But doing good is always worth any cost when we think about the rewards we'll get and, most importantly, when we remember that we are doing it for the Lord. In the long run, without exception, doing good is always better than doing evil.

May 29:
For at the window of my house
I looked through my lattice,
And saw among the simple,
I perceived among the youths,
A young man devoid of understanding,
Passing along the street near her corner;
And he took the path to her house
In the twilight, in the evening,
In the black and dark night. ...
Come, let us take our fill of love until morning;
Let us delight ourselves with love.
For my husband is not at home;
He has gone on a long journey;
He has taken a bag of money with him,
And will come home on the appointed day."
With her enticing speech she caused him to yield,
With her flattering lips she seduced him.
Immediately he went after her, as an ox goes to the slaughter,
Or as a fool to the correction of the stocks,
Till an arrow struck his liver.
As a bird hastens to the snare,
He did not know it would cost his life.
- Proverbs 7:6-9, 18-23

May 30:
The Lord lives!
Blessed be my Rock!
Let the God of my salvation be exalted.
It is God who avenges me,
And subdues the peoples under me;
He delivers me from my enemies.
You also lift me up above those who rise against me;
You have delivered me from the violent man.
Therefore I will give thanks to You, O Lord, among the Gentiles,
And sing praises to Your name.
Great deliverance He gives to His king,
And shows mercy to His anointed,
To David and his descendants forevermore.
- Psalm 18:46-50

May 31:
An Early Prophecy

Then He said to Abram: "Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions." - Genesis 15:13-14

This is one of the first fulfilled prophecies we find in the Bible. The Lord is speaking to Abram and telling him what is to come, and this prophecy is fulfilled in the book of Exodus. Abram's descendants, the Isrealites, would become strangers in the land of Egypt which did not belong to them. The Israelites would live there in captivity for 430 years (see Exodus 12:40). Then God judged Egypt by sending the ten plagues and the Israelites plundered the Egyptians as they escaped. All of this was told to Abram hundreds of years before it happened and before Abram even had a child of his own, but every word if it came true!