|January 2012 Daily Devotion Archive|
Rise up, O Judge of the earth;
Render punishment to the proud.
Lord, how long will the wicked,
How long will the wicked triumph?
They utter speech, and speak insolent things;
All the workers of iniquity boast in themselves.
They break in pieces Your people, O Lord,
And afflict Your heritage.
They slay the widow and the stranger,
And murder the fatherless.
The Lord knows the thoughts of man,
That they are futile.
Blessed is the man whom You instruct, O Lord,
And teach out of Your law,
In the multitude of my anxieties within me,
Your comforts delight my soul.
- Psalm 94:2-6, 11-12, 19
Working Together With Different Gifts
"And Bezalel and Aholiab, and every gifted artisan in whom the Lord has put wisdom and understanding, to know how to do all manner of work for the service of the sanctuary, shall do according to all that the Lord has commanded." - Exodus 36:1
Paul wrote a well-known Scripture passage concerning spiritual gifts in chapter 12 of 1 Corinthians. However, in this excerpt from the book of Exodus, we find a real-life example as the Israelites work together to build the Tabernacle. If all of them had the same gifts and abilities, what could they have accomplished? There would have been too many people trying to do the same thing, while other tasks went undone altogether. God, in His infinte wisdom, knew that would never work, so He created us all with our own unique gifts. Some people are better at certain things, while other people have different skills. What's important is that we all work together, using our individual gifts, to bring God glory and help further His Kingdom. Don't allow yourself to become jealous of someone else who has a different gift. Instead, try to work with that person and combine your talents for God.
Question to Ponder: What gifts have you been blessed with, and how do you use those gifts for God?
God Is Our Strength and Courage
No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." - Joshua 1:5-9
The Israelites were about to enter the Promised Land, but God told them not to be afraid, because He was with them--as long as they followed Him and did not stray. God is our strength and our courage, and we can always rely on Him. Question to Ponder: Do you rely on God to be your strength and your courage when times are tough?
A Prophecy of Jesus, Part 1 of 2
Behold, My Servant shall deal prudently;
He shall be exalted and extolled and be very high.
Just as many were astonished at you,
So His visage was marred more than any man,
And His form more than the sons of men;
So shall He sprinkle many nations.
Kings shall shut their mouths at Him;
For what had not been told them they shall see,
And what they had not heard they shall consider.
He is despised and rejected by men,
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
- Isaiah 52:13-15, 53:3-4
Give Yourself Up For Jesus
When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, "Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" - Mark 8:34-37
In losing our lives for Jesus, we are to give up our own wants and desires in order to more fully follow His will. When we are too busy thinking about what we want, our focus shifts away from the things of God and instead we are focusing on worldly things. But when we change our focus and give up control, only then do we allow God to take over and lead us along the path He has prepared for us. What good does it do if you gain everything in the world, but lose your own soul? You have the illusion of happiness for a short time on earth, then an eternity apart from God. Give up your own desires and let God lead the way!
Question to Ponder: In which areas of your life do you have a hard time giving up control to God?
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe. For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place. Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything. For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. - 1 Thessalonians 1:6-10
The belief and the faith that these people had was so strong that it was very evident to those around them. They turned away from their sins and turned toward God in such a mighty way that everyone else could see how they had changed and how they were now following the true God. We can preach and teach all we want, but actions like those almost always speak louder.
Question to Ponder: How do your actions show others about the truth of Jesus?
I made my works great, I built myself houses, and planted myself vineyards. I made myself gardens and orchards, and I planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. I made myself water pools from which to water the growing trees of the grove. I acquired male and female servants, and had servants born in my house. Yes, I had greater possessions of herds and flocks than all who were in Jerusalem before me. I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the special treasures of kings and of the provinces. I acquired male and female singers, the delights of the sons of men, and musical instruments of all kinds. So I became great and excelled more than all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me.
Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them.
I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure,
For my heart rejoiced in all my labor;
And this was my reward from all my labor.
Then I looked on all the works that my hands had done
And on the labor in which I had toiled;
And indeed all was vanity and grasping for the wind.
There was no profit under the sun.
- Ecclesiastes 2:4-11
Oh, sing to the Lord a new song!
Sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Sing to the Lord, bless His name;
Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day.
Declare His glory among the nations,
His wonders among all peoples.
For the Lord is great and greatly to be praised;
He is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are idols,
But the Lord made the heavens.
Honor and majesty are before Him;
Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.
Give to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
Give to the Lord glory and strength.
Give to the Lord the glory due His name;
Bring an offering, and come into His courts.
Oh, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness!
Tremble before Him, all the earth.
- Psalm 96:1-9
True Love, Part 1 of 5
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. - 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a
If you don't already know or haven't noticed the wedding countdown on my website, I will be getting married this Saturday, January 14! God has given me a wonderful blessing by giving Kellie to me, and I am excited and honored to get to marry her in just a few days from the time you are reading this (as I write, our wedding is just under a month away). For this reason, I have decided to depart from my regular devotion schedule this week and do a special series on love. What is love, anyway? This Scripture from 1 Corinthians is probably the most-used passage in the Bible when talking about love, and in these verses, Paul gives us a wonderful description of what true love really is. Most of all, true love never fails.
Question to Ponder: What is true love to you?
True Love, Part 2 of 5
[Love] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. - 1 Corinthians 13:7-8a
If true love never fails, yet the divorce rate continues to hover around 50 percent, what is true love? Here are some of the most important aspects of true love. First of all, in a marriage or any kind of romantic relationship, we should love one another as Christ loves us (see John 13:34-35). Our love needs to be unselfish. Selfishness is perhaps the biggest problem facing couples today. But if we love one another selflessly, putting our spouse's needs above our own and trusting him or her to do the same in return, then we will be treating one another the way God intended when He designed marriage. In addition, besides a relationship with Jesus, I believe that complete and total honesty about everything is the most important part of a healthy marriage. Finally, we must remember that love is a choice, not a feeling. Yes, there are some wonderful feelings that come along with love--but love itself must be a choice. You must choose to always love your spouse, during the good times and the bad.
Question to Ponder: How often are you selfish or dishonest with your spouse or significant other?
True Love, Part 3 of 5
Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. - Genesis 2:24
Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. - 1 Corinthians 7:3-4
Becoming one is an essential part of a healthy marriage, and while we often think of this in terms of a physical (sexual) act, the meaning goes much deeper than that. Yes, a husband and wife should freely give themselves to one another, trusting each other with their own bodies. But beyond that, a husband and wife should strive to become one in as many ways as possible by working together within their marriage instead of doing things separately. Compromise rather than insting on getting your own way. True oneness in a marriage means coming together and becoming as close (physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally) as two people can become.
Question to Ponder: In what ways are you one with your spouse? In what ways could you improve your oneness?
True Love, Part 4 of 5
But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. - Matthew 5:28
A wide variety of sexual sins, including lust, are becoming far too common in our society today. Those sins are tearing marriages and families apart. For Christians, it is obvious that physical adultery is wrong. But what else can fall under the category of adultery? According to the words of Jesus in this verse, adultery includes lust. Considering the kinds of things that are shown on TV today, and the provocative way in which some people choose to dress, lust is a problem that is very serious but is often overlooked. If you are married, have you ever looked at someone of the opposite sex and felt attracted to that person or had thoughts you shouldn't be having? If so, you are being lustful, and you are not only sinning against God, but you are most likely hurting your spouse. If you are married, then God has given you a gift. Cherish that gift; cherish your spouse, and be careful to not lust after anyone else.
Question to Ponder: Do you ever talk or think about the physical appearance of anyone other than your spouse?
True Love, Part 5 of 5
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her. ... Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. - Ephesians 5:22-25, 33
This is how God designed marriage. Yes, He expects the wife to submit to the husband, but submit is not a bad word--it simply means that we each have our own roles within a marriage. But the husband has to do his part as well. If the husband is loving his wife as he is supposed to, then she will want to submit to him. When both people within a marriage are fulfilling their given roles, then a beautiful marriage is created and God is glorified. From the time you are reading this, tomorrow is my wedding day! God has blessed me so much with Kellie, a true Proverbs 31 woman, and we look forward to serving God together for the rest of our lives!
Question to Ponder: How well do you fulfill your roles within a marriage?
What a Wonderful Problem to Have!
Then all the craftsmen who were doing all the work of the sanctuary came, each from the work he was doing, and they spoke to Moses, saying, "The people bring much more than enough for the service of the work which the Lord commanded us to do." So Moses gave a commandment, and they caused it to be proclaimed throughout the camp, saying, "Let neither man nor woman do any more work for the offering of the sanctuary." And the people were restrained from bringing, for the material they had was sufficient for all the work to be done--indeed too much. - Exodus 36:4-7
This is an inspiring passage of Scripture as the Israelites continue to work on building the Tabernacle. What wonderful problem did they have? The people gave so much that Moses had to ask them to stop because they already had more materials than they would need to complete the work! How often does that happen today? Very rarely, at best. Let this story inspire you to give all that God calls you to give back to Him. He promises to always bless you in return, and He will always provide for your needs.
Question to Ponder: Do you give as much to God as He asks you to give?
And those twelve stones which they took out of the Jordan, Joshua set up in Gilgal. Then he spoke to the children of Israel, saying: "When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What are these stones? then you shall let your children know, saying, Israel crossed over this Jordan on dry land; for the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed over, that all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever." - Joshua 4:20-24
As time passes by, it can be easy to forget things that God has done for you in the past. In this story from the book of Joshua, God wants to make sure that the people of Israel won't forget what He did for them on this occasion. We need to make an effort to remember those things as well, especially during the tough times when our faith may be put to the test. Take a few moments to remember some of the great things God has done for you in the past, and thank Him for what He has done!
Question to Ponder: Is there something God has done for you in the past that you have forgotten about?
A Prophecy of Jesus, Part 2 of 2
But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He opened not His mouth;
He was led as a lamb to the slaughter,
And as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
So He opened not His mouth.
He was taken from prison and from judgment,
And who will declare His generation?
For He was cut off from the land of the living;
For the transgressions of My people He was stricken.
- Isaiah 53:5-8
Ashamed of Jesus
"For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels." - Mark 8:38
Do you eagerly proclaim that Jesus is your Lord and Savior? Or, are you timid and ashamed of your relationship with Him? The words in this verse come from Jesus Himself, and He doesn't beat around the bush with this issue. If you act like you are ashamed of Him, then He will return the favor. Jesus doesn't want a bunch of followers who go to church on Sunday but are afraid to let anyone else know that they are Christians. How does that help further His Kingdom, and how does it bring any light into our dark world? We must not be ashamed of Jesus, but instead we must let His light shine through us into the darkness of this world! Stand up for what you believe and don't back down just because the world tells you to. Through love, let others know about your relationship to Jesus and what He has done for you.
Question to Ponder: Do you act like you are ashamed of Jesus at certain times or around certain people?
The Blunt Truth of the Christian Faith
But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts. For neither at any time did we use flattering words, as you know, nor a cloak for covetousness--God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, when we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. - 1 Thessalonians 2:4-6
This is one big thing that sets Christianity apart from other religions. Many of those other religions make bold "promises" or they just sound really good, and that is because the leaders of those religions are trying to convince you to follow them. But Jesus, along with Paul (who wrote this passage) and other writers of the Bible, don't do that. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that all your worries will vanish and you will have all the money and happiness that you want if you follow Jesus. Why? Because the Bible isn't trying to convince you of anything. It is simply stating the truth. The Bible doesn't exist to please men, but to share the truth of Jesus Christ.
Question to Ponder: Have you ever followed someone who made false promises? How is Christianity different?
To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
A time to plant, and a time to pluck what is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
A time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to gain, and a time to lose;
A time to keep, and a time to throw away;
A time to tear, and a time to sew;
A time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate;
A time of war, and a time of peace.
- Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands!
Serve the Lord with gladness;
Come before His presence with singing.
Know that the Lord, He is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
And into His courts with praise.
Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.
For the Lord is good;
His mercy is everlasting,
And His truth endures to all generations.
- Psalm 100:1-5
Respecting God and Following God
Then the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tabernacle of meeting, because the cloud rested above it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Whenever the cloud was taken up from above the tabernacle, the children of Israel would go onward in all their journeys. But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not journey till the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the Lord was above the tabernacle by day, and fire was over it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys. - Exodus 40:34-38
The first portion of this passage reminds me of how much respect we should have for God. He is a holy, righteous God, and we are sinful human beings. Too often, I believe, we try to bring God down to our level. Thankfully, He loved us enough to send Jesus to die for us and to bridge the gap between God and mankind. Still, we need to have a healthy respect for who God is, and many people (even many Christians) do not. Respect God, and follow Him just as the Israelites did in this passage.
Question to Ponder: How much respect do you have for who God truly is?
God Gives a Strange Command
And the Lord said to Joshua: "See! I have given Jericho into your hand, its king, and the mighty men of valor. You shall march around the city, all you men of war; you shall go all around the city once. This you shall do six days. And seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams' horns before the ark. But the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. It shall come to pass, when they make a long blast with the ram's horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, that all the people shall shout with a great shout; then the wall of the city will fall down flat." - Joshua 6:2-5a
When the Israelites approached the city of Jericho, which had been given to them by God as a part of the Promised Land, they didn't just attack it. Instead, God told them to march around the city, and on the seventh day, the wall around the city would fall. We all know the story, and the wall did fall down (see Joshua 6:20). If Joshua had led the army in an attack, he probably would have gotten the credit. This way, everyone could clearly see the awesome power of God!
Question to Ponder: Do you step out of the way in order to allow the power of God to shine through?