Old Testament

Tuesday Devotional: Zechariah 2

Read Zechariah 2bible

God is for us.  This is often overlooked and often misunderstood.  But God is for us.  There is nothing that God takes more personally than when we, His beloved, are threatened and harmed.  While Jesus tells us that there is no value to a man gaining the whole world and forfeiting his soul, God proclaims to His children that there is nothing that He wants more than us.  He desires to be with us, to live among us, to unite us, to protect us, to lead and throughout all, to love us.  God is for us.  God is for you.  Do you know this?  Do you believe this?

“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” This is our news.  This is the news of Jesus Christ.  That God loved the world by sending his only son to carry and bear the iniquities of man’s collective sin in order to save what He deems most precious and beloved.  This is His love and His love is for us alone.  We exist to be loved by Him.  Everything thing we do and everything that we are has been carefully designed for the purpose of channeling the love our God has for us and then to worship Him in return.

We were designed for God and our God is for us.  And if God is for us, who can be against us?  What in this world can harm you if the creator God is on your side?  In the love of Jesus nothing can separate us from the love of our God.  We often reduce God to a helper, assistant, partner figure.  He comes to us ultimately in the name of Jesus proclaiming none of these identities.  He comes proclaiming to be the great “I am” of old and to be the chosen and anointed Christ, the Messiah.  Look upon the face of the savior Jesus and believe that God is for us.

 

Tuesday Devotional: Haggai 1

bibleRead Haggai 1

This is what the Lord Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord’s house.’”

Then the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?”

The time is now to follow the Lord.  The time is now to give to the Lord.  Take stock of what you have, what you own, what you possess.  What is yours?  What is God’s?

The truth of Jesus proclaims that everything you see belongs to God.  Everything you own is being loaned to you with one purpose: to honor, worship and glorify the living God in Jesus’ name.  Want to take a vacation?  Go ahead.  But honor God first.  Is your house in order before you buy your ticket?  Is your community in order before you buy your ticket?  Will your trip honor the spirit of Jesus that lives within you and will ultimately be on the trip alongside you?  Does your luxury glorify the selfless and sacrificial spirit of Jesus in your life, or will it stray from the path of Jesus in order to glorify yourself and celebrate your own status?

God gives us good things, but He gives us good things after we have given Him ALL things.  Giving to God cannot be separated from following Jesus.  To follow Jesus means to give God everything you have and everything you are.  The house of the Lord is not a house we can visit.  WE are the House of the Lord.  To leave the House of the Lord in ruins while we build palaces for ourselves has so much more to do with the spirit of Jesus within us in contrast to the spirit of Sin.

Are you feeding your sin or are you feeding the spirit of Jesus in your life?  The palace you build in your own name will fall and will leave you worse off than before you built it.  We were created to live in luxury, but in a luxury that is righteous and holy.  When we build we shall build for the Lord.  Where we live we shall live there for the Lord.  What we own we shall own under the rightful ownership of the Lord.  A palace that neglects and ignores the dwelling place of the Lord is a palace that, although beautiful from the outside, will be a haven for darkness and will collapse when the rains fall and the wind roars.  We cannot own anything before the Lord has rightfully written His name upon every last possession of ours.

This is not unfair, this is not unjust, this is not mean.  This is truth, and the truth, although challenging and illogical to the sin in our hearts, will always and forever set us free.  Minimalist living has proven to be a source of freedom to many people, but the Gospel is far more than that.  The Gospel says that to live without is not only about clarity in mind and spirit, it is about submission to a King who lavishes us with all we have ever wanted and who desires to do so for eternity.

Tuesday Devotional: Zephaniah 2

bibleThis is the city of revelry
that lived in safety.
She said to herself,
“I am the one! And there is none besides me.”
What a ruin she has become,
a lair for wild beasts!
All who pass by her scoff
and shake their fists.

The lie of sin is that we not only have the right to take the throne as King but that we will never be overtaken, deposed or removed.  What Kingdom has ever outlasted time?  What King has ever sat on a throne for eternity?  None.  All people pass.  All kingdoms collapse.  The most foolish thing we could possibly do is to ignore the words of the living God.

The second most foolish thing we could possibly do is to deny the historical record that proves God’s point. What you see today will not last.  What you do today will last for eternity.  Seek truth and find it, or pursue a lie and believe it.  In God’s great grace and mercy He has not hidden the truth from us.  He has revealed clearly and for all eyes to see where we’ve been and where we are going.

But sin runs deep and in sin is a king who has stolen the crown and will fight at all costs to retain control.  Don’t let it.  The fight to take the throne cannot be won, not should it ever be fought.  Fighting for control of the throne WILL precede a downfall and will destroy the kingdom and the king at the same time.  The throne and the power you think it gives you is a lie, and it can never give you what you hope it can.  The throne belongs to Christ. Only under His lordship can you find what you are truly looking for.  Look hard at Christ and turn your eyes upon Jesus.  His Lordship does not take anything from you other than the delusion that is slowly taking your life away one day at a time.  God has always intended for us to live and to live forever.  A life hidden in Christ will last forever and it will outlast all else.  Choose to live.  Choose life!

 

 

Tuesday Devotional: Habakkuk 1

bibleHabbakuk 1

“Look at the nations and watch—
and be utterly amazed.
For I am going to do something in your days
that you would not believe,
even if you were told.”

I am raising up the Babylonians,
that ruthless and impetuous people,
who sweep cross the whole earth
to seize dwelling places not their own.”

God is unbelievable.  The Bible is unbelievable.  The Gospels are unbelievable.  Jesus is unbelievable.  Not because they cannot by trusted and therefore must be false,  but because they contradict our human nature and instincts as storytellers so much that if they could not possibly have been created for literary or moral purposes.  The Bible contains far more honesty than we like.  It contains far more justice than we are comfortable with.  It also contains far more wisdom than we are even able to fathom.

The God of the Bible never acts out of consideration for our feelings, interests or desires.  The God of the Bible ONLY acts on behalf of what is true and what is just.  Therefore, when we need correction, He gives it.  When we need instruction, He gives it.  When we need compassion and gentleness, He gives it.  When we need discipline, He gives it.  In fact, God challenges us to believe the unbelievable in regards to His approach to discipline and suffering.  Through Jesus we no longer have to fear punishment from God, but suffering persists.  Why?  If the suffering is not a sign of God punishment, what is it?

The purpose of our suffering or hard times has one purpose and one purpose only.  It is ONLY to see God as sovereign and us as entirely fallible.  As Jesus is Emmanuel and therefore with us in any and all situations, the purpose of the suffering is ONLY to move us to seek the face of Jesus, to take up His grace in order to carry us through the storm.  But let us never forget that suffering will persist.  Bearing the name of Christ not only means that suffering will persist but that it will inevitably increase. 

But in the face of increasing suffering we are never to disown the name of Jesus by interpreting our hard time as the divine punishment only Jesus has any right or claim to.  We were not and are not punished because Jesus already was.  Therefore, the suffering we experience is present with us to reveal the presence of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  And in His name and because of His Lordship we will prevail amidst the suffering and we will see His face in the storm.  The presence of God in our lives through Jesus does not yield to suffering and sin.  It overcomes sin and suffering entirely.  Jesus rose on the third victorious over sin and death proclaiming, “Where, O death, is your sting?  Where, O death, is your victory?”  God allows suffering to a degree of such intensity that to create such a God out of thin air would not only fail to appeal to anyone but would be mocked rather than worshipped.  While one side of the world writhes back in disbelief in the face of God’s grace and compassion, the other writhes back in the face of God’s justice.  The only message relevant to the entire world is a message that is true to both sides of the world.  In Jesus, truth is united at the cross, revealing God’s grace and justice simultaneously.  The extent of both God’s grace and His justice are truly unbelievable, but in Jesus they CAN be believed and they CAN do more than we think.

 

Tuesday Devotional: Nahum 2

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The world we live in is not a world of justice.  We strive for justice, we seek for it, we need it, but we are always left feeling that injustice retains its overwhelming presence in this world.

Why do we feel the need for justice?  What is it within us that cries out when justice is not done?  While we live in a world that believes that no one is truly wrong or that no one should ever be truly judged, deep down we desire justice to be done. We can easily recognize when injustice is playing out before our very eyes.

We all know this.  At times we deny it in the face of a judgmental crowd that is eager to judge our insensitive and unreasonable judgment.  However, as much as there is an inexplicable desire in all of us to love, there is equally a desire to see justice done when something or someone is left unloved.  The Gospel of Jesus promises many things, but with the grace of God also comes the judgment of God that is not only justifiable but necessary in the world that lacks justice even by our imperfect and fallen standards.  We need God’s justice.  The Gospel of Jesus promises that justice will ultimately be seen and done.

There will be a time upon Christ’s return when all will have to answer for the life they lived and for the lives they took.  There will be a time when excuses will no longer be worth anything, and fruit of the spirit will mean everything.  As a result of sin we have all contributed to the injustice in the world.  What’s important is not how much.  The point is that we have all inescapably contributed.  For this reason, the only acceptable decision is to face a perfect God, admit and take ownership of our injustice, ask for forgiveness and then, with the spirit of Jesus Christ, heal the world and put right what was once wrong.  With Jesus we can see justice now, and those still suffering have the eternal hope that justice will be done. There will be a time when they will live under the reign of the King of Kings who will administer the only perfect justice this world has and will ever know.

Tuesday Devotional: Micah 3

bibleMicah 3:11

Her leaders judge for a bribe,
her priests teach for a price,
and her prophets tell fortunes for money.
Yet they look for the Lord’s support and say,
“Is not the Lord among us?
No disaster will come upon us.”

The church is not safe from sin.  In fact, just as the church has the most potential to do good for the Kingdom of God it is often the most susceptible to attack from the enemy in the form of worldly temptations.  Viewing church as a haven from sinful activity or protection from sin is misunderstands the church altogether.  The church is a place where believers can gather to pray, worship and learn in unison with the shared belief that drawing closer to God through Jesus Christ is our only hope in this world.  However, as believers gather at church to pray, sin is still there.  As believers gather at church to worship, sin is still there.  As believers gather at church to learn, sin is still there.

Never be deceived that simply attending church protects you from sin.  Never be deceived that becoming a leader, elder, deacon or pastor of a church removes you from sinful motivations, intentions and activity.  If the church is often a target of the enemy to thwart the spread of the Gospel, it stands to reason that her leaders, especially the pastors and priests, are at the focal point of those attacks.

Pray for your leaders.  Pray for your pastors.  They are fighting a fight that many will never know or understand. It will be as a result of your offensive and defensive prayers on their behalf that they will ever bear fruit in their respective ministries.  They need your help, your fellowship, prayers, and guidance.  The temptation of a pastor is to seek the approval of a congregation before the approval of God.   The temptation of a pastor is to seek the success and growth of a ministry rather than the quality of disciples being developed.

Church leaders need to be the first to serve, to listen, to learn and to repent.  Becoming a leader is not the sign that you’ve arrived.  It is an opportunity to lead on behalf of God Himself, at the tip of the spear, pursuing the presence of the living God by the power of the Holy Spirit and by the direction of God’s Holy Scriptures.   A leader/disciple professes to the congregation that God is the ultimate judge and we are all convicted equally by our sin.  A leader/disciple teachers with the guidance of the Holy Spirit as Counselor and holds the line of truth found only in God’s words.  A leader/disciple acknowledges the omniscient and sovereign authority of God alone to know where we are headed in the future and what we will do.  A leader/disciple also reveals to the congregation that suffering is not only imminent but is the sign that Jesus Christ is truly living in us.

The temptation to stray from God’s presence is as much a threat to the pastor and leader as it is to the average churchgoer.  Do not be deceived.  God is with us but so is sin and the only defense we have against the attacks of the enemy is to cling to the Holy words of God and to always demand truth from those privileged enough to be His ministers of truth in this world.

 

 

Tuesday Devotional: Jonah 3

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The Gospel is the worst news and it’s the best news.  The Gospel means that the life that you’ve known is now over.  That the pleasures you pursue for satisfaction are no longer permitted.  That your plans prepared to affirm your self-worth and value have now been changed.  The Gospel means that in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ you have now been buried alongside the Son of Man.  The Gospel means that the authority you’ve once held over your own life has now been passed on to someone else.  That the life that you’ve known is over.  This IS the Gospel and this IS the only Gospel.  The message of any other Gospel is no Gospel at all.

However, with this death of the self comes a new life, incomparable to the life you’ve known and more fulfilling than you could have ever imagined.  The Gospel declares to the world that God is God.  He is the authority that known best.  You no longer have to pretend that you have everything under control.  You don’t.  He does.  He is the judge that can truly judge, fairly upholding an unwavering standard of justice to all people of all nations.  You no longer have to be the sole defender of fairness, justice and equality, fighting an uphill battle that only ever gets steeper and higher.  He is the God who understands precisely who we are, yet has decided to pursue His love for us in spite of our sins.

The Gospel never declares to you what you want to hear.  It never declares to you what you think you can handle hearing.  It never declares that you are good and merely in need of subtle adjustments to your daily habits and routines in order to obtain righteousness, peace, joy and persistent strength.  The Gospel says give up.  Give up your fight to claim authority on your life as if you were God.  You can’t and won’t win.  The Gospel says that the world we live in is under the watchful eye and in the caring hands of a creator who will not leave the persecuted without a savior, nor the persecutor without a judge and jury.  The Gospel is truth and truth does not alter depending on the audience.  Truth is truth to the slave as much as it is to the master.  We are all under the standards of the living God and we will all be assessed and measured according to the standards of His image we find alive and active within each of our hearts.  We don’t need affirmation that we are good.  We need the truth that we need a savior from ourselves.  We don’t need affirmation that we are special and above the rest.  We need the truth that identifies us children of God in a family of others no different than us.  The Gospel is a convicting, uniting and empowering truth that has the means to transform our world.  But the Gospel must be seen as bad news if it can ever be perceived and believed as good.

 

Tuesday Devotional: Obadiah 1:15

bibleObadiah 15

As you have done, it will be done to you; your deeds will return upon your own head.

The judgment of God has been a stumbling block for many people.  Many people never make it to the cross of Christ before turning back at the sight of a God who judges.  We prefer a God who supports us, encourages us, forgives us, loves us and provides for us.  Not a God who will judge us.  We perceive His judgment to be unfair or unnecessary.  We believe that to be a good person and to love your neighbor as yourself is the answer to the ills of humanity and the suffering of this world.

But why hasn’t this approach worked?  Have we reduced suffering in this world?  Why is the golden rule truly not sufficient for the world we live in?  The answer is sin.  Sin is not a comfortable word, but in the context of human history, it is the most sufficient explanation for the trajectory of our world’s suffering and pain.

Within us is a desire to be the judge but not to be judged.  Therefore, due to our innate sinfulness, God has no need to judge us according to His standard of holiness.  With our overconfidence in our own authority and righteousness, God simply lets our own standard be the standard we are ultimately judged by.  Every time we think that someone ought to do this or that.  Every time we think that someone should have done this or that.  Every time we make private proclamations to ourselves that we will never do what he or she did.  In these moments we construct our grading scale. This is not a new perspective on God’s judgment.  This is verse 15!  These are God’s words.  When left with this prospect of judgment, what we see is not a God that upholds a standard too high for humanity to reach, but individual men and women with such an inflated view of their own perfection and such a limited ability to exercise grace and forgiveness that none can stand to be judged according to their own standards.

According to verse 15 and an honest reflection of the self we are truly in need of a savior.  We have failed to maintain our standard of righteousness from the very beginning, and we will never successfully uphold it.  Never.  We need a mediator.  We need someone perfect.  We need someone to go before us and plead our case.  Verse 15 has nothing to do with people doing Christian things or not doing Christian things.  Verse 15 has everything to do with people.  It has everything to with the human heart.  It has everything to with our collective sin.  We are all guilty of judging those we have no right to judge.  The perfect God has always had the right and authority to judge an imperfect creation.  We are nowhere as good as we think we are, and God is so much more perfect than we think He is.  How hard is it for you to forgive someone who lied to you?  Just one.  How many more times has God been lied to by His own children?  And is the end now?  No.  Verse 15 says, it is near.  He has waited and waited and waited for us to turn from our diluted state of self-glorification back to His holiness and perfection, as the only means for us to survive our own judgment.  God is not the one with a short fuse and a readiness to judge.  We are.  God is not the one that established unrealistic standards for others to abide by while never consistently abiding in the standards Himself.  We are.  The judgment of God is terrifying, but nowhere near as terrifying as our own.

 

Tuesday Devotional: Amos 5

 

Amos 5:18 bible

18 Woe to you who long
for the day of the Lord!
Why do you long for the day of the Lord?
That day will be darkness, not light.

 

Judgment is swift and final.  In court, the gavel falls, in one fell swoop the verdict is announced and the sentencing established.  No more arguments.  No more pleas.  No more discussion.  Final.

This is not an easy teaching and only by the power of the Holy Spirit can we understand the justification for judgment and eternal sentencing.  We often cannot fathom a judgment so unfair and cruel.  However, that tells us not that God’s judgment is unfair and cruel but that we also cannot fathom God’s holiness and our sinfulness.  If I only eat sweets from birth, I will never understand how sweet “sweet” actually is until someone introduces me to salt for the first time.  The judgment of God will come, but many even at that time will not believe and will not turn from their sin to submit themselves to a holy and good Abba father.  All will be judged and many will fall on the side of the guilty.  The world has never seen a judgment like the one that awaits it.  Our minds cannot imagine it and it is by the grace of God that it has only been revealed to us in small doses, for the reality of what will transpire would be too much for us to bear.  It is also by the grace of God that we look around us today and see that the day of God’s judgment has not yet fallen on this world.

It is tempting to view Christianity through the same lens of escapism that often accompanies other religions, philosophies or worldviews.  Christianity does not consist of waiting patiently and righteously until the last day.  The Christian abiding in Jesus Christ will live every day consumed by two thoughts.  Am I loving God with all my heart, soul and mind?  Am I loving my neighbor as myself?  In other words, am I doing everything I can to love God and make my election and calling sure?  Am I doing everything I can to proclaim to the world through my words and deeds that Jesus is the only way through the impending cauldron of judgment?

It will truly be a glorious sight to see Jesus coming on the clouds of heaven.  However, His return ushers in the time of death, grief, suffering and sorrow that even Heaven was perfectly silent for 30 minutes at the opening of the seventh seal.  We have been given the charge to save the lost, heal the sick, free captives and preach good news to the brokenhearted through our devotion to Jesus Christ.  God does not desire that any should perish; neither should we.  The non-believers in our midst are our brothers and sisters in creation.  They are loved dearly by our Father and we are to show them the way of Jesus, saving them from eternal damnation.  There will be a day of no more second chances.  This will be a dreadful day.  As children of God we should never wish this day upon anyone nor refuse to save as many as we possibly can from it.  Justice for the wicked will be just and God’s creation will be made new.  However, we must understand that His justice is often more far-reaching than we imagine.  His judgment will fall upon every person and “good” will not be good enough.  There is only Jesus on that day.

 

 

Tuesday Devotional: Joel 1

bibleRead Joel 1

Philippians 3:8

What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.

The Christian church has experienced a season of comfort.  The end of that season is drawing near.  The Church in the West is fading, being undone and overtaken.  The prosperity of the Church in the West has opened the door to idle hands, complacency, ignorance and corruption of the message of Jesus.  It is no longer commonplace to be a Christian in western society, let alone popular.  It is no longer an advantage to be a Christian in western society.

Seasons are changing.  Are you ready?  Have you sat down to imagine a life without your worldly comforts?  Have you envisioned a world where you are persecuted for your faith and are robbed of your rights?  If not, consider it.  Consider it thoughtfully.  In that scenario, how is your faith in Jesus?  How is your spirit of worship concerning our risen Lord?  Surrounded by suffering and pain, are you able to worship?

The Church in the West has become covetous in its relationship with Jesus Christ.  The message preached from many pulpits today use the name of Jesus as the gate keeper, but not “The Way.”  Many sermons today teach that you can have what you want, when you want, how you want it, as long as along the way you remember that you’re not perfect and do some bad things from time to time.

The message from the pulpit is no longer “a sword that came to bring division, not peace.”  The message today is a wagging finger of casual disapproval.  Judgment is too harsh.  Tithing too invasive.  Marriage too constrictive.  Bible study too intellectual.  But Jesus tells us to, “Come and see,” and “Follow me.”  The Church in the West these days says, “Thank you, friend Jesus, for understanding me and meeting me right where I’m comfortable.  You’re so nice.”  What if God told you to quit your high-paying job for one that gave you less pay and no benefits, for Christ’s sake?  What if God told you to fight for reconciliation in a marriage that is no longer fun, exciting, sexy or easy, for Christ’s sake?  What if God told you to decline remarriage and sexual intimacy in the future, for Christ’s sake?  What if God told you to share your faith in Jesus with your non-believing family or co-workers, for Christ’s sake?  What if God told you to wake up earlier or stay up later in order to read more of your Bible or join a Bible study, for Christ’s sake?

Do all of these propositions test the comforts of our flesh and our own comfort?  Yes.  Are all of these well within reason and under the jurisdiction of God as our Father and King to ask of us?  Absolutely.  Do all of these test our love of Jesus over anything else and our willingness to follow Him anywhere He commands us to?  Yes.  These are not extreme examples written for effect.  If we identify our lives with Jesus Christ, having only Jesus is not simply enough, it is our sole desire in this life.  He HAS to be enough.  Being a Christian is not Jesus and (….).  Being a Christian is Jesus.  Christ alone.  Is He enough for you? Or do you need something alongside Jesus in your life to have love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control?