2019-08-05 – Matthew 10:38
Verse of the Day Devotion: Matthew 10:38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.
When persons were convicted of a crime in ancient Rome and they were condemned to be crucified, a part of the sentence was that they would carry the cross they would be crucified on to the place where the crucifixion would take place. This idea of carrying or bearing the cross is a brutal and humiliating process.
Normally, when the prisoner was sentenced to crucifixion, he would first be scourged to the point of near death. This was done using the flagrum, otherwise known as the Roman scourge. It was essentially a short whip with two or three ox-hide leather strands known as thongs. The leather thongs were knotted with several small pieces of metal with sharp edges. When used, this would rip some skin off after the first hit.
After this was finished, they placed the cross, normally only the crossbeam, which was very heavy onto the prisoner’s back. He would then carry this, completely naked, from the prison to the place of crucifixion. If he survived the journey, and some did not, the crossbeam would be attached to the pole, and they would be nailed by the hands (technically the wrist just below the hand) and feet and would be left to die. This occurred in a very public area, only about ten feet up, which added to the humiliation.
The idea of being willing to take up our cross as stated in our focus verse means we must be willing to endure extreme hardship, suffer, be humiliated and disgraced, and die for the cause of Christ. God has called us to do His work upon this earth. Sometimes that work is easy. Sometimes it is trying, but sometimes it is brutal. Look at what is taking place in China and North Korea where Christians are starved, beaten, humiliated and often put to death in what are known as Re-Education camps. The main purpose is to “re-educate” the Christians until they deny God and make the government and its leader their so-called god. We should look at these who do not renounce their faith no matter how much suffering there is, as the example Jesus described in Matthew 10:38 for us to follow.
Are we willing to lower ourselves in order to do the will of God? Are we willing to endure extreme hardship for the cause of Christ? Are we willing to go through extreme suffering and/or humiliation if that is what He has for us? This is a tough verse, however, honestly and prayerfully examining ourselves with this verse will allow us to see if we are truly devoted in all ways to God. He is not asking us to do anything He was not willing to do Himself. If we are not willing, then, as our verse of the days says, we are not worthy of Him.
2019-08-06 – Micah 6:8
Verse of the Day Devotion: Micah 6:8 He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you. But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?
In verses 1 and 2, Micah is appealing to the people to hear Yahweh’s revelation to them, God’s grievance against them. God is laying out a case like one of a legal nature. This could be called “Yahweh” vs “Israel”. He was basically initiating the legal proceedings.
This grievance can be seen in verses 3-5. “My people, what have I done to you, and how have I wearied you? Answer Me. Indeed, I brought you up from the land of Egypt and ransomed you from the house of slavery, And I sent before you Moses, Aaron and Miriam. My people, remember now What Balak king of Moab counseled and what Balaam son of Beor answered him, And from Shittim to Gilgal, So, that you might know the righteous acts of the LORD.” Micah 6:3-5. They appear to have grown tired of God. He then lists several events in history to show His goodness to them.
Moving into verses 6-7, we see that Israel saw that they were wrong and began to call out, one man after another, what they need to do to make things right. One asked should he come before Him with burnt offerings of yearling calves, this being one of the choice offerings within the law. Another asked are thousands of rams to be offered and rivers of the oil offered with the sacrificed., One asked should he offer his first borne. Some of these things were acceptable sacrifices, other were not.
Micah then tells the people, in our focus verse, that God has told them what was good and what He desired of them. We see this in the following verse “Now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require from you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the LORD’S commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today for your good?” Deuteronomy 10:12-13. They have heard this before, however, they had forgotten, and God brought it back to their minds.
So, lets examine these three points found in our focus verse, which apply to us as well. First, to uphold justice. We are to judge righteously with no favoritism. To judge fairly without improperly favoring any side in the judgement. Jesus put it this way, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” John 7:24. Something may look wrong; however, it may not be wrong. We must investigate any situation and ensure that what we declare is righteous.
Next, to love kindness. Other translations say love mercy. We are to show our love by being kind and merciful. We are to be kind to one another, not using severity toward our brothers and sisters, but being compassionate to others, especially when we are wronged. Show everyone that we love them and desire God’s best for them.
And lastly, to walk with God in an attitude of humility. Keeping a constant and loving relationship with our loving God. Remembering that it is God’s will to be done, not our own which is the picture of arrogance whereby we believe our ways are better. Keeping His commandments which is the proof of our love to Him. “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” John 14:15.
What God requires of us is love; toward others through upholding justice and loving mercy. Then toward God by walking continually and humbly with Him. Works done based on following rules is not what He desires. He requires our love. He showed us His through Jesus’ death for our sins to reconcile us with Himself. Showing Him our love as Micah 6:8 tells us is not asking too much from us.
2019-08-07 – Mark 7:8
Verse of the Day Devotion: Mark 7:8 “Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.”
Some Pharisees and scribes gathered around Jesus when He and the disciples left Jerusalem. Both groups were very legalistic and demanded that the Law be followed completely. As they were watching, they noticed the disciples did not wash their hands prior to eating, thus not following the traditions of the elders. “For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they carefully wash their hands, thus observing the traditions of the elders; and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they cleanse themselves; and there are many other things which they have received in order to observe, such as the washing of cups and pitchers and copper pots.” Mark 7:3-4. They required a lot of work to remain pure when eating.
So, the Pharisees and the scribes questioned Jesus regarding these rules, because they were not walking according to tradition. However, Jesus does not apologize to them on behalf of the disciples. Instead, He rebukes the Pharisees and scribes. We read later in the chapter, “And He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honor me with their lips, but their heart is far away from me. But in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’” Mark 6-7. Jesus was speaking of Isaiah 29:13 where it says. “Then the Lord said, “Because this people draw near with their words and honor Me with their lip service, But they remove their hearts far from Me, And their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote,”
Jesus then continues by telling them, in our focus verse, that they are neglecting the commands of God and replacing them with the traditions of men. He then gives the example of how the commandment ‘honor your father and mother, and He who speaks evil of them is to be put to death. And how, due to their traditions, “but you say, ‘If a man says to his father or his mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is to say, given to God),‘ you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother; thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that.’” Mark 7:11-13.
We need to look at the things we see and hear from Christian and church leadership, test them by comparing them with what the scriptures say, and ignore them if they counter what the Word of God says. Note, it is important to make sure it is a reliable translation. Many times, these weird and heretical teachings are the “traditions’ within churches or denominations that need to be called out, renounced and ignored. One very recent example was a Pastor in north Atlanta, I will leave the name off, who taught his church to ignore the Old Testament and focus solely on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. While this sounds reasonable, it is not right. The Old Testament lays the foundation of why we need salvation, and that Jesus’ coming was ordained from the beginning. Both testaments together are a complete story of God’s love toward us. Plus, if Jesus and the apostles quoted it many times, were they wrong, and did they not totally understand? I doubt it seriously.
We need to be careful that we do not accept traditions that contradict the scriptures. Too many times, and I will say once is too many, church leaders try to make Christianity easier by teaching things that are accepted in the culture today but are radically different from the commands of God. We need ensure that what we teach is real and does not counter His Word, for we will be held accountable. “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.” James 3:1. The Pharisees and the scribes were not given leniency, and neither will we.
2019-08-08 – Hebrews 13:8
Verse of the Day Devotion: Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
This verse says a lot. Jesus Christ, our savior, the one that came and died to take away our sins, is the same from everlasting to everlasting. Malachi wrote, “For I, the LORD, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.” Malachi 3:6. God does not change. What He was in eternity past He is now and shall be in eternity future.
It is important for us to understand that before creation, the second person of the Trinity was chosen to be the sacrifice that was intended to reconcile men with the Father. This was prior to the creation of man. “All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain.” Revelation 13:8. God declared all things from the beginning. He knew man would fall, however, He loved man; therefore prior to creating him, He set up his reconciliation.
Now, is Jesus Christ God? Let’s look at what Isaiah says, “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6. Notice that the child born here would be called “The Mighty God” and “Eternal Father”. This verse refers to the coming Messiah. Now, is Jesus called the Messiah in the New Testament? See the following, “Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.” Matthew 1:16. So, we see that Jesus Christ is God as we see in Isaiah 9:6. Therefore, He does not change as it speaks of God in Malachi 3:6.
Now, what does this mean to us? It means that whatever God says will come to pass, for if it does not, this means that God has changed His mind. And if He would change His mind on one thing, it means He could change His mind on anything. Looking at the above verses above, especially our focus verse, we see that God does not change. And, in Numbers we read, “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” Numbers 23:19. He does not change His mind either. Therefore, since Jesus was decreed to die for our sins prior to creation, this hope of salvation is sure. We can trust His word, knowing it will come to pass if we commit ourselves through faith to Him.
Let us rejoice because, as Christians, our future is sure and absolute. There is true comfort and solace in this knowledge.
2019-08-09 – Romans 13:1
Verse of the Day Devotion: Romans 13:1 Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.
We are called to obey civil governing authorities. The reason is that God has established them in their positions. Not that He has determined how they are to act or require of us, but that He has placed the leaders in their positions. Note what it says in Daniel. “It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men and knowledge to men of understanding.” Daniel 2:21. God is very clear here. He is the one who establishes leaders in their positions, and He is the one that removes leaders from their positions. When we look at the world today, it is hard for us to see this clearly. I have asked the question, “Why this man?” However, it is important that we obey ‘where we can’.
I say, ‘where we can’ because there are times when government requires us to do things that are against God’s will. Let’s look at a few times we see this in scriptures. In Acts 4, we see where Peter and John are arrested by the Jewish leadership because they were “teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.” Acts 4:2b. This was definitely against the Jewish leadership, however, they continued teaching. When the leadership chose to let them go, they warned them not to teach this anymore. “And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.” Acts 4:18. However, Peter challenged them as follows, “But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” Acts 4:19-20. They asked them a rhetorical question; whether they should obey them or God. However, they said that their opinion was not important, for they were going to teach of Jesus as the Son of God. Remember what Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20. They were obeying God rather than the Jewish leadership.
Now, one chapter later, we see the apostles still teaching the message of Christ. Therefore, they arrested and brought Peter and the other apostles to a public prison. During the night, an angel of the Lord came, opened the gates of the prison and set them loose, saying, “Go, stand and speak to the people in the temple the whole message of this Life.” Acts 5:20. When morning came the high priest and his associates called the council together and ordered the apostles to them. When the guard did not find them in the prison, they reported back to the council that they were not there. Then someone told them the apostles were in front of the temple teaching the people. The captain of the temple brought them back with no violence. Once there, the high priest said to them, “We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and yet, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” Acts 5:28. “But Peter and the apostles answered, ‘We must obey God rather than men.’” Acts 5:29.
As per the focus verse, we are to obey the civil authorities who are over us. “For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.” Romans 13:3-4. They have the authority to punish those whoever break the laws. However, if the choice is in front of us to either obey the authorities or obey God, we must obey God. And, if obeying the authorities does not disobey God, then we must obey the governmental authority. For in so doing we are obeying God as well. The key here is to obey God at all times.