2019-09-30 – John 3:30
Verse of the Day Devotion: John 3:30 “He must increase, but I must decrease.
There came a rather controversial dispute regarding purification between John’s disciples and a Jew or Jews. Purification was a very important issue with the Jews, and so the discussion became a dispute. We are not sure what the exact argument was, however, it was in no doubt regarding baptism. In the time before Jesus, the Jews would purify a proselyte by a form of baptism to purify them. The issue was which baptism was the correct one, Jesus’ or John the Baptist’s. “They asked him (John the Baptist), and said to him, “Why then are you baptizing, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” John 1:25.
After a while, both sides came to John wanting clarification. We see in verse 26, “And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified, behold, He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him.” John 3:26. The way this is worded is as if John’s disciples were concerned that Jesus’ was, in essence, taking over the work John had been doing. However, John did not answer this question in the way they expected. He did not address their feelings or hurts regarding this. He answered in such a way that only one who truly knew him, and his purpose would understand. “John answered and said, ‘A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven.’” John 2:27 What he basically said was that anyone who does the work of God, referring specifically to himself and Jesus, receives the calling and its success from God. Our calling is from God, and the way we succeed come from following God’s way.
He then goes on to clarify that he is not the promised Messiah, the Christ. “You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent ahead of Him.’” John 3:28. He was sent before the Messiah to announce His appearing. “He said, “I am A VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, ‘MAKE STRAIGHT THE WAY OF THE LORD,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.” John 1:23. These words of Isaiah are found Isaiah 40:3, “A voice is calling, ‘Clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness; Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God.’” This was his calling. Then he makes the following statement that shows he knows Jesus is the true Messiah. “He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. So, this joy of mine has been made full.” John 3:29. John refers to Isaiah many times, and he does so again regarding God as the bridegroom. “I will rejoice greatly in the LORD, My soul will exult in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” Isaiah 61:10.
John recognized that Jesus is the Messiah, and therefore the bridegroom. He is the friend of the bridegroom, in essence, best man. Jesus is the bridegroom and therefore the believers belong to Jesus, not himself. John regards himself as the friend of Jesus. And because the believers belong to Jesus, He is the one that must take over. For John was only announcing the Messiah was coming, not that he was the Messiah. And because of all this, we read in our focus verse, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:30.
This very much speaks of us as well. The purpose of ministry is to point the way to Jesus, the true bridegroom and Messiah. He has called us to preach the gospel. “And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.’” Mark 16:15. That is our calling. We must decrease in the eyes of men, not building ourselves up but building Him up. He should be the focus of our work, not ourselves. He must be greater and we more humble. When we preach, teach or simply share our hearts regarding Christ, we should do it in a way that when our listeners leave, they remember Christ more, and us less. I encourage us to look at our calling the same way as John the Baptist did. Jesus must increase in this world, and we must decrease in this world.
2019-10-01 – Hebrews 10:23
Verse of the Day Devotion: Hebrews 10:23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful;
Many times, I have been disappointed by people who have promised things that were not fulfilled. I can be confident I am not the only one who has experienced this. Once when I was growing up, I wanted to play baseball for the High School team. I attended the first meeting and was given a list of things they expected of us. One was that we had to have short hair, and since I had long hair, I agreed to get it cut. My parents had agreed that I could play that year, so I went out and got my hair cut short. After I did, my parents said that they would not let me play. I asked why because they had promised. Their answer shocked me, for they only promised it till I got my hair cut. They would not put out the money needed to participate. This hurt me terribly because I was not popular and had few friends, and I was hoping that playing baseball would change that.
In our focus verse, the writer of Hebrews is saying that with God, a promise made is a promise kept. (By the way, I cannot take credit for the line “A promised made is a promise kept”, it is the title of a song by Randy Stonehill.) If God promises us something, he will bring it to pass. And we can be assured that there is nothing that God cannot do. “‘Ah Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You,” Jeremiah 32:17. Therefore, if God promises us something, we know it will happen because He is a faithful God who can do all things.
Let’s look at a few of these promises. “Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 We have nothing to fear, for God has promised to strengthen us and uphold us. Then there is “The LORD will fight for you while you keep silent.” Exodus 14:14. In our struggles, we can relax for God has promised to fight for us. Then there is, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9. We can be sure that if we do sin, if we confess this sin to Him, acknowledging it as sin, and we repent of it, He promise is His forgiveness and the washing away of the unrighteousness in us. And finally, “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19. He has promised if we have a need, He will meet it. We can relax and just wait for Him to supply.
These are but a few of the many promises He has made to us. Each one of these, and all the ones not mentioned, we can be assured they will be a kept promise. Therefore, we are called not to waver but be steadfast, not wishing, not hoping, but knowing He is faithful. This is the faith He calls us to.
And as an extra, here is the chorus from the song by Randy Stonehill, “A Promise Made is A Promise Kept”. “A promise made is a promise kept, there is a love so true. Just hold on, God is holding on to you. Day by day, Prayer by prayer, Oh, don’t you ever forget that a promise made Is a promise kept.”
2019-10-02 – Matthew 6:24
Verse of the Day Devotion: Mat 6:24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.
Jesus, in His famous Sermon on the Mount, is telling His listeners that they cannot be divided in their devotions, specifically if their demands are contrary to the other. Imagine a man who is subject to two masters, and they desire the house exterior to be painted. Master 1 tells the man in the morning to paint it blue because blue is his favorite color. He then goes off on a business trip. On the same day, master 2 tells him in the afternoon to paint it green because green is his favorite color. He then goes off on a business trip as well. Both ordered him to have it completed by the time they get back. The slave is now in a predicament. He obviously cannot please both. If he paints it blue, master 1 will be pleased and master 2 will be angry. And if he paints it green, master 2 will be pleased and master one will be angry.
This is the idea that Jesus is trying to get across. We cannot obey two masters. First, He said we would either hate one and love the other. According to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, the meaning of ‘hate’ here is the idea of loving less. Therefore, what He is saying is we will love one more than the other. In the above example, depending on who the man loves more will determine the color the house will be.
He also said that he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. In other words, He is saying that regarding opposing commands, we will hearken to one of the master’s and neglect the other. We will respect the command of the one master and disrespect the other. Either way, we will anger one of them.
Then He completes this idea by alluding to the reason for this verse. We cannot serve both God and wealth. The word translated wealth here actually is deeper than just wealth. It signifies wealth, but also money, riches and things. Basically, worldly goods. There is nothing wrong with worldly things like money, jewelry, cars, etc. However, which do we love and follow after? Since we can only serve one or the other, would we give up things for God, or give up God for things?
Jesus gave this very choice to the rich young ruler. “And someone came to Him and said, “Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life? And He said to him, Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.’ Then he said to Him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER; YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY; YOU SHALL NOT STEAL; YOU SHALL NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS; HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER; and YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF. The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?” Matthew 19:16-20. This ruler asked Jesus what He needed to do to be saved. Jesus responded with, because he was no doubt a Jewish ruler, items found in the ten commandments. The young ruler responded by telling Jesus that he has kept all these things, what else is there? “Jesus said to him, ‘If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me. But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property.’” Matthew 19:21-22.
Jesus basically asked the ruler, “would we give up things for God, or give up God for things?” Unfortunately, he chose the latter. I believe that we, as Christians, have chosen God over things. However, it is always good to follow the suggestion of the writer of Lamentations where he wrote. “Let us examine and probe our ways and let us return to the LORD.” Lamentations 3:40. Are there things we love more than we should? Can we honestly look at all we have and say there is nothing here I would not give up for Christ? Maybe so, but the verse above says it is a good idea to examine ourselves periodically. If everything is good, praise God. If there is something, pray and determine what you need to do and do it. This is pleasing to God and of great benefit to ourselves.
2019-10-03 – Psalm 91:1
Verse of the Day Devotion: Psalm 91:1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
This is a very encouraging verse, for it describes, in figurative language, the idea of sitting with the almighty. The word translated ‘shelter’, which in the King James version is ‘secret place’ is a place where we are sheltered and protected. Just as a bomb shelter is a place some have in their homes which few people see, but where we can take shelter in difficult time, so is the Most High a shelter for His people.
We see this is several other verses describing a hiding place for safety. “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold ” Psalm 18:2. Also, “You hide them in the secret place of Your presence from the conspiracies of man; You keep them secretly in a shelter from the strife of tongues.” Psalm 31:20. And finally, “You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble; You surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah.” Psalm 32:7.
When we abide in the Most High, we will be under His protection, as a chick is under the protection of a female bird’s wings. He will shelter us from all our trials. The psalmist tells the Lord as such when he says, “I will say to the LORD, ‘”My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust!’” Psalm 91:2. He says this for God delivers us from the enemies. “For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark. You will not be afraid of the terror by night, or of the arrow that flies by day; of the pestilence that stalks in darkness, or of the destruction that lays waste at noon. A thousand may fall at your side and ten thousand at your right hand, But it shall not approach you.“ Psalm 91:3-7. He delivers us from those who attempt to trap us, and from illnesses that could cause death. He says God will cover us with His pinions, essentially feathers, and here we can seek refuge. The fact that He is faithful is a shield from what comes after us. We have no need to fear anything in the night or the day.
Does this picture look familiar? Remember Jesus just before entering Jerusalem prior to His arrest. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it!” Luke 13:34. Jesus wanted to gather the Jews under His feathers, He wanted them to be saved. He wanted to have them dwell in the shelter of the Most High. He wanted them to abide in the shadow of the almighty, but they would have nothing to do with Him.
This is something we, as Christians, must focus on and take comfort in. He is here to protect us, and we should go to Him and take refuge. He will shelter us, and we will abide in His glorious shadow. What a wonderful promise.
2019-10-04 – Revelation 21:4
Verse of the Day Devotion: Revelation 21:4 and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away. “
This verse denotes a time of rejoicing. A time when the old order is done away with and the blessed future eternal order will become the norm. We all know the trials and tribulations that come to us from the enemy. It seems like there is no rest from the hardships prevalent here on this earth. People weeping from broken hearts, loneliness, hunger and constant pain, both physical and mental. However, things will change, all will be made new, promised by God who is faithful in all things.
So, let’s look at what this life will be like. First, God will wipe away every tear we weep. This will be a wonderfully blessed state where sorrow and mourning will fade away and there will only be love, joy, peace and contentment. There no longer will be any pain caused by illness, sickness and calamities because they no longer exist. And even death will be done away with. Isaiah wrote regarding this time, “He will swallow up death for all time, And the Lord GOD will wipe tears away from all faces, And He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth; For the LORD has spoken.” Isaiah 25:8.
Such a different life then we have now. We cannot fathom such a life. In fact, we cannot even begin to understand what God has planned for us. “but just as it is written, “THINGS WHICH EYE HAS NOT SEEN AND EAR HAS NOT HEARD, AND which HAVE NOT ENTERED THE HEART OF MAN, ALL THAT GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM.” 1 Corinthians 2:9.
There are a lot of gorgeous things on this earth. Flowers that leave us speechless by their beauty. Mountains that soar into the skies producing a wonderful landscape in the distance. Birds just exploding with colors that work so well together. The sounds of a flowing creek, the chirping of a bird, or the incredible echoes from the valleys as the words bounce off the hillsides back to our ears.
I am sure you have sights and sounds that just amaze you and allow you to relax in total contentedness. I am sure we have thought of things that truly do not exist, but if they did would be beyond beautiful. However, look what Paul said in the above verse. Nothing we see here will come close in comparison to the beauty we shall see in the new heaven and earth. No sounds here will ever compare to what is coming in our eternal existence. And even our imaginations cannot conceive of what God has in store for us. And the amazing thing is that there will never be an end to this wonderful life.
Yes, things may not be perfect here. There is a lot of ugliness, anger, hatred, and pain in this life. But a better time is coming. The effects of the fall in the garden will be done away with. All of creation will be remade. Imagine, “And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, And the leopard will lie down with the young goat, And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; And a little boy will lead them. Also, the cow and the bear will graze, Their young will lie down together, And the lion will eat straw like the ox. The nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra, And the weaned child will put his hand on the viper’s den. They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain, For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD As the waters cover the sea.” Isaiah 11:6-9.
It is hard to imagine, but this, and infinitely more will be our life forevermore. Praise God, I cannot wait.