2019-11-04 – Matthew 15:8
Verse of the Day Devotion: Matthew 15:8 This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far away from me.
This is a prophecy of Isaiah that Jesus spoke against the Pharisees. These Pharisees came from Jerusalem and asked Him “Why do Your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.” Matthew 15:2 This is part of what is called the ‘Oral Traditions’, not part of the written law of Moses. It was passed down from generation to generation as a proper thing to do. Mark brings additional clarity to this tradition. “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 7:4. The Pharisees expected every Jew to follow these traditions, and this included Jesus and His disciples.
However, Jesus answers back with a question as to why they transgressed not the oral tradition, but the commandment of God. “And He (Jesus) answered and said to them, “Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said,’ Honor your father and mother’ and ‘He who speaks evil of father and mother is to be put to death. ‘ But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever I have that would help you has been given to God,” he is not to honor his father or his mother.’ And by this you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition.” Matthew 15:3-6. What the Pharisees had done is usurp the command of God by the tradition of the elders. They were hypocrites because they accused them of breaking tradition, when they were breaking the law of God. He then tells the disciples, as stated in the focus verse, that the Pharisees honored God with their words, but not with their heart. And then He adds, “But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men”. Matthew 15:9.
It is important that we examine ourselves and make sure we do not fall into this unknowingly. It is very easy to fall into the habit of praising God when our thoughts are elsewhere. It is easy to give to the church simply because it is the expected thing to do, rather than giving it to God with a heart of love and thankfulness.
And what of communion? There are several verses we need to look at. “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 1 Corinthians 11:24b When we take the bread and eat it and the cup and drink it, do we think of Him and remember His sacrifice; the breaking of His body and the shedding of His blood? There is a warning involved here. We are not to take the communion for sake of the tradition, but for what it represents; the death of Christ on our behalf. This is the most important act anyone has done for us. We must remember His sacrifice and be always thankful, for only He could pay the penalty. “But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” 1 Cor 11:28
In closing, we must examine why we do things in the church or any religious gathering. Do we do them simply because it is expected, they are tradition, or do we do them because of who God is and our desire to please Him? We are to remember, and be thankful for, all He has done for us and the great love He has for us. Tradition can be good, but not the reason or the mentality by which we conduct ourselves.
2019-11-05 – Hebrews 13:6
Verse of the Day Devotion: Hebrews 13:6 so that we confidently say, “THE LORD IS MY HELPER, I WILL NOT BE AFRAID. WHAT WILL MAN DO TO ME?”
We as God’s people should not be afraid of what could possibly happen to us. In fact, the writer of Hebrews says we can confidently state this as absolute. How can we say this? Let’s start by looking at the verse just before this. “Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU,” Hebrews 13:5. If we realize and live our lives based on this verse, then we will have peace because we know that God will never leave us or forsake us. So, if we are content with what we have, knowing that our needs will be met, what do we have to fear? It is when we love success and desire things that are not necessities which we cannot acquire, then we lose that blessed place of peace.
And because of this, with confidence, we know the Lord is our helper. He is there to provide our needs, and to help us through any situation we find ourselves in. He also helps us in fulfilling His calling in our lives. See what Paul wrote to the church in Philippi. “for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” Philippians 2:13. He will guide us in how to fulfill His calling in us, giving us the words to say, the deeds to do, the wisdom the succeed and the strength to perform it. If we have a question as to how to proceed, He will answer. This I have personally experienced in various ministry tasks He has led me to do. There were times I had no idea how to proceed, however, through prayer He gave me the answer to all my questions.
We also know, with great confidence, that we have no need to fear what will happen to us because of what men may do. I have read many stories about Christians who have been arrested because of their faith. Most, if not all, remained true to God no matter what anyone did to them. When trials came, they trusted that God would bring them through, however, if they were to die, they knew they would be OK, for God would take them to be with Him. They trusted God in the midst of their torture or execution. Even death is not to be feared, whether through execution or illness, for to us, it is simply going home.
Paul put it this way, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21. Our sole aim in life should be to bring glory and honor to Him. If we submit to Him as we should, then we will devote our lives to glorifying Him in everything we do. He should be our life. He must be our everything. And when we live our lives this way, and it comes time to die, we will gain freedom from suffering and pain; being then in a place of joy, peace and infinite love. We may lose our lives, but we gain all the good promised to us because of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.
Therefore, we truly do not have anything to fear, for really, what can man do to us? God will provide all our needs, He will be with us in all we do, whether it be in reaching the lost, serving the body or suffering for His sake. Trusting in Him, He will guide us through this life, working through us to do His will. And if man were to take our life, it would be a great gain for us. Looking at life this way is a source of peace and joy. Let us all partake of this goodness given to us by Christ.
2019-11-06 – Romans 12:18
Verse of the Day Devotion: Romans 12:18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.
This verse is a very difficult one to follow, especially in the times we live in. Peace is one thing we should always strive for. It may not always be possible, however, that does not mean we shouldn’t strive for peace in every encounter we have with others, both the saved and the unsaved.
This verse starts with the idea that as far as it depends on us. This means that we are to do everything imaginable to preserve the peace, short of compromise. First, we are not to begin or to originate a quarrel. Our words are to be ones that show the love we have for the person or persons we are speaking with. If we become angry and our words and actions show it, then we may lose the ability to speak into their lives. If to a Christian, they may not be willing to listen to us when we are trying to help them in their walk with God; thus causing them to continue doing that which is wrong, where if we remained cool, calm and collected, we may have been able to help them see their error and turn from it. And if to the unsaved, they may turn away and not receive Christ as Savior, or at least look into it. Both instances will be problematic regarding our ability to speak into their lives. And because they may tell others, we may even close the hearts of anyone else who may endeavor to speak with them.
Secondly, if the anger is started by them, we must do all we can to appease that anger. We should not walk off until we have done all we can to bring peace to the conversation, and possibly come to the point where they could listen to what we have to say, though this may not be possible because their hearts may be so closed to the truth that any attempt to speak it may incite the anger in them. If this occurs, we should apologize and make peace if we can. And we should then pray for, not necessarily with, the individual that God would open their hearts to receive the truth we intended to share with them. The psalmist put it this way, “Depart from evil and do good; Seek peace and pursue it.” Psalm 34:14. I believe the evil he speaks of does include quarreling with those we speak with. But note, we are not just to seek peace, we are to pursue it as well. As Albert Barnes states in his commentary of Psalms, we must follow after it, make it an object of desire and put forth the effort to life in peace with all people.
It is important that we follow this with all our heart. I have seen far too much quarreling and gossiping within churches, and all it does is create division. Both sides may be desiring the same outcome, but they have differences in how to approach it. We must do all we can to be at peace with everyone. This way, we can remove the divisions that hurt the work of the church, and open people’s hearts to the message we have from God to them. This is a huge part of our calling, for it provides the platform by which we make it happen.
2019-11-07 – James 4:17
Verse of the Day Devotion: James 4:17 Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.
In my study of this verse, there are a couple valid ways to look at it, therefore I will present both.
First, that we make decisions about our lives, what we will do, where we will go, based on our own feelings and desires and not based on what God desires of us. We make these big plans for our lives; visiting certain people, traveling to desired destinations, making this amount of money. However, is this what God has called us to? We decide on these things without looking at what God wants. The idea here is that if we know what God wants of us and we do not pursue it because it is not what we want, then we who know nothing of the future seizes control from the one who does. This is seen from the previous verses. “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit. Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that. But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil.” James 4:13-16. We know our calling, but we ignore it, or put it off, until we ourselves are ready. We must spend serious time with God in prayer to be sure of what we are to do. If we do not, and we follow our own desires rather than His, then we may find ourselves in sin.
Second, if we see a need or something we know is the right thing to do, and we refuse to do it. Cotton Mather, a New England Puritan minister in the late 1600s to early 1700s, adopted this idea as a principle of action, saying ‘that the ability to do good in any case imposes an obligation to do it.’ The idea for him was “if he understands what his duty is; if he has the means of doing good to others, then he can promote a good cause; for example relieve the distressed, the poor, the prisoner, the oppressed; send the gospel to other lands, wipe away the tears from those who mourn or grieve, speak out in favor of those qualities that are positive and Godly, then he is under obligation to do it.” If we choose not to get involved and we just ignore the good we can do, then we may find ourselves in sin.
As I said above, I believe both of these ideas are valid ways of looking at our focus verse. Both allude to the idea of knowing the right thing to do but refusing to do it for selfish reasons. If we have the means to help someone, then we should do it. Remember the words of Jesus, “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12. If we are in need and a brother or sister ignores us even when they know our situation, how would we feel?
In closing, too often we see sin as something we do, such as stealing, lying or murdering, however we forget that sin is also something we refuse to do, such as helping the poor or ignoring the oppressed. Both types are wrong and ultimately sin. Let’s remember that God has called us to love everyone, and love is more than a feeling, it is actions as well. I encourage us all, myself included, to ensure that our plans are based on God’s will and not our own, and that if we see a need, we do all we can to meet that need. God will see this and reward us. “One who is gracious to a poor man lends to the LORD, And He will repay him for his good deed.” Proverbs 19:17
2019-11-08 – Psalm 90:12
Verse of the Day Devotion: Psalm 90:12 So teach us to number our days, That we may present to You a heart of wisdom.
This verse does not mean that we are to keep count of the number of days we have been here. For instance, I have been here, on this earth approximately 22,700 days. This means nothing in the grand scheme of life. What it does refer to is that we should understand that our lives here are not limitless. It more truly describes how we should live our lives going forward. The idea is that we should estimate our days such that we understand they will pass quickly and then they will be over, and we should live these days with a heart in pursuit of wisdom and not folly.
Many people follow the path of the rich fool found in the gospel of Luke. “And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.” Luke 12:19. He planned to take it easy, he would live well since the harvest that year was phenomenal. However, the story ends horribly for him. “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared? So is the man who stores up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” Luke 12:21. This man focused on himself and not on how to live a Godly life. He assumed his life would go on for years, however, his life did not even last another day.
Then you have those who live by the saying, “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” A twist on what we read in Luke, however, there is a definite distinction. First of all, this phrase is normally has a derogatory meaning. The idea here is they live their lives in a totally narcissistic way. What does it matter what happens to us, what is important is that we enjoy life now. There thought is not of doing what is right but doing what they enjoy.
However, neither of these ways are what our focus verse is calling for. We are to understand that our lives are short. That our remaining days will come to an end. But this is not truly the end. “And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.” Hebrews 9:27-28. As the parable of the sheep and goats lays out, we will be judged, and we will either go to the right with all the sheep or to the left with all the goats. Do we eagerly await His return? If so, wisdom calls us to obey and honor God. We must be wise and be led by God in every part of our life. As the writer of Proverbs puts it, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Proverbs 1:7. Wisdom comes from the reverence and adoration of God, following His ways and spending time with Him. This should be our focus, and our priority. And this is what we should do from this time forward.