October 5, 2017

October 5, 2017

MATTHEW 9-10

Focus Verse: A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign the members of his household!
Matthew 10:24-25

 

Do you consider yourself a disciple of Jesus Christ? Then you have to know your role. John the Baptist understood his when he said to his followers in John 3:30 that, “He (Christ) must become greater; I must become less.” Even when he baptized Jesus in Matthew 3, he initially tried to get Jesus to baptize him! Because John the Baptist knew his role in the Kingdom of God.

 

So do you know your role in the Kingdom of God? There is a teaching out there on the authority that we have in the Kingdom of God and how that translates to our authority on this earth, and this seems like a fitting place to address that teaching. I have heard it said somewhere that Jesus took the keys of death and hell when He conquered the grave. This much I am in agreement with…the Bible tells us this specifically in Revelation 1:18. This teaching then goes on to say that Jesus has given us those keys, and we now have all authority. Here is an exact quote used from Matthew 28:18-19 from a different person, but the same teaching: “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore…’”

 

Any time I see ellipses in a quoted scripture, I immediately have warning flags start firing off. I say this under the full understanding that I have used ellipses in this very devotional…but I challenge you, even with my use, to ALWAYS go back and get the whole context of the passage of scripture…and not just when you see ellipses. My immediate thought when an author fails to cite the entire source is that they are hiding something. Many times this isn’t the case, they are truly trying to be a bit briefer than the original source, but it’s vital that we check these things.

 

Here, I feel like there is something that is being hidden. The ellipses would have us believe that Jesus wants us to go…with all authority. The problem is, that isn’t what Jesus says. He says to go, and then gives a very specific set of instructions…none of which lend any credence to any sort of “name it and claim it” Gospel.

 

Now, I want to make one thing very clear here – I am not saying that these individuals are necessarily wrong in their teaching. I just want to make a very clear distinction that they aren’t making, but perhaps they are simply taking for granted that their listeners or readers already know – our authority over ANYTHING only comes under the authority of Jesus. As we are taught here, “A disciple is not above his Teacher”, therefore we shouldn’t even grasp for a level playing field with Jesus. According to Paul in Philippians 2:6, not even Jesus did this: who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped.

 

How much more so do we need to distance ourselves from any sort of temptation to take that role of equality with God. As long as we have that firmly established though, we can shift our focus, as disciples, to becoming more and more like Christ. UNDER HIS AUTHORITY. So UNDER HIS AUTHORITY, we have the power to heal sickness and disease. UNDER HIS AUTHORITY, we have the power to control the wind and the waves…yes, even to tell mountains to throw themselves into the sea. UNDER HIS AUTHORITY, we have the power to raise the dead. BUT IT HAS TO BE ACCORDING TO HIS WILL.

 

I’ve said this before, I’ll say it again and probably another twenty times before this devotional is over – if Jesus only did what He saw the Father doing, if He only spoke what He heard the Father saying, then how much more do we need to be dependent on letting the Holy Spirit lead us. It’s not YOUR authority. It’s His. YOU can’t, but Jesus DID and WILL THROUGH the Holy Spirit in you.

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October 4, 2017

October 4, 2017

MATTHEW 7-8

Focus Verse: And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw Him, they implored Him to leave their region.
Matthew 8:34

 

This may be one of the saddest verses in the Bible. To give a little context here, two men from the country of Gadarenes are causing a ruckus. They are so violent that no one can even pass by without getting the snot beat out of them. So Jesus strolls up, casts those demons out, and the men are all better. Yay! Two souls saved for the Kingdom of God!

 

Unfortunately, Jesus gives the demons permission to enter into a heard of pigs, which the demons then plunge off a cliff into the sea. This causes the townspeople to forget about the two salvations and the fact that they no longer have to live in fear any time they walk past these two men, and turn their minds to something that gets almost anyone a little heated if you mess around with it…their finances.

 

These pigs were their livelihood, and this Jesus character just sat around and watched as they committed pig suicide at the hands of these demons. So these townspeople do what most of us would do today: they ask Jesus to get lost.

 

I talked about this yesterday, but it’s worth hitting on again, where is your treasure? Clearly, these people had a lot of treasure wrapped up in their pigs, because as soon as Jesus started meddling with their treasure, we found out where their hearts were as well. Forget the salvations, forget the good that was done, the only thing these people could focus in on was what they had lost.

 

How many times have you done the same? I can tell you I’ve done it more than I care to admit. Jesus has started poking around some things that I’m pretty fond of, and rather than lose those things, I’ve asked Jesus “to leave the region”. Sure, He can hang around the other areas of my life…the areas that are already cleaned up, or the areas that I don’t really care whether He asks me to give them up or leave them be. But as soon as He gets His finger on one of my hot buttons, I’d rather show Him the door than change the things He’s asking me to.

 

Do you have any buttons like that? Can you identify the “pigs” in your life? The things that if Jesus asked you to give them up, it would be really, really hard to tell Him yes. God wants to be your number one. And He will identify the things that are getting in the way of that by asking you to remove them from your life. The question remains – who will you be: the one who asks Jesus to leave so that you can keep your pigs, or the one who says, “Take the pigs and give me Jesus. He is my treasure.”

October 3, 2017

October 3, 2017

MATTHEW 5-6

Focus Verse: “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Matthew 6:21

 

Where is your treasure? Where is your heart? Maybe it would be more helpful to flip the script. Instead of looking at what you have, let’s look at what you wouldn’t want taken away. What is the one thing in your life, that if it were taken from you, you couldn’t live without. Now I’m not talking about the comedic, “Well my cell phone of course…I’m glued to that thing 24/7.” I’m talking about something that, if it were taken away, you would have an extremely difficult time continuing to carry on with your life. Not something that would inconvenience you mildly, but something that would alter the very path of your life.

 

Mine is pretty easy for me to identify – it’s my family. If I’m being 100% transparent, I would really have to have some coaching to continue following Jesus if my family were taken from me. And since I know that is an issue, I have to continually lay my family at the feet of Jesus. The coaching starts now and it starts with me. Because here’s the deal: where my treasure is, there my heart will be also. It is a good thing to love my family. It is not a good thing if I love my family more than God. They can’t handle that pressure. I can’t handle that pressure. So I have to place them on an altar every day when I pray. I have to remind myself that they belong TO God. They aren’t mine.

 

I could very easily make an idol of my family. I could make my wife my God, and then when she either dies or fails to live up to my expectations, I would be crushed. My entire world would fall apart, and sadly, even though it would be entirely my fault for putting her in that position, she would fall apart as well. Immediately before this verse, Jesus warns those whom He is teaching not to store up earthly treasures, but to save yourself heavenly treasures.

 

So, I ask again, where is your treasure? Is it in an eternal paradise? Because even that’s wrong. We aren’t working to get to heaven. We are working to get God Himself. He is our treasure. Just like God told Abraham in my favorite chapter in the Bible, Genesis 15, right before He rolls out this amazing covenantal promise for Abraham (and us), “Do not fear, Abram, I am your shield, your very great reward.”

 

Jesus Christ is our treasure. If your treasure is anywhere else, if it is in anyone else, your heart will be broken.

October 2, 2017

October 2, 2017

MATTHEW 1-4

Focus Verse: Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez was the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram. Ram was the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon. Salmon was the father of Boaz by Rahab, Boaz was the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse. Jesse was the father of David the king. David was the father of Solomon by Bathsheba who had been the wife of Uriah.
Matthew 1:3-6

 

Not counting Mary, the mother of Jesus, there are four women named in the genealogy of Jesus; all here in these three verses. Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba. Interestingly enough, each of these four women shed some very interesting light on Jesus as our Messiah.

 

Tamar comes from the uncomfortable story in Genesis 38. I’ll let you go back and read all of the gory details of these accounts, but to summarize, Judah watches two of his sons marry Tamar, then tells her to take a hike for a little while until his third son gets old enough to marry. Once he is old enough to marry, Judah forgets his promise to Tamar, forgets Tamar altogether, and moves on with his life. So Tamar disguises herself as a prostitute, sleeps with Judah, then bursts back on the scene, pregnant belly and all, and makes Judah remember her. YET the twins that were a product of that union are mentioned here in verse 3…the seed of a woman who was rejected, unwanted and forgotten.

 

Rahab was the mother of Boaz, and her beginnings weren’t much better than tricking one’s father-in-law to father one’s child. Now give Rahab a little credit, she is best known for her incredible faith. Before that though, she was a prostitute. A woman of ill repute. A lady with quite the baggage claim. YET here she is, a woman with a scarred history, composing the lineage of our Messiah.

 

Then we move on to Ruth, the heroine of the book of the Bible that bears her name. “Come on!” You say, “Surely you can’t find anything wrong with Ruth!” I have nothing personal against her…but then again, it wasn’t me who didn’t want her. In fact, NO ONE OTHER THAN BOAZ would step up to the plate and take her as their wife. She was a Moabitess (in Israel that was three strikes on its own) and she didn’t have a penny to her name. In fact, marrying her meant absorbing a Mother-in-Law and all of her debts. Sign me up, right? No. YET, we find here here, the mother of Obed, the father of Jesse, the father of the great King David…all of the line toward Jesus Christ.

 

And finally, speaking of King David, we find Bathsheba – the beauty who liked to bathe on the roof (actually, David was on the roof…it just sounds a bit more dramatic if she was also bathing on the roof). Now Solomon wasn’t the child born of the adultery Bathsheba and David committed, but he did come right after that child. YET, here she is, the woman with the dreaded scarlet letter, and somehow she made it into Jesus’ family tree.

 

Now, let’s jump back to the Old Testament real quick to tie all of this together. Isaiah 53:3-4 says this about the coming Messiah, “He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried…” All of these women are tied together by the Suffering Servant, Jesus the Messiah. Now we are being a bit unfair and sexist here (and I truly apologize for that), I am sure we could do a historical breakdown of all of the men listed here and show all of their trespasses as well. It just so happens that the Word of God goes out of the way to list these women, so they become a lot easier to focus on.

 

And what do we learn from them? That their sorrows had a purpose, and His name was Jesus. That their past was part of a plan, and His name was Jesus. That all of the hurt, the pain, the rejection, paved the way for the One who would suffer the ultimate hurt, pain and rejection, the Man of Sorrows, Jesus Christ, born for the very purpose of death and rejection by those He came to save.

 

You can join these women in the lineage of Jesus Christ. When you accept Him as your Lord and Savior, you are brought into His family. The second you make that decision, Jesus writes His “YET” into your story and He writes your name into HIS-story. What a Savior! What a God!

October 1, 2017

October 1, 2017

MALACHI 1-4

Focus Verse: You are presenting defiled food upon My altar. But you say, ‘How have we defiled You?’ In that you say, ‘The table of the Lord is to be despised.’ But when you present the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you present the lame and sick, is it not evil? Why not offer it to your governor? Would he be pleased with you? Or would he receive you kindly?” says the Lord of hosts.
Malachi 1:7-8

 

Are you giving God you best or are you giving Him your leftovers? The problem the Israelites here was that they were giving God the animals that they didn’t want; they were saving the best for themselves and giving God what was left. Now the good news: you most likely aren’t guilty of giving God a blind bull or goat as your offering…so congratulations on that. Bad news: our bulls and goats are much sneakier to identify now than they were back then.

 

I’m going to use myself as an example. I am in full time ministry right now because of this exact principle we see in Malachi. Now that isn’t entirely true; I am in ministry right now because this is what God has called me to do, but I wouldn’t have been in a position to hear that call if I hadn’t had a wake up call in regard to this.

 

My defiled offering that I was giving to the Lord was my time. In prayer and reading my Word and spending any time with God, He undoubtedly was getting my leftovers. I filled my calendar with all sorts of stuff I wanted or “needed” to do, and if I got around to reading my Bible or praying, I’d throw something together real quick and call it good enough. Then I read something in The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson that destroyed me. It was a little story about a woman named Mother Dabney. I won’t get into too much detail about the story (you’ll have to go out and buy a copy of The Circle Maker if you want to find out more), but the thing that really killed me was how it talked about how lazy we are in showing up on time for our “meetings” with God; whether that is church, a Bible study or a simply prayer meeting.

 

I was undone. I realized how awful I had been at meeting with God, and even more so, how I would never stand up another human being on this planet as much as I had stood up God…the Creator of the whole universe! If I had an early morning meeting with the President of the United States, you’d better believe I’d be up hours before that meeting just to make sure I was on time. But with God…my Savior, my King, the One who gave me life, I was ok blowing off meeting with Him altogether if it didn’t fit in with my schedule. How backwards is that!?!

 

So on January 10, 2012, I decided I was done giving God anything less than my best. I started by giving Him the first of every single day for two years. I met with Him at 6am, which meant my alarm went off at 5:53am so that I had time to use the restroom, get my coffee and get snuggled up in my prayer spot before 6am. Then, when I got another job that started at 6am, I set my alarm for 4:53am so that I could meet with God at 5am.

 

And you know what? God blessed my socks off for putting Him first. I didn’t get all of these random checks for thousands of dollars…that’s not a blessing. I got more of God! He changed my heart in so many ways. I used to want to be a high school English teacher, but He slowly pointed my heart toward worship ministry instead. He opened up my mind to truths in His Word. He spoke to me through my prayer times with Him. I was baptized in the Holy Spirit. It was incredible!

 

I’m not going to pretend that it was all sunshine and rainbows. I got knocked down a lot…even kicked while I was down there. My first few months in ministry were the furthest thing from ideal, but I knew WHO had called me into ministry and I knew WHO to turn to lead me through it.

 

So, let’s return to the question: are you giving God your best or are you giving Him your leftovers? Whether that is your time, you tithe, or your effort. God deserves our best…is that what you’re giving Him?

September 30, 2017

September 30, 2017

ZECHARIAH 8-14

Focus Verse: These are the things which you should do: speak the truth to one another; judge with truth and judgment for peace in your gates. Also let none of you devise evil in your heart against another, and do not love perjury; for all these are what I hate,’ declares the Lord.”
Zechariah 8:16-17

 

Truth has been taking a beating lately. As Western culture attempts to “liberate” us from the truth, proclaiming that everyone is free to define their own truth and the only absolute truth is that no one is allowed to tell you what is absolutely true, we are drastically feeling the effects. News media, scientists, sociologists…you name it, have all learned how to manipulate the truth to get it to say what they want it to, so they can now scream across the political spectrum at each other, both claiming to represent the truth. Then we get to the conundrum of social media truth. If a headline of an article looks true enough, and supports your political party, then you can click one button and distribute this “truth” to thousands, if not millions of onlookers with your stamp of approval.

 

I have to believe that God hates this complete circus we have made of the truth. I have to believe it because His Word says that He hates it. But we didn’t start here. We didn’t just wake up one day and decide that we were going to start destroying the truth. And in order to get truth back, we need to go back to where this started…and this started with you (ok, it didn’t really start with you, but you can’t control anyone else’s actions, so we have to start with you and me).

 

We have to speak the truth to one another. This means all truth. This means no more little white lies. This means no more half-truths. I know this is extreme, but this is what destroys the foundation of truth. The easier it becomes to tell a half-truth or a little white lie, the easier it becomes to put blatant untruth in front of people and watch them eat it up. In the Garden of Eden, Satan didn’t start by telling Adam and Eve that God hated them. They would have heard that and known that it wasn’t true. Instead, he fed them a half-truth and then started questioning God’s motives. He disintegrated the integrity of their truth base…and the walls came tumbling down.

 

Is this going to be easy, going to complete truthfulness? Absolutely not. In fact, I would say that it’s impossible for us. Lies are far too convenient for us to get rid of them entirely. But Jesus did. In Jesus stood a man who never spoke a lie, never uttered a half-truth, and who let His actions be completely dictated by the truth of God. So how can we do this? We can’t, but Jesus did and will through the Holy Spirit in us. The question is, are you willing to let go of the comfort of these lies?

September 29, 2017

September 29, 2017

ZECHARIAH 1-7

Focus Verse: Then he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel saying, ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts.
Zechariah 4:6

 

I don’t know that there is much more that needs to be said – this verse speaks for itself. I have made this statement the core of who I am this year, and you’ve been reading about it almost every day: I can’t, but Jesus did and will through the Holy Spirit in me. It’s not my might. It’s not my power. It’s not my eloquence with words. It’s not my intelligence. It IS the Holy Spirit living in and through me. It IS because of what Jesus Christ did on the cross, in the grave, and after the grave – conquering, rising, and ascending.

 

This isn’t an excuse to be lazy; God still expects us to work for His Kingdom. It is an empowerment though. Your strengths and talents have just been pumped with holy steroids (and this PED is completely legal in all sports and other activities). On top of that, you can now be called to things that are so far beyond what you are capable of doing on your own because it’s not you doing it! It’s the Holy Spirit doing it THROUGH you.

 

We have one responsibility now as followers of Jesus Christ: surrender. We surrender our will and submit to His…then He does everything else. To the one who is completely surrendered to God, there is absolutely nothing that He cannot and will not do through you.

 

God will shake this world down to its foundations through you…the only question is will you let Him?