All year long there has been a dread of the mysterious COVID-19. I pondered what it could mean for me with my autoimmune struggles. And now here I am—afflicted with this highly mysterious bug that changes daily the toll it is taking on my body. When we are not feeling well, we can long for deliverance, and yet in the midst sometimes we can see concealed blessings if we are willing to. In the struggle, we can forget that God carries us and takes care of us.
Bible Reading of the Day: Deuteronomy 1-3
It should have taken them 11 days, ya’ll. But it took them 40 years.
“2 It is an eleven-day journey from Horeb to Kadesh-barnea by way of Mount Seir.”
Have you ever wondered why the journey is so long or so hard? The Israelites made the journey longer by their stubborn sin, but God never wastes any part of the journey. Sometimes we are stuck, feeling like there is no purpose to our perpetual journey, feeling like we are making circles around the same mountain again and again like the Israelites. But God was with them and God is with us when we belong to Him.
However long the journey takes or however uncomfortable it gets; we have a God who cares for us in that place. Where are the complaints now when we understand that God is for us and with us?
Scripture of the Day: Deuteronomy 1:30-31
“30 The Lord your God is going ahead of you. He will fight for you, just as you saw him do in Egypt. 31 And you saw how the Lord your God cared for you all along the way as you traveled through the wilderness, just as a father cares for his child. Now he has brought you to this place.’”
Being in hard places is not fun. Just as being sick is not fun. And yet I see God caring for me. I am able to be at home resting. I have medicine to help alleviate symptoms. My husband is home with me, as well as one of my daughters. I have grace from my employers to rest while I recover. God is kind. What journey are you on that seems hard? None of it is wasted, dear friend. Count your blessings and trust God right in the middle of hard. Keep trusting and walking with Jesus. Our God is with us!
Sometimes the struggle seems like it will never end. That’s when we remember that our God does care. He does see us.
In lieu of a teaching video, I am sharing a lyric video my son created from one of my songs. Below is today’s devotional. 🙂
This is a challenging season. Not gonna lie. But when I feel like giving up, I remember that Jesus didn’t. He completed what God had called Him to do and set us free. Maybe someone else needs to see us being faithful when life is hard. Hold fast, friends. God is enough. The work He accomplished is still at work in us if we will just believe and stand firm!
Bible Reading of the Day: Hebrews 1-3
“2 In these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son. God has appointed him heir of all things and made the universe through him. 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of his nature, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. 4 So he became superior to the angels, just as the name he inherited is more excellent than theirs.”
Hold Fast!—Don’t Drift Away!
Hebrews 1 reveals the nature of Jesus Christ. Because we understand that God came in the flesh to pay for our sins, how ought we to live? We who have been recipients of the highest grace? Hebrews 2 is the answer.
“For this reason, we must pay attention all the more to what we have heard, so that we will not drift away. 2 For if the message spoken through angels was legally binding and every transgression and disobedience received a just punishment, 3 how will we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? This salvation had its beginning when it was spoken of by the Lord, and it was confirmed to us by those who heard him. 4 At the same time, God also testified by signs and wonders, various miracles, and distributions of gifts from the Holy Spirit according to his will.”
In the natural flesh, we drift away. But Jesus’ coming is an impetus for us to remain faithful. We don’t have to fear death anymore. We have been set free!
Scripture of the Day: Hebrews 2:14-15 (NLT)
“14 Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. 15 Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.”
Running this race is challenging, isn’t it? But we need to hold fast!
“12 Watch out, brothers and sisters, so that there won’t be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage each other daily, while it is still called today, so that none of you is hardened by sin’s deception. 14 For we have become participants in Christ if we hold firmly until the end the reality that we had at the start. 15 As it is said: ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.'”
Don’t let unbelief or hardship keep you from trusting in Jesus.
Hold fast to His goodness. Hold fast to His promises. And hold fast to Him and His precious word.
Christ has set us free from the fear of death.
We just need to hold fast to His word and to his promises, friends!
People can follow endless new religions created by man, but there is only one faith where God chose to die on behalf of His people. Other “prophets” or “gods” or “good men” died, but you can’t keep a good man down. You cannot keep a perfect, Holy, Son of God in the grave for long. And in the book of Acts, we see the impact of the life of Christ and the Holy Spirit to work through Christ-followers to reach this world with the love of God.
Bible Reading of the Day: Acts 1-2
We are starting the book of Acts today, the second book written by Luke. Some consider it part two of the Gospel of Luke. According to Gotquestions.org, “The book of Acts was written to provide a history of the early church. The emphasis of the book is the fulfillment of the Great Commission. Acts records the apostles being Christ’s witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the surrounding world. The book of Acts sheds light on the gift of the Holy Spirit, who empowers, guides, teaches, and serves as our Counselor.”
Luke wrote to Theophilus and wanted the Roman rulers to know what was true about Christians. Now thousands of years later, we are witnesses of the Pentecost as we read through these pages. The Holy Spirit filled God’s people so they prophesy. And God’s people did miracles as the church and the Gospel spread.
You Can’t Keep a Good Man Down—Christ is alive!
Peter gives a sermon to explain the speaking in tongues as well as what had transpired through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
“Fellow Israelites, listen to these words: This Jesus of Nazareth was a man attested to you by God with miracles, wonders, and signs that God did among you through him, just as you yourselves know. 23 Though he was delivered up according to God’s determined plan and foreknowledge, you used lawless people to nail him to a cross and kill him. 24 God raised him up, ending the pains of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by death.”
You Can’t Keep a Good Man Down—Jesus is Messiah
Using a Psalm in which David prophesied of Christ in Psalm 16:8–11, Peter explained how Christ fulfilled this prophecy.
29 “Brothers and sisters, I can confidently speak to you about the patriarch David: He is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Since he was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn an oath to him to seat one of his descendants on his throne. 31 Seeing what was to come, he spoke concerning the resurrection of the Messiah: Hewas not abandoned in Hades, and his flesh did not experience decay.
32 “God has raised this Jesus; we are all witnesses of this. 33 Therefore, since he has been exalted to the right hand of God and has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit, he has poured out what you both see and hear. 34 For it was not David who ascended into the heavens, but he himself says: The Lord declared to my Lord,‘Sit at my right hand35 until I make your enemies your footstool.’36 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know with certainty that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”
Ultimately, Peter then called God’s people to repentance. Friends, what are you going to do with the facts of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection? How will it impact the way you live?
The people Peter preached to were convicted. This conviction impacted their lives and faithfulness to God and the church.
You Can’t Keep a Good Man Down—God’s Truth Convicts Us
“37 When they heard this, they were pierced to the heart and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?”
The good news is that God’s truth convicts us, but it does not condemn us unless we remain hard-hearted and do not repent. What is it that keeps you from being right with God? Repent. Turn from sin and run toward God. God came to set us free from sin. We do not have to be enslaved anymore.
In conclusion, when we have had a heart change, we can help others to, also. The people who Peter preached to long ago were devoted to God and His church. May we be, also. May we never cease to share the most beautiful message on this earth. We have power and strength to rise above sin and lie this message out!
Scripture of the Day: Acts 1:8
“8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
We have power to live this Christian life. We do not have to remain in sin anymore.
The Law seems like a bummer to those who want to do things their way. And today in our country we have something I never thought I would see—defunding of police officers who maintain the law. The lawless one is at work right now in our society, but God’s Law still stands. God’s Law revealed our need of salvation when we realized that we could not meet it, but Christ fulfilled the Law on our behalf. The purpose of the Law was so we would know God’s righteous standards, so sin would not separate us from our Holy God.
Bible Reading of the Day: Proverbs 27-28
No one likes to have boundaries until those boundaries protect us, right? The laws we have in this land are for our good and Scripture says that we are to submit to them. But there is a higher Law still that our souls desperately need to follow. And God’s grace is enough for us.
“Those who reject the law praise the wicked, but those who keep the law pit themselves against them. 5 The evil do not understand justice, but those who seek the Lord understand everything.”
When we reject the laws on earth, there are consequences, just as there are consequences when we reject god’s law. But when we love God’s law and think on it constantly, we are blessed.
The Purpose of the Law—Loving God’s Law
“Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long.”
Living according to God’s way is a lifestyle. It is not just about external obeying of do’s and don’ts, but an abiding and seeking to live according to his word. Doing so impacts our character and actions. Not doing so will harden our heart as we seek to live by our own rules.
14 “Happy is the one who is always reverent, but one who hardens his heart falls into trouble.”
The Purpose of the Law—To Make Us More Like Jesus
When we love God’s word and live by it, we become a person of integrity and following God’s ways is part of the paradigm we live by.
18 The one who lives with integrity will be helped, but one who distorts right and wrong will suddenly fall.”
20 A faithful person will have many blessings, but one in a hurry to get rich will not go unpunished.”
Scripture of the Day: Proverbs 28:13
“People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy.”
We have to own our sins and our mistakes in order to move past them. Acknowledging where we have fallen short puts us in position to receive mercy. Ultimately, whether or not we obey God’s word will bear fruit in our lives and we all will be held accountable.
Following God’s Law and the laws of the land leads to blessing.
There are a lot of things to be afraid of in this life and in this world right now. It is easy to cave to fear, but fear is an awful taskmaster. When fear has you in its grip, it is difficult to rise above. Having a worthy fear – the fear of God – dispels all other fears. And the truth in God’s word sets us free, enabling us to live the righteous life God requires.
Bible Reading of the Day: Psalm 111-113
We are reading from the Psalms today and a little overview provided by the Easy English Bible commentary says:
Psalm 111 is about God’s righteousness. It is an acrostic Psalm and was likely written following after the exile.
Psalm 112 is about the righteousness of God’s man—the one God makes righteous. It is also an acrostic Psalm, with each line starting with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet.
Psalm 113 is a special psalm that reminds us of God’s mercy.
Having a Worthy Fear—God’s Word is True
Today’s reading is a reminder that God’s word is true and fearing Him is the secret to a godly, blessed life.
“The works of his hands are truth and justice;
all his instructions are trustworthy.
8 They are established forever and ever,
enacted in truth and in uprightness.
“He has sent redemption to his people.
He has ordained his covenant forever.
His name is holy and awe-inspiring.
10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
all who follow his instructions have good insight.
His praise endures forever.”
Science is not greater than the timeless truths found in God’s word.
God’s precepts are true and man’s wisdom bows to God’s truth.
Having a Worthy Fear—Fearing God Above All Else
In Psalm 112 we see the fruit and reward for one who fears God:
He is happy. V. 1 “Hallelujah! Happy is the person who fears the Lord, taking great delight in his commands.”
His descendants will be powerful and blessed. V. 2 “His descendants will be powerful in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed.”
He has his needs met.. V. 3 “Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness endures forever.”
The one who fears God will also behave according to that fear, and walk in integrity, which leads us to the Scripture verses of the day.
Scripture of the Day: Psalm 112:5-9
“Good will come to the one who lends generously
and conducts his business fairly.
6 He will never be shaken.
The righteous one will be remembered forever.
7 He will not fear bad news;
his heart is confident, trusting in the Lord.
8 His heart is assured; he will not fear.
In the end he will look in triumph on his foes.
9 He distributes freely to the poor;
his righteousness endures forever.
His horn will be exalted in honor.”
When we fear God, we don’t need to fear anything or anyone else.
There is fear everywhere today, trying to distract us from the strength we truly have in Christ. Don’t forfeit courage to lesser fears. Trust in God and fear Him only!
Trust in God’s word. It is still applicable to our lives today. It is truth we desperately need.
God gave us clear directions on how to be in His favor and we broke them. Then life got hard. And God still made a way back to Himself. But sometimes we can be a stubborn lot and try to do things our way, right? The problem is, we aren’t enough. We need someone greater to restore and heal us. We need to rely on our Creator, not the created. But we can struggle with how to rely on God when life falls apart. But it starts by remembering what God has done and what He will be faithful to do again. Relying on anything or anyone else will fail.
Bible Reading of the Day: Micah
Today’s reading is the book of Micah, which can be divided into three sections. Section one – chapters 1-2, describes God’s judgment for Israel and Judah. Section two, chapters 3-5, is for rulers and leaders, and section three, chapters 6-7, is for all of God’s people. The book of Micah ends with a song celebrating God’s rescue.
Micah lived during the time of the Judges, when everyone did what was right in their own eyes. Kind of reminds me of today – a sense of lawlessness and doing whatever seems good.
How to Rely on God—Repent
According to gotquestions.org,
“Micah was given a word from the Lord about the future of Samaria and Jerusalem (Micah 1:1). He is sixth in the order of those we call Minor Prophets, so called because their writings are comparatively short. It was the prophet Micah who foretold of Christ’s birth in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:6). His is a message of both hope and doom, declaring the lovingkindness of God toward those who repent and turn to Him (Micah 7:18–19). And Micah condenses God’s requirements into this familiar refrain: “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).
Micah warns God’s people of coming judgment. Unjust leaders, false prophets, and people who have rejected God and His word.
How to Rely on God—Remember What God Has Done
Micah 6 is titled, “God’s lawsuit against Judah” in my Bible and such a clear description and reminder of our condition before a holy God. We are guilty. We deserve condemnation. But God uses the prophets to warn His people so they will turn away and be restored. God’s purposes are always redemptive and restorative. Man likes to condemn and accuse, but God wants to give a clear understanding of His expectations so we can walk with Him.
“O my people, what have I done to you? What have I done to make you tired of me? Answer me! 4 For I brought you out of Egypt and redeemed you from slavery. I sent Moses, Aaron, and Miriam to help you. 5 Don’t you remember, my people, how King Balak of Moab tried to have you curse and how Balaam son of Beor blessed you instead? And remember your journey from Acacia Grove to Gilgal, when I, the Lord, did everything I could to teach you about my faithfulness.” 6 What can we bring to the Lord? Should we bring him burnt offerings? Should we bow before God Most High with offerings of yearling calves? 7 Should we offer him thousands of rams and ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Should we sacrifice our firstborn children to pay for our sins? 8 No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”
How to Rely on God—Follow God’s Requirements, Not Man’s
God has told us. We are without excuse. Our culture struggles with social justice.
God is telling His people to remember. When we look back over our lives, we can have clarity. Sometimes we get so busy we forget to look up and notice what God is doing in our midst.
We need a wake-up call, friends, so we remain faithful to God and know what matters most in this life.
How to Rely on God—don’t rely on anything else
Micah reminds us that though people turn away from God, we have a choice to stand firm in our faith. Micah 4:5, “Though the nations around us follow their idols, we will follow the Lord our God forever and ever.”
How about us? Are we aware of things that distract us from devotion to God? The world pulls us away, friends, but we can choose to draw near. God’s judgment is certain. It’s coming like a freight train. But then so is His mercy for those who will walk with Him.
How to Rely on God—Rely on His Goodness
The prophet Micah’s name means ‘Who is like Yahweh (God)?’ And at the end of the book, Micah asks this question as he reflects on how good our God is.
“Where is another God like you, who pardons the guilt of the remnant, overlooking the sins of his special people? You will not stay angry with your people forever, because you delight in showing unfailing love. 19 Once again you will have compassion on us. You will trample our sins under your feet and throw them into the depths of the ocean! 20 You will show us your faithfulness and unfailing love as you promised to our ancestors Abraham and Jacob long ago.”
Scripture of the Day: Micah 7:7
“As for me, I look to the Lord for help. I wait confidently for God to save me, and my God will certainly hear me.”
What do you rely on, friend? Life has some curveballs and pain. We can want to rely on ourselves or others, but it is only God who can deliver.
Sometimes we really want to do something for God or accomplish something in our life but we can’t seem to get it done or just keep failing. Maybe we are striving in our own strength or maybe it was not God’s will for us to do it in the first place. But when we seek to do God’s will for our lives and honor God in all we do, others will notice. We are being a living testament of God’s grace when we don’t compromise and are faithful to God, whether or not our plans ever come to fruition.
Bible Reading of the Day: 2 Chronicles 6-10
It is an exciting moment in the history of God’s people in today’s reading. The temple that David had wanted to build but could not was finally built by his son, Solomon, fulfilling a promise God spoke. Solomon dedicated the temple to God and prayed to God in front of all the people. His actions and words were being a living testament to God’s people for generations, now memorialized in God’s word.
2 Chronicles 6:14-15, “14 He said:
“Lord God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven or on earth, who keeps his gracious covenant with your servants who walk before you with all their heart. 15 You have kept what you promised to your servant, my father David. You spoke directly to him, and you fulfilled your promise by your power, as it is today.”
Being a Living Testament—Surrendering to God’s Way
There are several things we can learn from Solomon and how he went about building the Temple.
Followed. First, he did so under the leadership of God. He did it God’s way and followed God, not his own ideas.
Acknowledged. Second, he acknowledged God in the process and in the dedication. In fact, it was all about God.
Humility. Third, He was humble. Sometimes when we see the accomplishment of things, we can pat ourselves on the back, but Solomon gives God all the credit.
Worship. Fourth, Solomon gave God all the glory and he worshiped God.
The prayers Solomon uttered were not rote. They were not tacked on. They came from a sincere heart that sought after God.
The Temple was a place where God’s people could interact with God. Solomon details different scenarios where God’s people would come and pray at the temple and God would hear and answer.
Being a Living Testament—Being a Living Temple
A little about the Temple on gotquestions.org:
“This new, stationary temple would replace the portable tabernacle constructed during the wilderness wandering. If Solomon reigned from 970 to 930 BC, then he began building the temple in 966 BC. A very interesting fact concerning the building of the temple was there was no noise of the construction. The material was prepared before it was brought to the building site. The house, while it was being built, was built of stone prepared at the quarry, and there was neither hammer nor axe nor any iron tool heard in the house while it was being built (1 Kings 6:7). The Bible’s description of Solomon’s temple suggests that the inside ceiling was 180 feet long, 90 feet wide, and 50 feet high. The highest point on the temple that King Solomon built was actually 120 cubits tall (about 20 stories or about 207 feet). First Kings 6:1–38 and chapters 7—8 describe the construction and dedication of Solomon’s temple.”
“Until the first temple was destroyed by the Babylonians some four hundred years later, in 586 BC, sacrifice was the predominant mode of divine service there. Seventy years later, a second temple was completed on the same site, and sacrifices again resumed. The book of Ezra chronicles the building of the second temple. During the first century, Herod greatly enlarged and expanded this temple, which became known as Herod’s temple. It was destroyed by the Romans in AD 70, during the siege of Jerusalem. Only a small portion of the retaining wall remains to this day, known as “The Wailing Wall.””
Being a Living Testament—Walking in Wisdom
In 2 Chronicles 9, the Queen of Sheba came to question Solomon. She came because she had heard about Solomon’s wisdom and how God had blessed Solomon.
What do people hear about us? Is there evidence of God in our lives? Does the work of our hands bring Him glory and cause people to marvel at God?
The work of God in our lives is not for our glory, but so people can look at us as displays of God’s grace. When we are being a living testament of God’s grace in our lives, people have an opportunity to know Jesus through seeing our relationship with God.
After so many wonderful things that we read about Solomon’s reign, chapter 10 is an abrupt about-face.
Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, did not seek God or listen to the elders and sought to make his rule harsher than his dad’s. Consequently, Israel and Judah were divided and Rehoboam ruled only over Judah.
According to the Easy English Bible Commentary,
“Solomon and Rehoboam must share the blame for the fact that the *kingdom became two kingdoms. Solomon had forced the Israelites to do hard labour. And he had not been loyal to the *LORD. He began to *worship other gods. Rehoboam was to blame because he would not follow the wise advice. He made matters worse by his answer to the people. And he had not asked the *LORD for his advice.”
Scripture of the Day: 2 Chronicles 7:14-15
“14 Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. 15 My eyes will be open and my ears attentive to every prayer made in this place.”
If we order our lives after God’s will and word, we will be blessed. But if we don’t, we will reap from that choice.
God’s disposition toward us is to retore and to redeem. If we will just cry out to Him, He will hear and answer.
We are a living temple of the Holy Spirit.
Being a living testament means we exemplify Christ to the world around us.
It’s easy to try and do things our way. It’s what we want or what we think is best. It can feel confining to have to do something someone else’s way. But doing things God’s way is the pathway to blessing. Whereas doing things our way ends up making things more difficult on us.
Bible Reading of the Day: Numbers 33-36
We are finishing the book of Numbers today, y’all, and what a journey it has been. Today’s reading has a summary of the Israelite’s various travels, instructions for occupying Canaan, boundaries of the promised land and distribution of the land by tribe.
More than just a list of places they traveled through, each place held memories of God’s faithfulness that met them there – when they sinned and when they encountered difficulties, God was there.
Doing Things God’s Way—God With Us
There’s a song out now called, “There Was Jesus”, and I think we can hear this song or hear the truth that God is with us, but we do not realize the significance of that statement and reality. Journeying with Jesus is not pain-free. But the difference between going with God, as you hear me say each day, and not, is vast.
More than just trying to get to their destination, Israel was God’s people and God wanted to do life with them. When they strayed, God brought them back. And sometimes punishment was meted out.
Doing Things God’s Way—God Has Good Purposes
But in the grand scheme, the story of the traveling from Egypt to the promised land was about what a relationship with God looks like. We can be disobedient and do things our way and suffer for it, or we can see the fruit from walking with God – going with God and doing things God’s way. It’s our choice.
God longs to provide for His people. He longs to protect them. So why wouldn’t we go with God and do things His way?
Doing Things God’s Way—Trusting His Plan
Trust. We don’t trust His plans. We rely on our own understanding. Simply, we don’t have a strong relationship with the One Who made us. Let that sink in. When devotions and reading the Bible seem dry to us, we need to drop to our knees and ask God to help us and to draw near to Him.
Doing Things God’s Way—Laying Down Our Plans
Idolatry. God’s people slipped into idolatry and spiritual adultery time and again. So can we. This is why God had very specific rules and instructions for His people. He knew the heart of man.
Stubborn. Simply want to do things our own way. Man wants to govern himself but does a lousy job of it.
Doing Things God’s Way—Trusting God’s Goodness
Fear. Maybe afraid that the journey will be hard and maybe God will allow in what we don’t want or don’t think we can handle.
We don’t know God and His goodness. If we understood God’s heart and why He commanded what He did, we would not stray so easily.
Let’s look at God’s instructions and the why behind it.
“50 The Lord spoke to Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho, 51 “Tell the Israelites: When you cross the Jordan into the land of Canaan, 52 you must drive out all the inhabitants of the land before you, destroy all their stone images and cast images, and demolish all their high places. 53 You are to take possession of the land and settle in it because I have given you the land to possess. 54 You are to receive the land as an inheritance by lot according to your clans. Increase the inheritance for a large clan and decrease it for a small one. Whatever place the lot indicates for someone will be his. You will receive an inheritance according to your ancestral tribes. 55 But if you don’t drive out the inhabitants of the land before you, those you allow to remain will become barbs for your eyes and thorns for your sides; they will harass you in the land where you will live. 56 And what I had planned to do to them, I will do to you.”
Doing Things God’s Way—Go With God!
At first blush it seems kind of harsh destroying things and booting people out of the land. But belongings and people can be a snare to us and lead us away from a relationship with God.
How does this relate to us today?
What influences do you have in your home right now that are a stumbling block to you, or can be? Sometimes we want to tame the bad influences and don’t want to eradicate them. Sometimes boundaries and accountability help. But ultimately, we can be deceived if we don’t get rid of things that hurt our devotion to God.
I have apps on my youngest son’s phone and computer, but that isn’t enough. Y’all, we are being influenced every moment of every day. I also tell my son that his phone can stay out with us and not go to his room with him. And we have a code for our TV that restricts content.
Doing Things God’s Way—We Belong to Jesus
I don’t want to lead a life apart from the One Who made me. I belong to Jesus. So everything in this journey I want to walk with God. I don’t want to waste time serving idols.
At the end of our reading today, God demonstrates His care for women, specifically women with no inheritance.
The daughters of Zelophehad did not escape God’s notice and care and neither will we. Is there fear that God will allow pain or hardship in our journey that seems too hard for us?
Doing things God’s way is the safest place to be friends. Don’t listen to the liar who tries to use fear, doubt, and idolatry to sway and move us away from God—that would be the scariest place of all.
Scripture of the Day: Numbers 33:4
“Meanwhile, the Egyptians were burying all their firstborn sons, whom the LORD had killed the night before. The LORD had defeated the gods of Egypt that night with great acts of judgment!”
God wants to be our hero. He wants to lead us through this life and defeat our enemies. Just as God exacted judgment on the fake gods back then, He will do the same in our life. He is a jealous God because He loves us and knows the wreckage that sin leaves behind. It destroys us.
Go with God, friends. The journey in this life is meaningful because of Him.
As we look back over our life, it will be the times that we were doing things God’s way where life had the most meaning and the biggest blessing.
We get confused by the drama of life, but when we center our lives around Christ, life makes sense.
Sometimes we mess up and make mistakes that seem to be beyond repair. That’s a perfect situation for God’s grace. God freely gives us grace when we confess and repent, but do we do the same for others? Living in the grace paradigm means we extend the grace we have also received.
Bible Reading of the Day: Philemon
Onesimus was in a fix. He had wronged Philemon and he was a slave on the run. But God’s grace has a way of meeting us and restoring us, if we are willing.
In Paul’s letter to Philemon, there is an earnest plea for Philemon to accept Onesimus as a brother in Christ, who had formerly been a slave.
Living in the Grace Paradigm—Being Counter-Culture
According to Gotquestion.org,
“Onesimus was the fugitive slave of Philemon, the apostle Paul’s friend. Onesimus had robbed his master Philemon and fled to Rome, a large city where he could easily hide. Providentially, Onesimus encountered Paul in Rome where the apostle was serving time in prison.”
“Paul uses a play on words when he refers to Onesimus in verse 11: “Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.” The name Onesimus means “helpful,” “useful,” or “profitable.” It was a common name for slaves in that day. Before salvation, Onesimus had been useless or unprofitable to Philemon, but now he had become immensely beneficial to both his master and to Paul. As a believer in Jesus Christ, Onesimus lived up to his name.”
“On behalf of Onesimus, Paul, still imprisoned in Rome, wrote his letter to Onesimus’s master, Philemon. The apostle pleaded with Philemon to accept Onesimus back, not as a slave but as a believer and a brother in Christ.”
Living in the Grace Paradigm—No Longer a Slave
“Philemon and his family lived in Colossae, and the Colossian church met at his house. Paul wrote his letter to the Colossians at the same time he wrote to Philemon. In that letter, Paul mentioned that Onesimus would be coming home. Paul gave both letters to Tychicus and Onesimus to carry back to Philemon (Colossians 4:9).”
“Paul’s heart was that Onesimus would no longer be a slave—to sin or to man. We see this in verse 15-16, “15 For perhaps this is why he was separated from you for a brief time, so that you might get him back permanently, 16 no longer as a slave, but more than a slave—as a dearly loved brother. He is especially so to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.”
Paul’s appeal is a strong one and a personal one. Continuing on in verse 17-19,
“17 So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would me. 18 And if he has wronged you in any way, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. 19 I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it—not to mention to you that you owe me even your very self.”
Paul was willing to pay Onesimus’ sin debt. Just as Christ paid ours.
Living in the Grace Paradigm—Doing the Right Thing
I can almost see Onesimus telling Paul of his fears in returning to Philemon. And Paul urging him to do the right thing. But then Paul also urging Philemon to do the right thing in Christ. Under a new paradigm of grace.
In Christ we are under a new paradigm—we don’t operate as the world does. Slavery may have been a part of the society in that day, but it was not a part of God’s Kingdom. We have slavery in the world still today and need to fight it.
Living in the Grace Paradigm—Facing Our Problems
The work of restoration cannot begin until a problem is fully faced. Paul was counter-cultural in his request. And he was operating under grace, not law. We will likely have to be counter-cultural, too. But we have to recognize the problems. Running from them will not give us the healing we so desperately need.
Scripture of the Day: Philemon 1:6-7
“6 And I am praying that you will put into action the generosity that comes from your faith as you understand and experience all the good things we have in Christ. 7 Your love has given me much joy and comfort, my brother, for your kindness has often refreshed the hearts of God’s people.”
Friends, are we putting into action what we know and say we believe? It might mean going against the culture like Paul did. And it definitely means extending grace to others even when we don’t think that they deserve it.
Who is the Onesimus in your life? Someone who might have taken from you or left you or hurt you. Forgiveness sets you both free. Or maybe we can be like Paul was—intervening between two people who need to be restored.
In the paradigm of grace, we don’t get what we deserve.
In our relationships, may we be extenders of grace.
May we live under the paradigm of Scripture and under grace and help to restore others to one another and to God.
Friends this life is hard. What do you expect from this life? What we expect from this life can lead us away from the mission God has for us or near to Him, depending on our response to life’s curveballs.
Bible Reading of the Day: John 21
John 21 begins with Jesus’ third appearance to the disciples. Reading from John 21:1-7, “After this, Jesus revealed himself again to his disciples by the Sea of Tiberias. He revealed himself in this way: 2 Simon Peter, Thomas (called “Twin”), Nathanael from Cana of Galilee, Zebedee’s sons, and two others of his disciples were together. 3 “I’m going fishing,” Simon Peter said to them. “We’re coming with you,” they told him. They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. 4 When daybreak came, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not know it was Jesus. 5 “Friends,” Jesus called to them, “you don’t have any fish, do you?” “No,” they answered. 6 “Cast the net on the right side of the boat,” he told them, “and you’ll find some.” So they did, and they were unable to haul it in because of the large number of fish. 7 The disciple, the one Jesus loved, said to Peter, “It is the Lord!”
What Do You Expect—God is Relatable
Jesus is so down to earth. He revealed Himself to them by coming alongside them right where they were at. And by goin’ fishin’.
Our world thinks the bible is not relevant to life. But our God is relatable and relevant. He meets us right where we are at. The One Who made us knows what we need and when we need it.
Jesus came in a way they needed. He came and helped them as they were struggling to catch fish. Jesus came and served them breakfast.
What is it you are needing from God? Are you willing to trust God in the timing of that? Notice I did not say wanting, but needing. And yet Jesus loves to give us more than we need.
What Do You Expect—Expect troubles
As the disciples sat around eating breakfast with Jesus, Jesus asked Peter the same question three times in John 21:15-17.
15 When they had eaten breakfast, Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said to him, “you know that I love you.” “Feed my lambs,” he told him. 16 A second time he asked him, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord,” he said to him, “you know that I love you.” “Shepherd my sheep,” he told him. 17 He asked him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved that he asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” “Feed my sheep,” Jesus said.
What Do You Expect—Follow anyway when life is hard
Jesus restores Peter and reminds him of the job he needs to do. Then Jesus tells him how he will suffer in verses 18-19, but then He simply says, “Follow Me“.
Then Peter wants to know about the disciple Jesus loved – John. We all have this type of thinking in our hearts, too, don’t we? We want to be the favored one, and when it seems like someone else is favored more than us, we can once again get off mission and stop following Jesus. “As for you, follow me“, Jesus simply says.
What Do You Expect—Expect persecution
Our expectations can lead us to disillusionment. We expect things to go a certain way in this world and when they don’t we can get thrown off track and not trust God. Peter denied that he knew Christ when it meant persecution. Jesus tells Peter about future persecution that he will endure. He knows what to expect now.
What do you expect from Jesus, friend? From this life? We need to lay our expectations down and pick up the cross. This is not popular in today’s world. We want the theology that just speaks of blessing and no hardship. But that is not what Jesus promised. Will we follow Jesus when life is hard and we don’t get our way? Is this life all about us, or about the One Who made this world?
What to Expect From This Life
Just like Jesus warned Peter, He also forewarned us in John 16:33
“33 I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.”
The NIV translation says you will have troubles. Troubles and suffering. These are not things we want. We need to change our mindset to understand that is what we will encounter in this world. Let’s stay on mission, friends. Let’s follow Jesus. Not prosperity. Not our flesh. And not this world.
True followers of Jesus follow Him in the sun and rain.
Scripture of the Day: John 21:25
“Jesus also did many other things. If they were all written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books that would be written.”
According to a few commentaries I read this morning, this verse is considered as hyperbole, meaning an exaggeration, and perhaps translated to mean
“that Jesus performed a prodigious number of miracles. This evangelist, John, frequently uses the word world in a general sense, to denote its inhabitants, as John 8:26, and in other places, (see John 15:18,) as signifying the carnal and unbelieving part of mankind. The Greek word chóreó (χωρεω), here translated contain, is not only used in that sense, but, when applied to the mind, denotes the reception and understanding of any thing, and is rendered to this purpose, as in Matthew 19:11 (which says, “But He said to them, “Not all men can accept this statement, but only those to whom it has been given.). By adopting these observations the text may be understood to mean, “I am persuaded the world itself would not receive the books that should be written.” (Benson Commentary).
How about us? Do we receive God’s truth and live it out? Do we believe and receive what He has for us? the hardness of life can harden our hearts unless we align our mindset with the mind of Christ.
What we expect might cause us to reject the One Who loves us most.
We need to lay our expectations down and pick up the cross.
Our God is relatable and relevant. He meets us right where we are at.
The One Who made us knows what we need and when we need it.