July 8 – “Fresh Bread”

Read Luke 4

Luke 4:4 – But Jesus answered him, saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.’”

I love the smell of fresh bread.  In fact, I don’t believe I have ever met anyone who doesn’t.  But the smell alone doesn’t satisfy.  It only awakens the appetite and stimulates a desire to eat some of that fresh bread.  And bread is best when it is fresh.  Day old bread doesn’t have the same effect.

When we lived in Venezuela there was a bakery about a block from our house.  Many of the people in the community would buy fresh bread everyday for breakfast.  It was almost like the children of Israel going out for manna every morning.  And that is what Jesus was referring to when He quoted this phrase from Deuteronomy 8:3.

The children of Israel were dependent upon God sending manna every morning.  Without His provision they would have starved to death in the desert.  But God was not only feeding them, He was teaching them to live in obedience to His Word.  When Jesus came, He gave a whole new meaning to this experience.  Referring to the provision of manna in the desert, He said, “I am the bread of life…” (John 6:35, 48).

Just as food is necessary for physical health and survival, so a daily relationship with Jesus through the Word is essential for our spiritual wellbeing.  You can go several days without food, but each day your body grows weaker, begins to suffer malnutrition, and eventually dies.  It is no different with our spiritual life.  A healthy Christian is one who is daily feeding upon God’s Word and walking in fellowship with Him.

July 3 – “Join the Heavenly Choir”

Day 184 – Read Luke 2

Luke 2:13-14 – And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

This is not the first time that the heavenly hosts rejoiced in song.  When God created the earth, Job 38:7 says that “the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.”  Should it be any different at the beginning of His new creation in Christ?

Here we see heaven and earth coming together to declare the purpose of God.  God is glorified in the highest places with the highest praise.  Psalm 19:1 tells is that “the heavens declare the glory of God.”  But the earth was living in rebellion against God, not giving Him the glory He deserved.  So God took the first step toward reconciliation in sending Jesus.

The Westminster Catechism states that “man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”  So, Jesus came as the Prince of Peace.  First, to restore peace to a broken relationship between God and man.  And secondly, to fill the heart of man with the peace of God that passes all understanding.  In a troubled world, Jesus offers peace that cannot be found in any other place than a reconciled relationship with God (John 16:33).

God’s desire and intention for man is always good.  But, that can only be experienced fully as we live in fellowship with Him.  Let us join the heavenly hosts in praising God and giving glory to Him.  As we do, we will begin to experience heavenly blessings here on earth.

Note: I leave today for Trinidad, and begin a hectic travel schedule that will take me away from home 22 out of the next 29 days, including some places where I won’t have any internet access.  So, I probably will not be posting my devotion daily.  We’ll see how it goes.

July 2 – “Nothing is Impossible”

Day 183 – Read Luke 1:34-80

Luke 1:37-38 – “For with God nothing will be impossible.”  Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord!  Let it be to me according to your word.”

We have a tendency to think of Mary as someone special, and rightly so.  She was chosen for a special purpose.   Verses 28 and 42 both say that she is blessed among women.  So we don’t want to minimize the importance of her place in history.  She did something that no other woman has ever done, and we are grateful.

At the same time, we shouldn’t elevate her to a place of deity, or think that she was someone so special that God could not have found another to take her place.  What if she would have said, “Sorry Gabe, but you’ve got the wrong virgin”?  God would have found someone else.  Thank God she didn’t, and because of her willingness to be used by God in this way we now have an example to follow.

When the angel Gabriel appeared to her he greeted her with the words, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you” (v. 28).  That is one of the reasons we look at Mary in a different way from everyone else.  But Ephesians 1:6 gives us some important insight.  It says that we have been “accepted in the Beloved.”  The literal translation of this phrase is that in Christ we are “highly favored.”  It is the same word used with Mary.

God is with us just as He was with Mary.  His grace has been bestowed upon us in such a way that we are highly favored.  And nothing is impossible with God.  So, what we need to do is to respond in the same way that Mary did in humility and faith, and we will see miracles happen.  

Has God spoken a word of promise to you?  Receive it and believe it, and it shall be done.

July 1 – “Never Ending Kingdom”

Day 182 – Read Luke 1:1-33

Luke 1:33 – “And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”

The theme of the Kingdom of God plays an important role throughout the New Testament.  When Jesus began His ministry He began by declaring that the Kingdom of God was at hand.  He even went so far as to say that men should seek first the Kingdom of God above all else (Matt. 6:33).  So what makes His Kingdom different from all the rest?

Throughout the ages many kingdoms have come and gone.  Some have tried to conquer the world, while others have just wanted to protect their little piece of the earth.  Although some have lasted for centuries, none can say that it is an eternal kingdom.  They can make many promises, but none can guarantee safety and peace of mind.  The US discovered that on 9/11, and many times since. 

But the Kingdom of God is not of this world, and is therefore not limited by what the world can produce or offer.  Rather than entering it through physical birth and location, it is a spiritual Kingdom entered through spiritual birth.  It is not dependent upon one’s citizenship or heritage, but is available to everyone, everywhere, no matter what your status is in this world.  One’s wealth cannot buy entrance or position in the Kingdom of God, and the poor are not excluded or subservient in any way.

The quality of life in the Kingdom of God far surpasses the quality of life in earthly kingdoms.  In the Kingdom of God there is love, joy, peace, health, happiness, holiness, blessing, eternal life, and so much more.  No earthy kingdom can promise all of that.  And one day, the seventh trumpet shall sound, and the angel will proclaim: “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” (Rev. 11:15).

Invest in God’s Kingdom and you will reap eternal rewards.

June 30 – “Doubters can do Great Things”

Day 181 – Read Mark 16

Mark 16:14-18 – Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart,… And He said unto them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature… And these signs will follow those who believe…”

I have always been challenged, and encouraged, by this passage of scripture.  When you read verses 15-18 it is a call to preach the gospel with power and confirming signs.  That is the challenge.  Do I have enough faith to believe that lives will be transformed through my sharing of the gospel?

At times we think that it was only for the eleven, and perhaps those super spiritual people that God has gifted in special ways.  The challenge is to become one of those people; and so often we don’t feel like we can measure up.

But you can’t start reading at verse 15 and get a clear understanding of the great commission.  It wasn’t given only to special people; it was given to all who believe.  So, when we start at verse 14, we find a group of doubters.  That encourages me.  Before Jesus gave them the call to go and do great things, He rebuked their unbelief.

That encourages me because I can relate to those doubters.  They weren’t extraordinary people, they were normal people just like you and me.  They had their doubts and fears.  They had their limitations and insecurities.  They were weak in themselves, but could find their strength in God.  They were doubters, but they had the potential to rise to the occasion and do great things.

Don’t ever think that you can’t do the same.  The great commission is for you, too.  When faced with a great need, God will give you great faith.  It doesn’t come from your own power; it comes from the power of the Holy Spirit within.  There may be times when Jesus will have to rebuke your unbelief, but that won’t disqualify you from being used by Him to do great things.

June 29 – “A New Covenant”

Day 180 – Read Mark 14

Mark 14:12-25-And as they ate, Jesus took a loaf and blessed and broke it, and He gave to them and said, Take, eat; this is My body. :23 And taking the cup, giving thanks, He gave to them. And they all drank out of it. 24  And He said to them, This is My blood of the New Covenant, which is poured out for many. 25  Truly I say to you, I will no more drink of the fruit of the vine until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God.

The Passover feast was something the disciples were accustomed to celebrating every year.  So, on this occasion, they probably were not expecting anything unusual to happen.  They knew the meaning of the different elements of the meal, and were used to rehearsing the story of the lamb that was sacrificed on the night before the exodus from Egypt.  But when Jesus took the bread He introduced a new element into the meal.

It is hard to know what the disciples thought, or how much they understood, when Jesus broke the bread and said it was His body.  Or, when He took the cup and said it was His blood.  But on that night He was putting an end to the Old Covenant, and introducing a new relationship between man and God.

The Old Covenant was limited to the Jews, or those gentile proselytes who joined the Jewish religion.  It was limited in the length of forgiveness, having to be repeated each year.  And it was limited in dealing with sin, only able to cover the sin, but not able to totally remove it. 

But the New Covenant is available and accessible to all.  The length of forgiveness is forever.  That is why bread and wine were used instead of a real body and blood.  There is no longer any need for another sacrifice.  No more blood needs to be shed.  So, we can eat bread and drink wine in remembrance of that one sacrifice that is sufficient for all.  Our sin has been removed.

The New Covenant not only looks back to what Jesus did on the cross, it also looks forward to a new day when He comes again in His Kingdom.  When we partake of the Lord’s Supper, we can be grateful that we live under the New Covenant of grace, and not the Old Covenant of the Law.  And we do so with the hope that one day we will eat it together with our Lord.

June 28 – “A Great Waste or a Great Work”

Day 179 – Read Mark 14:1-11

Mark 14:3-6 - And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as He reclined, a woman came with an alabaster vial of pure, costly ointment of spikenard. And she broke the vial and poured it on His head. 4 And some were indignant to themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made? 5 For it might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and be given to the poor. And they were incensed with her. 6 And Jesus said, Let her alone! Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work towards Me.

The pouring out of the ointment was symbolic of Christ pouring out His life for us.  Just as the ointment was costly, the life of Jesus was the most costly sacrifice ever offered.  But many thought it was a waste.

However, there is a secondary application that relates to us.  This woman was willing to pour out what was possibly her most valuable possession for Jesus.  In doing so, she was pouring out her heart.  Is there anything too precious, or too costly, for Him?

In the eyes of the disciples, her offering was a great waste.  But in the eyes of God it was a great work.  So it is, in the eyes of many, whatever we give to God is a great waste.  But our reward doesn’t come from them.  I have a friend that was offered a basketball scholarship to a major university, but he turned it down to go to Bible College.  Many thought he was crazy and had lost a great opportunity.  But, he went on to do a great work for God.

Many today who have gained fortune and fame will one day stand before God and discover that they really had wasted their life.  While others, who never amounted to much in the eyes of the world, will stand before God and hear “you have done a great work for Me.”

As Jesus poured out His life for you, are you willing to pour your life out for Him?

June 27- “Do This and Live”

Day 178 – Read Mark 12

Mark 12:30-31 – “You shall love the Lord you God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.  This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no other commandment greater than these.”

The human nature doesn’t seem to like being told what to do.  That is what got Adam and Eve into trouble, and it has been our pattern ever since.  That is why we need laws to govern us.  Left to ourselves, we would probably make a real mess of things.  In fact, even with all of the laws we do have, we haven’t done such a good job. 

But Jesus tells us that if we would only live by two commandments everything else would fall into place.  And, when practiced, we discover that they aren’t really commandments at all, but abiding principles that we want to live by.  No one can be forced to love.  Love isn’t something we do out of obligation. It is the nature of God working in us, for God is love.

If we were all to live together loving God and loving people, we would be free to be who God created us to be.  Instead of being bound by a commandment, we would find that we were truly free.  These two commandments are really only one.  You can’t love God and hate people.  And you can’t hate God and love people.  The truth is, we need God’s love working in us in order to truly love people.  We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).

In Luke’s version (10:28) Jesus said to the lawyer asking the question, “do this and you will live.”  Life is experienced through love.  The more we love God and love people, the more we truly live.  May the love of God fill your heart today.

June 26 – “You Can Move Mountains”

Day 177 – Read Mark 11

Mark 11:22-24 - “And answering Jesus said to them, Have faith of God. 23  For truly I say to you that whoever shall say to this mountain, Be moved and be cast into the sea, and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that what he said shall occur, he shall have whatever he said. 24 Therefore I say to you, All things, whatever you ask, praying, believe that you shall receive them, and it will be to you.”

It must have made quite an impression on the disciples to see the fig tree withered overnight.  But, they must have begun to expect the unexpected from Jesus.  He was constantly doing things outside of their frame of reference.  That was Jesus, and they were beginning to believe that He could do just about anything He wanted to do. 

Most of us feel that way too.  But Jesus wanted to teach the disciples the He wasn’t the only one who could do great things.  If they would only take hold of the faith that God was giving them, they could do great things too.  Through faith, confession, and refusal to doubt, they could move mountains.

Many think that this is beyond them, but if it were impossible to do, Jesus would not have said it.  First, you only need faith the size of a mustard seed, and God has already given that to you.  That is the faith that comes from God.  Stop struggling to believe, and rest in Him.  Second, speak to the mountain and confess your faith.  Third, don’t waver and doubt.  This is not referring to a moment of doubt, but an ongoing continuous doubting.  When doubt begins, speak words of faith.

Do you have mountains of guilt?  Mountains of fear?  Mountains of worry?  Debt?  Sickness?  Whatever mountain that is standing before you today can be removed.  It might disappear in a moment, or it might take time.  Speak to your mountain with faith and authority, believe in your heart that it will be gone, don’t give in to doubt, and you shall have whatever you ask.

June 25 – “A Matter of the Heart”

Day 176 – Read Mark 10:17-52

Mark 10:21-22 - “Then Jesus, beholding him, loved him and said to him, One thing you lack. Go, sell whatever you have and give it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in Heaven. And come, take up the cross and follow Me.  22 And he was sad at that saying and went away grieved, for he had great possessions.

The lesson here is not that it is wrong to be rich.  Many wealthy people have been greatly used by God, and God has blessed many others with great wealth.  So, the problem of the rich young ruler was not his wealth, but the place it held in his heart.  You cannot serve God and money.

We know that Jesus wanted the best for this young man because it says that when He saw him He loved him.  It appears as if the young man is asking a sincere question, and Jesus gave him a sincere answer.  If you read his question (v.17), the concern of the young man was not how to enjoy his life now, but how to inherit eternal life.  That should be a concern of us all.  Are we laying up treasure in heaven?

Jesus’ answer reveals that eternal life is a matter of the heart.  He was calling the young man to a life of self-denial and a personal relationship with Him.  Was he willing to put God first in his life?  Anything in our heart that takes priority over God is an idol and must be removed.  An idol has a certain level of control in our lives that keeps us from serving God wholeheartedly.

The young man’s heart (idol) would not allow him to let go of his riches.  He was fearful of losing all that he had.  In other words, he was not willing to take up the cross.  What he didn’t understand is that, after the cross, comes a resurrection to new life.  If he had been willing to do what Jesus asked he would certainly have been blessed beyond measure.  Think about it.  Is there anything in your heart that would keep you from following Jesus wholeheartedly?

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