May 28 – “Jesus our Immanuel”

Day 148 – Read Matthew 1
Matthew 1:21 – “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”  1:23 – “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with Us.”
In this passage we have two important names for the promised Messiah.  The first is ‘Jesus’, which was actually a common name in Israel.  It literally means ‘Savior’, and is the Greek form of the Hebrew name ‘Joshua’.  This name was given to Him because the angel that appeared to Joseph clearly stated “you shall call His name Jesus.”  So it was His proper name, but it also describes what He came to do – “save His people from their sins.”
The second name was ‘Immanuel’.  This was not a name given to him by his parents.  Instead of saying “you shall call”, it says “they shall call.”  That is, men shall call Him Immanuel as they come to the realization of who He really is – “God with us.”  John said He was the Word that became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14).  Paul told the Philippians (2:6-8) that Jesus was equal with God, but humbled Himself and became a man.  And in 1 Tim. 3:16 he said “God was manifested in the flesh.”  John wrote (1 John 4:2) “Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God.”  And Jesus Himself promised, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).  He is God with us.
As Joshua in the Old Testament led the people of God into the Promised Land, so Jesus will lead us into the eternal Promised Land.  He does that by saving us from our sins.  That is the primary reason why He came.  He was born for the purpose of being the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
We no longer have to live under the guilt and condemnation of sin.  Through Jesus Christ we are freed from the power and penalty of sin, and free to live in the fulfillment of God’s promises.  And we are not left on our own to find the way.  He, who is the Way, is with us always.  May we give thanks today for Jesus, our Savior from sin, and for Immanuel, the continual presence of God in our life.

May 27 – “Walk in the Light”

Day 147 – Read Malachi 4
Malachi 4:2 – “But to you who fear My name the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings; and you shall go out and grow fat like stall-fed calves.”
Throughout the Bible God is associated with light.  In the very first chapter, Genesis 1:3, God spoke light into existence upon the earth.  And in the last two chapters of the Bible, Revelation 21:23 and 22:5, it tells us that there will be no need of the sun or the moon for the Lamb is the light.
Psalm 84:11 says that the Lord is a sun and shield, and Isaiah 60:19-20 tells us that the Lord shall be an everlasting light.  Jesus was described as the light that shines in the darkness (John 1:5), and He called Himself the “light of the world” (John 8:12).  These are only a few of the many references relating God to light.  So, it shouldn’t surprise us that the last chapter of the Old Testament refers to Jesus as the “Sun of Righteousness.”
The sun is the center of our solar system, just as Jesus should be the center of our life.  It is the brightest object in the sky, and gives us the light we need to survive on earth.  The sun releases energy that creates the process of photosynthesis.  It is through this process that almost all life on earth is sustained.  So it is, as stated in John 1:4, that Jesus is the life that lights all men.
In John 3:19 Jesus said, “This is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.”  Verse 21, “But he who does the truth comes to the light.”  Those who love darkness are under condemnation.  They don’t realize that they are in living bondage, damaged by the effects of sin, and separated from God.  But when they respond to the light shining in their darkness, the Sun of Righteousness arises in their lives bringing healing, freedom, and spiritual wholeness.
Walk in the light today, and you will be walking in fellowship with God and with all those who love the light (1 John 1:7).

May 26 – “Put God to the Test”

Day 146 – Read Malachi 3
Malachi 3:10-11 – “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such a blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.  And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, so that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground.”
God is the Creator of all things.  The earth is His, and all of its fullness.  The silver and gold are His.  He owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and the wealth of every mine.  But in the beginning he gave all things to man for his provision and enjoyment.  He only withheld on thing.  He said to Adam, “you can eat from every tree, except for one.”  When Adam ate from the one that was forbidden, he lost the abundance of the rest, for he was kicked out of the garden.
When the children of Israel entered the Promised Land God said to them, “Give Me the spoils of Jericho, the first city you capture, and then the rest of the land is yours.”  But one man kept some of the spoils, and they were defeated in the next battle. 
Since it all belongs to God, He could have asked for 90%, and shared 10% with man.  But God is a giver, and it is His desire to bless His people.  Even His request for the tithe is not to leave us with less, but to bless us with more.  By giving the tithe we acknowledge that it all belongs to Him.  Then He can open the windows of heaven and pour out a blessing.  But when we withhold the tithe, the devourer is free to take what we have.
It is a spiritual principle that doesn’t always make sense to the human understanding.  Our natural mind tells us that we must get, not give, if we want to have more.  It doesn’t understand the words of Jesus, “Give, and it will be given unto you” (Luke 7:38).  By giving our tithe we are acting in faith, and trusting God to be our source of total supply.  He even tells us to give it a try and see if it really works.  He has never failed me yet.  How about you, have you given it a try?

May 25 – “Shout Grace to Your Mountain”

Day 145 – Read Zechariah 3-4
Zechariah 4:6-7 – “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts.  ‘Who are you, O great mountain?  Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain!  And he shall bring forth the capstone with shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!’”
The name Zechariah means ‘Yahweh Remembers.’  In the context of this book it refers to His remembering the covenant He had made with His people.  He had promised that the Messiah would come and bring great glory upon Israel.  But, in order for Him to come, the Temple had to be rebuilt.
They had been struggling to rebuild the Temple for more than a dozen years.  They were discouraged and overwhelmed at the task.  It didn’t seem as if it would ever be completed.  So God brings a word of encouragement through the prophet.  “You don’t have to rely upon your own strength or ability, My Spirit will empower you to do the work.  The mountain before you will be leveled by my grace.”
What mountain stands before you today?  What promise has God given you that seems like it will never be fulfilled?  Be encouraged.  God has not forgotten any promise He has made to you.  God remembers.
One of the problems we face is that we often try to help God fulfill His promise.  Yes, there are things we need to do.  Primarily, our task is simply to obey Him.  But don’t try to do His work.  Learn to rely upon the power of His Spirit.  Instead of using your strength and ability, shout grace to your mountain, and watch God do a mighty work on your behalf.

May 24 – “The Desire of All Nations”

Day 144 –Read Haggai 1-2
Haggai 2:7-9 – “’And I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory,’ says the Lord of hosts.  ’The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine,’ says the Lord of hosts.  ‘The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former,’ says the Lord of hosts.  ‘And in this place I will give peace,’ says the Lord of hosts.”
At the time of the prophet Haggai the Babylonian exile was over and a remnant had returned to the land to rebuild the temple.  However, they had become discouraged because of their lack of resources.  So, instead of building the temple, they began to focus upon rebuilding their own homes.  Then, after sixteen years, the Lord brought this message to the people.
Some have read this passage and interpreted it to mean that, since the silver and gold belong to God, we can claim it for ourselves and become rich.  But that is not the meaning here.  In Solomon’s temple everything was either pure gold, or wood overlaid with gold.  Nothing was made of silver.  In fact, we are told that there was so much gold in the days of Solomon that silver was of no value at all (1 Kings 10:21).
So, when the people realized that they could never make a temple as glorious as Solomon’s, they became discouraged and didn’t think that God would be pleased.  But God is never impressed with gold and silver.  He owns it all.  In fact, He created it.  The glory does not come from material things; the glory comes from the presence of the Lord.  It doesn’t matter if you meet in a golden temple, or a grass hut, if God is there it will be glorious.
But there is coming a day when the glory will be even greater.  It is the day when Jesus, the Desire of All Nations, returns to establish His Kingdom.  The nations will be shaken when the Prince of Peace returns.  Until that day, we can experience His presence and peace in our hearts, for we are the present temple of God.

May 23 – “God is Rejoicing Over You”

Day 143 – Read Zephaniah 3:14-20
Zephaniah 3:17 – “The Lord your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”
From the time that Moses built the Tabernacle and placed it in the center of the camp there was a visible presence of God in the midst of His people.  For forty years they could see a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night rising up as a testimony of His presence.  Whenever the cloud moved, the people moved.  When it stopped, they stopped.  God was always in their midst.
When the Tabernacle was replaced by the Temple, Jerusalem became the center of worship.  But that was not God’s ultimate desire.  He wanted to be with His people, not hidden from them in an inaccessible room.  So He sent Jesus, who was also called Immanuel, “God with us.”  But even His presence was limited to one place at a time.  And when He ascended back up to heaven, the Holy Spirit was poured out.
Today, we have the promise of Jesus that wherever two or three are gathered in His Name, He is in their midst.  But we also have the blessing of the indwelling Christ.  No longer is God separated from His people, He lives in constant communion with each one.  The Almighty God is present with His children to save and deliver.  But, not only that, He is rejoicing in the fellowship He can have with each one.
You might find it hard to believe that God is rejoicing over you, but He is.  Maybe you think you are not worthy, or that you have fallen short of His expectations.  But He will not mention your failures, He loves you too much.  He is too full of joy to think anything bad about you.  In fact, He is singing over you right now.  In His presence there is fullness of joy, so take time to enjoy His presence.

May 22 – “Dance for Joy”

Day 142 – Read Habakkuk 3
Habakkuk 3:17-18 – “Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls – yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.”
In this passage the prophet makes one of the strongest declarations of faith found in the Bible.  He has already been warned by God that a mighty army is about to invade the land.  When they do, they will strip it bare of all its produce, take the flocks and herds, and leave the land barren and empty.  It is a hopeless situation.
Since they were an agrarian society, the things he mentions that will be taken away are those things they relied upon for daily sustenance.  It is as if he were saying in today’s context, “though the economy has failed, and I have lost my job; though the banks have collapsed, and my account is empty; though the stock market has plunged, and my retirement is gone…”
It is at that point that people take extreme measures, fall into depression, shout out in protest, break down the doors, or jump to their death.  But, rather than look at his circumstances, and the hopelessness of the situation, Habakkuk turns his face to the Lord.  But he doesn’t do it in a way you would expect.  He doesn’t cry out to God for help or deliverance.  He lifts his voice in praise.
“Yet I will rejoice…”  “Everyone else may be crying out in desperation, but I will rejoice.”  Notice, that he is not rejoicing in his circumstances, he is rejoicing in the Lord.  This particular word for rejoice means to jump for joy, and carries the idea of being triumphant.  Even though the nation is being defeated and taken away captive, Habakkuk finds his victory in the Lord, even to the point of jumping for joy.
But that is not all, “I will joy in the God of my salvation.”  This word for joy means to ‘spin around’ as if to dance for joy.  And the word ‘salvation’ is similar to the name ‘Jesus.’  In fact, Augustine translates this verse: “I will rejoice in God my Jesus.”  But it is perhaps more correct to say, “I will dance for joy in my saving God.”  Or, as 1 Peter 1:8 says, “Rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.”

May 21 – “Live by Faith”

Day 141 – Read Habakkuk 2
Habakkuk 2:4 – “Behold the proud, his soul is not upright in him; but the just shall live by his faith.”
The source of all sin is pride.  It was his desire to be exalted above God that caused Lucifer’s downfall.  And pride has been at the root of sin ever since.  Pride is basically giving undue credit to oneself, and denies any reliance upon God.  It removes God from the picture, and actually becomes His enemy, for God resists the proud (James 4:6).
But one who lives by faith is one who puts his total trust and dependency upon God.  He does not rely upon his own strength, wisdom, or ability; but comes under God’s provision and protection.  This phrase, “the just shall live by his faith,” is so important to our walk with God that it is repeated three times in the New Testament. 
The soul of the proud is not upright; it is crooked or perverse, because it is depending upon a false assumption about God.  It assumes either that God does not exist, or that He is unwilling or unable to help.  But the soul of the just is upright.  It makes no assumption about God, it simply and humbly trusts in Him.
It is our faith in God that leads to life.  Without faith it is impossible to please Him.  Without faith we cannot be saved.  Faith opens the door to all that God has for us.  Faith sees what others can’t see, and lays hold of the treasures of God.  In spite of your circumstances, put your trust in Him today.

May 20 – “Get Ready”

Day 140 – Read Habakkuk 1
Habakkuk 1:5 – “Look among the nations and watch – be utterly astounded!  For I will work a work in your days which you would not believe, though it were told you.”
The prophet had been crying out to God because of all the evil and injustice in the land.  And the answer he received was not what he expected.  God was going to send a fierce army to bring judgment upon His sinful people.  However, in the midst of the terrible devastation coming upon them, those who put their trust in God would be saved.
We live in a time not unlike the days of Habakkuk.  What he describes as the condition of the land is like reading today’s news.  Every day we see an increase of sinfulness and apathy toward God.  Paul wrote to Timothy that in the last days perilous times would come (2 Tim. 3:1).  And Peter warned that scoffers would come, saying, “Where is the promise of His coming?” (2 Pet. 3:3-4).  But God’s Word is true, and a day of judgment will come.
While the world does not believe, and continues to mock God, those of us who know Him are not left unaware of what is about to take place.  The Apostle Paul says it will come unexpectedly like a thief in the night.  For those who do not believe, it will be a time of great tribulation.  But for those of us who have put our trust in the Lord, it will be a glorious day.
In the days of Noah, building an ark seemed to be foolishness.  No one could believe that a great flood was coming.  Then God shut the door.  Those on the ark were safe.  But for those on the outside, it was too late.  Jesus told us to be watching and ready, for He will come again when we least expect it.  The signs all point to the soon return of our Lord.  Are you ready?  He will come whether you believe it, or not.

May 19 – “Run to Him”

Day 139 – Read Nahum 1
Nahum 1:7 – “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him.”
Throughout the Caribbean you can find forts of many shapes and sizes.  Each was designed to fight off enemy ships and provide protection for the inhabitants living nearby.  In some cases, great walls were built extending from the fort and surrounding the city.  Three of the most remarkable forts can be found in San Juan, Havana, and Cartagena.
As you visit these sites, you can’t help but be impressed with how great and impenetrable they seem to be.  The thick, high walls, lookout posts, varying levels of canon positions, tunnels, moats, and so forth, have lasted for centuries as a testimony to a great engineering feat that provided security for many years. But, today, these forts are no longer providing the protection they were designed for.  They are tourist attractions giving us a glimpse into the past. 
Not so with our God.  In the days of creation He made all things good, and He remains good today, working all things together for good for those who love Him.  He is a mighty fortress from everlasting to everlasting.  His impenetrable walls will never give in, never grow old, never fall down, and will always be a stronghold for us to run to in the day of trouble.
And He knows those who trust in Him.  In the days of the forts the doors were closed at sundown and only certain people were allowed to enter.  All others had to stay outside until the morning light.  But with God, He will never leave you outside.  The doors are always open to those who trust Him, and He knows who you are.  He knows your name.  He knows your need.  And He knows how to take care of you.
In the words of Martin Luther: “A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing.”  Or, in the words of the prophet Nahum: “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him.”  Run to Him today.

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