Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Devotion Thoughts - 19/04/2011

Joshua 19:1-51

Last, but not least! When Joshua had completed his mission - leading the people into Canaan, conquering the inhabitants and settling the tribes in their conquered territories, he was given his reward- Timnath-serah, his own city.

God will reward us for our service to Him. Some Christians enjoy better material blessings in this life than others. However, our real reward is not here on earth (John 14:2). Just as Joshua trusted God and was faithful in service, so must we continue to be faithful believers. Finally, in Glory, we will have a wonderful home - forever!

Joshua 20:1-9

At present provision has to be made on earth for the sins that men commit. The cities of refuge were one such provision . There will not be any need for such provisions in heaven. Revelation 21:4 gives the reason: there will never be any tears in heaven because death, sorrow, crying, pain and other undesirable ills that we have on earth do not exist there! Hallelujah!

Luke 19:28-48

Jesus, as prophesied, rode into Jerusalem sitting on a donkey, to the adulation of the people, including a 'multitude of His disciples' (v.37). Some Christians believe that the crowd that praised Him as He rode into Jerusalem was the same crowd baying for His blood at His trial. I question that a crowd that included many of His disciples could be so fickle. If His disciples ran away at His arrest then, logically, the 'multitude' did likewise. It was a crowd that followed the priests that clamoured for Him to die.

My Point: I have heard preachers say it was the same crowd. We need to read the Scriptures with care! The priests who studied the scriptures misread them, ending up by crucifying the Messiah!

Psalm 88:1-18

This is another prayer uttered in desperation. I'm sure that, at one time or another, whether for healing of someone in spiritual, physical or mental danger, we have felt the same way as the psalmist. It takes much seeking after God (Matthew 6:33) to reach the point where we trust Him so completely that, no matter what happens to us or our loved ones, we believe He is doing what is best for us. It is an objective worth pursuing.

Proverbs 13:12-14

Here's a kind of paraphrase:

  • v.12: it gives a good feeling when we achieve goals. However,

  • v.13: some goals, for example the pursuit of wealth, do not bring happiness; those who believe God's Word will know this.

  • v.14. Good teaching about God's Word, for example that He wants to save us, will help us to find God and the joy He gives.

Devotion Thoughts - 18/04/2011

Joshua 17:1-18

Neither of the tribes of Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh, drove the Canaanites completely out of their land. Although they served the Israelites, the Canaanites' worship of idols affected the Israelites adversely. An analogy: if Canaan represents our spirit, and the Canaanites the carnal nature within us that drive us to sin, vigilance is needed against that ever-present, sinful nature. If not kept under control it will cause us to sin.

By God's command (Joshua 17:4) the daughters of Zelophehad were given equal status with the men, indicating that women should have equality with men in Christian (or any other) society. Although there are verses in the Bible that could be construed as teaching that women are inferior to men (as well as verses that imply the opposite!), we should never confuse function and status. Women had equal opportunity in Israelite society. That is why married females could be judges in Israel (Judges 4:4; 2Chronicles 34:22) and prophetesses (Acts 21:9) in the early church.

That some societies treat women as inferior points to a lack of obedience to what God intended. He is consistent, so there is no way He would agree to differing treatment for women in different societies.

Joshua 18:1-28

The first worship centre for the Tabernacle was Shiloh. The remaining division of Israel was by lot. Many believe in 'chance' or 'luck'. But when it comes to the lot by which many matters were decided in Israel, I believe that God 'spoke' through the lot. That is how Achan was caught (Joshua 7:14). So the division of the land was by a lot influenced by God, as is the great events in history (for example Jeremiah51:11). That is why I don't believe gambling is a 'chance' thing. God uses them to direct or test us.

Luke 19:1-27

Zacchaeus, a sinner, went out of his way to meet Jesus. Because of his determination he succeeded and became a changed person, as do all who sincerely seek after God. He was a Jew, but that does not mean automatic salvation. Convicted of sin, part of which was stealing (taken by false accusation - v.8), and realising that money was neither the key to happiness nor a sign of God's favour, he was ready to make restitution. Jesus said of him that he was now a saved man (v.9). That is how to get right with God!

Then Jesus follows up with a parable that contains the message that God gives His servants the necessary abilities to honour Him with diligent service. When they apply themselves He is ready to reward them. For those who don't apply themselves there will be no reward.

Psalm 87:1-7

Nothing escapes the notice of God; He knows everything about each one of us from before we were born; in fact, from before He made the universe! Think about it. Given that God does not waste His time, the fact that He chooses to take notice of us has to be very encouraging. Say 'Hallelujah'!

Proverbs 13:11

'Wealth gathered by vanity' could refer to money made through any special employment, such as the entertainment industry. The huge wealth earned by some singers virtually overnight can be frittered away in drugs and alcohol.

Living for self is a vanity choice, and none of the wealth gained will follow into the next life.

Following the Lord will mean a lifetime of daily service, but the rewards that will definitely be gained are heavenly and out of this world!

Devotion Thoughts - 17/04/2011

Deut 15:1-63

The boundaries for the tribes were clearly delineated. In some cases, as for Caleb, the tribe or clan had still to drive out the Canaanites who lived there. As for the Jebusites who lived at Jebus (the earlier name for Jerusalem), they clung there until defeated by David.

Believers also have to fight for their place in heaven (John 14:3), but this fight takes place here on earth before we die, and is against spiritual, not earthly, foes (Ephesians 6:12). Jesus has a home waiting for us, adding that He will come back for us and take us to live there. All we need to do for it to happen is to trust Him.

Luke 18:18-43

Jesus did not say He was not good; He simply stated that only God is good. The point He made was that no man is good; all are sinners, even those who thought they kept all the commandments. Two commandments are implied in the Ten Commandments: love for God; and, love for neighbours.

Paul wrote that the love of money causes sin (1 Timothy 6:10). Because the rich young ruler loved his money, he neither kept all the commandments (as he thought) nor did he love God and his (poor) neighbour. Take care how we rate ourselves, for we might also be falling short of God's demands.

Many prayers are too vague, such as, 'Lord, have mercy on me'. With God we must be specific. It is not enough to hope that God will 'have mercy' at the Judgment; we must ask Him to forgive our sins and be our Saviour. That request will be granted, and we will then not have to fear the Judgment!

Psalm 86:1-17

David could refer to himself as holy because, with all his heart, he called on God daily for forgiveness, and wanted God to teach him to walk in truth.

If we are as determined and passionate as David was in seeking to live for God we will also be people 'after God's own heart' (1 Sam 13:14; Acts 13:22).

Proverbs 13:9-10

Put another way: righteousness shall reign and wickedness shall be stamped out. Pride makes us fight for our 'rights'; it is about self-righteousness, not righteousness.

Devotion Thoughts - 16/04/2011

Joshua 13:1-33 and Joshua 14:1-15

God knew that if the inhabitant's of Canaan were not wiped out they would become a problem for Israel. At the end of Joshua's life much of Canaan was still unconquered because the fighting had stopped. The unconquered nations began mingling with the Israelites, influencing them away from God.

God wants us to defeat the carnal (sin prone) nature within us; if not defeated (as is the case with many believers) this nature continues to fight against the control of our lives that should be given to the Holy Spirit.

Joshua did not hesitate to give Caleb the land promised to him by Moses. As Christians, we are also to make good on promises we make.

Luke 18:1-17

After much importuning for justice, an earthly judge might give it, albeit reluctantly, if only to save himself from ongoing hassles. God, however, willingly and quickly sees to it that His chosen ones receive justice, even when it appears questionable that they have the faith to believe for it.

We must take care to not have a superior attitude towards others. A simple, childlike faith and attitude will please God.

Psalm 85:1-13

The psalmist reminds the Lord of previous occasions when He restored backslidden Israel. He pleads once again for restoration, ending on a note of optimism that God will hear, and restore them.

For backslidden believers restoration starts with the acknowledgment that they have sinned, followed by a request for God to forgive, the final stage being a firm faith in God's promise that He will restore them.

Proverbs 13:7-8

For their own purposes, many around us are deceivers.

Devotion Thoughts - 15/04/2011

Joshua 11:1-23

It's amazing! Although Jabin heard how God had helped Israel to conquer their enemies, he still tried to get together allies to help him fight against Israel. In spite of the blessings God gives to believers, others who see the blessings - family, friends, acquaintances - sometimes still choose to resist Him.

The only enemies of Israel who survived were the Gibeonites (v.19). So here we see three kinds of people: those who resist God completely (like Jabin and allies); those who believe He is God but still prefer their way of life (like the Gibeonites); and believers who face life by trusting in the strength of the Lord (like Joshua and the Israelites)!

Joshua 12:1-24

The parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16) states that the rich man 'opened his eyes in Hades and saw Lazarus with Abraham enjoying heaven'. Sadly, the kings who fought against Israel will be amongst those in 'torment'.

Jesus taught that 'few' will be on the highway to heaven (Matthew 7:14). Those unwilling to confess their sins and be cleansed will not be allowed to carry unconfessed sin into heaven, so will spend eternity in Hades.

Luke 17:11-37

We must always remember to thank God for answers to prayers.

The Kingdom of God is where God the King is. He indwells believers, so His Kingdom is within us!

It is up to us to allow God to fully reign from within us, as is His right. As believers filled with God we don't have to run around looking for signs and wonders; right where we are we're in fellowship with God! What's more, with God indwelling us, we don't have to worry about being taken by surprise at His return. He will prepare us for it!

Psalm 84:1-12

The psalmist wrote: 'O Lord of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in You!' (v.12). Having committed his life into God's care he is enabled to write about a life enjoyed in God's presence; a life that even makes otherwise bad situations feel good (v.6)!

Proverbs 13:5-6

Those who tend towards sinfulness will ultimately be undone by it; but those who habitually choose the way of righteousness will automatically do what is right under trial, ensuring God's pleasure at their blameless behaviour. In preparation for the Judgment, the practice of righteous living is to be recommended!

Devotion Thoughts - 14/04/2011

Joshua 9:3-27

'There are many deceivers come into the world...' How can we detect them? Don't do what Joshua and his elders did - they relied on their own abilities! The result? The Gibeonites deceived them. They worshipped idols, but that did not stop them from speaking about 'the name of the Lord' for their own ends. We can know deceivers 'by their fruits' - sometimes too late. When we are not sure about something, we must wait on the Lord to reveal the truth. This takes patience.

Joshua 10:1-43

Having been duped into accepting responsibility for the Gibeonites, the Israelites were obliged to protect them against their enemies. We can also be duped into having to fulfill obligations that we should not have taken on in the first place. Thankfully, even when we make mistakes, God can turn it to our good. The destruction of the Gibeonites' enemies required a miracle in the form of the sun being stayed for 'about' a whole day.

When we are obeying God's orders He will give us success (v.42), no matter how daunting the obstacles.

Luke 16:19-31

There are a number of lessons to be learned from this parable, especially about eternity. But one salient lesson stands out, the one encapsulated in v.31: "If they do not listen to God's Word ('Moses and the Prophets') then they will not be convinced [about God and the Good News of salvation] even if someone returned from the dead". The Bible, the Word of God, contains all we need to know about being right with God. If we don't heed its message we, like the rich man, will also end up in torment.

Luke 17:1-10

In these verses, the Lord gives his disciples and hearers some common sense about being in God's good books: do not cause anyone to sin; no matter how many times people sin against you, forgive them every time they repent; believe it or not, every one of us has enough faith to become great achievers in life; and, don't ever kid yourself into thinking that you have done your share for God!

Psalm 83:1-18

What's new about Israel's enemies trying to wipe them out (v.4)? That Arab nations are at it again shows that:

  1. They are not led by the Almighty God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, for God will not fight against Himself. Therefore Allah is not God.

  2. Almighty God is Israel's Protector; they are His people; which is why, for all their bluster, Israel's enemies have not wiped them out.

Proverbs 13:4

In the approximately 1000 years that the Arabs ruled Palestine the place was unproductive. With Israel re-established as a state, the land has blossomed. This not only shows them to be diligent, it also confirms that God is blessing the land of Israel because He promised it to them.

Devotion Thoughts - 13/04/2011

Joshua 7:16-26

Covetousness was Achan's undoing; we must never allow it to control us. Covetousness can happen unconsciously, for example, when we are struggling financially and envy the material well-being we see others enjoying. Paul controlled covetousness by learning contentment no matter what his circumstances (Phil 4:11) . If we remember that:

  1. everything - including power, status, wealth, health - will be left behind when we leave this life; and

  2. God is waiting to reward us for our service to Him;

then covetousness will be less of a problem.

Joshua 9:1-2

Once we have dealt with sin in our lives, God gives us victory where we previously tasted defeat. Thank God for those victories.

Psalm 82:1-8

God wants us to be just in all our dealings with men. Let us not disappoint Him!

Proverbs 13:2-3

We must be circumspect in our speech, for we cannot be held responsible for things we have not said!

Devotion Thoughts - 12/04/2011

Joshua 5:1-15

Circumcision was a reminder of God's covenant; this sign had to be on all the males before the people entered the Promised Land. They honoured God by their obedience, so He honoured them by causing the Amorite kings to be afraid upon hearing about the great things He had done for the people.

A good way to remember the great things God can do for us is by reading our Bibles and memorizing verses that have special meaning for us!

Joshua 6:1-27

Marching around a city to make its walls collapse doesn't seem possible. Sometimes we do feel that way about some things we believe God is asking us to do; if that is how His blessings will be ours then why argue with Him? 'With God all things are possible' should be our motto.

Joshua 7:1-15

John Donne coined the phrase, 'No man is an island unto himself'. Whatever we do impacts on someone somewhere. This chapter details how one Israelite man's covetousness led to defeat and death for others, including his own family. Just because God is not visible does not mean that He does not see my secret activities. With the wicked, God either acts against them immediately or leaves it until the Judgment Day.

It is a different story with believers; He always acts in this life, sometimes immediately, sometimes taking longer.

Luke 15:1-32

Jesus' parables provide clues as to how God feels regarding certain issues. In this parable about the lost sheep, Jesus reminds us that God (in heaven) rejoices when a lost sinner repents and returns to Him. He does not rejoice alone - He wants the whole of Creation to share His joy! This is borne out in Phil 1:6 and 2:13 where God is active in our lives, 'cleaning out the mess so that He can bless' (one of my poetic lines), making us pure, holy people by the time Judgment takes place. The Parable of the Prodigal Son supports this idea. Only when he had lost everything is the prodigal ready to return humbly to his father. The father is cognisant of the sons remorse; that is all the prodigal needed to do to obtain forgiveness. God is always keen to cleanse away our bad habits, and will leave us wallowing in the results of our sin until we repent and return to Him!

Psalm 81:1-16

We actually encourage ourselves when we sing God's praises. The psalmist believes we have good reason to praise God: in heaven, all the trials of this life will be over; God will have defeated His (and our) enemies; and we will forever be enjoying the good life prepared by God for us.

Proverbs 13:1

It is almost impossible to get dogmatic, self-opinionated people to admit they are wrong about certain issues. It is a sign of immaturity, accompanied by an unwillingness to accept instruction or correction. This was the attitude of the scribes, Pharisees and Sanhedrin towards Jesus.

Devotion Thoughts - 11/04/2011

Joshua 3:1-17

We have not passed through life before (v.4); but our God knows the past, present and future. The best thing we can do for ourselves is to leave our future in His hands, and become seekers after sanctification (v.5). Whatever obstacles lie ahead (v.15) God will take care of them, making a way through life for us.

Joshua 4:1-24

It is helpful to have reminders about the wonderful things Almighty God has done for us (v.5-7). That was the idea behind the magnificent cathedrals with spires that pointed to heaven.

I can rightly expect the Lord to 'dry up' the problem rivers along my life's journey, provided I am following the road He has told me to.

Luke 14:7-35

If I am smart I will be the least in any company I am with. That way, I imitate my Saviour Who made Himself the least amongst His disciples by washing their feet (John 13:5). I see that God loves the humble, but rejects the arrogant and haughty (v.11). By extrapolation, I should rather give food to those in poor circumstances than throw a feast for my rich friends and neighbours to impress them. They cannot reward me in eternity, but God can and will reward me at the Judgment for caring about those who can't pay me back.

The rest of the chapter is about using God's type of common sense. Humbling myself and looking after the needy is what He regards as a common sense lifestyle! (See also: 1Peter 5:6).

Psalm 80:1-19

Asaph (the writer) acknowledges that God has the right to punish the people for their sin. He ends with the request that God step in and 'turn' the people [back to Himself] again. If we know that we have sinned and are in trouble with God, then the smartest thing we can do is ask Him to help us get back on track. He will do that gladly!

Proverbs 12:27-28

Do you want to live forever? Then live for God!

Devotion Thoughts - 10/04/2011

Deut 34:1-12

How many of us can lead over two million people through a desert for forty years successfully? Moses did when He obeyed God. So what must I do to also be successfully used by God? Surrender to Him all there is of me!

Joshua 1:1-18

When God chooses a servant He equips him with all that he needs for the job (vv.5, 9). He will not do less than that for us (Phil 4:19; 1 John 2:27). It is up to us to act upon His promises and go forward as He wants us to.

Joshua 2:1-24

The Lord gives us help from the most unlikely sources. A prostitute, Rahab, believed in the 'God of heaven' (v.11). Her fear of the invisible God of Israel was greater than her fear of the present and very visible king of Jericho, which is why she risked her all to protect the two spies. That is how my faith must operate, fearing and trusting God more than I do any man.

Luke 13:22-35

It is not enough to know about Jesus, or even to have heard His words. We must have a personal relationship with Him if we don't want Him to reject us at the Judgment.

Luke 14:1-6

Jesus had a practical ministry: meet the needs of the individuals ASAP without allowing obscure points of the law to delay or prevent the healing from taking place.

Psalm 79:1-13

Even though God seems to be allowing us to be punished, He is still the only one we can call upon for help!

Proverbs 12:26

There is the saying that if you want to be successful you must mix with successful people. So, if we want to live righteous lives we must seek the company of righteous people. Who are the righteous? 'By their fruits you will know them' (Matt 7:16).

Devotion Thoughts - 09/04/2011

Deut 33:1-29

Moses mentions how God is going to bless the tribes in specific ways.

We, too, need to pray specifically for people. General prayers are a cop-out. Why? Because general prayers ('Lord, bless the Chinese people') might or might not be answered, so we can't tell if we are failures or not. By praying for specific answers we will know if God is answering our prayers or not. To become a prayer warrior, I must accept the challenge of praying for specifics, and expecting answers.

Luke 13:1-21

Death is inevitable ('ye shall all likewise perish'), unless the Lord comes first. However, the manner of death (accident, torture, sickness, old age) differs. We need to be ready for death by knowing that we are God's children.

The Lord gives us plenty of time and opportunity to be fruit bearers.

As for becoming members of His Kingdom, a little bit of faith will get us there!

Psalm 78:65-72

To say that 'the Lord awoke as from sleep' is clearly poetic language, for God never sleeps. It is about God getting involved in our troubles when He thinks it is time to do so. And that time will be the best time for the purpose of making us grow spiritually.

Proverbs 12:25

There are many people walking around with heavy hearts. If we come across one, it is an opportunity to give out a cheery word!

Devotion Thoughts - 08/04/2011

Deut 32:28-52

Any nation where the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is not consulted and worshipped is a 'nation void of counsel' with 'no understanding'. They do not realise that God is using them to teach His chosen people a lesson, and will punish them when their usefulness is ended. God's objective is to get His people, the Israelites, right with Himself again.

The song ended, Moses advises the people to remember the words of it. That done, God tells him to prepare to die.

On spiritual matters, God is doing for individual believers what He has been doing for nation Israel; He has the power to build us up (v.39), and to use us for His glory. By letting Him have His way with me I ensure that I will also enter the 'Promised Land' that awaits every believer.

Psalm 78:56-64

After they had entered Canaan and conquered the inhabitants, the Israelites set up the tent at Shiloh as instructed. There the nation worshipped God to begin with. Gradually, however they again started worshipping idols. It was going to take some serious lessons before they learned to worship God only. It was only after returning from captivity in Babylon that they began to worship God as He wanted.

As for the nation of Israel, so for the individual believer. We sometimes have to go through serious trials before we learn that it makes better sense to surrender our lives completely to God. It is so much less hassle to surrender to Him without trying to also enjoy a worldly life.

Proverbs 12:24

Christians should always be prepared to do a decent day's work to earn their daily bread. That's what of us Jesus wants to see when He returns. Let us not disappoint Him - or ourselves!

Devotion Thoughts - 07/04/2011

Deut 31:1-30

Although still in reasonable health, Moses knew that his death was imminent, so he shares his last thoughts with the difficult people he had led for forty years. For Christians facing an unknown and probably very difficult future there can be no better advice than what Moses gave the people in v. 6: 'Be strong etc...'. And the same advice is good for individuals as in v.8. It is good to know that, once we have committed the future to the Lord, we can step out in confident faith. This was to be taught regularly and to coming generations.

Although Israel had been given God's covenant, He Who knows the future knew that the people were going to stray after Moses died. To help them remember His commandments God taught Moses a song that he was to teach the people. While they might not read the Law regularly, they certainly would know the song!

Deut 32:1-27

This was the song Moses taught the people. Throughout His relationship with Israel God was busy teaching and instructing them (v.10 ff).

[NOTE: If God instructed such a huge number of people simultaneously, it is reasonable to suppose that He also taught Adam and Eve all they needed to know about life and living.]

The song stresses the punishment in store for those who ignored God and made a point of worshipping idols.

So why did God not wipe Israel out altogether? There is a clue in v.27. If God had wiped out Israel by using their enemies then the enemies would believe that it was by their own power that they wiped out Israel. God wanted to make it clear that He helped their enemies by foretelling the consequences of Israel's disobedience, their downfall, in the song.

Luke 12:8-34

Here Jesus encourages us to witness for Him. When we do He, in turn, will tell the Father that we belong to Him. I believe this is what Christians will do, even if, when challenged, they can only say: 'I am a Christian'. I also believe that those who don't witness for Jesus when challenged are not Christians; which is why Jesus will reject them in the Father's presence.

When I was a senior at school I came to use the name of Jesus as a swear word. I'm not proud of that, but I do know that I have been forgiven, for that is the meaning of 'everyone who speaks against the Son of Man will be forgiven [after confession, of course]' (v.10). So when I hear others, including actors in movies, using the name of Jesus wrongly (it does not say 'blasphemously' in the Greek) I know I can still, and feel I must, pray for their salvation. But it is futile to pray for those who blaspheme the Holy Spirit [belittle the Holy Spirit and His work]. But God is so gracious in this respect. Many a time I have heard the name of Jesus 'spoken against' (probably Paul the Apostle did as well until his Damascus Road encounter with Jesus), but rarely have I heard anything blasphemous said against the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, as our Teacher, will know who will be saved and who will not be. He must be the One Who ensures that we never speak blasphemously against the Holy Spirit.

Jesus warns against covetousness, telling a couple of parables that highlight that God is against it. The lesson is: only fools are materialistic enough to leave God out of their lives (v.21). Paul was right to suggest that we should 'learn' to be content with or without' material goods (Phil 4:11,12). There is more to life than material things. Jesus recommends the pursuit of a place in God's Kingdom as being the best employment for us to engage in (v.31).

Psalm 78:32-55

The psalmist bemoans the fact that in spite of seeing all God's wonders and miracles and having Him to lead them in the cloud by day and the fire by night, they still disobeyed Him (v.32). It seems that there was a 'yo-yo' effect going on: sometime sinning - getting punished - asking forgiveness - being restored - sometime sinning .... ad infinitum. Wow! It is so much easier to simply obey the Lord!

In a similar way, Christians also have a yo-yo spiritual life. One day we are on fire - the next day we do something wrong - we confess - are on fire - do something wrong - confess - on fire .... So what's the answer? It took me many years to realise that I must see myself as a slave of God with no rights - but knowing that God loves me and is committed to my well-being, wanting me to have the best possible - so leave everything (my needs, my future etc) to Him (See Isa_43:25). Sounds simple, but it will take everything we are made of to be obedient to God's will for us (as written in His Word!).

Proverbs 12:21-23

The basic message does not change: blessings for the just; bad times for the unjust. This, indeed, is part of the message of the Bible. The purpose is to show us how we cannot save ourselves; we must live holy lives to please God, yet we cannot live holy lives without God's help.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Devotion Thoughts - 06/04/2011

Deut 29:1-29

In this additional covenant with the Israelites when at Moab (the first was at Horeb), Moses starts off by reminding them of God's great deliverance from Egypt, providing for them through the forty years of wandering, victory in battles and their imminent crossing over into the Promised Land. Now he tells them that they must enter into a 'sworn covenant' (v.12) with God. This is a one-sided covenant in that, while there is a higher power (God) that we can swear by, there is no higher power than God, Who must swear by Himself! And, although the covenant is 'one-sided' it is a covenant that will benefit Israel in every way with the usual proviso that they honour God, not just overtly, but also covertly.

In the New Testament we find that God has made just such a covenant with every person who will take advantage of it with heart and soul and mind and strength and become one of His obedient believers whose sins have been washed in the blood of Jesus Christ. It is not only in one verse but in many, but I have selected just two to show what I mean. Bearing in mind that God is Almighty, and nothing is impossible for Him; He therefore has the power to do far more than we could ever ask or think (Ephesians 3:20). So here's one of the verses of the, again one-sided, covenant God has made with us:

'Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, then everything you have NEED of in life [including everlasting life] will be given to you'

That's a great promise! Here's my favourite:

'For God loved the world [man] so much that He gave His only Son [to die on the cross for our sins] so that whoever believes in Him shall not die [spiritually] but shall enjoy everlasting life [in God's Kingdom]'

You can't ask for better than that ... ever!

Deut 30:1-20

What if Israel screwed up and God had to punish them, even to the point of sending them into captivity in other nations (which did happen)? Well, there is a way back to God: they had to confess that they had sinned and turn away from a life of sin (very important). God would then forgive them and restore them to fellowship with him again. As always, the key to receiving God's blessings is to do what He wants, which translates into living a holy life.

The Apostle John wrote a verse that sums up what God wanted of Israel. The verse is found in his first letter, chapter one, and verse 9:

'If we confess our sins, He [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness'.

Note the 'all'. Think about this: far from being a nasty accuser (that's Satan's job) our Father God WANTS to forgive all who sincerely repent of their sins and want to sin no more!

Why wait? Fellowship with God can be yours - the sooner the better!

Luke 11:37-54

Jesus was never one for tokenism. The basic lesson He teaches here is that having a clean body externally will never get us into heaven if we are full of vileness in our spirits. Also, doing visible acts that give others the impression that we live holy lives will not fool God, Who looks upon what is in our hearts; bad attitudes will not get past Him.

The scribes and Pharisees refused to view themselves in the light of what Jesus said about them; what He said was, in any case, based on the laws from Moses which they were supposed to live by.

Nowadays, with a better understanding of God's commandments, I am only too willing to have the Holy Spirit (and friends and family) point out spiritual shortcomings in me. There is no way I want to fall short of what He wants of me. Besides, He has offered to help me get it right.

Luke 12:1-7

Jesus tells the disciples that one day (Judgment) everything - good, bad, and ugly - about every person who ever lived will be revealed. On that day the wrath of God will be poured out on those who rejected Him and His Son, Jesus. Man cannot hurt a dead body, but God can throw that same dead person into hell. Jesus then portrays the loving side of His Father in verses 6 and 7, encouraging His hearers to fear God and be blessed by Him, rather than be rejected by Him forever. That makes a whole lot of sense!

Psalm 78:1-31

Asaph states that he is sharing matters that will help coming generations in Israel to know about God, His mighty deeds, His covenant with Jacob, and why they should set their hopes in Him. As always, he stresses that it is vital to keep the commandments of God in order to enjoy His blessings. He reminds the people that those who rebelled in the desert journeyings, who did not obey God, who doubted Him despite seeing His great miracles, were punished.

If we believe the Bible is God's word to us then we must take it to heart and obey whatever God says we must do. That is His way of blessing.

Prov 12:19-20

Here is a hint of what will happen at the Judgment. Those who choose to lie and deceive will be cast into the Lake of Fire (Rev 20:15) where they will never again be heard by those dwelling in God's Kingdom. As for the righteous who always speak truth and seek after peace, they will be using their lips in Glory to praise God. They will 'endure forever', sharing the joy of all believers as they glorify Him forever. (Rev 7:15-17).

Devotion Thoughts - 05/04/2011

Deut 28:1-68

If Israel rose to the challenge and honoured the Lord in every way, then He will honour them by raising them above every other nation in the world. I believe Satan sees this as an affront; he is determined to bring Israel down so that God will have 'failed'. I see the Muslim nations as pawns of Satan in the way they wage a constant war (jihad) against Israel. (The Muslim war against Christians is also inspired by Satan who wants to derail the worship of Jesus). Satan knows that God plans to bless Israel, His chosen people (and born again Christians who will be praising God in glory. I differentiate between the true, 'born again' Christians and those who are Christians in name only). Knowing that he is going to be cast into the Lake of Fire when his time is up, Satan is currently doing his utmost to discredit God.

The blessings on Israel will continue as long as they obey God (vv. 13,14), whereas disobedience will result in Israel losing out (v.15ff.). This applies to Christians, too!

Luke 11:14-36

I have had many encounters with those who, with a limited or no knowledge and understanding of the Bible, have the cheek to present arguments about the Bible as if they know it all. Here Jesus encounters a group of such. Plain common sense makes it clear that their argument- that Satan is casting out (his own) demons - is nonsensical. Jesus points out that either we are for Him, or we are against Him. To put it bluntly (v.23), if our actions and words convince people around us that we are born again believers, then we are serving God; otherwise, we are not!

In the mid-sixties I became a backslider. It started when I began to slow down in my witnessing for Jesus. One morning I woke up feeling as if I had lost out completely. It was to be six years before I was revived. Since then I have not wavered in my witnessing for Jesus. I received no special signs to keep me going; just the presence of the Lord within me, assuring me of the trustworthiness of the Bible. That is enough; I gladly tell others that Jesus was serious when He said that the only sign we will have will be that of the prophet Jonah (v.29). Just as he was in the belly of the big fish, technically 'dead', so Jesus lay dead in the grave for three days before rising to life again. Those who, by their faith, believe that He died for their sins and rose from the dead, and accept Him as Lord and Saviour are justified by God.

Psalm 77:1-20

One can sympathise with Asaph as he feels the need to shout aloud to get God to 'hear' him. I sometimes feel like that myself, when answers are long in coming. But I am aware that God hears 'the faintest whisper of my heart'. Those who cannot speak aloud but can lift up their hearts in adoration or supplication will be 'heard' by God.

When it seems that God is not listening, we need to do as Asaph did: remember the many blessings the Lord has given in the past, not only to us, but to friends and family, and to those mentioned in the Bible. By His great power, God can heal the sick, raise the dead, breathe new life into our spirits, and revive us. But His main purpose in His dealings with us is to prepare us to spend eternity with Him. If this requires that He thump us around until we get rid of certain bad habits, so be it. He knows what He is doing for us; trust Him! All will eventually be made clear!

Prov 12:18

I have a choice. I can say 'what I like' and cause pain, or I can use carefully chosen words that are helpful to the hearer, whatever his attitude towards me. The choice, as I said earlier, is mine. Which choice will please God more?

Personal note

Woke up feeling out of sorts. For the first time in months I am feeling dizzy. I must accept that I am no longer 21 - that was 50 years ago! But I am thankful that I can still move around, have no real ailments to be concerned about or that cause major problems. 'These things are sent to try us' is true; we face daily tests to see if we will praise God no matter what. And I certainly do praise God for daily provision of all my needs (for Merle and self). I do not have the broad perspective that God operates in: seeing Past, Present and Future simultaneously and integrating all that must happen between man and man, and between nation and nation. But I do know one thing: God teaches us in His Word that all 'these calamities' will one day pass, and I will then, as a born-again believer, 'dwell in the house of the Lord forever'. Therefore, whatever happens to me today must be seen against the backdrop of eternity. That way, I certainly can live out the words of 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 to 'Rejoice evermore; pray without ceasing; in all things give thanks', knowing that this is what God wants me to do in spite of the trials and temptations that might come my way today.

Devotion Thoughts - 04/04/2011

Deut 26:1-19

Instruction is given as to what to do about the first fruits that will be harvested in the land they are about to enter. It includes praise to God for having built up Israel from one small family into a great nation while in Egypt, and how God delivered them from slavery. Praise and thanks were to be given to God for bringing them into such a wonderful land. It was important that all such praise and thanks be given with a good heart. In return God is going to bless them above all other nations.

Deut 27:1-26

Moses (through the elders) gave God's instructions on how the people were to build an altar and make sacrifices on it to God. Then Moses (through the Levitical priests) gave the good news that the people of Israel were now the people of God. They were set apart for God - unlike all other nations - and were to obey all His laws. Once again the people are reminded of the sort of laws that must be kept.

Lesson: I believe that through His dealings with Israel God planned to teach all other nations about Himself. Thinking about it logically: it is far easier to concentrate new teaching on an individual or small group, and for them to teach other small groups, than it is to try to teach everyone at once. That is also how 'through Abraham' shall all nations be blessed.

Luke 10:38-42

For me the lesson is: seize every opportunity to spend time with the Lord, letting Him speak to me through His word, through meditation on His wonderful love.

Luke 11:1-13

I see the lesson as: if God lays on your heart a specific matter to pray for, don't stop praying for it. Sooner or later answers will come. I know I have 'failed' at times, giving up praying for such specific things, only to find them laid on my heart again. For those who earnestly seek to have the Holy Spirit indwell them God will give it.

Psalm 76:1-12

Asaph writes this song in which he marvels at how God, the Almighty God, chose to live in Jerusalem; that they, of all the nations, should have a real, powerful God amongst them, unlike other nations where useless idols are worshipped. He ends this song with a recommendation that all men should bring gifts to Him and praise Him Who is to be feared by the mightiest of men.

Prov 12:15-17

Quite correctly, the writer sees that fools always think they know better than others; a wise man, however, will take advice. Fools are lacking in tolerance and react instantly to opposition, whereas a thoughtful man responds with careful deliberation. A truthful man is reliable, but a liar cannot be trusted. The lesson for us is to choose carefully the company we keep.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Devotion Thoughts - 03/04/2011

Deut 23:1-25

These rules seem harsh, applying up to the tenth generation. God must have felt very strongly against the Ammonites and Moabites if they were not to be prayed for. As for Edomites and Egyptians, only from their third generation were descendants allowed to worship with the Israelites. There were also special wartime hygiene rules to observe so that the camp of the Israelites remained holy, allowing God to walk in their midst and fight for them against their enemies. A close look at the rules given for social practices reveals that they are an amplification of the Ten Commandments, the basis for sound community living in Israel. For example: worshipping God leaves no place for cult practices.

Thankfully, it's a wonderful new world! Since Jesus sacrificed Himself on the cross for mankind, anyone who confesses to being a sinner, even the most wicked amongst us, and receives Him as Saviour is acceptable to the Father!

Deut 24:1-22

Further rules, that have a basic foundation in the Ten Commandments, are enumerated, all intended to make for common decency in the community lifestyles. Thinking of the well-being of others plays a significant part in their interpretation of the commandments.

Deut 25:1-19

Humane and decent practices that encourage good social relationships are emphasised. Nations like Amalek that refused to subscribe to such decent practices were to be wiped out.

Luke 10:13-37

Jesus pronounces the end for those that reject His ministry. When the disciples return and tell Him about their successes, He tells them about God's victory over Satan and how His disciples will have even greater power. But they were not to become arrogant or complacent about having such power. Instead, they were to always be grateful that their names were written down in God's Book of Life.

As for who our neighbour is, Jesus gives a parable in which it becomes clear that anyone in need is our neighbour. Those who thought themselves righteous and not in need of help (Matthew 9:13) are not our 'neighbours' in the sense conveyed by the parable.

Psalm 75:1-10

A song written by Asaph.

He starts by praising God, then says what he imagines what God would say about not being proud or arrogant. He then tells how only God has the power to pass judgment. For this reason He alone is worthy of our praise.

Prov 12:12-1

Again the theme is about the blessings of God that will be upon those who practice an industrious and righteous lifestyle, as opposed to the troubles that will overtake the wicked.

Devotion Thoughts - 02/04/2011

Deut 21:1-23

More rules given with regard to social responsibilities. Those who were crucified were to be buried that same evening, so it was necessary that they die before nightfall. So it was that the legs of the two thieves crucified with Jesus were broken to hasten their death. Jesus, however, was dead already. This was to fulfil the prophesy that His bones were not broken, making Him an acceptable sacrifice for God.

Deut 22:1-30

Social responsibilty included taking care of someone's stray animal if necessary, even if bad blood existed between finder and owner. There was to be no avoiding this responsibility.

Men's and women's clothing differ according to style and cut. Thus both male and female garments can have trouser legs but it is obvious which were designed for men and which for women. A problem arises when men and women deliberately choose to wear clothing obviously designed for the opposite sex.

Lessons in conservation were also taught, so that there was an awareness of the importance of taking care of the future.

Protection was afforded to married women such that if her husband no longer wanted her he could not simply malign her and get away with it; proof of bad character was necessary. Sexual sins were also treated according to strict rules.

Luke 9:51-62

That Jesus 'set His face to go to Jerusalem' shows how determined He was to obey His Father in the matter of sacrificing Himself on the cross. But because He was obviously on a pilgrimage to Jeruslem the Samaritans, who worshipped at Mt. Gerizem, would not help Him on His way.

Notice that James and John asked Jesus if THEY could call fire down from heaven to wipe out the Samaritan village. This indicates a growing awareness of the power that they had from Jesus and the confidence to use it. If the Lord empowers us in any way we should also be ready to use the gifts He gives us. But the gifts must not be used to impress other, but for the good of others. So Jesus rebuked them; it is no wonder He called them 'Sons of Thunder' (Mark 3:17).

To those He called, Jesus offered no great rewards; but the cross His disciples carry will become a crown in Glory, in the same way as Jesus carried His cross and is now seated at the right hand of the Father in Glory.

Luke 10:1-12

The group of followers with Jesus must have been larger than we usually think of, for seventy (seventy-two according to some mss.) were sent out into the country to preach; their support coming from the people they ministered to. We can be sure that if Jesus calls us to a particular ministry and we obey then we will be provided for.

Psalm 74:1-23

Another of Asaph's psalms. Like most believers have done at one time or another, he asks God why He has rejected His own people, why He has allowed those who do not worship Him to destroy the Temple, the symbol of God's Presence. Things are so bad that there is not even a prophet around. The psalmist cannot understand why God has not stepped in to sort out the enemy and to deliver His people. After all, God has the power, having shown His might in the past. He pleads for the Lord to remember the covenant He made with His people, and prays that God will deliver them from defeat and shame. After all, the foes of Israel are also the foes of God. There is no record of a divine deliverance at the end of the psalm. Presumably Asaph would have to wait on God's timing and His planning. That is the same for believers today. We see the enemy - Satan and his demons - spurring anti-Christian and anti-Jewish nations on. It seems that throughout the world God's people are losing out spiritually as fewer people worship in churches. The non-Christian religions are on the march, claiming great gains everywhere. Has God given up on His people?

There is no way that the Omniscient God can ever forget what His people are up against; there is no enemy threat that can ever make the Omnipotent God nervous; and His children - believers who wait on Him for deliverance from their situational difficulties - will never be abandoned by the Omnipresent God.

This is the reality when we read the New Testament, especially the book of Revelation, where we see a picture of the end times. In it, God is victorious over all His and His people's enemies and is sitting on His glorious throne, being worshipped by believers forever.

I have condensed these thoughts into this verse:

'The Lord shall reign forever and ever!

We'll praise His name forever and ever!

Lift up this strain forever and ever:

Jesus Christ is my Lord and King!'

Prov 12:11

This verse reminds me of the one that says: '...if any would not work, neither should he eat ...' (2 Thess 3:10). God laboured for six days to Create the universe and all the life that is in it. Since then He has not stopped serving mankind, or His chosen people. He neither slumbers nor sleeps (Psalm 121:4). We can understand, then, that God is not prepared to help someone who does not want to work.

Devotion Thoughts - 01/04/2011

Deut 18:1-22

In spite of not having any land, the Levitical priests would have all their needs met, for they would receive from the offerings of the people. Again comes the reminder to not follow the sinful practices of the inhabitants of Canaan; such practices were an abomination to the Lord, which is why He was driving them out of the Promised Land. Holiness (blamelessness) is required of us.

Deut 19:1-21

Having previously set up three cities of refuge in the Israelite lands east of the Jordan, the Lord now appointed three cities of refuge in Canaan. They would benefit only those with a genuine case of accidental killing.

Luke 9:28-50

Peter, James and John were given an opportunity to see something of Jesus' glory when He was visited by Moses and Elijah. God spoke from heaven, saying how pleased He was with His Son, and that the disciples were to pay attention to what He said. Men are still required to 'pay attention' today. If they choose not to listen to Jesus they will lose out, for there is no other way to please God and make it into heaven.

That Jesus expected his disciples to be able to heal is clear. When the disciples were sent out they preached the Kingdom and healed the sick as in v.2. It seems we should all be used for healing, but somehow we don't try to. But it is not by our own power that we minister; God's power works through us. We surely can allow God to bring healing through us - if we have the faith!

We should never argue against those who serve Jesus according to His Word, even if they are not 'with us'. If God chooses to use them, so be it! I have only one question by which I can know whether or not a person is saved: 'Has that person trusted in Jesus alone for salvation?' If so, then he or she is a born again believer like me!

Psalm 73:1-28

Asaph begins by writing in appreciation about the goodness of God while very aware of his own tendency to sin. He confesses to being envious of those who are prosperous; describing their sins in graphic terms, especially of how they despise God by their attitude. He compares himself to them; of his thinking that to honour God seems futile. But then he spends some time in God's sanctuary. There, in the quietness he has time to reflect and to meet with God. It is then that he becomes aware that the prosperous people who have no time for God will lose out in the end because they have despised One Who can, and will, wipe them out. He then realises that his own thinking about wasting time in worship was ridiculous and ignorant. Once again he acknowledges that God is his all-sufficiency, and will look after him until he goes to heaven.

We are often tempted to think wrong thoughts about God over such earthly issues as material blessings. The trick is to remember that we are passing through this world, and will not be able to take anything from it when we go to heaven.

Prov 12:10

The wicked have no love for their fellow men. The evil leaders of many nations are not slow to torture and kill those who oppose them. As for the righteous, not only do they care for their fellow men but they are also thoughtful towards their animals.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Devotion Thoughts - 31/03/2011

Deut 16:1-22

The Passover: the symbolism of the Passover was extremely important for the people to remember. It was to remind them of the time when, while slaves in Egypt, the Angel of Death flew over the houses. Those that had the blood of the sacrificial splashed on the doorposts were safe from death; those that did not, suffered the death of the eldest son. This prefigured the shedding of the blood of Jesus, the Lamb of God, on Calvary. Those washed in the blood of the Lamb (as in Rev 7:14) will be safe from the spiritual death (separation from God in eternity) that will be the lot of those who reject Jesus as Saviour and Lord.

Also mentioned are two other feasts that were required to be kept:

  • Feast of Weeks - celebrating the harvest the Lord has blessed them with

  • Feast of Booths - remembering the time when the nation dwelt in tents in their wanderings in the desert. (Leviticus 23 has the complete list).

At these feasts, gifts were given according as the giver was able to. Just and impartial judges and officers were to be appointed, and, once again, the people are reminded to avoid idol worship.

Deut 17:1-20

God does not want second rate sacrifices or service; and He alone is to be worshipped. Those who broke this law were to be put to death. Whilst, in our day, we are not likely to be stoned to death if we do not honour God, it is certain that at the Judgment the same assessment as to whether or not we have honoured or dishonoured God will kick in. The criterion will be: did we honour Jesus by appreciating that His death on the cross was for us, and accept Him as our Sinbearer and Saviour? Or did we not believe in what He did for us and so have dishonoured Him? (Obeying or disobeying the Ten Commandments will also indicate whether or not our lives have honoured God). Rules were also made for a king in the event that the people chose to have one.

This reminds me of the saying, 'There is nothing new under the sun' (see Ecclesiastes 1:9). Basically, God's laws have not changed since Creation. To every generation has come the warning to honour God or pay the price. Those who disobeyed under the Old Testament dispensation died immediately (usually stoning), undoubtedly followed by eternal spiritual death. In the Christian era those who have disobeyed (rejected) God's plan of salvation through Jesus Christ will be sentenced to eternal spiritual death at the Judgment.

Luke 9:7-27

Many, including King Herod, wondered who Jesus was. The preaching of the twelve would have attracted a lot of attention. At Bethsaida Jesus was healing and teaching when night was falling. When the disciples came with a logical request - that Jesus send the crowds away so that they can get food for themselves - He challenged them to take the task upon themselves. I believe that Jesus often challenges us to undertake a seemingly impossible task and, like the disciples, we choose to think logically and decide it can't be done. What this means is that we never learn the power of God to help His obedient children through impossible situations successfully and so never learn to rejoice in the power of God at work in our lives. As the saying goes: 'Nothing ventured; nothing gained'.

Moses was told to lead over two million people into the desert, an illogical task if ever there was one. Logistically, even for just one month, there would never be enough food and water for such a large group. But he had learned to obey God and to expect miracles from Him, so he led the people out of Egypt, and God saw to their needs, not just for a few days or weeks, but for forty years! Only by walking with God can we discover what He is able to do; it is a learning experience that develops with commitment to His leading.

Luke mentions the incident where, in answer to Jesus' question, Peter answers that He is 'The Christ of God'. There is no space here to discuss this description except to say that it was never intended that Peter be recognised as the 'rock' on which the church was to be built. All I want to say is that 'Jesus the Christ, the Son of God', is the One on Whom the church will be built.

As for the 'keys to the kingdom', it does not violate the sense of the verse (Matthew 16:18-19) to accept that it was all of the disciples (and their spiritual descendants) who would hold the keys. No New Testament writer credits Peter with having special jurisdiction over them. We must take care to not build our beliefs on isolated verses that are interpreted in a way that does not find support in the light of the rest of scripture.

I once heard this saying: 'To follow Jesus does not take much of a man; but it does take all there is of him'. Very true!

Psalm 72:1-20

'Justice' for the king? 'Righteousness' to the royal son? Have you ever wondered why Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, went off the rails? David possibly prayed this prayer because he could see looming problems for Solomon and his son, Rehoboam, once they ascended the throne. Why should that have been?

Let us look at some of the verses we read earlier in Deuteronomy 17:16-20. Obviously Solomon did not bother with his copy of the law (v.18-20), for he had many horses and wives (1 Kings 11:3), as well as huge amounts of gold and silver (1 Kings 10:21-22). With such blatant disobedience towards God's word by the father, Solomon, we could expect the same from the son, Rehoboam.

As always, after praying for his son and nation, the aging David ends with grateful praise to the God he had worshipped from when he was still a young shepherd boy.

Prov 12:8-9

There are two lessons here:

  • A community will readily detect a man with sense and reject one who is warped in his thinking.

  • A community will also know who is well-to-do and who is not, in spite of the appearance of each individual.

The lesson for us is: 'Don't pretend to be what you are not'.

Devotion Thoughts - 30/03/2011

Deut 13:1-18

God will deliberately test our commitment to Him, but we can be sure that the 'sign' is from Him when it is in line with His commands. Anything that causes us to deviate from following Him with all our might is not from Him. So important was this command that false 'guides', even if they were close family, who suggested worshipping false gods, were to be stoned to death.

Deut 14:1-29

God considered the Israelites to be a special treasure for Himself. They were to be holy, set apart for Him. Christians are 'grafted into' His family ( Romans 11:17), so we must also obey God's commands. However, Jesus brought about a new dispensation (Romans 6:14), so we are not expected to follow the dietary laws laid down at that time (Acts 10:14).

At that time the tithe was to be used for a meal in which the Levites and the needy also shared (v.29). God sees our sharing of our tithes and blesses accordingly.

Deut 15:1-23

All debts between Israelites were cancelled at the end of every seven years, but not those of foreigners living amongst them. Obedience to this command ensured that the nation became prosperous. Israelites who needed financial assistance were to be given it so that there was no poor amongst them. That there would be poor amongst them (v.11) did not mean that they were not to be helped. Such obedient and caring actions will ensure God's blessings. As for sacrifices, only the best will do (v.21); so only our best is good enough for God.

Luke 8:40-56

It is very likely that Jairus felt that Jesus should give urgent attention to his dying daughter. We all go through such situations where we want immediate action from God. What we need to remember is that once we have told God about our problem we should relax in the knowledge that it has become His problem, and He has everything under control. He knows what is needed, but He is also dealing with the problems of many others, as represented by the crowds around Him and the woman who tried to get some attention for herself by pulling on the hem of His robe. Jairus was probably tearing his hair out, something we are inclined to do when God does not jump to our aid. We need to learn patience by waiting on God and trusting Him. No sooner was the woman healed and blessed by Jesus, when word came that Jairus' daughter had died. But Jesus, the God of Creation, assured Jairus that if he believed, she would be fine, which was the case.

The lesson: tell God about your problems; believe that He will sort them out; leave them with Him; and wait for His time for the answers.

Luke 9:1-6

The disciples are sent out to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal. Jesus gave them the necessary power and authority. Likewise, if He calls us to any kind of ministry He will equip us for success in it.

Psalm 71:1-24

God is a secure shelter for all in need because He is Omnipotent. He deserves our praise all day and every day! And, in spite of what it seems like sometimes, He will never forsake us. When we seem to be on our own it is because He is teaching us to live by faith. It is a fact of life that strength and character are built up only when there are trials, not by a life of ease. Learn to praise Him even when it seems we are getting no help from Him; He always has everything under control and, when necessary, will revive us with all the help and guidance we need.

Prov 12:5-7

To sum up these three verses: the righteous will be blessed and the wicked are going to be punished.

Devotion Thoughts - 29/03/2011

Deut 11:1-32

Repeatedly Moses stresses the importance of obeying God's commands; we do well to pay attention! To put it in modern parlance: 'obey and be blessed, or disobey and be bashed!' God's great power means He knows everything about every person; whether to bash or bless. Moses was speaking to those who have seen God's mighty deeds (how else can you describe the feeding of over two million people for forty years without any crops being planted and no infrastructure to get food to everybody?) at first hand (v.7), so should have been able to expect obedience. But he knew that the people were prone to disobedience. Although all they had to do in return for land and blessing was to obey God, they still failed once in the land. The wearing of certain items denoting their faith in God was meant to encourage obedience.

Deut 12:1-32

Again the rules and regulations were explained to the people. The most important one was that only God was to be obeyed. Anything to do with the worship of idols was to be destroyed. God was going to tell them where they were to offer sacrifices to Him; no where else would do. (This culminated on the building of the Temple in Jerusalem, the only place where God accepted sacrifices; only fellowship offerings could be eaten in the towns and villages.)

God's laws were never to be altered by addition or deletion. Jesus found the scribes and Pharisees disobediently 'interpreting' God's laws in whatever way suited them, changing what God intended into what man wanted.

Luke 8:22-39

When Jesus stilled the storm the disciples were stunned. After all, they did not expect that the rabbi Who called them to follow Him was no ordinary man. But Jesus' words: 'Where is your faith?' (v.25) implies that the disciples could have performed the same miracle. How? By believing implicitly that God would answer their prayers. Having laid His glory and power aside when He became a Man for a season, Jesus demonstrated through His life how we are to live lives of faith in God. He did not use any personal divine powers during His earthly ministry. To do His miracles He used the same tools - faith, prayer, belief in the Father's power, and spiritual gifts - as are available to all believers!

In the same way as He stilled the waves, Jesus drove the demons out of the demented man. It is sad that the people of that region preferred to have their pigs back than have Jesus dwell amongst them. However, the formerly demented man was left to witness to the healing power of Jesus. Telling others about the wonderful things God has done for us is what witnessing is about!

Psalm 70:1-5

In the midst of his petitions for God to help him against his enemies, David finds time to praise God before continuing with his appeal. We, too, must not dwell only on our needs, but make a point of praising God for Who He is.

Prov 12:4

An 'excellent wife' will please her husband, but a wife who shames her husband hurts him far more than merely superficially.

Devotion Thoughts - 28/03/2011

Deut 9:1-29
By obeying God’s commands and moving forward we not only defeat real giants and giant problems that are before us, but we also discover God’s power at work in our situations, and enjoy greater blessings (’possess the land’) than if we chose to do nothing. God goes ahead of His people!

But He must get all the glory for any successes; He does not bless us because we are righteous; it may be that He wants to use us to drive out evil in our community. If we are honest, we will acknowledge that we are not so righteous when we look at our track record; how many times have we been disobedient! Thankfully, our gracious God is willing to help us again and again, provided we seriously want to be holy.

Deut 10:1-22
If we break His laws but are repentant and willing to honour Him again, He will give us His laws afresh, as if starting for the first time. For He does forgive our sins!

For those called to special service for the Lord, they might not inherit any earthly wealth but they will inherit the Lord (vv. 9-10). But from all of His people, the Lord wants love, reverence, a healthy fear of Him and obedience (v.12-13). Living for God must become our way of life. (Then we will enjoy His favour.)

Luke 8:4-21
Jesus tells the people the parable of the sower, and also mentions that a light must be placed where it can do the most good. To receive the light (God’s guidance) it is important that we pay attention to what God’s word has to teach us. In this way we become Jesus’ ’mothers and brothers’.

Psalm 69:19-36
David exhibited a very sensitive spirit towards sin in his own life. God called him ’a man after my own heart’ (1 Sam 13:14; Acts 13:22) because of his purposeful seeking after God and God’s will for His life. If we seek God and do His will with the same degree of purpose we will also be men (and women) after God’s own heart.

David sounds very vengeful in this psalm, asking God to deal with his enemies, who he believes are also God’s enemies. Vv. 21 and 26 are prophetic, linked to the suffering of Jesus on the cross.
David is certain that songs of praise please God better than do animal sacrifices; that those who praise Him from their hearts will certainly dwell with Him forever.

Prov 12:2-3
Be righteous and God’s favour is yours; do wickedness and God will condemn you. The choice is ours!

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Devotion Thoughts - 27/03/2011

Deut 7:1-26

Moses reminded the people that God was going to help them conquer the seven nations, each one stronger than Israel, which occupied Canaan. His command was that those nations were to be wiped out completely along with their idols and altars; otherwise, they were likely to lead Israel astray spiritually. God intended that they be a holy people - just as He does for believers now - set aside for Himself, simply because of His great love for them. To be holy required that they obey God's commands. In return, not only would they be holy, but God would bless them abundantly in health, wealth and population growth. Reminding them of how He delivered them from slavery in Egypt was meant to encourage them to face foes in Canaan.

It was also necessary to follow an orderly sequence when casting the enemy nations out of Canaan, so that, for example, wild animals did not overrun the areas left vacant. All idols and altars found were to be destroyed, even the silver and gold of which they were made; God considered all of it profane.

Deut 8:1-20

Prosperity depended upon obedience to God's commands. The most valuable item God's people could possess was His Word. The Israelites learned this through many mistakes and trials. His Word was essential to learning His commands, and forgetting God's commands was as bad as forgetting Him (v.11); token acknowledgement of God without complete obedience to His commands is as good as forgetting Him. Jesus emphasized the importance of God's Word by saying: 'Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My Word (for Jesus is God!) will not pass away' (Matthew 24:35). Those who choose to ignore God's Word will perish in the Lake of Fire (Rev 20:15).

Luke 7:36-50

Like many others, the Pharisee assumed that Jesus was not a prophet because He allowed the sinful woman to touch Him; this was based on his own perceptions of what was acceptable behaviour. But Jesus showed that He not only knew all about the woman, but also the thoughts going through the Pharisee's mind. The Pharisee was at fault for not practising love (Leviticus 19:34), while the woman, as sinful as she might have been, typified love in action.

The lesson for us is: never judge other communities or situations by the way we, or our community, believes and lives; always be guided by God's commands.

Luke 8:1-3

Jesus consistently did what He came to do - preach about the Kingdom of God. His disciples and the women who supported His ministry accompanied him.

Psalm 69:1-18

Sometimes we reach such lows in life that it seems as if even God is ignoring us and we have no hope. David paints a vivid word picture about himself in such a situation. He willingly confesses / admits that it is his own fault, and hopes that no one else has been hurt by following his example. He does, however, lay claim to having wanted to honour God through all his mistakes, and continues to believe that God will eventually deliver him.

Prov 12:1

Those who want to improve themselves will do so, and are prepared to take wise advice from caring, well-meaning friends and family.

Those who refuse to be corrected or to take wise advice will continue to make mistakes because of their stupidity.

Devotion Thoughts - 26/03/2011

Deut 5:1-33

Moses reminds the people of God's covenant with them and the giving of the 10 Commandments. There must be no worship of idols; worship only God. We must never make an idol out of something we enjoy.

Deut 6:1-25
"The Lord is One! (v.4). Lord, help me to love You with my whole heart."

We must make every effort to learn and keep His commands. Always remember and be thankful for the blessings the Lord gives.

Luke 7:11-35

The Lord feels our losses (v.13); He wept along with the bereaved at Lazarus' death. Be assured that we never suffer alone.

When John the Baptist wanted to know if Jesus was the Messiah, Jesus pointed to His miracles for answer. When others want to know if we are followers of Jesus, they should be able to see the fruit from our lives. While Jesus commends John for what he was, He also makes it clear that the most humble person in God's Kingdom was greater than John. (Could this be Moses, who was a very humble man? If so, this could explain their being together with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration.) Jesus also pointed out that what men thought appropriate in life did not always meet with agreement. Only time reveals who is right.

Psalm 68:19-35

The Lord NEVER forgets us - His benefits come to us daily. This includes protection from untimely death. Here is another reference to 'wound on the head', which in Genesis 3:15 refers to Satan being mortally wounded in his fight with Jesus, while Jesus would suffer a 'bruise to the heel' which was not mortal and is ascribed to His crucifixion where He conquered death. God is able to defeat all our enemies (and problems) and will if we hand them over to Him. Ultimately all people (and animals!) will worship God. He will give us the strength to serve.

Prov 11:29-31

We must act wisely of we are to build anything worthwhile in life.