January 24 – Dependency

Luke 18:18-43; Genesis 31; Psalm 24

I tend to be demanding at times. I want things my own way. I expect others to change their ways to do things my way. It may seem like independent thinking, but I’m actually dependent on that response. I expect people to respond to me and give me what I need. Dependency is a tricky thing. In my case, it deals with the actions of others. For some, dependency becomes a material thing. A blind man begging on the road called to Jesus. He wouldn’t stop when people told him to stop. “Jesus stopped and called for the man to be brought to him. When he was present Jesus asked, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ He said, ‘Lord, I want to see.’” (Luke 18:40-41) In the days of Jesus, people with physical disabilities had few choices other than to beg. They became dependent on others. When this man called out to Jesus, the prevailing wisdom was that he wanted Jesus to give him some money. Jesus took the time to ask him directly what he wanted. The choice might seem obvious today, but Jesus knew it wasn’t then. The choice to see was a dangerous one. It was safe to sit on the side and beg. People would take pity on a blind man. Gaining vision would put new responsibility on his shoulders. He would have to make a living himself. Did he have a trade? Did he lose his sight later in life? Who knows now? He was choosing to leave the warm cocoon of dependency and accept his responsibilities. Jesus empowered him to do that. Even today, God empowers us to accept our responsibilities towards our fellow man and be dependent only on Him. He gives the strength and power for life every day.

Lord, I am dependent on You. I need Your strength. I need Your power. I need Your grace every day. Give me these attributes so that I can accept my responsibility to my fellow man.

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January 23 – The Children

Luke 18:1-17; Genesis 29:31-30:43; Psalm 23

One of the reasons I like teaching is because I love to see kids learn and grow. I prefer teaching middle school because, even though I don’t often see kids change while I’m working with them, if we meet later in life, so often they talk about how they changed. I like to think that I can help them during a rough time of transition. People didn’t always like kids. “People were bringing babies to Jesus so that he would bless them. When the disciples saw this, they scolded them. Then Jesus called them to him and said, ‘Allow the children to come to me. Don’t forbid them, because God’s kingdom belongs to people like these children.’” (Luke 18:15-16) The Disciples may have been trying to keep Jesus on schedule for His “important” work of teaching. They may have looked at the sun moving across while Jesus was dealing with these doting parents who thought their kids were so special that they could take up Jesus’s time to get a simple blessing. So they began discouraging parents from bringing kids to Him. Jesus rebuked the disciples. In short, He let them know that these kids were that special and that He was going to spend time blessing them. The message of Jesus still stands true. Children are important. They are vital to our future and we need to spend time with them molding them, blessing them and teaching them in the right way. Whether it be teaching in school, working in the nursery at Church, teaching Sunday School or just providing help at children’s events they deserve our time and our love.

Lord God, the future of our country and of the church is in the children. May I always teach them to have a strong character. When I am able to, let me show them Your love and grace through my words and my deeds.

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January 22 – Future Generations

Luke 17; Genesis 29:1-30; Psalm 22

As a follower of Christ, I am ready, in fact I am looking forward to the return of Jesus. The Christian Church has lived with that expectation for almost 2000 years. That belief lends an urgency to everything I do. At the same time, though, that belief may cause me to be less concerned about the future since Jesus is going to come and take care of things anyway. While always being ready for Jesus to return, we have an obligation to our future generations. David described that in Psalm 22. “Future descendants will serve him; generations to come will be told about my Lord. They will proclaim God’s righteousness to those not yet born, telling them what God has done.” (Psalm 22:30-31) We are that last group to David – those who hadn’t been born who are no ready to serve God and tell the generations to come about the love of Jesus. Even if we believe that Jesus is coming tomorrow, we still have to prepare as if we, like David, will have future generations depending on our proclamation of the word of God and the message of restoration with God. It is incumbent on us to treat our world with respect. It is incumbent upon us to treat our future generations with respect. Today is a day to remember those not yet born as we think about those who will never be born because of the lack of respect for life. May we serve our God with righteousness. May we proclaim His righteousness to our future generations and may we love and respect them as much as God does.

Lord, today is a somber anniversary. Remind me that I have an obligation to seek You, to seek Your righteousness, and to proclaim Your righteousness to those in my world. Give me the strength to do that.

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January 21 – True Riches

Luke 16; Genesis 27:46-28:22; Psalm 21

One of the things traveling on mission trips has made clear to me is the wealth of the people in the United States. God has blessed us abundantly and even the poorest people here would be considered wealthy in other lands. That helps me realize that rather than complain about what I don’t have, as a follower of Jesus Christ, I am compelled to use that wealth to help others. Jesus reminded us that we are called to use what God has given us well. “If you haven’t been faithful with worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?” (Luke 16:11) The other day I read a story of a family that was earning $25K per month. They were trying to figure out how to make ends meet. Their budget included $2K per month in vacation spending. Perhaps they could find one place to cut the budget. Still, it’s easy to criticize there when most of us have the same issues, just with less money. We indulge ourselves and don’t have the money to meet our needs. We focus on ourselves and don’t have the money to help others. God gives us worldly wealth not just to take care of ourselves and our families, but to help others also. We are called to be faithful with that wealth. When we are faithful with that wealth, we will understand the true riches of our relationship with God each and every day.

Lord, how many things do I “need” that aren’t really necessary. I indulge myself and often forget about the true needs of others. Help me to use what You have given me not only to meet my real needs, but also to find ways to help others and lead them to You.

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January 20 – Passion for God

Luke 15; Genesis 27:1-45; Psalm 20

I don’t do a lot of celebrating. If I were a football player, I wouldn’t have a special celebration for a touchdown; I’d hand the ball to the ref and say something like “See you later.” Because I take the events of life in a matter of fact way, though, I miss out on celebrating what God has done. “Let God grant what is in your heart and fulfill all your plans. Then we will rejoice that you’ve been helped. We will fly our flags in the name of our God. Let the LORD fulfill all your requests!” (Psalm 20:4-5) David sets a standard here; we are to celebrate God’s help. We are to rejoice when our prayers are answered. Too often it seems like we can raise the roof when our team scores in a big game but we are afraid to rejoice when God works in our lives. We should be rejoicing with passion as God answers our prayers and helps us. Instead, so often when we report prayers are answered we respond with a smile and a simple “Amen.” Which is the greater miracle: that our team scores or that God hears and answers us? I wonder what would happen if the next time someone talked about an answered prayer instead of smiling and simply saying, “Amen,” that we started screaming and shouting praise like we do at athletic events. Rejoice and wave the flags! God is working in our lives!

Lord, give me the passion to celebrate how You are working in my life. Help me not to be self-conscious; let me always be God-conscious.

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January 19 – Whatcha Thinking?

Luke 14:25-35; Genesis 26; Psalm 19

Each morning I wake up and prepare to write these devotionals. After I pray, I read God’s word and meditate on it. Then I write based on what God is saying to me. I do it because I hope to encourage others, but mainly so that those who read can hold me accountable for living how I say I ought to live. In this time, I seek for my meditations to be pleasing to God. The hard part the rest of the day is what I say and do. “Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, LORD, my rock and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14) The concern I have, though, is one that those who have followed God through the ages have had. We want to say what is right in the eyes of God and we want to keep our thoughts on the right track. When our meditations lead us away from God, our actions surely will follow. It’s easy to say to ourselves that we’re only thinking something – we’re not doing anything wrong. It’s even easier to justify doing something wrong after we’ve thought about it for awhile. Jesus made the importance of how we think about things very clear in His teaching on adultery and murder. (Matthew 5:21-30) Proverbs 23:7 tells us that as a man thinks in his heart, so is he; so we pray that our words and our thoughts would please God.

Lord God, how easy it is for my thoughts to stray and embrace sinful things. I may sometimes be resentful of restrictions I have in life because of my relationship to You. Remind me that the joy of following You is far greater than dealing with any restrictions. Let my words and my thoughts please You.

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January 18 – Cry Out to God

Luke 14:1-24; Genesis 25; Psalm 18

Sometimes the most effective prayers are the shortest. When trouble comes, I will often say something like “Lord, Help me.” Not only is there no need for long drawn out prayers following some formula in those times, there’s no time. That simple prayer tells God that I trust Him and that I believe that He alone is able to help. David spent a lot of time on the run from Saul in his earlier years and he was in distress quite often. “In my distress I cried out to the LORD; I called to my God for help. God heard my voice from his temple; I called to him for help, and my call reached his ears.” (Psalm 18:6) It doesn’t matter where we are or what kind of trouble we’re in, God hears our desperate pleas. The key is that in our distress, we keep focused on God. If God is the only One who can help, we can’t search in other places. God isn’t a last resort in our distress; He’s the first and only source of help. Whatever your troubles may be, cry out to God and be obedient to His response. You’ll never regret it.

Lord, how easy it is for me to look for help in all sorts of places only to turn to You as a last resort. Remind me that You are my source of help. Help me to seek You first, and then trust You to lead me from there.

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January 17 – A Simple Prayer

Luke 13:18-35; Genesis 24; Psalm 17

Sometimes my prayer is desperation. Sometimes it’s just a hopeful start to the day. “Lord, let something good happen today.” While this is usually a prayer I utter in exasperation, it’s actually a biblical request calling on God to take control. “He said, ‘LORD, God of my master Abraham, make something good happen for me today and be loyal to my master Abraham.’” (Genesis 24:12) Abraham sent a trusted servant to find a wife for Isaac among his family back at the old homestead. The servant agreed, got close and then must have wondered how he would recognize the right family, let alone the right woman. He began with that prayer: “…make something good happen….” The end result of the prayer and the answer was that the servant found Rebekah who was the perfect match for Isaac. That prayer is really a prayer of faith. With it, we acknowledge God’s presence, His control over events and circumstances, and His desire to provide for us. So, no matter what the situation you are in may be, make that your prayer today. You may not get the immediate results that Abraham’s servant got, but God will make something good happen.

Lord God, as I go about all that I need to on this day, I simply ask that You will make something good happen for me today.

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January 16 – He Had It Coming?

Luke 13:1-17; Genesis 23; Psalm 16

It’s easy to fall into the trap of imagining God as a divine agent of retribution. I got a great blessing – obviously I deserved it. Those people who caused me trouble had a catastrophe – I knew that God would get them. I’m the kind of guy who has to fight this idea that I’m a better person than those others. I wonder how they would characterize the situation? Jesus dealt with that issue as He was teaching. “Some who were present on that occasion told Jesus about the Galileans whom Pilate had killed while they were offering sacrifices. He replied, ‘Do you think the suffering of these Galileans proves that they were more sinful than all the other Galileans?’” (Luke 13:1-2) Pilate was a sinful little man in a big position and often did evil to show that he was in charge. The truth is that sometimes bad things happen to people who love the Lord. In fact, Jesus promised that we would be persecuted. Sometimes great blessings are given to people who are evil. Jesus said that would happen, too. We can’t predict the evil that will happen as a result of the sinfulness of man. We also can’t predict the blessings of God. Our responsibility is to keep our heart and mind focused on God and follow Him.

Lord God, I wish You would get rid of sin and evil. Then again, I realize my own sinfulness. I am grateful for Your blessings that come because of Your greatness; not because of how good I am. Keep me focused on You and let my life reflect Your love to others.

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January 15 – When He Comes

Luke 12:32-59; Genesis 22; Psalm 15

As a teacher, I know that I may get visits from Principals, Assistant Principals, and District Personnel at any time. Gone are the days of a one time dog and pony show where I can look good for an hour and then relax the rest of the year. (Not that I taught that way.) I always have to be ready. That’s a good thing. Jesus put it this way for those people who follow Him: “Happy are the servants whom the master finds fulfilling their responsibilities when he comes.” (Luke 12:43) I hear people talk about doing something special to get ready for when Jesus comes. Some people in the past have done weird things to meet Jesus on the mountain when He returns. In truth, God doesn’t want us doing anything out of the ordinary to prepare for the second coming of Jesus. He wants us going about, living our lives as Christ commanded us. What are my responsibilities as a follower of Christ? I am to read His word, pray, worship, care for the poor, proclaim His name and His salvation. I am to do good to all people, especially the brethren. Need I go on? The truth is, most of us know what God expects. Let’s live that way daily with the full knowledge that God is helping and protecting us daily.

Lord, You don’t want special preparations for Your coming. You want us to live as Your children according to Your desires every day. Give me the grace and strength to do that.

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