Meet God in the Morning – Use this Free eBook to help

A lot of times, people take stock of where they are spiritually at the beginning of the year. They make resolutions to do different things that will help them draw closer to God throughout the year. Have you ever stopped in the middle of the year to evaluate how well you’re doing in meeting that goal? That’s an easy goal to let go of and forget because there are so many distractions. If you made that kind of goal at the beginning of the year and you’ve fallen behind, take heart. Our God gives second and third and fiftieth and one hundredth chances. If you want to begin to work on that again, let me introduce you to my devotional book series. I’d like to offer you a free eBook where you can spend five to ten minutes a day reading and contemplating God’s presence in your life. This site won’t even collect an email address! If you don’t know how to send a book to your Kindle, I can help you do that. Gain a habit that will enrich your every day life.

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Bible Versions and Permissions

Up until January 1, 2018, verses used in each devotional were from the New International Version of the Bible.

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

I will be going back and adding this passage to each page that used an NIV quotation per their website

I will be using the New Century Version in 2018.

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved

I am using the New King James version in 2019

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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July 18 – Why Christians Are (And Should Be) Weird

1 Corinthians 6; 1 Kings 19; Amos 3:3-4:3

“Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” (1 Corinthians 6:18-19 NKJV)

Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire were both rife with sexual activity. Perhaps it was part of the worship of some of the pagan gods. Perhaps it was finding “love” when one’s marriage was based on political linking instead of mutual love and attraction. Or perhaps it was because sex was a no-holds barred time for some fun. Enter, the Christian ethos. Based on teachings from Jewish tradition and from Jesus, this weird group practiced abstinence before marriage and fidelity in marriage. Paul reminded Christians that sexual sins affected others and one’s self. We don’t get to go beyond God’s teaching on sexual relationships because we are no longer in control of our body, we’ve placed ourselves under the leadership of the Holy Spirit.

Our world is not much different today. Pornography websites pull in money and traffic, especially from Bible belt sites. Attitudes about sexual hookups have made sex more of a casual encounter than an intense act of communication in marriage. People who are chaste until marriage are seen as strange or weird and any attempt to encourage that is met with “Oh, that just isn’t possible.” Let’s face the truth, many, especially young girls, feel pressure to have sex outside of marriage whether they really want to engage in sex or not. Paul’s words are still true in our day: you are not your own. Jesus paid a great price for your salvation and if we’re filled with the Holy Spirit our lives should reflect the holiness of God. We aren’t called to hate people that go against God’s plan in this area. (1 Corinthians 5:9ff) We are called not to affirm those who claim the name of Christ while engaging in sexual sin. Most of all, though, we’re called to live in a way that honors and pleases God: for the Christian that includes abstinence before marriage and fidelity in marriage.

Lord, help Your people to remain weird. Guide us into holy living in an unholy world. May our lives always reflect Your love and grace to those around us.

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July 17 – “Oh Me!”

1 Corinthians 6; 1 Kings 19; Amos 3:3-4:3

 

“Thus says the Lord: ‘For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, Because they sell the righteous for silver, And the poor for a pair of sandals.’” (Amos 2:6 NKJV)

Amos turned the “Amen Corner” and I can imagine that the Israelites weren’t happy as their “Amens” turned to “Oh mes.” When Jeroboam set up his own altars so that the Israelites wouldn’t “need” to go to Jerusalem, he may have helped his people fulfill an inner longing to worship, but they lost the moral standards that God had taught them during their wilderness sojourn and after. (Judah wasn’t doing too well either, but at least the teaching was there.) One of the most significant ways to tell that Israel had disconnected from God was that they oppressed and exploited those who were poor.

Many years ago I head some students talking about another student who had preached in preaching lab. He was said to have used someone else’s sermon instead of his own. The biggest clue, aside from the quality, was that he would stop the flow and ask, “Is that ‘Amen’ or ‘Oh me?’” The original preacher had obviously gotten a lot of positive response, but he wanted people to realize that it wasn’t “those other people” he was talking about. The truth of the matter is that one way to tell that Christians have lost track of their commitment to Jesus Christ when they oppress or take advantage of people who are poor, no matter what the cause, or worse, when we ignore their existence all together. Some try to make the case that since the government takes care of the poor, that means we help them with our taxes. Without getting into the politics of that, our obligation to help still exists. Alone, we can’t help everyone, but if each individual Christian, each church, would find a way to help people in need, we’d see a different world. Find some way to help those in poverty today.

Lord, there are so many people in financial poverty today. Give me wisdom enough to find a way to help others in financial need. Teach me to show Your love and grace to those in financial poverty and spiritual poverty.

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July 16 – Amen!

1 Corinthians 4; 1 Kings 17; Amos 1

“Thus says the Lord: “For three transgressions of the people of Ammon, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, Because they ripped open the women with child in Gilead, That they might enlarge their territory.” (Amos 1:13 NKJV)

Old Testament prophets weren’t known for their “seeker sensitive” messages. In the passage from Kings, Elijah tells the king, “a drought is coming because you’ve failed God.” Amos, came from Judah and preached to the Israelites. His first words might have worried them since he talked about God speaking from Jerusalem, but as he spoke, he might have been Israel’s favorite prophet – at least for a while. He thundered a message of condemnation against Israel’s enemies and laid out their sins. It was a refreshing change of pace from what they’d heard from other prophets who came from Jerusalem. This message started off speaking about the greed of those other nations that was shown in the way they abused people to gain wealth and territory. Amos had the “Amen corner” rocking and rolling.

It’s easy to point out how wrong the other guy is. We may have a beam in our eye, but we can find the speck of sawdust in the other guy’s eye – to paraphrase what Jesus taught. My pastor, when he wants to point out how we as Christians have failed, always (jokingly) says something like “This doesn’t happen in our church, but in other churches…” Fortunately, most people in our church realize what he’s saying. We do like to pass judgments on the sins of others and, sadly, rather than hoping and praying for God to change the situation, we want Him to give it to “those other guys” so that they get what they deserve. We’d rather see God punish the other sinners than forgive them. At the same time, we expect God to forgive our own sins because our sins aren’t as bad as theirs. We ought to be looking for ways to extend God’s grace to others caught in their sin, because the truth is, we all fail God and need grace and forgiveness.

Lord, it’s so easy to find the sins other people commit. It’s even easier to sit back and condemn those sins, especially if my sins are different. Remind me that I sin to, and that even if I think my sins aren’t as bad as their sins, Jesus had to die for my sins also.

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July 15 – May We Be One in the Spirit

1 Corinthians 3; 1 Kings 15:33-34; 1 Kings 16; Joel 3

“…for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?” (1 Corinthians 3:3 NKJV)

Christians should live according to a higher standard. Paul let the Corinthians know that they weren’t living up to that standard. How did he know? There was envy, strife, and division in the church. If the words of Jesus are true, people will know that we follow Him because of our love for each other. The church at Corinth somehow didn’t get that right. Paul had to treat them as babies in the faith because they couldn’t grow to the point that they could love each other no matter what. The spiritual person doesn’t point out how much more spiritual he or she is than others, they just keep drawing closer to God every day and learn to practice unconditional love while they do that. The church at Corinth hadn’t gotten to that point. Paul called them carnal. When they should have been living as followers of Christ with a lifestyle greater than those around them, they lived as mere men.

These days, we wouldn’t need Paul to tell us that. We not only know it, we glory in our status as mere men. We excuse our sin because we’re “mere men.” We have strife in our churches. We’re envious when we see other churches do something that our churches can’t do, not realizing that they’re envious of us when they see what we’re doing. Strife is rampant in the church and between churches and denominations. The disciples came from a wide variety of political and religious persuasions. When they were focused on Jesus, they didn’t have problems. When they focused on themselves and their future role in the kingdom, problems arose. We can learn a lesson from this. If we focus on Jesus and loving each other because of who He is, we can get along with just about anyone. When we start worrying about other issues, including our position in the kingdom of God, that’s when we have envy, strife, and divisions.

Lord, help your followers to be one in Your Spirit as we go throughout life. Let us show the world that we love each other and support each other rather than living carnally in envy, strife, and divisions.

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July 14 – What Do You Know?

I woke up this morning (July 15) and realized I didn’t write this yesterday. Sundays are so busy for me, I need to get an earlier start and by mid-afternoon, I forget if I don’t have things in front of me.

 1 Corinthians 2; 1 Kings 15:1-32; Joel 2:12-32

“And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:4-5 NKJV)

Paul arrived in Corinth after leaving Athens. In Athens, while speaking to the caretakers of philosophical orthodoxy, Paul was laughed out of the place when he mentioned the resurrection in a very persuasive presentation of the gospel. Perhaps he realized that no matter how much he appealed to human wisdom to make the gospel message “relevant” to the people around him, the only effective way to preach the gospel was in the wisdom and power of the Spirit of God.

We spend a lot of time and effort learning ways to evangelize, studying apologetics so that we can present our faith reasonably, and finding out about other belief systems so that we can tailor our presentation of the gospel to meet what we see as their needs. There’s nothing wrong with any of those activities, but the greatest way to share our faith is one friend telling another about the difference Jesus has made in our lives.

Lord, there are a lot of cool things in this world that we can learn and share about You. Help me to keep my focus on You and share how You’ve changed my life because of Your crucifixion and resurrection.

 

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July 13 – Totally Ridiculous!

1 Corinthians 1:18-31; 1 Kings 14; Joel 2:1-11

“For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:22-24 NKJV)

Totally ridiculous! That’s how both Jews and Greeks saw Paul’s proclamation of the gospel. Jews asked and looked for signs. If you don’t believe it, how many times did the disciples ask Jesus to give them a sign? And these were the people who followed Jesus. The looked for the sign of the coming Messiah who would wipe out the Romans on the field of battle and send them back to Rome with their tails between their legs. Greeks, however, looked for wisdom. They sought to attain a higher plane without the encumbrances their body placed upon them and so the idea of “resurrection” was completely contrary to their hopes and dreams. Paul could have tailored his preaching to adapt to these concerns; instead, He preached the ridiculous truth of God to all people. He knew that those who recognized the crucified and resurrected Jesus as the power and wisdom of God were people called by God to leave the world of sin behind.

The gospel seems totally ridiculous today as well. The gospel speaks of faith and the spiritual side of life to a world enamored with science and materialism. The gospel claims exclusive rights to developing a relationship with God in a world that sees religious diversity as a positive thing. The gospel seeks to include all people in a world that seeks to pigeonhole people into groups based on their skin color, their nationality, or their lifestyles. As totally ridiculous as it seems, though, the gospel message of God’s love for all people and the payment of the penalty for sin when Jesus died on the cross continues to be the power of God and the wisdom of God for a world that needs to hear the good news of Jesus Christ.

Remind me, Lord, that the message I share with others is a significant message filled with Your power and wisdom. Remind me that it changed the world in the past and it will continue to change the world in the future.

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July 12 – Totally Called

1 Corinthians 1:1-17; 1 Kings 12:32-33; 1 Kings 13; Joel 1

“Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:” (1 Corinthians 1:1-2 NKJV)

The minute someone recognizes that they’re called of God, opposition arises. When Paul returned to Jerusalem after his Damascus Road experience, he ran into skepticism from the church. He was the man who brought the gospel to the church in Corinth and yet he found himself defending the call of God on his life and on the lives of other believers in Corinth. In the Old Testament reading, a prophet from Judah ran into opposition from King Jeroboam, whom he denounced, and, after seeing God overcome that opposition, allowed himself to be swayed from God’s call by a prophet who spoke falsely. Paul exemplifies what it means to be called by God and to stay true to His calling no matter what the costs may be. We should profit from his example.

Paul alluded to something very important, that many of us gloss over: we are followers of Christ because we’re called by God. It’s so easy to leave the “God work” to people who are called to certain positions in the church. The truth is that if we’re called by God to follow Him, we’re called to live for Him in all we do. All Christians, those who are sanctified in Christ and called to be saints, are called to live a life that’s pleasing to God, to evangelize, to minister to those in need, and to care for others. When Jesus described the judgment of the sheep and the goats, He didn’t say, “I was hungry and you called a minister over to feed me.” Will you live out God’s call on your life today? Care for others. Minister in the name of Jesus. Love the unloved. Live to show others the love of God in your life.

Lord, thank You for calling me to live for Jesus. Give me strength and encouragement as I follow You in staying on the path You’ve prepared for me.

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July 11 – Totally Alive!

Mark 16; 1 Kings 12:1-31; Hosea 14

“And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him.’” (Mark 16:5-6 KJV)

The women headed to the tomb that day thought they had one job: they were going to finish the job of anointing the body of their friend Jesus who had died just before the Sabbath. Their biggest concern as they walked to the tomb, was the stone. Who would help them roll away the stone? When they arrived, the stone had already been rolled away. They went into the tomb to finish their sad duty, only to find the most confusing news of all: an angel told them that Jesus had risen from the dead. The other gospels give specifics of Jesus’s appearances after His resurrection. Mark doesn’t. The biggest takeaway from the story Mark tells is that the followers of Jesus didn’t expect this. They were afraid and amazed. They mourned the death of Jesus. They didn’t believe – which earned them a rebuke from Jesus later.

The existence of the Christian faith depends completely on the resurrection of Jesus. Either Jesus rose from the dead and we have a unique faith, or He didn’t, and Christianity can throw its hat into the ring as another religion like all the other religions of the world. None of Jesus’s scared followers expected this resurrection to happen, but soon after spoke out with boldness about the resurrection, defying those who would arrest and kill them. They believed that Jesus was totally alive and based their lives and reputations on that. There are lots of options in today’s world. We can pick and choose religious beliefs like we were at an “All you can believe” café. But if Jesus rose from the dead; if Jesus is totally alive, there’s only one way to live, and that’s in a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

Lord Jesus, You are totally alive! You rose from the dead and live today. Mold me to live as You would have me live. Make me bold so that I can share the truth about the Resurrection like the early disciples did as the Church grew from nothing into a world changing organization.

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July 10 – Totally God, Totally Man, Totally Dead

Mark 15:21-47; 1 Kings 11; Hosea 13

“Pilate marveled that He was already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him if He had been dead for some time. So when he found out from the centurion, he granted the body to Joseph.” (Mark 15:44-45 NKJV)

The greatest event in the history of the world, if true, is the Resurrection of Jesus. If it’s true, how could we do anything but follow Him. If it’s not true, then, as Paul said, “we are of all men most to be pitied” if we follow Him. In the story of Jesus’s death, we are reminded of the most important pre-resurrection step: death. Jesus died quickly, which surprised Pilate. All of the accounts speak of Joseph of Arimathea taking the body and burying it. Non-believers in the resurrection have sought to disprove the reality of the resurrection by claiming things like Jesus didn’t actually die, or that the reason the body couldn’t be found was that the Romans took it to a trash heap. While we’ll look more at the resurrection tomorrow, when we look at Biblical and other historical evidence, we must say, with apologies to the lyricists from The Wizard of Oz, “Not only was He really dead, He really was sincerely dead.”

We don’t like to talk about death. We’ve come up with a number of euphemisms to describe death, as epitomized by Monty Python in their Dead Parrot sketch. We gloss over the death of Jesus moving from the crucifixion to the resurrection quickly, noting only that Jesus was buried, but that He rose again. We know the end of the story, so we don’t dwell on this terrible interlude. There are times we should dwell on His death though. We know that He died for our sins. Perhaps that means that we shouldn’t take our sins lightly nor should we re-categorize sin as anything other than rebellion against God. He died so that when our sins were forgiven, we could have a relationship with God – which means that when we ignore or forget God, we’re treating Jesus as though He died in vain. If the death of Jesus brought us eternal life, then we should live each day of eternity to honor Him.

Lord, remind me what You went through on the cross. Help me remember why You had to die. Mold my life so that others will recognize the difference You make in Your followers.

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July 9 – Dealing With Popular Opinion

Mark 15:1-20; 1 Kings 10; Hosea 11:12; Hosea 12

“Pilate answered and said to them again, ‘What then do you want me to do with Him whom you call the King of the Jews?’ So they cried out again, ‘Crucify Him!’” (Mark 15:12-13 NKJV)

Politicians have been following popular opinion polls for a long time, even if popular opinion goes against what they believed to be right. Pilate knew that the right thing to do was release Jesus. Instead, he took a poll and the cry from the crowd was nearly unanimous: crucify Jesus. So Pilate, instead of doing the right thing, followed popular opinion and had Jesus scourged and crucified.

It’s easy to join in with the popular opinions of the times instead of following God’s word. Life can be more enjoyable when we don’t make waves and get along with people. The problem with that is that God has expectations for us. If He’s Lord of all, though, He has the right to have those expectations. We’re called to be holy, which doesn’t mean “better than other people,” it means separated for God. As we look at the issues of today, we need to look at them from God’s perspective instead of popular opinion. Without mentioning specific issues, because I’ll forget some, as followers of Christ we should always love people who follow the popular opinion, even when it goes against God’s ways, but we should always keep our hearts and minds focused on God’s plan.

Lord, we live amongst people who don’t understand their need for Your grace. We live in a world that has no concept of separation from You. Help us to stay true to Your ways, and to love others as Jesus did at the same time.

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