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

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December 18 – What Would It Take?

Obadiah Revelation 9

“The other people who were not killed by these terrible disasters still did not change their hearts and turn away from what they had made with their own hands. They did not stop worshiping demons and idols made of gold, silver, bronze, stone, and wood—things that cannot see or hear or walk. These people did not change their hearts and turn away from murder or evil magic, from their sexual sins or stealing.” (Revelation‬ ‭9:20-21‬ ‭NCV‬‬)

Revelation 9 details some of the most horrific events imaginable. The first of the two woes described is so agonizing that people who didn’t have the seal of God longed for death, but death took a 5 month holiday. Then came the army that brought death, and what terror those deaths wrought: they were burned by fire; they were choked by smoke; they were poisoned by sulfur. A third of mankind died while two thirds suffered the effects, but continued living. In the midst of the agony, though, those who remained alive refused to change their hearts and return to God.

What would it take for some people to return to God? I wonder about that sometimes. I see people go through terrible times when it seems like everything’s going wrong. They not only don’t turn back to God, they blame Him for their woes, even when the problems are a result of their own actions. Rather than seek forgiveness and mercy from the One who stands ready to show them His love and grace, they shake their fists in God’s face and accuse Him of doing wrong. On the other hand, we see people on death row who, whether they believe they were convicted rightly or wrongly are turning to Christ. A recently executed man’s last words were “Forgive them for they know not what they do.” We could debate the rightness or the wrongness of his conviction and sentence, but his last words were a statement of faith and forgiveness. He was confident of his relationship with Jesus – a relationship discovered and grown on death row. Facing death, he turned to Christ. He was at peace facing death and went peacefully into eternity. Meanwhile, I have many friends who have no peace in this life and no hope of heaven because they continue to reject Christ. I wonder what it would take for them to come to faith in God while I pray for them.

Lord, so many people deal with troubles by blaming You when they should turn to You. I pray for these people today and ask that You show them Your love in a way they can understand.

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

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December 17 – You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet

Amos 7-9 Revelation 8

“While I watched, I heard an eagle that was flying high in the air cry out in a loud voice, ‘Trouble! Trouble! Trouble for those who live on the earth because of the remaining sounds of the trumpets that the other three angels are about to blow!’” (Revelation 8:13 NCV)

After a short silence in heaven, the disasters began to unfold. As each angel blew their trumpet, horrendous events shattered the earth. One third of all vegetation was burned up; a third of the sea became blood and a third of the living creatures in the sea died as well as a third of ocean-going vessels were destroyed; a third of all the water became bitter; a third of the stars became black – and the earth lost a third of its light. The devastation was unimaginable. Then, the vision got worse with the announcement that said, in effect, “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

When I read the book of the Revelation, I have to admit that I shudder at these parts. I don’t like the idea of this kind of judgment. Yet, God is dealing with people who not only have continued to turn their backs on Him but have also persecuted His people mercilessly. His judgments are just, of that I have no doubt, but that doesn’t mean I have to like them. God has extended His offer of mercy to them countless times, and yet, they’ve ignored His outstretched hand. My wish, my desire would be that these who were suffering the results of God’s judgments would recognize that He alone offers hope and salvation – both in a physical sense and a spiritual sense. Sadly though, the response of those who have set their hearts against God is that they not only refused to repent, they shook their fists in God’s face and cursed Him. Sometimes God gives visions of what might be and calls on us to react. Amos 7 in today’s reading shows a couple of examples of those types of visions. When I read this part of the book of the Revelation, I can only hope that there’s hope that this vision is a call for God’s people to share His mercy and grace so that those who now reject Him will turn to Him and they won’t deal with this level of suffering. While I’m probably wrong in this hope, I can promise you that it’s never wrong to share God’s mercy and grace with others around us with the hope and prayer that they’ll accept His amazing offer of forgiveness. The days to come will either bring great judgment or great revival. You just ain’t seen nothing yet.

Lord, the devastation seen in these chapters is too great. I pray that those who would be the targets of this judgment would turn to You and experience Your forgiveness. I know that You would accept them into Your kingdom with mercy and grace. Use me to reach people before judgment comes. Even so, when Your judgment comes, it will be just and fair.

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

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December 16 – Not yet finished

Sunday happened and I was already a day behind. Publishing this now so that when I get this done, it will be in the proper place.

Amos 4-6 Revelation 7

“After the vision of these things I looked, and there was a great number of people, so many that no one could count them. They were from every nation, tribe, people, and language of the earth. They were all standing before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. They were shouting in a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’” (Revelation 7:9-10 NCV)

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December 15 – Still working on it

I fell behind on Saturday and then Sunday happened, so, I’m two days behind. I will catch up, but I’m going ahead with my regular daily devotionals, with this here for a place holder.

Amos 1-3 Revelation 6

“When the Lamb opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been killed because they were faithful to the word of God and to the message they had received. These souls shouted in a loud voice, ‘Holy and true Lord, how long until you judge the people of the earth and punish them for killing us?’” (Revelation 6:9-10 NCV)

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December 14 – Advent – Come Quickly Lord Jesus!

Joel 1-3 Revelation 5

“Then I looked, and I heard the voices of many angels around the throne, and the four living creatures, and the elders. There were thousands and thousands of angels, saying in a loud voice: ‘The Lamb who was killed is worthy to receive power, wealth, wisdom, and strength, honor, glory, and praise!” (Revelation 5:11-12 NCV)

In the midst of the season of Advent, we’re reminded that Advent not only celebrates the coming of Jesus as a baby – the event we celebrate as Christmas, but also the return of Christ or the second coming. The book of the Revelation to John is a promise of that second coming and a reminder of the greatness of Jesus – the Lamb who was slain. How great is Jesus? This heavenly throne room scene helps us understand. The Lamb who was killed is worthy to receive power, wealth, wisdom, and strength, honor, glory, and praise.

It’s a core tenet of most of the Christian world that not only did Jesus come to earth as a little baby, He’s coming again to conquer evil and restore God’s justice to the world. This belief began in the Church the moment Jesus ascended into heaven after His resurrection. As people saw and then felt the weight of evil in society during the first and second centuries as persecution began, that belief became even more important. Throughout times when people in the Church have been persecuted or the evil in society, sometimes brought by the Church, grew, God’s people have longed for the return of Jesus. We look at our world today and agree with the early Church whose plea was “Come quickly, Lord Jesus.” The evils in society continue to thrive and seemingly take over all areas of life. Instead of advancing against evil, we seem to be losing every battle and so we cry out for Christ’s return. We search for signs of His coming and in our human wisdom, set dates for Christ’s return which seem like misguided wishful thinking on the day after. We don’t know when, but He will return. And we will all acknowledge His status, recognizing that He alone is worthy to receive power, wealth, wisdom, strength, honor, glory, and praise. While we wait for His return, we’re called to stay true to His call on our lives and show His love and grace in words and deeds to all, including those who would persecute us.

Come quickly Lord Jesus. Until You come, though, let me be a testimony to Your love, grace, and forgiveness. I pray for strength for all those who follow You and that our lives might reflect Your glory to a world that needs to experience You.

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

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December 13 – Seeing Things From God’s Perspective

Hosea 12-14 Revelation 4

“After the vision of these things I looked, and there before me was an open door in heaven. And the same voice that spoke to me before, that sounded like a trumpet, said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must happen after this.’” (Revelation 4:1 NCV)

The revelation John received began on the Isle of Patmos. Jesus spoke to him there and relayed the messages John was to write to the various churches. All those messages, even the ones that rebuked the specific churches, contained an element of hope and reconciliation. I wonder if John questioned as he wrote. It would be hard to hear these words that promised of overcoming while seeing friends, family, and fellow church members persecuted, attacked, and killed even while he was writing the messages. I imagine the churches who received the messages might have been skeptical too. It’s in this context, or at least my imaginings of what this context was, that Jesus invited John to enter heaven and worship while he looked at history unfold from God’s perspective.

Some would teach that this sentence, “Come up here…” is an expression that foretells the rapture of the Church and that God’s saints will enter into heaven to avoid the terrors of the persecution and judgment to come. That may be, I don’t know. I wonder how many brothers and sisters in Christ who endured the Spanish Inquisition, the religious wars during the Reformation, the persecution in the ongoing years, and, more recently, the persecution in communist and Islamic countries would laugh at the idea that God’s people won’t need to face the tribulation. What I can say is that John was afforded the amazing opportunity to look at life from God’s perspective. Early in my education career I had the opportunity to coach middle schoolers in football. It’s an amazing experience to watch the game from the sideline and be with those kids. Part of that job, though, was to scout the teams that our feeder high school would play. To do that, we entered the press box. The view from the press box was amazing. We could see the whole play unfold in a way that you couldn’t see from up close. I think that’s what worship, when we worship with God’s people does. We pull ourselves out of the situation and for a short time, we see things from God’s perspective. The troubles are still there. The problems don’t go away. Worship, however, gives us hope and a renewed confidence that God’s in charge. When troubles come, and they will, don’t be afraid to take yourself out of the situation for a while by spending some time in worship and looking at things from God’s perspective. It will give you new hope.

Lord, in an action-oriented world, You call us to spend time with You in worship. Help me to get away from the temporary troubles of the day and see things from Your perspective. Renew and recharge me to deal with the battles I face each day.

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

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December 12 – Dare We Open The Door?

Hosea 9-11 Revelation 3

“You say, ‘I am rich, and I have become wealthy and do not need anything.’ But you do not know that you are really miserable, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked. I advise you to buy from me gold made pure in fire so you can be truly rich. Buy from me white clothes so you can be clothed and so you can cover your shameful nakedness. Buy from me medicine to put on your eyes so you can truly see.” (Revelation 3:17-18 NCV)

Oh, those crazy Laodiceans! They had it all from a worldly standpoint. They were wealthy, living in their gated communities behind closed doors, and protected from the world. They needed nothing. Yet Jesus told them that they needed everything from Him. He later talked about standing at the door and knocking – waiting for them to answer. That picture’s an interesting contrast to what He told the church at Philadelphia when He said that when He opens a door, no one can close it. The church in Laodicea, meanwhile, gathered their stuff and hid behind their doors either to avoid being persecuted or to wait for the second coming. Perhaps they once were on fire in their faith, but the accumulation of wealth had cooled them down so that they were now lukewarm. And that didn’t please Jesus.

There’s a tendency to become too protective of our things, once we begin to accumulate them, and less concerned about people. We begin to think that God blesses us because of how amazing we are, instead of how great He is. We forget that God blesses us so that we can bless others. As we read the letters to the churches, we can note that all those churches that received criticism from Jesus did so because they had veered from a commitment to God and to His people. Perhaps they made allowances to the culture to avoid persecution. Perhaps other things became more important than the command to share the gospel. Whatever the reason may have been in other churches, the church in Laodicea got so wealthy in worldly terms that they forgot their need for Jesus. Perhaps no one had ever taught them the words of Jesus when He said, “It is worthless to have the whole world if they lose their souls.” (Mark 8:36 NCV) They took their worldly wealth and hid behind closed doors to avoid the persecutors who might notice them if they shared the gospel and the poor and needy who might make them feel guilty about accumulating wealth while those knocking at the door were hungry and in need of shelter. They became so closed in that they wouldn’t even answer the door when someone knocked. The message to the church wasn’t easy for most to accept: they needed to open the door and be ready to go through the fires of persecution; they needed the spiritual clothes of Jesus to deal with life, and they needed heavenly medicine to open their eyes to the world around them. Those admonitions hit too close to home in America today.

Lord, it’s so easy to depend on our riches and stop depending on You. We don’t need to pray for our daily bread because we’ve got so much food in the house, we don’t even eat all the leftovers. We can avoid persecution by keeping our mouths shut. We can spend so much time with our friends and people who think like we do, that we don’t see the needs of people around us. Teach me, Lord, to depend on You for everything – especially when I don’t think I need to.

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

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December 11 – Hear What the Spirit Says to the Churches…

Hosea 5-8 Revelation 2

“Everyone who has ears should listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. I will give some of the hidden manna to everyone who wins the victory. I will also give to each one who wins the victory a white stone with a new name written on it. No one knows this new name except the one who receives it.” (Revelation 2:17 NCV)

Revelation 2 and 3 both deal with messages for the seven churches addressed in this book. While there are admonitions and promises to individuals who heed the words of the Spirit, it’s interesting to note that the message of God is sent to the church. We’ve become so individualistic in life that it’s spilled into our faith to the point that people talk about having church on their own by doing <insert their favorite activity here>. The word ecclesia, one of the original terms for God’s people, is used for a assembly – a group of people. While God used an individual, John, to deliver a message, His message was for the church. He makes a distinction between those who are doing what’s right and those who are following the wrong path, but the power to overcome for anyone comes from God and the fellowship of His people.

While we are accountable to God for our lives, part of that accountability relates to how we build up and support His people in the church. As the world and our nation grows more hostile to Christianity, we need to support each other to overcome the temptations of the world. When China cracks down on Christian churches, we all suffer a little. When Pakistan persecutes, attacks, and kills Christians, we are all the lesser as a body. We are the ecclesia, the called-out body of Christ. We are united with our local church body and our brothers and sisters around the world. We are to listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. Our victory comes as we stay true to Him. God’s promise is that He will provide for our physical needs and that He will never blackball us, but instead give us a new name that represents our relationship with Him. Pray for your brothers and sisters around the world who are undergoing persecution. Pray for your sisters and brothers in your local church who are dealing with life in a world that is becoming more unfriendly to God’s people every day. Through it all, stay strong in the Lord and in the power of His Spirit.

Lord, thank You for Your love and promises. Thank You that we can overcome difficulties and persecution, when it comes, through the power of Your Holy Spirit. Remind me, remind us that together we can be an amazing power for God as we work and serve through Your Church.

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

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December 10 – Why We Read God’s Word

Hosea 1-4 Revelation 1

“This is the revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to him, to show his servants what must soon happen. And Jesus sent his angel to show it to his servant John, who has told everything he has seen. It is the word of God; it is the message from Jesus Christ.” (Revelation 1:1-2 NCV)

And so the end begins. It’s the end of the year. It’s the last book of the Bible. And we’re another year closer to the end of times. The book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ to John, to give it proper attribution, brings out many emotions. Many love this book and read it eagerly, poring over every word seeking to gain new insight into how the end will happen. Others don’t like it all, Martin Luther had issues with this book, for instance. As apocalyptic literature, there are many mysteries to unlock and they still haven’t been completely unlocked after almost 2000 years. Whether the prophecies of this book have been fulfilled or are yet to come whether this book is unique in the fact that it deals with visions and unclear language as opposed to the clear and plain words of most of what the apostles taught, we can gain insights to grow in our faith every day as we read. This is a message from Jesus Christ and thus we should read this book with the intention of hearing from Him.

We read the Bible because we believe it is God’s word. We seek to gain insight into His leadership for our lives. I comment on one or two verses here, but I include the passages that I read as part of a plan to read through the Bible in a year. While all my devotionals this year have been from the New Testament passages, on purpose, God’s word has amazing insight for living in the Old and New Testament. The Old Testament, of course, was the Bible that Jesus and the apostles used. As we read God’s word, He teaches us new things every day. How many times have you read a passage in the Bible and asked yourself how God was able to sneak in that new verse overnight? The ultimate source of the Bible is God. He used men to write it, but He is the source. As we pray and seek His guidance, He helps us to understand what He means in the various parts of the Bible. In some areas of the New Testament we see that apocalyptic stories are told to bring comfort to those listening. The simple message of Revelation, when you boil away everything else, is that Christians who are being persecuted can take comfort in the fact that God’s in control and that He’ll make everything right in the end. I don’t take comfort in the horrific ending those who reject Christ will have, according to this book, but I take comfort that God’s in control. I also see that as a compelling reason to share my faith with others. We serve a God who loves each and every person on this earth and wants them to turn to Him.  Remember that as we go through this book.

Lord, we live in difficult times. Like many of those who’ve gone before me in the faith, I expect Jesus to return at any minute. Help me to share Your love and grace with others who need to experience that before He comes. Continue to teach and inspire me through Your word.

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

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December 9 – Building a Life on Grace and Mercy

So Sundays….if I don’t get devotional finished on Sundays before church, I don’t always get back to it. So, here’s yesterday’s devotional today.

Daniel 11-12 Jude

“But dear friends, use your most holy faith to build yourselves up, praying in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the Lord Jesus Christ with his mercy to give you life forever. (Jude 20-21 NCV)

The Church should be an oasis of grace in a world of sin. As Christians, we deal with people everyday who have a different world view. Because they aren’t in fellowship with God through Jesus Christ, they engage in a lot of activities that we believe are wrong, without feeling any guilt about their behavior. In theory, Christians should be able to fellowship in the church with fellow believers where the behaviors of the world, especially sexual sin and wealth sins like greed, don’t prevail and gain strength to live God’s way in a sinful world. Jude deals with a world where the sanctum of the church has been invaded by those who might say the right words, but have no relationship with God, and use their pseudo-faith as a cover for their sins. Jude called for those who still live in faith to grow strong by praying in the Spirit and staying in God’s love until we gain forever mercy from Jesus.

When Jesus described the church, He noted that when a church was built on faith, it would be attacking the gates of hell, and those gates would fall. In Jude’s day, false followers of Christ were infiltrating the church and using their perversion of God’s grace to cover for their sexual sin. It seems that there are really two areas of sin that attack us today: sexual sin and sins of wealth (such as greed.) When you boil those down, they’re all sins of self. People believe that no one, God or human, should stop them from indulging themselves in their own personal pleasure. Our God has called us to throw off the shackles of sin as we enter into His grace and become the people He’s called us to be. Jude called out those people who would use the language of grace as an excuse to indulge themselves in pleasure. We have the same problem today. Some would use grace as a cover for, even a reason to indulge in sins of all types. Grace isn’t a license to sin nor is it to be used as a “get out of hell free” card. Grace should empower us to live lives that honor and glorify God. As we live in grace, we use our faith to build ourselves up. When troubles come, and they will, lives that are built on God’s love and grace will overcome anything.

Lord, I need you. Keep me in constant communication with You through Your Holy Spirit. Let me experience Your grace, love, and mercy as I walk in Your love. Let my life and my words reflect Your mercy and grace so that others will see Your presence in my life.

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

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