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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January 18 – Facing the Music Without Excuses

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

“But they all with one accord began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it. I ask you to have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them. I ask you to have me excused.’” (Luke 15:18-19 NKJV)

You know those people who have excuses for everything? Whenever they’re supposed to do something, they forget – but they have a good “reason.” Your homework should have been done!” “I spent all night I the Vet ER with my sick cat.” “Kids, why haven’t you washed the dishes?” “We were waiting for there to be enough dishes to fill the dishwasher.” Jesus gave some examples of outlandish excuses people might give to God to avoid following God’s ways. He used a parable of a great feast. When he called his invited guests to show up, they all had great excuses – at least on the outside. The first guy bought a piece of land, and now he had to go look at it. The second guy bought five yoke of oxen and he needed to test them out. Those excuses seem reasonable, until you think about them. Why would someone buy a piece of land without checking it out first? Why would someone buy five yoke of oxen, or even one yoke of oxen without testing them before they bought them. That’s the thing about excuses: they don’t need to be perfect, or even believable when you think about them; they just need to seem plausible enough when told that the listener will be distracted. Jesus told this parable about people responding to the call of God, but if they give God excuses, they’ll make them for you as well. If something is right, do it and be proud to do it. If something is wrong, don’t do it, but don’t try to sneak around to avoid the consequences of your stand. Be an example to the world of a person who doesn’t make excuses, but accepts credit gracefully when they do right, and accepts responsibility for things that go wrong without explaining it away to make yourself look good.

How were the excuses today? Did you make a bunch of excuses? Give those mistakes to God and admit when you’re wrong. It will be liberating. Did others make those excuses to you? Forgive them gracefully and help them focus on their relationship with God.

Lord, it’s so easy to make excuses so that I don’t look bad in front of others. When I’m wrong, help me to be truthful and accept the consequences of my mistakes. When others wrong me and try to make excuses, help me to show them Your love and grace. Give me the grace to face the consequences of my mistakes without making excuses.

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

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January 17 – Living the Kingdom Life

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

“Then He said, ‘What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and put in his garden; and it grew and became a large tree, and the birds of the air nested in its branches.’” (Luke 13:18-19 NKJV)

Too often, when people think of the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven, they mistake it for Heaven. Jesus asked a question that He then answered himself: what is the Kingdom of God like? He described a couple of instances where things started small but grew to become big things. A mustard seed is small, easily eaten by birds, but given time, it grows until it’s a tree large enough to give shade and a place to roost for the birds. Dough for bread isn’t large, but if you put the leaven in the loaf, it will grow and expand until all the dough is saturated with the leaven. The Kingdom of God is here on earth as God’s people make an impact on society and make the kingdom grow by sharing the love and mercy of God with others. The Kingdom of God grows here on earth as God’s rule in the hearts of people grows. That means that we’re called to share His love, as citizens of the Kingdom of God, and help make it grow. That’s the tough part. We’re too afraid to show anything that looks like weakness towards others and love and mercy looks weak to some people. The truth is that love and mercy are the hardest road to take, because our natural reaction is to attack, or counter-attack people when they deserve it. I’m sure some of your co-workers or clientele deserve the worst. I guess if I looked at myself with God’s eyes, I’d deserve the worst, not the best – but He gave me His best. He gave me love and forgiveness when I deserved condemnation. Maybe that means I can show love to people who deserve my worst also.

As you think back on your day, how often did you respond with God’s grace when the world would expect you to lash out? How often did you do the natural thing and lash out at a co-worker or client who wronged you? How often did you maintain a neutral attitude on the outside when inside you were screaming for vengeance? Commit tonight to make tomorrow a day to show grace and mercy instead of seeking vengeance for wrongs suffered. You’d be surprised at the difference it can make in the overall relationship.

Lord, I deserved nothing but vengeance and wrath, still, You loved me and showed me Your grace and mercy. Remind me of that when I’m about to lose my temper. Remind me of how much Your forgave me so that I can forgive others in the same way.

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

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January 16 – Dealing With a Tough Day

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

I’m not going to make specific comments on any verse today, it’s been a tough one. I was standing in line at the bank when the phone call came that my mother had passed away. It wasn’t unexpected, she’d cheated death twice before and wasn’t doing too well the last few weeks. It’s still hard. All three passages deal with death: Luke dealing with the truth that all people face death, and not just the worst sinners, Abraham dealing with the death of his wife, and Psalms dealing with the death of a righteous one. I just couldn’t concentrate enough to write. I thought of people I needed to call, and almost called her number a couple of times.

I will say that I was blessed to have such an amazing mother who showed love and grace to others at all times. I believe that she was committed to Jesus Christ, and that gives me comfort. I have amazing siblings who all work together. God is good. But that doesn’t mean I can write today. Send prayers heavenward if you will, knowing that God comforts us in our afflictions. Take the time to hug someone you love if they’re close enough, or reach out on the phone if they’re far away. I expect to be back and ready to write tomorrow.

 

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January 15 – Personal Qualities in the Workplace

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

“A Psalm of David. Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill? He who walks uprightly, And works righteousness, And speaks the truth in his heart;” (Psalm 15:1-2 NKJV)

It’s an interesting truth that the qualities of a person that make him acceptable to God in the Old Testament are pretty good qualities for everyday life. Psalm 15 is one of those examples of how to live and get along with other people. David asked a simple question: “Lord, who is worthy to worship You? Who could live in Your house?” You ever wondered? There are may facets to the answer, but here they are quickly: they live right, the do righteous things, they speak the truth, they don’t backbite, do evil to a neighbor, or anger a friend, they avoid those who do wrong and honor the people who fear the Lord, they tell the truth even when it hurts and they use their money generously. Those are pretty good qualities to live by. True, no one is perfect, but imagine working with people whose lives generally exemplify these qualities. I read recently of an executive who would take prospective employees out to breakfast and tip the wait person extra to mess up the order so he could see how this person reacted. He wanted to be sure that the people he hired were compassionate. Some would have us “unhitch” from the Old Testament standards. While living like this won’t bring us salvation, it will bring us closer to other people and give us an opportunity to share God’s love with them.

Those are pretty lofty standards for life. How’d you do today? Maybe you can say that you followed them perfectly today. My guess is, if you did, you probably weren’t perfect every day. Let’s face it, we mess up – especially when our co-workers irritate us or make mistakes at work. Think about areas where you could improve in your relationship with your co-workers and plan tonight to make tomorrow better.

Lord, I wish those qualities described me. But I mess up. I “stretch the truth” to protect myself or make me look good. I gossip. I too easily enjoy the company of those who do evil. Help me to live so that I bring honor to Your name and influence people to seek You.

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

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January 14 – Do You Ever Question Your Self-Worth?

Luke 12:1-31; Genesis 21; Psalm 14

“Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing. Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds?” (Luke 11:23-24 NKJV)

We live in a fashion-conscious society. We spend a fortune on clothes, makeup, and even plastic surgery to make ourselves look more attractive to others. When it comes to food, depending on the restaurant you go to, you can spend over $400 on a meal – more than some people spend to eat all year in some countries. I can’t help but think Jesus may have been thinking of our current times when He reminded the people in ancient Israel that food and clothing wasn’t as important as their relationship with God. As Jesus continued the comparison with the ravens, He noted that God took special care of them, but, as much as God cared for these birds, their value doesn’t compare to our value as human beings. As a confirmed bird lover, I can’t tell you how much I enjoy the beauty and variety of the birds that God has created, each person is far more important in God’s sight than any collection of birds. If you’re like me, though, you’re probably full of self-criticism and self-doubt. You wonder if what you did is good enough. You wonder if other people like you, or like what you did. Joyfully, no matter how much you criticize yourself and no matter how much you may doubt your worth, God loves you and cares for you. He thinks that you’re important enough for Jesus to die for.

Has it been one of those days? Maybe nothing went right today. Maybe you’re just feeling down for no discernible reason. Maybe you really messed up big time and you think everyone hates you. Maybe you’re questioning if your life has any value at all. Take heart. The One who knows you better than you know yourself thinks you’re amazing and He values you so much that He cares for you, feeds you, and wants to love and forgive you. You’re worth it. Remember that every time you hear a bird sing or see one fly overhead.

Lord, I’m amazed that You love me so much. I see all my faults and wonder how anyone could love me. You see me, know me, and love me perfectly. Help me to live with the power of Your love in my heart and show others how much You love them.

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

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January 13 – Cleansing Our Thoughts and Attitudes

Luke 11:29-54; Genesis 20; Psalm 13

“When the Pharisee saw it, he marveled that He had not first washed before dinner. Then the Lord said to him, ‘Now you Pharisees make the outside of the cup and dish clean, but your inward part is full of greed and wickedness.’” (Luke 11:38-39 NKJV)

You’ve seen the signs in the restrooms at restaurants: “Employees Must Wash Hands.” You’d think that would be an obvious thing to do given what we know about germs, but we still have those signs for people. Most of us could sympathize with the Pharisees who were aghast that Jesus hadn’t washed before eating, then, until the practice is explained. We don’t know that Jesus didn’t clean His hands somehow, what we know is that He didn’t go through the Pharisaical handwashing routine. That routine wasn’t meant so much to cleanse the hands, the way our signs mean, it was meant to cleanse off the possible contamination of contact with the common people, or sinners. When the Pharisee called Jesus on His “lack” in this area, Jesus made sure that he knew that their hearts and their attitudes were full of greed and wickedness. Clean hands may have prevented contamination from sinners, but inwardly, they were rotten to the core. There are a lot of people who look good in this world. Sometimes they’re inside the church, sometimes they’re outside the church. They drive the best cars, wear the finest clothes, and eat the best food. Yet, without Christ, they have hearts that need cleansing from their greed and wickedness. Maybe, as we think about today, our attitudes haven’t always been the best. Maybe we looked good on the outside, but on the inside, we needed lots of cleaning.

Most of us don’t work on Saturday, so maybe you didn’t see the people that bring out your inner hostility. Then again, for so many people, it’s family that does that. So, maybe today was rough for you. Whatever the situation, think back to a recent time when you could look at your attitude and realize that you were straying from God’s plan for you. How did you feel when you lost it, whether it was visual for everyone else to see or you kept your anger hidden? If you’re like me, you probably feel bad about it, even if your anger was justified. Take heart, though, God forgives you, loves you, and keeps drawing you closer to Him.

Lord, too often I let wicked or greedy thoughts take control of my attitude. Help me to keep my eyes focused on You and work on my attitude to make it pleasing in Your sight.

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

 

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January 12 – Learning How to Pray

Luke 11:1-28; Genesis 19; Psalm 12

“Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.’” (Luke 11:1 NKJV)

Everyone seems to be searching for the magical words: the words that are just right so that God will answer their prayers. Jesus’s disciples were like that and when they saw Jesus praying, perhaps thinking about His words earlier about somethings only happening through prayer and fasting, they asked Jesus to give them the key to prayer so that their prayers would be answered like His. If John taught his disciples, surely Jesus could teach them. Or so they thought. If you think about it, why did Jesus’s disciples have to ask this question so far along in their work together? I think Jesus was working on the belief that if they simply talked with God like they talked with others, they’d realize that they were praying. Sometimes we make a big deal out of the “model prayer” that Jesus taught, but as I read through it, there’s not much out of the ordinary: they were told to honor God, seek daily provision, seek forgiveness, and look for protection from the evil one. Prayer isn’t a matter of finding just the right words – God knows what you need before you even ask. Prayer is a matter of having the right heart and the right attitude towards God and His plan. Prayer is talking with God like He’s a friend. We don’t need to twist God’s arm to answer our prayers, we just need to walk along with Him.

How’s your prayer life? Do you spend time talking with God or at Him? Do you listen when you pray or are you finished when you have your say? We should live each day in an attitude of prayer. That doesn’t mean getting down on our knees and closing our eyes twenty-four hours a day while mumbling just the right words, sometimes it means finding ways to listen to Him and talk with Him in the midst of our daily activities. God cares about them, too.

Lord, teach me to pray. Teach me as I pray. Help me to talk with You as a friend, knowing that You have the ultimate good for the world in mind. Remind me of Your care and protection as I go through the day.

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

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January 11 – People Can Be Unreasonable and Ornery

Luke 10:21-42; Genesis 18; Psalm 11

“’So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?’ And he said, ‘He who showed mercy on him.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’” (Luke 10:36-37 NKJV)

“That’s mighty neighborly of you, friend.” You hear things like that a lot in Texas. We take pride in being neighborly. We watch out for the people who live around us. That’s good, isn’t it? That was the question a lawyer had when he mentioned the importance of loving our neighbors as ourselves. When he asked Jesus who our neighbor was, Jesus’s response was to tell a story and let the lawyer figure it out. The key to the story, as should have been obvious to the lawyer, is that it’s not the physical proximity of the other person when it comes to defining neighbors, it’s that we be neighborly to all. Let’s face it though, it’s not always easy to be a neighbor the way some people act. Oh sure, if someone is hurt by others, we’ll help them out. When people are reasonable, we’ve got no problem being neighborly. But, doggone it, not everyone’s reasonable. Sometimes people are downright unreasonable bordering on ornery. Sometimes we work with those people. Sometimes we’re related to them. Sometimes they’re our customers. And much as we wish the message of Jesus was different, He lets us know that we’re supposed to show mercy to them, just as God showed mercy to us.

How’d you do today when you dealt with people who were unreasonable, ornery, or who needed mercy? Did you feel like you’d reached the end of your rope and wanted to lash out? Sometimes, people seem unreasonable because of what they’re going through. Make plans to treat unreasonable people with God’s mercy tomorrow and see if that doesn’t make a difference in their lives, and yours.

Lord, sometimes people can be so unreasonable and hard to love. Help me to love them anyway, just like You loved me at my most unreasonable times. Give me the grace to show them Your grace instead of reacting with anger.

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

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January 10 – A Rose by Any Other Name Would Be Hard to Find in the Catalog

Luke 10:1-20; Genesis 17; Psalm 10

“As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations.” (Genesis 17:4-5 NKJV)

Someone once said that the main reason children have a middle name is so that they will know when they’re in trouble. Since I use my middle name, I know I’m in trouble whenever my wife uses my first name. When other people use it, I figure they don’t know me. Names are important to people. Parents give their children names for a reason; they have meaning. We should work to make sure that we pronounce names correctly so that people know that they’re important to us. In the Old Testament passage for today, we read where God changed Abram’s name to Abraham. Abram means “High father” while Abraham means “father of multitudes.” He also changed Sarai’s name to Sarah, which means “princess.” Sometimes God gave names to show the character of the person involved; sometimes the names were prophetic and meant to inspire the re-named person to live up to their name. I can say that since I was named after my dad and my grandfather, I never wanted to do anything to hurt that name. In short, our name represents who we are to God and to the world. Your name reminds people of your reputation in this world.

What do people think about when they hear your name in general? How well did you represent your name today? As a Christian, you also bear the name of Christ. Your words and actions reflected on who Jesus is. Did they draw people to Christ or cause them to move away from Him? What would you have done differently today if you had remembered that you were representing the name of Christ?

Oh Lord, as I go through the trials and tribulations of life, remind me that I bear the name and character of Jesus Christ in my life. Let my life honor His name and draw people into a deeper fellowship with You.

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

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January 9 – Coming Down From the Mountaintop

Luke 9:28-62; Genesis 16; Psalm 9

“Now it happened on the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, that a great multitude met Him.” (Luke 9:37 NKJV)

Wasn’t it great spending time with family and friends during the holidays. You may have thought something like, “I wish we could go on like this forever.” Peter had that same thought when he suggested that he, Jesus, James, and John celebrate the Festival of Booths with Moses and Elijah. Only, that couldn’t happen. They needed to come down from the mountain top. And just like you experienced the last couple of days, they were immediately hit with an overwhelming work load. The multitude met Jesus and demanded His time and energy. So much for that peaceful feeling; so much for the joy of a family reunion. Jesus sounded exasperated when they explained the major problem to Him, but He got down to work and healed the child who was demon-possessed. Then He had to deal with His disciples getting into petty arguments with each other and turf wars with people outside their select group. The exhilaration faded, and Jesus got back to work quickly.

Things probably happened a lot faster and more furious for you than you were ready for this week, didn’t they? Did you get exasperated? (Don’t feel too bad, Jesus did too.) However you felt about these last two days, even if you wished you could have had a few slow days to get back into the swing of things, did you get back on track in your work? Three cheers for you if you did! Whether you did, or you didn’t and you already can’t wait for Friday, remember that God has a plan for you where you are, and look forward to tomorrow as an opportunity to serve Him as you work.

Lord, it’s hard to come down from the mountaintop of good experiences we had during the holidays. Give us grace and strength to be able to do all of our work as if we’re working for You.

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

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