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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February 17 – Just Like He Said He Would

Leviticus 21-22 Matthew 28

“The angel said to the women, “Don’t be afraid. I know that you are looking for Jesus, who has been crucified. He is not here. He has risen from the dead as he said he would. Come and see the place where his body was.” (Matthew 28:5-6 NCV)

The Pharisees remembered Jesus’s promise to rise again better than the disciples. The two Marys headed to the tomb to finish the burial preparations. If the disciples had really believed that Jesus was coming back from the grave, they’d have rushed to wait and watch – maybe even pass the time of day with the guards. Instead, the two ladies went to the tomb. Instead of finding someone to roll the stone away, they got an invitation to see the grave that Jesus had vacated. The angel also reminded them that Jesus had said He would rise from the dead, and He had lived up to that promise.

The Resurrection. This was the teaching that scared the Sadducees and the Pharisees. They set a guard lest anyone should seek to fake it, but this was the last thing on the disciples’ minds as they grieve Jesus’s death. He proclaimed that it would happen, and it happened. God can be trusted. Jesus showed His power over life and death and He’s promised that we’ll be with Him forever. A current hit song explains how that should affect us this way: “The King of Heaven wants me, and the world has lost its grip on me.” Stay true to the living God who conquered death, and don’t follow the way of the world that leads to death.

Lord, You alone have the words of life. Help me to follow You no matter what the temptations may be.

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

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February 16 – Dead, As In Doornail Dead

Leviticus 19-20 Matthew 27:51-66

“He put Jesus’ body in a new tomb that he had cut out of a wall of rock, and he rolled a very large stone to block the entrance of the tomb. Then Joseph went away. Mary Magdalene and the other woman named Mary were sitting near the tomb.” (Matthew 27:60-61 NCV)

All of Christianity hinges on the Resurrection. If the Resurrection isn’t a true story of what happened after Jesus died, then Christianity becomes a collection of good teachings – and those teachings would be flawed because Jesus based His teachings on the promise of His resurrection. Some would explain away the resurrection by claiming that the disciples didn’t know where the body really was buried, yet this passage shows the two Marys watching the tomb. The Pharisees and Sadducees recognized that Jesus taught about the resurrection a little later in this same passage and requested that Pilate guard the tomb because of that teaching. Whatever you want to believe about the resurrection, you can’t say that Jesus didn’t foretell it, and you can’t claim that the disciples lost track of the tomb.

Another smokescreen that people use is to claim that Jesus didn’t really die. A soldier pierced His side with a spear, and water and blood came out of the womb. They took the nails out of His wrists and His feet. Joseph put Him in a tomb and covered it with a rock that the Romans ended up guarding. Jesus died on that cross and He was doornail dead. He was sealed in the tomb with a rock that was so heavy that no man who had “swooned,” as some would say, would have been able to push it out of the way. Jesus really did die that day, and He died to pay the penalty for our sins.

Lord, even as I remember the resurrection, let me see and feel the impact of Jesus’s death on the cross. He died for me. He died for all. Help me to show others how much You love them as they realize how much they’ve been forgiven.

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

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February 15 – We Can Choose Our Reaction

Leviticus 17-18 Matthew 27:27-50

“But Jesus cried out again in a loud voice and died.” (Matthew 27:50 NCV)

He had endured the kangaroo court of the Sanhedrin. He’d been used as a pawn in the struggle between Pilate and the Jewish leaders. He’d been flogged and beaten. He’d been mocked. He’d been crucified and mocked as He was lifted up for all to see. His clothes were used as prizes in a game of dice. Even those who were crucified with Him, mocked Him. As we read all the accounts of the crucifixion, we see that Jesus answered these attacks and insults with God’s love. And then He died. I’m sure the Pharisees walked away thinking that this problem was solved while the followers of Jesus who were there left in despair, neither group realizing that it wasn’t the end of the story.

We can’t choose how people react to us, nor what will happen in our lives. What we can choose is our reaction. When you follow and live like Jesus, people will react in strange ways. They may slander you. They may attack physically, seeking to hurt, or even kill you. They may seek to trick you or take advantage of you. They may drag you before the courts. If people treated Jesus this way, they’ll treat you that way. Jesus responded with God’s love and forgiveness. If Jesus responded this way, can we do anything less? The most important life goal any Christian can have is to lead others into a relationship with Jesus Christ and help them learn to live in grace. If that’s our goal, it helps us focus the way we respond to slander and attacks. Love them like Jesus did.

Lord, take away my desires for revenge against those who would hurt me. Show Your love through me.

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

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February 14 – Above All Else, Guard Your Heart

Leviticus 15-16 Matthew 27:1-26

“Early the next morning, all the leading priests and elders of the people decided that Jesus should die. They tied him, led him away, and turned him over to Pilate, the governor.” (Matthew 27:1-2)

Such simple, but shocking words. For the Jews to humble themselves and turn to a political solution to the “problem” of Jesus by going before Pilate this way shows the hate they had for Jesus. If Hitler had been a Roman governor, they would have called him Pilate. He antagonized the Jews from the first day he arrived there, figuratively spitting in their faces from his entry into Judea until his massacre of Samaritans ended his reign. As calm and as reasonable as Pilate may seem in this story, there’s no doubt that if he was calm, it was because the Jews were impassioned. If he wanted to release Jesus, it was because the Jews wanted Him crucified. If the Romans had captured Jesus and the religious leaders supported Him, Pilate would have forced them to attend the crucifixion.

The problem the Jewish leaders had was that they had lost the battle of the heart. Rather than listen to, and embrace the message of Jesus, which was the message from God that they’d been waiting for, they focused on their own personal power and used political means to advance that. As Christians, we’ve been guilty of that in the past. We’ve allied ourselves with questionable people on both sides of the aisle to enforce our religious beliefs, rather than seeking to win the hearts of the people to Jesus. So many of the political issues of our day revolve around matters of the heart: racism, hatred, misogynism, caring for the poor, and the list could go on. As Christians, our job isn’t to align ourselves with one imperfect politician or another, our job is to align our hearts with Jesus, do the right things, and bring others into fellowship with God. If we don’t do that, there will never be a permanent solution to the problems in our world.

Lord, You tell us that above all else, we should guard our heart. Help us guard our hearts, and then help us change the hearts of those around us as we deal with the problems in this world. Our only hope is in You, Lord. Help us share the message of Your love.

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

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February 13 – Stay Faithful to the Call, My Friend

Leviticus 14 Matthew 26:51-75

“When the high priest heard this, he tore his clothes and said, ‘This man has said things that are against God! We don’t need any more witnesses; you all heard him say these things against God. What do you think?” The people answered, ‘He should die.’” (Matthew 26:65-66 NCV)

The verdict was in and the sentence was set. All the Sanhedrin had to do was put Him on trial. They had a real problem, though. The witnesses couldn’t make their lies against Jesus agree. Finally, the High Priest got exasperated and asked Jesus if He really was the Son of God. Jesus let him know that those were his words, but, He’d be sitting at the right hand of the Father and then returning. The response is toned down in this version, but it was obvious that He got their death sentence. So, they beat and mocked Him there while preparing to take Him to Pilate to pass the state’s death sentence since Jews couldn’t put someone to death under Roman law.

Jesus’s behavior during this whole illegal trial is a good reminder for those of us who claim to follow Him. He kept quiet until He was forced to speak. We don’t like silence very much. When we’re alone in the house, the radio goes on. When the world is being unjust to us, we fight back. Sometimes we spend so much time defending ourselves that we don’t see people who need ministry. Are they treating us unjustly? Yep. If we get so worried about that kind of treatment that we forget the needs of others, then we have a problem. We’re called to minister to others, not defend ourselves. As the most interesting Christian in the world might say, “Stay faithful, my friends.”

Lord, keep me faithful to Your call. While I must be sensitive to the needs of the world to minister in the world, never let me lose sight of my call to minister to others.

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

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February 12 – Nothing But The Blood of Jesus

Leviticus 13 Matthew 26:26-50

“Then Jesus took a cup and thanked God for it and gave it to the followers. He said, ‘Every one of you drink this. This is my blood which is the new agreement that God makes with his people. This blood is poured out for many to forgive their sins. I tell you this: I will not drink of this fruit of the vine again until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.’” (Matthew 26:27-29)

It was what the disciples thought was a normal Passover supper. Perhaps the anticipation was high after Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem earlier in the week. They were expecting Jesus’s triumphal ascent to His throne. Then, Jesus jolted them by telling them that one of them would betray Him. After that, this somber commentary on the bread and the wine which wasn’t normally part of the ceremony of the Passover. Later, Jesus predicted Peter’s denial. It wasn’t the supper they expected, the first to bring in the Messiah’s Kingdom; instead, it was the Last Supper, that would begin the process of His kingdom.

This section is a pivotal picture of the gospel. The new covenant began because Jesus shed His blood to pay the penalty for our sins. The wine was a symbol of the blood Jesus would soon shed. The blood itself brings forgiveness. It isn’t the blood AND anything else. I’m forgiven because Jesus paid the penalty and shed His blood for me, and for all who would accept His sacrifice, on the cross. He didn’t give us a half-price coupon for sin forgiveness that we had to find a way to finish paying; Jesus paid it all.

Lord, I bring nothing to You that’s worthy. I claim the forgiveness You offered through the blood of Jesus. Remind me that I can come before You because Jesus paid my debt. Help me to show others Your great love.

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

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February 11 – No Secrets From God

Leviticus 11-12 Matthew 26:1-25

“Then Judas, who would give Jesus to his enemies, said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, surely I am not the one, am I?’ Jesus answered, ‘Yes, it is you.’” (Matthew 26:25)

The Pharisees were fed up. They wanted Jesus killed and they wanted it to happen immediately. His teachings were exposing them to be the whitewashed tombs He had accused them of being. And so they plotted, and Judas, in a moment of disgust joined them in their plots. After accepting the contract on Jesus, he rejoined the disciples just in time for the Last Supper where Jesus predicted that He’d be betrayed. Since all the other disciples were questioning if it was them, he asked as well, only to hear that Jesus knew that he would betray Him. That must have shocked Judas.

Let’s face it, most of us have our “secret sins” that we don’t want anyone to know. We do a great job of hiding them from others and we fool ourselves into thinking that they’ll stay secret. Then God reminds us of His presence, His knowledge, and His grace. I believe that Jesus still loved Judas, even knowing his secret sin. I know that God loves us even knowing our secret sins. Perhaps we keep our sins secret because we don’t love ourselves in the midst of committing them and wonder how anyone else could. Still, we come before God only to find out that He knows, but more importantly, He still loves us and gives us His grace.

Lord, thank You for loving me even though You know me better than I know myself. Thank You for giving me grace when I’m at my worst.

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

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February 10 – A Time to Serve

Leviticus 8-10 Matthew 25:31-46

“Then the King will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, anything you did for even the least of my people here, you also did for me.’ … “Then the King will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, anything you refused to do for even the least of my people here, you refused to do for me.’” (Matthew 25:40,45 NCV)

These verses come from a picture of the last judgment that Jesus paints for us in this story. People are separated into two groups: sheep and goats. The sheep have made a habit out of looking for ways to serve people; the goats have made a habit out of looking for God so that they can serve Him. The message of Jesus is very clear. Too many of us are looking so hard for God that we don’t see Him when He shows up in front of us. We don’t serve God by going to a royal palace and bowing before Him; we serve Him by kneeling to help those who seem least like God.

In one of Jesus’s teachings He noted that when you do things to be recognized by men, you get your reward. If you want to serve God, don’t expect or hope for public attention. Find those who can’t return the favor, look for those who are overlooked by society, serve without thought of recognition. Our job is to meet needs. Our job is to love people like Jesus did.

Lord, lead me to people I need to serve. Let me show them Your love as I meet their needs.

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

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February 9 – How Much Will You Risk?

Leviticus 6-7 Matthew 25:1-30

“Then the servant who had been given one bag of gold came to the master and said, ‘Master, I knew that you were a hard man. You harvest things you did not plant. You gather crops where you did not sow any seed. So I was afraid and went and hid your money in the ground. Here is your bag of gold.’” (Matthew 25:24-25 NCV)

This passage comes from an interesting, and perhaps disturbing, parable. Jesus tells the story of a man who gave three of his servants money to take care of. One servant got 5 bags of gold (we’re used to talents being used here), another servant got two bags, and the third only got one bag. The first and the second servant double their master’s money, while the third one hid it to avoid losing any of it. He called the master hard to his face as an excuse for not doing anything with the money. Obviously, the master wasn’t happy with that, took the money from that servant, and gave it to the one who already had ten bags of gold.

I have a hard time with this parable. Why did one guy get 5 bags of gold (talents – which would be worth a minimum of $50,000 today, probably more) and another guy get two bags? We can see that the master understood the character of the third guy, because his actions showed he couldn’t be trusted. Perhaps the guy with two bags was just learning. While money is the vehicle in this parable, I believe that this speaks more about our relationship with Him. Those who trust and love Him will work willingly and take appropriate risks to see the kingdom grow. Those who see God from a legalistic perspective, or who don’t believe at all couldn’t care less about seeing God’s kingdom grow. They won’t risk anything, including their reputation, to see God’s kingdom grow. Where do you fall? Would you risk everything to serve God or are you so afraid that He’ll punish you for doing wrong, that you don’t do anything? Trust God and serve Him. It’s worth any risk.

Lord, help me to leave my safe zones and be willing to follow You and take risks to show others Your love and grace.

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

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February 8 – The Biggest Surprise of All

I planned to have this done yesterday and been caught up. Then, we had a family emergency, wife fell and broke her wrist. Barring any more emergencies, I should be caught up today.

Leviticus 4-5 Matthew 24:29-51

“In those days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving their children to be married, until the day Noah entered the boat. They knew nothing about what was happening until the flood came and destroyed them. It will be the same when the Son of Man comes.” (Matthew 24:38-39 NCV)

As Jesus focused on the cross, He taught a lot about His eventual return. Christians talk about the Second Coming of Christ. Jews talk about the Day of the Lord or just “The Day.” In this passage Jesus tells the disciples two important truths: 1) no one knows when that day will be, and 2) there will be nothing remarkable about the days leading up to that time. Later, He compared His return to the issue of a thief breaking into a house. If you had known the day the thief was coming, you’d have done something to prevent the burglary. No thief sends a message letting you know the day he’s coming.

I’ve always been amused by people talking breathlessly about how our days are like the days of Noah and we’d better be ready. While they’re right that we should always be ready for Christ’s return, the description of the “days of Noah” is that people were eating and drinking, marrying and arranging marriages: in short, they were living normal, everyday lives. What should cause us to take notice about the days of Noah, and prepare for the return of the Lord, is that there is nothing special about those days. They’re normal. We have no more warning about the future. Preparation began yesterday.

Lord, thank You that because of my relationship with Jesus, I’m prepared for His return. Help me to show others Your grace and mercy so they can be prepared also.

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

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