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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February 23 – Becoming Rich by Giving It Away

Matthew 5:1-20; Exodus 28; Exodus 29; Proverbs 13

“There is one who makes himself rich, yet has nothing; And one who makes himself poor, yet has great riches.” (Proverbs 13:7 NKJV)

Proverbs often deals with the paradoxes of life. One of the greatest paradoxes deals with how we work with money. Money’s become so important to people that they’ll do just about anything to accumulate money or material things. They want others to know how rich (and thus, important) they are and they spend a lot of money on the accoutrements that they think rich people will have. Their only concern is how any decision will affect their net worth. In hoarding what they don’t spend to look rich, if there’s any money left over after the credit card payments, they develop attitudes that isolate them from others lest the others be a threat to the riches they worked so hard to gain. They have everything, but they really have nothing. Aside from bad business decisions or making bad investments, which I don’t think is being talked about here, the only way to make yourself poor intentionally is to give your money away. And, if you’re doing that right, it’s because you’re doing it to help others. I recently gave a small donation to help a friend achieve a lifetime goal. (The only reason I’d mention this is because it was a small donation.) As I did it, I began to reflect on how much fun I had giving to help others. I realized that when I buy something for myself, too often I end up being disappointed because it didn’t work exactly the way I expected it to work. On the other hand, when I give to support Christian work, good community organizations, or individuals, there’s a sense of satisfaction that even though I hadn’t given much, I’ve helped someone else minister or achieve a dream. It truly is more blessed to give than to receive.

Is the accumulation of wealth a goal or a tool for you? Do you have dreams of hitting the lottery or getting some other financial windfall so that you can live at ease and buy everything you need, or do you see things like that as opportunities to help others? Here’s my challenge to you. Try this giving thing out for yourself. Without affecting your current giving, find anywhere from five to twenty dollars a month that you can use to bless others. You may want to support an organization that does important work. You may want to help a friend with a need, especially if you can do it anonymously. Experience the joy of giving out of love and you’ll begin to understand in a very small way God’s joy in giving so that we can be in a relationship with Him.

Lord, You bless us so that we can be a blessing to others. Remind me that You’re less concerned with the amount of stuff in my life and that you’re more concerned with the attitudes of our hearts. Hep us imitate You by giving to others.

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

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February 22 – It’s All In the Details

Matthew 4; Exodus 25; Exodus 26; Exodus 27; Proverbs 12

“And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then He said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.’” (Matthew 4:18-19 NKJV)

Sometimes God is specific in His call and directions. The reading in Exodus is full of very explicit details as to how the Hebrews were to build the tabernacle to be used to worship God. The curtains were to be made of specific colored thread, they were to be a certain size, and so many on one side and a different number on the other side. Let’s face it, you probably skimmed through a lot of those verses in Exodus 25-27, didn’t you? We want to know God’s plan, but we don’t like reading details, though. The problem is that most of our dealings with God don’t have many details. Jesus called Simon and Andrews and gave them an opportunity: if they followed Him, He’d make them fishers of men. After all these years, we may think we know what that means, but I can’t help but wonder if Simon (Peter) and Andrew had any idea what Jesus meant. Over the next few years, they figured it out. Their call to follow wasn’t detailed but it changed their life. Jesus calls us today as well. We don’t get many details – just a call to follow. Sometimes that call builds on our occupation, sometimes that call entails a change of occupation, but in all cases, it’s a call that changes our lives as we work out the details of what God wants from us.

What does God want from me? Have you ever asked that question? If you haven’t, I’d be surprised. I ask that question a bunch. I never get a detailed response, though. I’m not sure if I’d really listen if God gave me a detailed itinerary for a day, let alone the rest of my life. What He does tell me to do is love Him and love His people. I try to do that every day. What other details do I need?

Lord, remind me that You give me the big picture and then walk with me in the details. Help me to do a better job of loving You and loving Your people.

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

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February 21 – The Way of the Righteous vs The Way of the Wicked

Matthew 3; Exodus 24; Proverbs 11

“The righteousness of the blameless will direct his way aright, But the wicked will fall by his own wickedness. The righteousness of the upright will deliver them, But the unfaithful will be caught by their lust.” (Proverbs 11:5-6 NKJV)

Sometimes I think Proverbs are what Steven Wright would come up with if he were to write a serious book on living in today’s world. (Look him up if you don’t know his humor.) The commentary on life is short and pithy and once said, there’ no elaboration, the author, mostly Solomon, goes on to the next subject. In these two verses we see righteousness and wickedness contrasted. The person who lives in righteousness will take the right path because that’s in their nature. A wicked person will fall into trouble because that’s they way their own thoughts and deeds will lead them. When a person is righteous, they will do the right thing. As Christians we know that our righteousness isn’t found in our “good lives,” but is found in our relationship with God. We live the right way not because we’re afraid that God will zap us if we do wrong, but because we want to please God. Those who are wicked, with wickedness being defined as someone who is not in a righteous relationship with God, the second verse uses the term “unfaithful,” will run into trouble because they’re following their own way without any thought of God’s plan. While Proverbs is closer to a reflection on life’s experiences than a command about how to live, or a step by step process for success, and the words don’t apply to every wicked/righteous person in these two verses, the provide a general outline to what happens in life. As you read through them, it’s a great opportunity to think about your relationship with God.

How are things going? If things always go wrong for you, it doesn’t mean that you’re a wicked person, but it does mean that you need to cling to God even more closely than you already have been. If everything’s going right, it doesn’t mean that you’re a righteous person, but you do need to thank God for His blessings. We should always examine ourselves to make sure that our hearts, thoughts, and actions are in line with God’s desire for our lives. In the long run, we’ll experience a more joy-filled life no matter what happens.

Lord, use the events of life to teach me Your ways. Guide me in Your righteousness and direct my paths so that I’ll always stay true to Your plan for me.

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

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February 20 – Truth Telling: A Radical Plan in a World of Falsehoods

Matthew 2; Exodus 22; Exodus 23; Proverbs 10

“You shall not circulate a false report. Do not put your hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness. You shall not follow a crowd to do evil; nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after many to pervert justice.” (Exodus 23:1-2 NKJV)

Justice cannot live in an atmosphere of falsehood. As God dealt with Moses and taught him the law, He dealt with the importance of telling the truth and avoiding falsehoods. He began by telling Moses not to circulate false reports. Whether a person initiates a lie or passes it on, they’re guilty of the results of the lie. When a lie fits in with what we believe, it’s easy to join the crowd and keep it going. When we do that, we multiply the evil. Whether it’s gossip among friends, careless or even malicious posts on social media, or false testimony in a court, when we lie, when we tell falsehoods, when we pass along information we “know has to be true,” only to discover it’s a falsehood later, we’re perverting justice. God has a strong sense of justice, and we don’t want to be on the wrong side of His justice.

How are you doing in the truth area? Do you speak the truth or fudge the truth? Do you find ways to make yourself look better, or others look worse by the way you tell the stories, or do you let the facts speak for themselves? We live in troubled times and the only way to begin the healing process in our polarized world is to speak the truth in love. Check your facts. Tell the truth. Always show others the greatest truth of all: God’s grace.

Lord, it’s so easy to pass along “those” stories. I’d neve make them up, of course, but my joy or my rage gets the better of me and I pass along misinformation without thinking about it. Help me to speak Your truth and show Your love to others.

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

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February 19 – Immanuel: God With Us

Matthew 1; Exodus 20; Exodus 21; Proverbs 9

“So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: ‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which is translated, ‘God with us.’” (Matthew 1:22-23 NKJV)

It was Juliet who asked the question, “What’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.” While her point was well taken in the context of the play, names had very important meanings in ancient times. As Matthew began his gospel and told the story of Jesus, he made a point of mentioning how Jesus was named. His name was Jesus because He would save people from their sins. Matthew justified that by denoting the passage in Isaiah where the virgin would call Him Immanuel or God with us. The connection between those two names is obvious, right? Ok, maybe not. This has always puzzled me. I think, though, that the connection comes from the fact that Jesus means that the Lord is salvation, and that since He was God the Son, He truly was, and is, “God with us.” Since He is still with us, we have more strength to deal with the problems of life that arise every day. Whoever you are, whatever you’ve done, God loves you and wants to be with you. God is not far off in some cosmic heaven, He truly is with us at all times.

Does the truth that “God is with us” all the time comfort you or worry you? If you get the wrong idea about God, it could be worrying. If you see God as a harsh judge looking for reasons to zap you, it could be very unnerving. On the other hand, if you recognize that God loves you and wants the best for you, He isn’t judging everything you do, He’s an ally cheering you on as you show others His love. Take comfort in the fact that God is with you wherever you go and whatever you do.

Lord, thank You for being “Immanuel,” God with us. Remind me of Your presence as I fall asleep and as I wake up. Remind me that You are with me to encourage me in the best of times and the worst of times. Help me to understand how much You love and care for me.

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

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February 18 – What If We Learned to be Content?

Hebrews 13; Exodus 18; Exodus 19; Proverbs 8

“Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” (Hebrews 13:5 NKJV)

We don’t use the word “covet” a lot these days, but you can tell that God doesn’t like it when people covet. The tenth commandment is an admonition against coveting. In today’s readings, coveting is warned against here and Moses’s father in law warned against choosing leaders who covet. People who covet always want a little bit more. They’re never satisfied. Americans may not have invented the concept of coveting, but we’ve done a great job of perfecting it. The old joke asks how much money the average American thinks they need, and the answer is just a little bit more. We’ve spiritualized coveting and made it a virtue, because if we have faith, God’s gonna bless us real good. We covet because we’re not satisfied. We covet because we’re jealous of our neighbor who may have nice things. I don’t think the admonition against coveting means we can’t want nice things, I think God warns us against an unhealthy, obsessive desire to get more. The cure for covetousness is satisfaction. Trust God to take care of all your needs because He won’t leave or forget us.

Can you be content with what you have, or do you need just a little bit more? Or a lot more? What would happen to the economy if we learned how to be content? What if, because we weren’t striving for more things all the time, we found ways to give more money away to effective ministry groups, especially our churches? I think we’d see a different world.

Lord, teach me contentment. Help me learn to be content with my relationship with You. Give me the courage to stop coveting and start reminding myself that Your presence in my life should satisfy me in all circumstances.

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

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February 17 – You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet

Hebrews 12; Exodus 16; Exodus 17; Proverbs 7:6-27

“For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin.” (Hebrews 12:3-4 NKJV)

When Christians in America talk about being persecuted for their faith, I try to be diplomatic and not laugh too loud. We may lose some friends. We may have to deal with some “looks.” Sometimes we may have to deal with legal issues. Those are inconveniences. The author of Hebrews reminds us that Jesus endured physical hostility from those in the world to the point of death on the cross. Many Christians in the early church underwent severe persecution ending up in prison, in the Coliseum as fodder for gladiators and lions, or just plain tortured and killed. The Christians of that time and place may not have had to deal with physical oppression and bloodshed, but many of their brothers and sisters already had. It would be easy for them to get weary and discouraged as they heard tales of what other Christians were going through, believing that they would be next. Perhaps our fear is that even though we aren’t dealing with physical persecution yet, the sinful nature of people makes us think that we’ll undergo persecution soon. And that fear is intensified as we see what happens in other countries where people are losing their lives or their freedom because they follow Christ openly. But we haven’t resisted to the point of bloodshed yet. Until we do, we need to run the race set before us and proclaim the love of Jesus to others.

Do you worry what others will think about you if you admit to following Jesus openly? Could it affect your job situation if people knew that you followed Christ? Our history and heritage as Christians began in an atmosphere of persecution. Would you rather gain the whole world and lose your soul, or hear God say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant?”

Lord, it’s easy to want to put my beliefs on the back burner and go along to get along in a world that’s becoming more hostile to You every day. Remind me that Jesus and other brothers and sisters in Christ down through the ages have endured far greater persecution than I ever will and hep me speak boldly about Your love.

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

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February 16 – What a Life of Faith Brings

Hebrews 11:23-40; Exodus 15; Proverbs 6; Proverbs 7:1-5

“Women received their dead raised to life again. And others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented–of whom the world was not worthy.” (Hebrews 11:35-38a NKJV)

You just gotta have faith, right? God wants to bless you real good, but, friend, you need to have strong faith for Him to do that. If you have enough faith, you can ask God for anything and He’ll give it to you. Do those comments sound familiar? There’s a branch of Christianity that teaches that if you have enough faith, you won’t get sick and you will prosper financially in everything you do. I’m guessing they don’t read the last art of Hebrews 11 very much. In those verses we see the woes and afflictions suffered by giants in the faith who followed God through torture and painful death because they understood what a relationship with God was. These are men and women of faith of whom the world was not worthy – yet they were scourged, mocked, tortured, and killed because of their faith. In some parts of the world, coming to faith in Christ is the equivalent of accepting a death sentence and yet, people commit their hearts and lives to God with great joy. There are, of course, amazing blessings from God when you live in faith, but we should never presume that a life of faith means that we’ll never experience difficulties in life. On the contrary, we can expect our faith to lead us into more difficulties in life because we set our hearts and minds on Jesus and not on the ways of the world. God doesn’t call us to go along to get along; He calls us to be examples of His love and purity in a hostile world.

Have you been troubled by the fact that you’ve had troubles at work because someone made you think that walking in faith meant that God would protect you from all your troubles? Don’t worry. The troubles don’t come because of a lack of faith. Faith doesn’t mean that we’ll never have troubles, faith means that God will walk with us through all of our troubles. When the troubles come, we just walk a little closer to God ad know that He’s taking care of things.

Lord, meet me in my troubles and encourage me. Let me recognize Your presence and power in any situation I’m in and let me be a calming influence for others going through a difficult time.

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

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February 15 – Faith, Hope, and Evidence

Hebrews 11:1-22; Exodus 13; Exodus 14; Proverbs 5

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1 NKJV)

What is faith? If we were to do a “man on the street” interview video, we’d probably get hundreds of different answers. This one verse definition of faith leaves much to the imagination. What does it mean when the author says that “faith is the substance of things hoped for?” Hopes are immaterial. They haven’t happened yet. Or more interesting is the phrase “the evidence of things not seen.” Try using faith to testify in a court of law. Most judges won’t accept your faith as evidence either for or against the accused. After discussion with a few friends and relatives, our definition of faith is trusting in God to do right even when things seem to be going wrong. Faith stands in opposition to our material world that demands evidentiary proof before it will take action on anything. Throughout the rest of this chapter, those who heard God’s call and acted on faith, not waiting for evidence, not waiting for hard facts to prove them right, were honored and are still honored today.

How much evidence do you need to believe that God’s speaking to you? Do you need a sign or wonder? Are you the kind of person who needs to lay out a fleece (Judges 6) or can you trust God right away when you sense His calling on your life? Respond in faith when God calls, let His words be the substance you need, accept His call as the evidence you need to commit your life to His way.

Lord, help me to know when You’re speaking to me and then give me the faith to respond in obedience. Let me life show others the evidence of Your love and guidance.

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

 

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February 14 – Believing and Showing God’s Love in Community

Hebrews 10:19-39; Exodus 11; Exodus 12; Proverbs 4

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works,” (Hebrews 10:23-24 NKJV)

Faith is a combination of our beliefs and our practices as the author of Hebrews makes clear in this section of Scripture. He calls us to continue to stick to our beliefs. I think it’s interesting that his encouragement is to “us” and not to “you.” Faith is a community event, and while we in the Western world look at individuals and individual beliefs, the early church understood faith in community. Even the confessions of faith made those who followed Christ a part of a larger community. The church is a mighty continent, not a string of islands, as God’s people believe and work together. One way the church works together is when we encourage each other to love and to do good works in our world. Our beliefs should affect our actions and if we’re holding fast to our hope, the promise of life in the Kingdom of God, then not only should we be doing good works in our world, Kingdom works, actually, we should be encouraging others to do good works as well. Good works don’t get us into heaven, but they do reflect a life lived in the Kingdom of God.

What have you done for others recently? Have you encouraged fellow Christians? Have you done something to help people in need? Have you shown love to people who need to experience God’s love? Show that what you believe is so important that it makes a difference in how you deal with other people. There are a lot of people who won’t believe what you say unless you show them what you believe by the good works you do. Help others to experience the goodness of God by your good works.

Lord, remind me that I am a part of Your church. Let me hold fast to my confession of faith in unity with other brothers and sisters in Christ. Let me do good works to show others my commitment to You and encourage others to join in the celebration of our faith by showing Your love to others.

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

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