February 3 – Can You Trust a Woman?

Luke 24:1-12; Genesis 43; Psalm 34

“It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them, who told these things to the apostles. And their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them.” Luke 24:1-11 NKJV)

If you wanted to start a religion in ancient Israel, you probably shouldn’t put yourself in a position where women are the main witnesses to any events related to the founding. Women, in general, were not treated kindly, especially when it came time to testify in court or in public. When the women who were the first witnesses to the resurrection repeated what the angels said to them, they weren’t believed. Their tales were foolish. And if the women dared to repeat what the angels said about all this being what Jesus said was going to happen, they’d wonder how a woman would dare to teach a man. There are some cultures around the world, even today, that hold that same view of women. You need to give Peter some credit, though. He didn’t dismiss the story out of hand. He ran down to the tomb himself and checked things out. He may not have believed right away, but when the two men came back from Emmaus later that evening, indications are that Jesus had appeared to Peter. But the first witnesses were women because God knew that their testimony would be truthful and valid. Perhaps this was His way of saying women should be treated equally.

Paul noted that our status as male or female wasn’t as important as our status in Christ. Still, old habits die hard and women are often seen as being a little less than a man. God doesn’t see women that way. The first people to spread the news of the resurrection were women, according to God’s plan. When woman was created, she was created to be side by side with man. If you’re male and you’re reading this, do you treat women as equals in the work place and at home or do you see them as subservient? God sees women as equals. How can you treat women like God would? If you’re female and dealing with men who don’t treat women as being equal, how do you break down the barriers they raise?

Lord, it’s so easy to let culture determine our attitudes toward others. Help us see all people not as male or female, but as fellow travelers in Christ. If I take a superior attitude toward women because of my culture, remind me that You trusted women enough that they were the first to experience Your resurrection and share that great news with 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 2 – Father Forgive Them

Luke 23:26-56; Genesis 42; Psalm 33

“Then he said to Jesus, ‘Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.’” (Genesis 42:42-43 NKJV)

As Jesus hung on the cross, the Jewish leaders, the Romans, and even one of the criminals dying alongside Him, mocked and belittled Him. Jesus bore all the mocking, all the insults and returned their evil with forgiveness. Then the other criminal rebuked the one who mocked Jesus declaring his belief that Jesus was innocent and then asked Jesus to remember him. Jesus’s response was beautiful. He told that criminal that he would be with Jesus in Paradise that day. He didn’t go through the sinner’s prayer. He didn’t walk an aisle, but that thief is with Jesus in Paradise because He made that confession of faith and asked Jesus to remember him. What does it take to be assured of an eternity with Jesus in Paradise? A simple confession of faith and request. No, that isn’t works based salvation. That’s acknowledging that God’s in control of this world and everything in it and asking Him to be a part of His kingdom. It’s recognizing that Jesus Christ came to earth to close the gap between God and man by dying on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins and bring forgiveness. As we forgive others, we reveal to them the forgiving nature of God and He calls us to forgive and love others just like He did for us.

Did you ever feel unworthy before God? Guess what: that makes you normal. When we recognize the greatness of God, the natural reaction is to feel inadequate. But, Jesus made us worthy by His death on the cross. We can come before God with boldness because we’ve been forgiven. And this is the hard part here: because God has forgiven us, we need to forgive others. Try forgiving the unforgivable. You’ll find that it gives you far more peace than the one who’s been forgiven.

Lord, You forgave the unforgivable in me when Jesus died on the cross. I confess that and ask you to remember me in Your kingdom. Teach me to forgive and love others like You do.

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

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February 1 – By the Way, Something Sounds Different

Luke 23:1-25; Genesis 41; Psalm 32

“And they began to accuse Him, saying, ‘We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, saying that He Himself is Christ, a King.’ Then Pilate asked Him, saying, ‘Are You the King of the Jews?’ He answered him and said, ‘It is as you say.’” (Luke 23:2-3 NKJV)

Have you ever gone to a store to buy an item on sale at a fantastic price, only to find out that they had just sold the last one – but, they can sell you the deluxe item at a slightly higher price? That’s an illegal retailing practice known as “Bait and Switch.” Anyone who followed Jesus’s trials from the illegal one held by the Sanhedrin to the trial before Pilate would understand the concept. Before the Sanhedrin, Jesus was brought up on blasphemy charges and they had trouble making those stick. They finally got the excuse to find Him guilty and return a sentence of death. Them, when they appeared before Pilate, they tried to convince Pilate that Jesus was trying to overthrow the Romans and was preaching tax rebellion. If that sound completely opposite to what you think you heard/read the other day, it is. Jesus beat their tax trap and I would guess that those accusing Jesus of teaching against paying taxes were themselves doing just that. Pilate obviously didn’t take the charges too seriously. He asked Jesus if He was the King of the Jews and Jesus responded with the equivalent of “you said it, not me.” Pilate told them it was good enough for him and was about to release Him until the Jews persisted in their evil way.

The work place equivalent of the tactic the Jews employed is when someone say something like, “Oh, by the way…” You know the boss is going to add extra work to your already overloaded plate. You know your co-worker is going to ask you to run an errand for him or her since you’re already going. Sometimes, the biggest tests of faith happen when we deal with the “by the ways” people throw at us. Jesus kept quiet and didn’t protest His innocence, although He could have. Pilate tried to coax a response from Jesus, but never got one. Maybe, if we saw the “by the ways” of life as an opportunity to serve others in the name of Christ, we’ll learn from those events and experience joy by serving others.

Lord, sometimes it’s a real pain when people add that one more thing for us to do or even change the whole nature of our plans. Give me the grace to handle my emotions and deal with people who impose on my time. Help me to be a witness to Your love and grace.

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

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January 31 – Betrayed, Denied, Forgotten – Covered by Extreme Forgiveness

Luke 22:39-71; Genesis 40; Psalm 31

“Then he restored the chief butler to his butlership again, and he placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand. … Yet the chief butler did not remember Joseph, but forgot him. (Genesis 40:21,23 NKJV)

Years ago, I had a banner that had Snoopy looking dazed and confused saying, “I love mankind, it’s people I can’t stand.” People can be real problems. Jesus dealt with being betrayed and denied by His friends, then lied about and executed by His enemies. The Psalmist in the passage we read today had been forgotten by his friends, and Joseph, wow. Betrayed by ten of his brothers and sold into slavery, falsely accused by the wife of his master and thrown into jail. In jail, he foretold events for people by interpreting their dreams while asking one simple favor in return, they were to let Pharaoh know about Joseph. Obviously, the guy who was executed didn’t have a chance, but that butler, he got his job back with full benefits and back pay, and then betrayed Joseph by not letting the boss know about him. People are awful, let’s face it. That means our families, friends, people we work with, and strangers in the street. Oh, and we are too. If we’re being honest with ourselves, we mess up too. We usually don’t talk about it because we’re worried about what those other people did to us. Rather than asking forgiveness from them, though, we sit around and wait for them to ask our forgiveness. And so our relationships become more and more strained until they finally reach the breaking point and we say and do things we regret later.

So how was your day? Did you mess up when you dealt with someone? Is it still possible to apologize? If so, apologize. If you won’t have the chance to apologize, put it in God’s hands. Did someone offend or anger you? Was you first reaction to think of a way to get back at them? If it was, you can still forgive them. Let God remind you of how much He forgave you, and maybe you can forgive them in your heart. Just remember that when you hold a grudge you end up punishing yourself for something someone else did to you – they’ll never be affected by it.

Lord, it’s so tempting to want to get back at people who’ve hurt us. You didn’t do that, You forgave those who crucified Jesus. You forgive us when we betray or deny You. Help me to learn extreme forgiveness and how to show that in all cases when I’m hurt.

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

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January 30 – If I’m Not God’s Favorite, Who Is?

Luke 22:1-38; Genesis 39; Psalm 30

“Then they began to question among themselves, which of them it was who would do this thing. Now there was also a dispute among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest.” (Luke 22:23-24 NKJV)

Some people just can’t stay on the subject. They start talking and then, something distracts them so that they go astray onto a different subject. We had teachers that we knew how to distract this way. I’m sure you’ve done something similar. The disciples were apparently easily distracted. Jesus had just told them that somebody was going to betray Him, and they turned that into a discussion as to which of them was the greatest – well next to Jesus I’m sure. It’s easy to guess what happened. Jesus mentioned that someone was going to betray Him. The disciples probably began questioning: “It isn’t me, is it? I wouldn’t be the one to betray You, would I?” Then, one of them would make that a definitive statement. “Couldn’t be me. I wouldn’t do that.” Finally, and I have a sneaking suspicion that Peter started it, someone said, “Oh, it couldn’t be me. I’m Jesus’s best disciple.” And then the arguments began. My brother and I used to argue, jokingly, who the favorite son in the family was. But we both knew that we were teasing each other. Problems happen when people are serious about being the favorite child in the family (think about Joseph and his brothers), or the best/most important person at work. Things can get toxic, cut-throat even when people start putting others down so they can look like the best. How well Jesus used that teachable moment to let them know that true greatness in God’s kingdom is shown in serving others.

Did you have one of “those” people today? Do you have to deal with people who are always right and who think that God couldn’t run the world without them? How did you react when they treated you and others that way? Did you show them grace? Did you act like a servant of God showing them grace and love or did you treat them like they deserved? Make plans to show God’s love and grace to these people especially. God can work on their problems, you treat them like Jesus would.

Oh Lord, You had to deal with “those” people among Your disciples, even. I guess I should expect no less. Give me Your patience as I deal with people who don’t know how to serve You. Let my life and my actions reveal Your love and grace 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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January 29 – Until The End Comes

Luke 21; Genesis 38; Psalm 29

“Then, as some spoke of the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and donations, He said, ‘These things which you see–the days will come in which not one stone shall be left upon another that shall not be thrown down.’ So they asked Him, saying, ‘Teacher, but when will these things be? And what sign will there be when these things are about to take place?’” (Luke 21:5-7 NKJV)

Perhaps the truest statement ever made about the future is when Yogi Berra said, “The future ain’t what it used to be.” Seriously, when I grew, we expected flying cars and everything to run on push buttons. We thought we would go to the replicator and order what we wanted any time of the day. We have a fascination with the future and that gives us something in common with the disciples. Jesus let them know that the Temple would be totally destroyed, and that ignited the questions. “When? How will we know? What signs do we need to look out for?” The TL/DR version of what Jesus said is that all the things they think will be signs will happen, but it still won’t be the end. (For those of you in my generation, “TL/DR” means, “Too Long, Didn’t Read” or, in other words, a summary.) We still have that same fascination with the end of times. In the last thirty or so years we’ve had numerous predictions of when Jesus would come again. And revised predictions. So far, all those predictions are batting zero. I don’t know what will happen in the future, but I do know that I’m called serve God every day. Since I can’t control the future, I can at least focus on sharing the love and grace of God each day and help prepare other people to face the future.

How was the day? Dealing with people can be tough, did you reflect the love and grace of God as you worked with the most obnoxious people? (If you did, comment and let me know how you did it! I need help there.) Do you live for God one day at a time, or do you focus on how and when things are going to happen in the future that you miss the opportunities of the day? We live for the future by living each day in the grace of God. Make this day one where you take advantage of all the opportunities God gives you to show His love and grace.

Lord, I know You’re returning some time. Help me get ready for Your return by living each day in Your love and grace and showing others who You are by the way I live.

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

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January 28 – Lord, Grant My Enemies Justice and Me Grace

Luke 20:27-47; Genesis 37; Psalm 28

“Do not take me away with the wicked And with the workers of iniquity, Who speak peace to their neighbors, But evil is in their hearts. Give them according to their deeds, And according to the wickedness of their endeavors; Give them according to the work of their hands; Render to them what they deserve.” (Psalm 28:3-4 NKJV)

My pastor was joking this morning when he said, “If you’re ever mad at someone, don’t read the Sermon on the Mount, read Psalms.” The passage he was referring to talked about God giving one’s enemies a knuckle sandwich. (Psalm 3:7) Psalms has a lot of that honest feeling of “God, take care of them just like they tried to do with me.” In this Psalm, David’s trying to distance himself in God’s eyes from those hypocrites who speak peace while plotting and doing evil. He wanted God to give his enemies what they deserved, but he wanted to avoid that same fate himself. How often do we notice other people doing evil things, but fail to recognize it in ourselves? How often do we seek God’s justice – for others while depending on grace from God for our own lives. Perhaps Jesus was thinking of scripture like this when He reminded us to take the beam out of our own eyes before working on the speck in that other guy’s eye.

As you prepare for a new workday and work week, let’s be honest: how often do you get upset with people who make the same mistakes you do? How often do you want people to suffer for bad business decisions while you hope for God’s forgiveness for yourself? Make a commitment before you even start the work week that you’ll extend the same kind of grace to others that you want God to give to you. It will amaze you how much better your week goes.

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

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January 27 – Nobody Likes Paying Taxes, Nobody!

Luke 20:1-26; Genesis 35; Genesis 36; Psalm 27

“And He said to them, ‘Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’” (Luke 20:25 NKJV)

A friend overheard his eight-year-old son talking to his playmate. He was complaining that with his birthday being on April 15, he was going to have to pay taxes on his birthday every year. Talk about pre-planning your misery! We do complain about taxes though. That’s an American tradition ever since Americans decided to switch to coffee instead of tea because of that tax thing. No matter which side of the political aisle that you’re on, you could make a case for your taxes paying for things that you think are immoral. You think we got it bad, the Jews in Jesus’s day had to pay taxes to the Roman tax collectors. Many of the Pharisees thought it was unlawful to pay taxes because supported the occupying Roman forces. The idea that they had to pay taxes to support the Roman army occupying their land was galling. Since they had lost a few battles of wit along the way, they finally had an idea to get Jesus: taxes. The folks in power always use taxes to get they guy they want. So, they asked Him what seemed to be a simple statement: “Is it legal to pay taxes to the Romans or not.” The trap was that if Jesus said it was illegal to pay taxes, they could take Him straight to Pilate, while if He said it was lawful, then all the tax hating people would turn against Him. Jesus turned the question back on them by telling them to give to God what belongs to God, and to Caesar what belongs to Caesar.

We could argue about how those words should affect our taxes today, but we wouldn’t come to a consensus since we have so many different views on the role of government in our world today, and so many different views on the role of God, and His people, also. The point, though, is that we often have dual loyalties in our world, including loyalty due to God and country. No loyalty should surpass our loyalty to God, but when we put God first, we can approach those other loyalties with the proper perspective. Where do your loyalties lie? Do you put God first in everything, or does He sometimes take second place? Plan for this day to be a day when you put God first in everything.

Lord, it’s so easy to put other things ahead of You: spouse, children, country, or job for example. Teach me how to put You first in everything and experience greater joy in those other relationships.

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

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January 26 – Can We Find Peace?

Luke 19:28-48; Genesis 34; Psalm 26

“Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, ‘If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.’” (Luke 19:41-42 NKJV)

I think it’s safe to say that we aren’t living in peace in the United States. We have tension and conflict that ignites into media firestorms weekly, if not daily. Sometimes the anger becomes heated and violent. Social media and 24-hour news stations keep the inflammatory rhetoric at fever pitch. There’s only one thing on which we can all agree: it’s the other side’s fault. While most people wouldn’t say this out loud, it seems as though we can’t even work for civility because their side is right, and the other side is wrong, and any move towards compromise is seen as evil, as surrender, as selling your soul to the devil. We don’t understand how to make peace in our world today. Jesus, in what the world saw as His moment of triumph, turned aside and wept for the city of Jerusalem, because they didn’t know how to make peace, and He knew the trouble that was coming. We see similar issues at all levels of politics, and we see that kind of division in the churches. And that division affects us at work either through spillover discussion and tension in the workplace, or through work policies that look great on paper to the people in suits, but don’t work for the people on the floor. But they make the policies and the people on the floor resent the people in suits for making dumb policy, and the people in suits resent the people on the floor for not carrying the policy out like they should. If only there was hope for peace.

How are you dealing with the issues of life? Does the tension and strife in the world today bother you, especially when you’re right and they’re wrong? Do you even wonder why God gave us so many people who can’t figure out how to deal with the issues of life? Seek God and lay your concerns before Him – He wants peace which is His presence in the hearts of the people. Pray not only for the peace of Jerusalem, pray for the peace of our nation your city, and your home.

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

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January 25 – Taking Another Look at Success

Luke 19:1-27; Genesis 32; Genesis 33; Psalm 25

“And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.’” (Luke 19:9-10 NKJV)

Sometimes it’s hard to understand what Jesus does. In yesterday’s reading, he told the rich guy to sell all that he had and give it to the poor. Today, in the story of Zacchaeus, Jesus seemed to be satisfied with Zach giving half away and making restitution to people he’d cheated. If you focus on the events in the story, it doesn’t seem completely fair. Jesus wasn’t focusing on the events, though. He was reading the hearts of the two men.                 The ruler, even though he was searching, was pretty self-satisfied. He could check all the boxes society told him he needed to check. He was looking for more to do, and Jesus saw that his heart was still focused on himself. Zacchaeus, on the other hand, was searching for Jesus. When he met Jesus, his heart melted, and he looked for ways to show His new-found love for God. The ruler looked to himself while Zacchaeus sought God. That’s what brought the approval from Jesus. How easy is it to get so caught up in doing the right thing, that we don’t become the right person? That reminds me of the people who came up to Jesus bragging about all the things they did for God, and Jesus responded by telling them that He never knew them. Perhaps we’ve got this whole success thing wrong, in the US. Success isn’t found in how much money we have, it’s found in how close we are to God. And, if you’re really successful, you won’t realize it.

Was today a day you worked so hard that you didn’t build relationships with customers, co-workers, and bosses? Or did you take the time to let people know that they’re important to you? Think back on how you interacted with people today and make plans to show people that they have value.

Lord, it’s been said that one of our problems is that we use people and love things. Stop me from doing that. Help me to use everything you’ve given me to love people.

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

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