Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 99

03/31/2015 – 99

Yesterday we learned that Jesus not only prayed according to the traditional schedule, but He was flexible – He prayed whenever the situation called for it. He prayed many times throughout the day. Today let’s take a look at how He prayed and how His style differed from the norm.

To start with, When the Jews prayed, they addressed God in a very formal manner, like ‘My Lord, my God’ or ‘God of my father’. Jesus called Him Abba, which is much more personal, less formal. It does mean ‘father’, but is more like Dad, Daddy, or Papa. This simply reflected the intimacy of His relationship with God.

Mark 14:36 “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

Second, the Jews used the archaic Hebrew language to pray, which was very stilted and formal. This would be like us praying in old English with all its ‘thee-s’ and ‘thou-s’. Jesus prayed in Aramaic, which was the common spoken language of the Jews of that day. This was simply unheard of – no one would do that! These things were considered disrespectful. Yet, Jesus’ prayers were always respectful, yet simple. He stuck to the point, without adding a lot of ‘fluff’ – flowery language to make His prayers sound good to others.

Some of His prayers would have been sung:

Mark 14:26 “When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.”

This is something that I think many of us forget. Whether we are in church or singing along with the car radio, we need to be conscious of what we are singing. Some hymns are written for our own edification or that of others. They are written about God. For example, ‘Because He lives I can face tomorrow’. Others are written as prayers. These are addressed to God or Jesus. Example: ‘You are God Alone’. Next time you sing a song, give that some thought. Are you in fact speaking to God?

Why don’t you try that for today’s prayer. Pop in your favorite CD, check out Youtube for your favorite hymn, or listen on the radio. Find a song that is directed to Him – then sing/pray along. Think about what you’re saying – the lyrics. Then add whatever the Holy Spirit lays on your heart.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 98

03/30/2015 – 98

In addition to the 3 standard daily prayer times, we know that Jesus often went to the synagogue to teach and to worship. As in our own worship services (or at least as they should), prayer played a prominent role.

Luke 4:16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom.

One of the most common (and important) focus of prayers was the recognition of God for who He is. Here’s a part of one that was often prayer at the end of a synagogue service. It continues to be used today when people are in mourning, known as the Mourner’s Kaddish.

“Exalted and hallowed be God’s great name

in the world which God created, according to plan.

May God’s majesty be revealed in the days of our lifetime

and the life of all Israel — speedily, imminently, to which we say Amen.”

Of course, the prayer life of a devout Jew, especially a rabbi, was not limited to formal times or situations. Prayers were offered up constantly throughout the day. People prayed for their needs, of course. But unlike many of us today, They never missed an opportunity to praise or thank God for His blessings. If they got a new piece of clothing, they prayed. They thanked Him for the weather, their food no matter how meager. They even praised Him for working bodily functions. When’s the last time you thanked God for a digestive system that works?

That sounds to me like a great exercise for today. First, set your basic prayer times. When you wake up, before you go to bed, before meals? Pray at those times, of course. Keep that schedule until it becomes a part of you. But for the rest of today, be on constant watch for anything for which you can thank God. Look especially for those things we usually take for granted, like health, a car that runs, a friend, a safe home etc. Realize that all these things came from God, and be thankful.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 97

03/29/2015 – 97

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

Had a tough week? Maybe it’s just been difficult at work, maybe you’ve been hurt by someone you cared about. Maybe you’ve lost someone you loved. No matter what, you have access to the God of all comfort. He understands – really. He has every emotion that we have, we are made in His image. We hurt, so does He. We love, so does He. And so on.

Being a Christian does NOT mean all our troubles are at an end. It DOES mean that we never, ever have to deal with our problems alone. As you worship this Palm Sunday, think about what was about to happen to Jesus in the next week. Don’t be afraid if it hurts – it should. After all, He did it for you. Praise Him today, thank Him for suffering in your place – and for the comfort His Spirit gives you even today.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 96

03/28/2015 – 96

We said that Jesus is our best example of how, when and why we pray. But there’s another great reason to study His prayer life. A man named Dave Archer once said, “If you want to get to know someone intimately, eavesdrop on their prayers”. To me, this is one fantastic to get to know the One who we are called to be like.

Let’s start by remembering that Jesus was raised in a devout Jewish household. The foundation for His prayer life would have started there. Prayers in His home would have been offered 3 times each day. The morning and evening prayers were prescribed by scripture:

Deuteronomy 6:4-7 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.a 5Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

Afternoon prayers were timed to coincide with purification ceremonies at the temple in Jerusalem. Trumpets would sound and everyone would stop wherever they were and pray. Some people ‘just happened’ to find themselves on busy street corners, and pray loudly to impress those around them. These are the ones that Jesus chastised in Matthew 6:5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.”

It’s important to remember that the prayers said were not said as vain repetition. A devout Jew would have carefully considered every word he spoke. Also, these would not have been the entire prayer, a sort of ‘Now I lay me down to sleep’ prayer. They would have been the start, leading into whatever other prayers were needed at the time. This is what I try to do when I suggest a prayer for each day’s devotion – to give you a place to start.

In that light, why not start today by thanking Him again for His example, then ask Him to lead you. Ask Him to place a burden on your heart about wht He would have you pray – then do it.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 95

03/27/2015 – 95

Luke 11:1-4 One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

He said to them, “When you pray, say: “‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come

Give us each day our daily bread.

Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.’”

Comparing this account to the one we read yesterday in Matthew, we notice that Jesus’ teaching of the prayer was in response to the disciple’s petition that He teach them to pray. However, we often make one mistake in interpreting this passage. Jesus didn’t intend that we say these same words every time we pray. In fact, the King James version of the Bible translates Matthew 6:7 like this: “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.” Yet for whatever reason, we often do just that – repeat the words over and over until they become meaningless. Please understand, I’m not saying it’s wrong to repeat His words – as long as each time you say them, you think about (and mean) what you’re saying.

Instead, Jesus meant this to be a model – the design of an ideal, complete prayer. Let’s do a simple breakdown. The first part (verse 2 above) are known as the ‘Thy petitions’. These are not focuses on us, but on God, i.e. “hallowed be Your name”, “Your kingdom come”. It’s easy to remember – God always comes first. The next part is the ‘We petitions’. These are focuses on us – our needs and desires. “Give us each day our daily bread”, “Forgive us our sins” etc.

Try using this design in your own prayers. Before you get to your ‘list’, Take time to recognize God for Who He is and what He has done. Look around and let your eyes be opened to see His many blessings, and thank Him for each one. The danger is that you’ll start to see so many things that you’ll never get past the first part! That’s OK, though. As you practice praying in this way, I promise that you’ll develop a more fruitful prayer life. Not only more direct answers, but also better communication with God.

Try it now. Follow it up with a simple ‘we petition’. “Lord, teach us to pray.”

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 94

03/26/2015 – 94

Jesus, for all that He was and is, was our best example of how to live. When He walked the earth as a human being, He showed us that we really can live lives of holiness, dedicated to God. He showed us that we don’t have to bow to the sinful culture in which we live, even though sometimes it’s really difficult to go against the current. Right now one of the biggest cultural battles going on is the acceptance of homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle.

If you don’t agree, you’re branded as a ‘hater’ or homophobic. Suddenly those that believe in the Bible are again the bad guys, closed-minded etc. Jesus was accused of many things when He was here as well. How did He stay on the path with all the pressures trying to push Him off? It wasn’t simply because He is God. When He came here, He took on all the foibles and weaknesses that we have. He was successful because, above all else, was a man of prayer.

Hebrews 5:7 During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.

The scriptures talk about Jesus’ prayers 25 times. They tell us how He prayed, when He prayed, and in some instances, the words He prayed. He prayed when He was happy and grateful, He prayed when He was discouraged and hurting. He prayed alone, He prayed with others. He prayed constantly.

Jesus taught us how to pray both by example and direct teaching. In Matthew 6 we read this (familiar to most of us) lesson on prayer:

Matthew 6:9-16  “This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,

10 your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

11 Give us today our daily bread.

12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’

Tomorrow we’ll look at this teaching in detail. For today, make this the start of your prayers. Don’t just repeat it, though. Think about each line, each word as you say it, and what it might mean.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 93

03/25/2015 – 93

How long has prayer been around? Before the fall, Adam and Eve had direct face-to-face conversations with God. We do see other instances of this in the Old Testament (i.e when God appeared to Abraham & Moses). They are the exceptions, for special circumstances and at God’s discretion. For the most part, once sin entered into the picture (separating people from God), prayer became the means by which we talk with God. He answers in many ways, and there are circumstances in which He does not even hear our prayers. We’ll talk about that later. The first documented instance of prayer in the Bible was at the birth of Adam & Eve’s grandson Enosh.

Genesis 4:26 Seth also had a son, and he named him Enosh. At that time people began to call on the name of the Lord.

In the book of Leviticus God laid out the sacrificial system for the Israelites. This system made a way for atonement for us (a way for our sins to be forgiven and made right with God). However, the system not only required a sacrifice but priests who had to perform the rituals and care for the tabernacle. In other words, we needed an intercessor. So what changed? Nothing. And everything. When Jesus came and died for us, He became the perfect sacrifice – once and for all. Now that He is back in heaven, He is our intercessor – our high priest.

1 Tim 2:5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus

What then, is our part now? To follow Jesus’ example as a Man of prayer, and that of the early Christian church. If anything, prayer (especially personal prayer) takes on a much greater emphasis in the New Testament.

Acts 1:14 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.

Tomorrow we’ll begin looking at Jesus’ prayer life and teachings about prayer. For today, ask God that He would use these lessons to truly draw you to Himself.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 92

03/24/2015 – 92

Genesis 17:7-9  I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.” Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come.

Well, there’s that pesky covenant thing again, right? I thought we were talking about prayer. We are. I included this verse because it’s a very early reference that clearly establishes the relationship between God and His people. He is to be our God. Period. That is the defining facet that establishes our need to pray. You see, when we approach an equal, even a friend, we may or may not need to speak. We certainly don’t need to gain their approval or permission to do what we want to do, and we certainly don’t need to live our lives in a way that pleases them.

But our God? He is the One who created us, gave us life. He is the One who created an entire universe, all in perfect balance in order to accommodate our physical needs. He is the One who created not just man, but woman to provide for our emotional needs. Finally, He is the One who established a personal Lord-servant relationship to give us guidance and provide for our spiritual needs.

One doesn’t simply walk up to someone in authority and speak as you would to someone of equal status. We don’t simply do what we want when the person in charge tells us differently. We could have been kept in this servant/slave status forever if He chose. Instead, He chose to call us His friends (See John 15:14-15), and allow us to approach His throne personally. He also provided an intercessor, Someone to speak for us when we cannot speak for ourselves. This, of course is His own Son Jesus.

Because we can speak to Him, we should speak to Him. Because He communicates with us, we must communicate with Him. As you pray today, first look around you. Find ways in which He has spoken to you – even in the last day or two. Then, answer Him.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 91

03/23/2015 – 91

On Saturday we ended our lesson with the question ‘why does God want us to pray – always’? I gave you a hint that it has to do with the very reason He created us in the first place. Which brings the second obvious question – why was that again? Let’s see what His Word has to say.

Revelation 4:11 “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.” 

Colossians 1:16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.

So God apparently created us on purpose, and for Him(self). But why would He want to? After all, He already had the angels for ‘company’.  This tells us that it wasn’t out of need that He created us. It was out of desire – just because He wanted to. Since the angels had already been created, we have to assume that what God wanted was something that He did not already have. What could that possibly be? I believe that is was a new relationship – one so intimate, so special that He couldn’t even have it with His angels.

Scripture teaches us that angels serve God as messengers and servants. What God wanted us to be was His friend – his children. He wanted to walk in the Garden of Eden in the cool of the day (Gen 3:8). He wanted He could love, and could love Him in return. That love had to be freely given and freely accepted for it to have any meaning, so He gave us the freedom to choose, and the option to become His friends.

John 15:14-15 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for  all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.

If you have already accepted this relationship with Him, reaffirm it today. Examine yourself to be sure you’re living up to the verse above (obedience). If not, it’s decision time. Don’t wait another minute to become who you were created to be – a friend of God.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 90

03/22/2015 – 90

Isaiah 25:1

Lord, you are my God;

I will exalt you and praise your name,

for in perfect faithfulness

you have done wonderful things,

things planned long ago.

Does it ever surprise you, when you reflect on your life, that many of the things God has done for you He actually planned at creation? Many people will say that God, being all-powerful (omnipotent), controls everything that happens. But this doesn’t make sense in light of the freedom of choice He gave us. This mistaken belief is the reason God often gets a bum rap – takes the blame for our own bad choices. A lifelong smoker who gets lung cancer can say ‘God must have a reason’, but the reality is that God didn’t choose your behavior or the natural consequences of that behavior. At most, we could say that He allowed it to happen by not intervening in a miraculous way. But again, if He had, our choices would be meaningless, wouldn’t they?

In the same way, God allows people to choose whether to have the relationship with Him for which He created them. If that were forced, it would mean nothing. So what about His plan – those things He “planned long ago”. That’s absolutely true – God has a plan for every one of us. It’s up to us whether we allow that plan to be carried out. What we cannot choose – are the consequences. As you go to worship today, remember this:

Jeremiah 29:11-13 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

Then, surrender yourself to Jesus Christ and His plan for you. Now that’s a reason to worship!

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 89

03/21/2005 – 89

Let’s begin our study of prayer by looking at the reasons we need to be people of prayer. I guess the first and simplest one is that God told us to. Read the following verses.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Colossians 4:2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.

 Did you notice the descriptors? “Continually”. “In every situation”. “Devote yourselves”. In fact, although there are many instances in which we are called to pray for specific reasons, there is nothing in scripture that even hints that it’s sufficient to pray only occasionally. Yet ‘every now and then’ describes the prayer life of most of those who call themselves Christians.

We pray when we’re in church – sometimes. But even then, how many people are content to simply stand silently and wait while the pastor does the praying for them? We go to our Sunday School classes and small groups, often spend inordinate amounts of time talking about prayer requests in great detail, then choose one person to say a quick prayer for ‘all the things we talked about that I can’t remember, but You can’. We may say a prayer over Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. Of course, we need to keep it brief because everyone is champing at the bit – they’ve been sniffing those awesome fragrances for a while! We may remember to pray when something really bad happens – we get sick, or lose a loved one.

If we’re ever going to change our prayer patterns, we need to answer this critical question – why does God want us to pray – always? Hint – it has to do with the very reason He created us in the first place. For today, begin your prayers by reading this promise of God – right out loud. Then ask Him to fulfill it in you.

Jeremiah 33:3 ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 88

03/20/2015 – 88

Well, we made it through another major subject area. As I said before we started it, once you understand the covenant, it will change your life. If people treated their marriages as a true covenant, the divorce rate would be much lower. If we treated our relationship with Christ as a covenant, we’d never have to worry or wonder about the future.

Speaking of the future, this is probably a great time to pause, take a deep breath and review the goals that you set for your devotional time. Have you been keeping track? Have you been meeting those goals?

Philippians 3:13-14  “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

If you’re having trouble achieving the goals you set, you’ll need to re-evaluate. Remember, your goals should be do-able, measurable and specific. You might remember we talked about measuring time spent in Bible study and prayer as a good way to start. I’ve also been giving you a suggested ‘prayer starter’ each day having to do with the subject of that day. I hope you all use them in that way – they are meant to be meaningful, but in no way can be assumed to encompass a complete prayer life. So where do we go from there?

Well, since we have yet to look at prayer in any great detail, I thought that this would make a great next step for us on our journey together. In the next weeks we’ll talk about prayer in general, how important – even critical – it is to our relationship with Christ. We’ll look at the greatest example of a praying person ever – Jesus Himself.

Having said that, I have been writing these installments at around 600-700 words per day, which is considered a little over one (printed) page. So, in order to help make things a little less demanding in terms of time each day, and afford more time for prayer, I’m cutting the length of the daily installments in half. I’m counting on your feedback to know if this works out better, or if it just makes things more choppy and fragmented.

For today, ask God to fill you again with His Spirit, specifically to prepare your heart for a new look at – and a new life – of prayer.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 87

03/19/2015 – 87

Now that we’ve studied each step of the covenant ceremony, I’d like to bring it all back together for you. So let’s review. The steps are:

  1. The pre-covenant proceedings
  2. Exchange of Robes
  3. Exchange of Belts
  4. Exchange of Weapons
  5. Sacrifice
  6. Walk of Death
  7. Covenant Mark
  8. Pronouncement of Blessings and Curses
  9. Covenant Meal
  10. Exchange of Names

We read about many such covenants in scripture, although every step isn’t specifically laid out for each. However, we have more than enough information to know what is involved, and what each step means. We also have more than enough information to know what it means to be in a covenant relationship with someone. We aren’t just talking about a business contract, with its legal gobbledygook, escape clauses and expiration dates. We aren’t talking about a partial commitment. If it weren’t made clear by anything else, the ‘Walk of Death’ would do it, would it not?

We learned about the 2 kinds of covenants – the parity covenant (between 2 parties who are somewhat equal, i.e. 2 kings) and the vassal covenant (between 2 parties who are completely unequal in what they bring to the table, i.e. a king and a poor peasant). When we make our covenant with God, He is offering us a vassal covenant. We come with almost nothing. God makes this clear to us here:

Psalm 50:9-12    9I have no need of a bull from your stall

or of goats from your pens,

10for every animal of the forest is mine,

and the cattle on a thousand hills.

11I know every bird in the mountains,

and the insects in the fields are mine.

12If I were hungry I would not tell you,

for the world is mine, and all that is in it.

So, what’s left? I said that we come with almost nothing. What we bring to the covenant is the only thing we can call ours – and that only because God has given us the freedom to choose whether we walk with Him or not. The one thing we have – is our life. This encompasses everything that we are, and everything that we do. Our love, our goals, our behavior, our speech, our time, our money – everything. This is the difficult part for many of us. But think – did Jesus do any less for us?

He actually left heaven, came to earth as a man, suffering all that we do as fleshly beings in imperfect bodies surrounded by imperfect people. He lived that way for 33 years, devoting His time and energy (often to the point of exhaustion) to teach us about God, and how to live in His kingdom. He died a horrible death on the cross after being tortured, even though He committed no crime. Then, He returned to us, so that we could know beyond a doubt that He is our Savior, the promised Messiah.

He gave us everything. There is really only one response for us if we are to enter into a covenant relationship with Him, and that is to give Him everything in return. There is no middle ground. No acceptable compromise where He gets us sometimes but not others, where He gets one part of our life but not all. Jesus literally walked the ‘Walk of Death’ for us – only He Himself was the sacrifice. We are called to walk the same walk. Not all of us will be called to die for our faith, although many have been. But. . . all are called to live for it. Every moment, every day. Here’s the covenant He is offering to you and me:

Hebrews 8:9-13 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second. 8 For he finds fault with them when he says: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 9 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. For they did not continue in my covenant, and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord. 10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. 12 For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” 13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

The only question left is – will you accept it? There’s your prayer for today. You know He is calling. Answer Him.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 86

03/18/2015 – 86

Today we are looking at the final step of the covenant ceremony, the exchange of names. In this step each of the participants took the other person’s name and added it to theirs. This represents what we call ‘dying to self’. In other words, when I enter into covenant with someone (i.e. my spouse), I no longer exist as an individual. I do nothing for myself without considering my partner – and putting their interests ahead of my own. When people marry in a Christian wedding, we say ‘the two become one’. That is covenant language, and should mean to us what it meant to God and those individuals with whom He made His covenants, like Abraham and Moses.

Another thing that happens when we marry in our culture is that the wife usually takes the name of her husband. This is a carry-over from the biblical exchange of names. In cultures outside the US (especially Hispanic) both people take on the names of their spouse, not necessarily replacing their original name but adding the new one. Let’s say I make a covenant with Joe Smith. He would become Joe Vogel Smith, I would become John Smith Vogel, or some variation of that. Where did this happen in scripture? Here are a couple of examples:

God’s covenant with Abram & Sarai

Genesis 17:3-5 Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations.

Genesis 17:15 God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah.

The added letter (h) in their names signified a shortened form of Yahweh, or Jehovah.

God’s covenant with Jacob

Genesis 32:27-28 The man asked him, “What is your name?” “Jacob,” he answered. 28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”

On the other side, if we read prior to these covenants God was referred to as Yahweh, or Jehovah etc. Afterward, God refers to Himself this way:

Genesis 28:13 There above it stood the Lord, and he said: “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying.

Our covenant with Jesus Christ

We take His name – we can call ourselves “Christians”:

John 14:13 “And whatever you ask in My name that will I do that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”

Galatians 3:26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith

 Acts 15:16-17 “‘After this I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it, 17 that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, even all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things’

He took on our name:

Matthew 8:20 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

This is the first of 93 times in the New Testament that Jesus is called ‘Son of Man’, thereby identifying Himself as or covenant partner!

If that isn’t enough, we still have one more coming:

Revelation 3:12 The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name.

We’ll finish up our covenant study tomorrow with a brief review of the ‘big picture’. For today, let’s continue to pray that God would impress on our hearts the significance of a covenant – especially our covenant with Him. Ask His help in living according to that covenant, every day, in every way. Let us live in a way that would never make Him sorry that He let us use His precious name – ever.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 85

03/17/2015 – 85

As I thought about the last section of the covenant ceremony that we studied, I had one more thought I just had to add. If I verbally pronounced blessings and/or curses over you, it’s one thing. Kind of like I wish those things to happen to you. On the other hand, if the God of the universe verbalizes those things, it’s not a wish. This is the voice that spoke all creation into being! I think we should take it seriously when He speaks, don’t you?

Anyway, the next step of the ceremony is the covenant meal. After that, just one more to go! What can we say about the tradition of using a meal to seal a deal? (Yes, I did that on purpose – couldn’t help myself.) We solidify everything from business contracts to international peace treaties over food. How many weddings have you attended that didn’t end with a reception of some sort? Even the smallest, most informal weddings usually end with the participants going out for dinner. When a church gets a new pastor, or makes a new commitment to something like a new building project or ministry, what do we do? Potluck! Here’s a great example of a covenant meal that took place to ratify God’s covenant with Moses on Mt Sinai during the exodus:

Exodus 24:8-11 Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, “This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.” Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up 10 and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of lapis lazuli, as bright blue as the sky. 11 But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank.

 

I don’t want to give the impression that this meal is a minor part of the covenant ceremony. In fact, it’s crucial, and it’s critically important to understand it as part of the process ordained by God throughout the Old Testament. Why? Because if we don’t get that, we can’t understand the most important covenant meal of all, given in the New Testament.

Luke 22:19-20 19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” (Emphasis mine)

Have you ever wondered why Jesus set up such a tradition as the Lord’s Supper? Before I understood, I thought it was just a good way to remind us of His sacrifice. But the reality is that it’s so much more than that. It is the sealing of our covenant with Him. It is His promise to us, and our promise to Him! Think about this in light of what you now know about covenant. Is it any wonder that Paul later warns us so strongly about it.

 

1 Corinthians 11:27-29 So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. 29 For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves.

In other words – you are making a covenant with Christ. Don’t take it lightly; don’t take it if you don’t mean it. Let’s make our prayer today a plea – a plea for forgiveness for all the times we took communion simply as a ritual, without realizing its true significance, and for all those times when as a result, we’ve ended up breaking the covenant we made. Then, let’s thank Him for offering us so many chances to get it right, and ask for His help that next time we take the Lord’s Supper it will be a moment that will change our lives – forever.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 84

03/16/15 – 84

Hello again. Have you all had enough of a break? Once more I’ll apologize for the break in the continuity of these devotions. I was hospitalized for severe migraines that refused to be brought under control for a while, along with some heart issues, which proved to be just as stubborn. I have been home, but regaining strength has been very slow. I do think it’s time to get moving again, though, and I thank you for your prayers during this time.

Since it’s been so long, we’ll pick up with a general review. We had read through an entire chapter in the last 2 sessions (pat on the back for you) – Deuteronomy 28 – which told us about the ‘Blessings and Curses’ part of the covenant ceremony. You may want to quickly scan those words one more time. I can’t imagine much stronger language than we read here. For example, verse 12 says, “The Lord will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands. You will lend to many nations but will borrow from none”, while verse 30 says, “You will be pledged to be married to a woman, but another will take her and rape her. You will build a house, but you will not live in it. You will plant a vineyard, but you will not even begin to enjoy its fruit”. The entire section is to make one statement – KEEP THE COVENANT!

This is one thing I try to emphasize with couples that want to marry. It is just as true for anyone considering entering into any kind of covenant relationship, but becomes especially, eternally important when you enter into a covenant with the Living God. IF you keep your end of the deal, life will be better than you ever imagined was possible. But IF you break it, the consequences will be worse than you ever imagined. Now pay attention – that doesn’t necessarily mean this life, the 85 or so years we usually spend on earth. A covenant with an eternal God is an eternal covenant. Some will see the blessings and/or curses in this life, but it seems most will reap them in their fullness in the next – the one that will last forever.

In one way, we could say it’s better never to make this covenant than to make it and fail to keep it. 2 Peter 2:20-22 “If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. 21 It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. 22 Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,”[a] and, “A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud.”

Sounds like the easy way out would be never to make the deal, right? There are 2 big problems with that, though. First, to live outside of a covenant relationship with Jesus is to always be separate from Him. Second, once you know the truth about Him, you are obligated to decide whether or not you will become His disciple. Don’t kid yourself, either . NO decision. . . . .is a decision.

Let’s pray today that the Holy Spirit would indeed show us the truth, and give us the courage to make the decision to enter into that eternal covenant. Make Jesus your Lord today, not just your Savior. If you’ve made that covenant already, ask Him to examine you – to show you where you have messed up. Ask Him to correct you, and forgive you. He will.

Apologies again

This is my official apology for not getting today’s post out on schedule. I’ve been fighting some fairly serious medical issues for about a week now. I’m currently hospitalized and waiting to undergo a procedure tomorrow to shock  my heart out of its current pesky arrythmia. I promise to begin posting again ASAP. Thanks for your patience, I realize this wasn’t the l best place to leave you hanging. In the up side, you have more time to read the extra long passage. Thanks in v advance for your prayers.

Love & blessings,

Pastor John

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 83

This is the one you should have received this morning.

03/04/2015 – 83

Take your time today, all day if you need to – I know it’s extra long. Read this passage as you did yesterday’s, as though it was spoken directly to you. Ask yourself what your life might be like if you were made to suffer these curses from Him. When you’re finished, just pray Jesus to wrap His arms of comfort around you.

Deuteronomy 23:15-68 Curses for Disobedience

15 However, if you do not obey the Lord your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come on you and overtake you:

16 You will be cursed in the city and cursed in the country.

17 Your basket and your kneading trough will be cursed.

18 The fruit of your womb will be cursed, and the crops of your land, and the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks.

19 You will be cursed when you come in and cursed when you go out.

20 The Lord will send on you curses, confusion and rebuke in everything you put your hand to, until you are destroyed and come to sudden ruin because of the evil you have done in forsaking him.[a] 21 The Lord will plague you with diseases until he has destroyed you from the land you are entering to possess. 22 The Lord will strike you with wasting disease, with fever and inflammation, with scorching heat and drought, with blight and mildew, which will plague you until you perish. 23 The sky over your head will be bronze, the ground beneath you iron. 24 The Lord will turn the rain of your country into dust and powder; it will come down from the skies until you are destroyed.

25 The Lord will cause you to be defeated before your enemies. You will come at them from one direction but flee from them in seven, and you will become a thing of horror to all the kingdoms on earth. 26 Your carcasses will be food for all the birds and the wild animals, and there will be no one to frighten them away. 27 The Lord will afflict you with the boils of Egypt and with tumors, festering sores and the itch, from which you cannot be cured. 28 The Lord will afflict you with madness, blindness and confusion of mind. 29 At midday you will grope about like a blind person in the dark. You will be unsuccessful in everything you do; day after day you will be oppressed and robbed, with no one to rescue you.

30 You will be pledged to be married to a woman, but another will take her and rape her. You will build a house, but you will not live in it. You will plant a vineyard, but you will not even begin to enjoy its fruit. 31 Your ox will be slaughtered before your eyes, but you will eat none of it. Your donkey will be forcibly taken from you and will not be returned. Your sheep will be given to your enemies, and no one will rescue them. 32 Your sons and daughters will be given to another nation, and you will wear out your eyes watching for them day after day, powerless to lift a hand. 33 A people that you do not know will eat what your land and labor produce, and you will have nothing but cruel oppression all your days. 34 The sights you see will drive you mad. 35 The Lord will afflict your knees and legs with painful boils that cannot be cured, spreading from the soles of your feet to the top of your head.

36 The Lord will drive you and the king you set over you to a nation unknown to you or your ancestors. There you will worship other gods, gods of wood and stone. 37 You will become a thing of horror, a byword and an object of ridicule among all the peoples where the Lord will drive you.

38 You will sow much seed in the field but you will harvest little, because locusts will devour it. 39 You will plant vineyards and cultivate them but you will not drink the wine or gather the grapes, because worms will eat them. 40 You will have olive trees throughout your country but you will not use the oil, because the olives will drop off. 41 You will have sons and daughters but you will not keep them, because they will go into captivity. 42 Swarms of locusts will take over all your trees and the crops of your land.

43 The foreigners who reside among you will rise above you higher and higher, but you will sink lower and lower. 44 They will lend to you, but you will not lend to them. They will be the head, but you will be the tail.

45 All these curses will come on you. They will pursue you and overtake you until you are destroyed, because you did not obey the Lord your God and observe the commands and decrees he gave you. 46 They will be a sign and a wonder to you and your descendants forever. 47 Because you did not serve the Lord your God joyfully and gladly in the time of prosperity, 48 therefore in hunger and thirst, in nakedness and dire poverty, you will serve the enemies the Lord sends against you. He will put an iron yoke on your neck until he has destroyed you.

49 The Lord will bring a nation against you from far away, from the ends of the earth, like an eagle swooping down, a nation whose language you will not understand, 50 a fierce-looking nation without respect for the old or pity for the young. 51 They will devour the young of your livestock and the crops of your land until you are destroyed. They will leave you no grain, new wine or olive oil, nor any calves of your herds or lambs of your flocks until you are ruined. 52 They will lay siege to all the cities throughout your land until the high fortified walls in which you trust fall down. They will besiege all the cities throughout the land the Lord your God is giving you.

53 Because of the suffering your enemy will inflict on you during the siege, you will eat the fruit of the womb, the flesh of the sons and daughters the Lord your God has given you. 54 Even the most gentle and sensitive man among you will have no compassion on his own brother or the wife he loves or his surviving children, 55 and he will not give to one of them any of the flesh of his children that he is eating. It will be all he has left because of the suffering your enemy will inflict on you during the siege of all your cities. 56 The most gentle and sensitive woman among you—so sensitive and gentle that she would not venture to touch the ground with the sole of her foot—will begrudge the husband she loves and her own son or daughter 57 the afterbirth from her womb and the children she bears. For in her dire need she intends to eat them secretly because of the suffering your enemy will inflict on you during the siege of your cities.

58 If you do not carefully follow all the words of this law, which are written in this book, and do not revere this glorious and awesome name—the Lord your God— 59 the Lord will send fearful plagues on you and your descendants, harsh and prolonged disasters, and severe and lingering illnesses. 60 He will bring on you all the diseases of Egypt that you dreaded, and they will cling to you. 61 The Lord will also bring on you every kind of sickness and disaster not recorded in this Book of the Law, until you are destroyed. 62 You who were as numerous as the stars in the sky will be left but few in number, because you did not obey the Lord your God. 63 Just as it pleased the Lord to make you prosper and increase in number, so it will please him to ruin and destroy you. You will be uprooted from the land you are entering to possess.

64 Then the Lord will scatter you among all nations, from one end of the earth to the other. There you will worship other gods—gods of wood and stone, which neither you nor your ancestors have known. 65 Among those nations you will find no repose, no resting place for the sole of your foot. There the Lord will give you an anxious mind, eyes weary with longing, and a despairing heart. 66 You will live in constant suspense, filled with dread both night and day, never sure of your life. 67 In the morning you will say, “If only it were evening!” and in the evening, “If only it were morning!”—because of the terror that will fill your hearts and the sights that your eyes will see. 68 The Lord will send you back in ships to Egypt on a journey I said you should never make again. There you will offer yourselves for sale to your enemies as male and female slaves, but no one will buy you.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 82

03/03/2015 – 82

I’ll ask your indulgence for the length of the bible passages for today and tomorrow. Try as I might, I simply cannot find a section of this chapter that I can cut without the risk of losing it’s full meaning for you. Nor could I find a more complete, concise illustration of this portion of the covenant ceremony. Tomorrow, we’ll finish the chapter and not much more. We’ll finish the discussion in the segment after that.

Once the covenant mark has been established, the next step was the pronouncement of blessings and curses. We have already seen the imagery and meaning of the exchange of belts and weapons and such. This portion lays out in clear terms what each covenant partner hopes for the other IF that person keeps the terms of the covenant. Even more, there are specific promises made by one party to the other – i.e. “The Lord will grant you abundant prosperity” v11. Read the following passage from Deuteronomy, in which we hear the words of God exactly as given to Moses, as His part of the covenant He was making with the Hebrews. As you read each line, think about it in very personal terms, as though God were speaking directly to you. Ask yourself what your life might be like if you were able to accept these blessings from Him.

Deuteronomy 28:1-14  If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God:

You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country.

The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock—the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks.

Your basket and your kneading trough will be blessed.

You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out.

The Lord will grant that the enemies who rise up against you will be defeated before you. They will come at you from one direction but flee from you in seven.

The Lord will send a blessing on your barns and on everything you put your hand to. The Lord your God will bless you in the land he is giving you.

The Lord will establish you as his holy people, as he promised you on oath, if you keep the commands of the Lord your God and walk in obedience to him. 10 Then all the peoples on earth will see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they will fear you. 11 The Lord will grant you abundant prosperity—in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your ground—in the land he swore to your ancestors to give you.

12 The Lord will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands. You will lend to many nations but will borrow from none. 13 The Lord will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the Lord your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom. 14 Do not turn aside from any of the commands I give you today, to the right or to the left, following other gods and serving them.

Let’s pray today that Jesus’ Holy Spirit would open your heart to these words, and to what you will read in the next 2 days. Let’s also pray for His loving arms to protect us – because if you are anything like me, you can’t read this without your heart being broken.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 81

03/02/2015 – 81

Genesis 17:9-14 Then God said to Abraham, “Your responsibility is to obey the terms of the covenant. You and all your descendants have this continual responsibility. 10 This is the covenant that you and your descendants must keep: Each male among you must be circumcised. 11 You must cut off the flesh of your foreskin as a sign of the covenant between me and you. 12 From generation to generation, every male child must be circumcised on the eighth day after his birth. This applies not only to members of your family but also to the servants born in your household and the foreign-born servants whom you have purchased. 13 All must be circumcised. Your bodies will bear the mark of my everlasting covenant. 14 Any male who fails to be circumcised will be cut off from the covenant family for breaking the covenant.”

The next step of the covenant ceremony was the making of the covenant mark. This mark may have been a tattoo or scar of some sort. Most often it was made at the wrist, so it could be easily displayed to others. In fact, many historians think that is where the custom of waving originated. When someone approached another person, the wave would expose the inner aspect of the wrist. If they saw a mark there, they would immediately know that the person waving was in covenant with someone else. They may not immediately know who it is, but at least they would be put on notice that this person had an ally who would be ready and willing to fight for them if they were to be attacked. It certainly would make one think twice before doing anything aggressive.

Going back to the word-picture idea again, think about this for a moment. After Jesus was crucified, after He became “the new covenant”, where were His marks? The marks He bore from the nails driven into His hands would actually have been through His wrists (still considered part of the hand), because the bones that form the palm of the hand would not have been strong enough to support His weight. They certainly would have been easily visible to anyone to whom He waved or extended a hand.

Whatever and wherever that mark was made on the body, it was permanent. Covenants were not meant to be temporary, weren’t cut to be broken. But the obvious question seems to be, if the mark of the covenant was to be visible, why did God choose circumcision? I believe that Rev. Ray Pritchard from Crosswalk.com hit it on the head when he wrote “God chose this mark so that in the most intimate moments of life, the man would remember that he belonged to God. And if he decided to sin with a foreign woman, he would have to do it with that part of his body that had been set apart as holy to the Lord. Circumcision reminded a man in a way that he could never forget that he belonged to God—body, soul and spirit—and that even in the most intimate moments, the things never seen by others, the part that goes on behind closed doors, that part must belong to God also.”

In the New Covenant, the ‘mark goes much deeper, but still must be visible and evident in our lives. Physical circumcision is no longer required, spiritual circumcision is. Romans 2:28-29 A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. 29 No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God.

Let’s pray today that God would truly circumcise our hearts, so that we might have a permanent mark and reminder of our ongoing covenant with Him.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 80

03/01/2015 – 80

Psalm 96:13 declares, “Let all creation rejoice before the LORD, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his faithfulness.

Well, once again I owe you an apology. Yesterday’s devotion continued the study of the covenant, but should have been a briefer Sunday format concerning worship, as I promised. I can only off what I hope is a good excuse and ask your pardon. You see, I awoke about 4 am last Thursday with a migraine headache, which came and went along with severe sore throat, earache, chills and sweats, etc. Just when it looked like things were coming under control, I awoke during the night last night with a full-blown migraine. I believe this one was out for vengeance for the earlier ones, which I was able to suffer through with meds on hand. So, I spent this morning in the ER, unable to worship – but you can bet I was praying with all my heart!

Still quite weak, I just wanted to let you all know, I’m sure you’ll understand. The scripture above is one that I hope defined your worship time this morning. If you didn’t have time to do the one that was published yesterday, please make that today’s devotion. After Monday, I’ll reorganize the earlier post from Sunday for future readers. Blessings on you, and your prayers would be greatly appreciated.

 

Pastor John