Wednesday, August 31, 2011

August 31, 2008 … Seeking God’s Kingdom

Passage of the Day: Matthew 6: 33 … But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

My Journal for Today: Today’s pronouncement by Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount is a simple but powerful promise wrapped in a simple, but powerful, exhortation; and for those who look for equations and formulae for living, here is a formula for our receiving God’s providence to meet our needs. Paraphrased, Jesus states, “Christian, if you go after the things of My kingdom and My righteousness as your #1 priorities, I’ll make sure that you have everything you need.” However, I’m afraid we Christians all too often forget (or ignore) this powerful formula in our lives; and we go after our own priorities above those of God’s, and then we complain, thinking that we are entitled to God’s best.

The Apostle Paul, when you read about his exploits in Acts 20: 22 – 24, had his priorities straight according to the teachings of Jesus above. Historically, here was Paul, called to Jerusalem and facing many potentially life-threatening dangers; and Paul says in verse 24, “…I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me.” Now that’s putting God first; … and that is seeking the Kingdom of God even in the midst of life-threatening circumstances. This was exactly the attitude to which Jesus exhorted His followers above in today’s focus verse.

When we, as believers, finally internalize this teaching and command from Christ, we will set aside our selfishness, our greed, and our pride for worldly things. And we’ll jettison the lusts of the flesh as well; and like Paul, we’ll be driven to seek after God and His righteousness. My Pastor and friend, Dr. Ernie Frey, has called this attitude a “holy discontent.” And that’s an apt term to describe the continual tension between what we want and what we need. It’s the battle between our sin nature and our Holy Spirit converted heart; and it may be resolved somewhat as we go deeper into a more abiding and intimate relationship with Christ; but I’m afraid my interpretation of Scripture has us involved in such battles until we are with Jesus in heaven.

And so, we are continually confronted by the Holy and perfect truths of Romans 8: 28, 1st Corinthians 10: 13, 2nd Corinthians 12: 9, 2nd Peter 1: 3 - 4, as well as the great commission in Matthew 28: 19 – 20, where we are challenged to move forward for God’s kingdom, knowing and believing that God will give us all we need to do what He calls us to do. This is, and should be, our “holy discontent,” driving us ever onward, in spite of our selfish desires, to focus on God’s MAIN THING – know Him and doing His will.

An again, as Matt. 6: 33 declares, if we can keep the MAIN THING always the MAIN THING, Jesus promises HE will always provide us with what we need. So, on this last day of this month’s devotionals, no more need be said about God’s providence and our stewardship than that. We just need to believe it and live it as Jesus lived it; and He’ll take care of us in the process.

My Prayer Today: Lord, I seek You above all! Amen


Blogger’s Note: Well, that’s my last devotional from John MacArthur for this month. Now it’s on to a different topic from Strength for Today in September. This will cover our relationship with God, the Holy Spirit. Personally, I can always go deeper in that relationship; so, I hope that you may be led to join me in this quest for enlightenment by God’s Spirit, Himself, as I seek to go deeper in my understanding of the One Who is my Advocate before the throne of God.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

August 30, 2011 … Living One Day At A Time

Passage of the Day: Matthew 6: 34 (see in bold/underlined) … 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

My Journal for Today
When one reads the focus verse for today, it almost reads as if Jesus is asking us to refrain from planning for our future. However, this is not the case. According to Dr. MacArthur from his devotional book, Strength for Today, Martin Lloyd Jones wrote, “Although it is very right to think about the future, it is very wrong to be controlled by it.” And therein lies the rub.

The key word when Jesus says, “… do not worry about tomorrow,” is, of course, the word WORRY. Oh, how Satan desires us to go into worry mode, which discourages or paralyzes us, and causes us to believe the incredible lie that God is not in control … that Jesus, our Lord, is not our sovereign God. I once heard our Pastor jokingly say that there was a Greek term referring to that lie; and it is “BALONEY!” ;) I’ve never been able to find that term in the Greek dictionary; but I think you get what I’m trying to say.

You’ve actually heard this theme several times this month if you’ve been following these August devotionals of mine; but hopefully redundancy teaches. It does for me. Jesus, in his magnanimous hillside sermon, was/is giving us, His disciples, very practical advice on the avoidance of worrying about the future. He is not saying that we can’t or shouldn’t look into the future; but our primary focus should be on faith for today and reliance on God for the future. If we plan for the future, thinking of God first (i.e., the message of both Prov. 3: 5, 6 and Matt. 6: 33), God will likely be smiling. However, when we look to the future, worrying out of selfishness or fear, that is to disbelieve that God has us covered with His love, mercy, and grace; and Satan smiles. For us to worry about our future is to fall into Satan’s trap of believing that God is not in control of our well-being. And to that, I want you to say that pseudo “Greek” term above. Say it with me, loudly …BALONEY!!! Now, my friend and fellow Christian, smile, knowing that God is in control; and knowing that He loves us and will provide for our every need.

If we worry about tomorrow, it will cause us to lose our joy for today. And choosing to lose our joy, (and joy is always a choice, not a feeling) due to self-driven anxiety, is sinful. God has a victory for any believer today; and any fear that comes from anxieties about tomorrow is a lie from hell trying to let our own deceit-ridden heart steal God’s victory from us. Jesus has never and will never change (see Hebrews 13: 8). Just as He is today, He’ll be there tomorrow to show us the way (again see Prov. 3: 5 – 6, a verse which you should have memorized) But even more importantly, He’s with us today in any circumstance in which we find ourselves (see Deut. 31: 6, 8 and Rom. 8: 28, 31).

Yes, plan for tomorrow; but never worry about it; because tomorrow is God’s.

My Prayer Today: All I need is You today, Lord … and for all my tomorrows. Amen

Monday, August 29, 2011

August 29, 2011 … Our All-Knowing God

Passage of the Day: Matthew 6: 31 – 32 … 31 So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 31 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.

My Journal for Today: Jesus had some highly pointed exhortations for His mostly, if not exclusively, Jewish audience for His famous sermon on that hillside in the Holy Land. And His words drive home the point that true believers, i.e., born-again Christians, are believers in the truth that God knows and provides for the needs of His children, Therefore, we should not live and act like unbelievers (i.e., “pagans”), who worry about what they eat, drink, or wear. Jesus is essentially asking us, to paraphrase a quote, “You’re not like those Gentiles (Greek = “ethnos,” which means “pagans), are you, in the way you live?”

Now Jesus wasn’t putting down the Gentiles as a people. We know, from Paul’s ministry/mission to the Gentiles, how much God loved the Gentiles. However, Jesus was using the ethnic behaviors of selfishness and greed, which were practiced by the Gentiles, as a point of demarcation in terms of how we, as believers, should “act” when it comes to handling God’s providence. For His followers [i.e., disciples in the larger sense], Jesus wanted them (us) to live differently from how the Gentiles habitually lived in that day. He wanted all of His disciples to really trust God, their Jehovah Jireh, for their well-being (which we can see from Paul’s teaching in Phil. 4: 19).

It’s really a matter of belief and trust; and Jesus is asking you and me in this passage today to trust God, The Heavenly Father, Who knows our every need and promises to provide for those needs. And He’s also saying that it’s pointless to live like pagans who worry about such things … especially when it causes them to selfishly live toward temporal and/or material concerns.

So, do we believe?! And each of us will answer that question by the way we live.

My Prayer Today: Lord, may my life reflect my trust in You. Amen

Sunday, August 28, 2011

August 28, 2011 … Observing the Flowers

Passage of the Day: Matthew 6: 28 – 30 … 28 "And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?”

My Journal for Today: Again we read Jesus using an argument from the lesser to the greater to make His point about our attitude toward God’s providence and material things. In an earlier devotional I pointed out that one could imagine Jesus using word pictures available to all who were there on that hillside that day when our Lord delivered His Sermon on the Mount. In Matt. 6: 26, He had referred to the “birds of the air;” and it is easy to imagine Jesus pointing to sea gulls from the nearby Sea of Galilee flying there on the mountain near the crowd. In today’s passage, He refers to “lilies of the field,” which were likely there growing on the hillside for all to see. I’ve been to that hillside near Capernaum; and have seen the wild lilies growing there; and so it’s very easy for me to imagine this scene.

Jesus made reference to flowers, which were quite lovely, but were very common and plentiful; and were even used by some in those days as fuel for fires when the flowers had died and dried up. Jesus, in referring to their beauty and plenty was calling attention to a principle of God’s providence. If man was willing to trod on or burn such beautiful creations of God for comfort or security, would not God not value mankind more than those flowers? God created mankind in His own image, creating him (and her) to tend His garden, … which included the flowers.

Think about how often we’re anxious about what we wear. We stand in front of mirrors imagining how others will see us when we’re about to go out in public. Some even fret deeply over such things. And Jesus pointedly says, that His flowers are lovely; and we don’t even think twice about picking them or even throwing them away after they have served our purposes to share God’s beauty with others. What a shame it is that we waste such worry over our own appearance, when God has created mankind for far greater loveliness and beauty; and that beauty is what we ARE rather than what we wear.

And yet, look at how much we primp and prepare – and even worry – so that we’ll impress other people whom we really don’t know and who likely really don’t care what we’re wearing. Would we not do well to heed Jesus’ teaching … toiling in this life only to honor Him rather than to adorn ourselves for personal glory?

My Prayer Today: May others see Your beauty in and through me, Lord, and not what I wear! Amen

Saturday, August 27, 2011

August 27, 2011 … Living Life to the Fullest

Passage of the Day: Matthew 6: 27 [see in bold/underelined] … 25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” 27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

My Journal for Today
John MacArthur, in his devotional for this date in Strength for Today, has an interesting quip which seals the meaning of Jesus’ teaching in today’s highlighted verse. He writes, “You can worry yourself to death; but not to life.” Does that convict anyone reading here as much as does me? To MacArthur’s statement I have to add a personal smiley face; … :) … but hopefully you see a glint of seriousness in my writing.

Some time ago, I saw a piece on a TV magazine show (I think it was ABC’s 20/20). It was a report of some DNA research which has confirmed a biological link between behavioral stress and hyper-aging. When humans are under prolonged stress, this research revealed that our chromosomes begin to break apart, which accelerates the aging process. And once again we see that science confirms the teachings of the Bible. In this case this is exactly what Jesus was teaching His disciples (and you/me) when He says, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”

Ponce de Leon searched for the fountain of youth; but in our reverence and relationship with God, we have the truth of Proverbs 14: 27, which touts the “the fountain of life.” And Proverbs 9: 10 – 11 goes on to indicate that a lifestyle of worshipping God will add years to your life.

SCRIPTURE: Prov. 14: 27The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death.

SCRIPTURE: Prov. 9: 10 – 1110 "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. 11 For through Me your days will be many, and years will be added to your life.

Isn’t it heartening to know that after over all these centuries since these words were written in Scripture, human science can finally confirm their validity? Again another smiley face – with a wink of sarcasm - for that. ;)

There’s not much more that can be said to this message from our Lord, … except maybe to add that God’s word, in James 5: 16 and Phil. 4: 6 – 7, has given us His antidote for worry/stress; and that is prayer, of course! And I’m sure that one day, science will absolutely confirm that fervent prayers reduce stress and provide for peaceful living as well as to extended life. In the meantime, not waiting on the confirmation of science, I’m just going to trust God that His word is truth!

My Prayer Today: Lord, You are my well-spring of living to Whom I go when I need refreshment. Amen

Friday, August 26, 2011

August 26, 2011 … A Lesson from Nature

Passage of the Day: Matthew 6: 26 [see in bold/underlined] … “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”

My Journal for Today:
Yesterday during my quiet time with God, in His Sermon on the Mount (in Matt. 6: 25), Jesus, as John MacArthur reminded me, argued from the greater to the lesser to teach His truth involving our use of the life He gave to each of us. Today, in this devotional, in Matt. 6: 26, He argues from the lesser to the greater to drive home His truth.

MacArthur imagines that Jesus, as He spoke to His listeners that day on the hillside near Capernaum, might have looked up to see birds flying overhead. Maybe he even pointed to the birds as He delivered this point in His sermon; and He used the word picture of God taking care of those “lesser” creatures, the birds, providing them with all the food they need. And if God would provide for the bird, would not our God provide for His created children (i.e., you and me). In His words, “Are you not much more valuable (to God) than they [i.e., the birds]?” Having been on that very hillside outside Capernaum, I can imagine Jesus, surrounded by the wild lilies He also referred to in His illustration, I can imagine Jesus pointing to the sea gulls flying overhead – as they do there – creating this word picture of God taking care of His created beings. So, His argument was, if God would take care of the lesser creatures of His, why wouldn’t He also take care of His greatest creation, … mankind?

There are those who claim that animals are just as valuable as humans in God’s sight; but this is not supported by God’s word. No bird was created to be joint heir for eternity on God’s throne as was His mankind as His church. It is true that like the birds, we were created to labor for God’s providence; but as Jesus points out in the word picture in today’s highlighted verse, mankind was created with special value in God’s plan; and therefore, would not God provide all that man needs for life?

Certainly we have no reason to be lazy, especially when it comes to the use of God’s providence (see that in Matt. 25: 14 – 30 – the parable of the talents). And, as we’ve seen in past studies this month, any attitude of greed or covetousness is most certainly against God’s view of our importance. God will - and does - provide all we need (again citing Phil. 4: 19 and 2nd Pet. 1: 3 – 4); but for us to have all we need, God clearly wants us to look to Him first for these provisions by doing His work of stewardship for His kingdom (see Matt. 6: 33).

My Prayer Today: You bless me, Lord, with all I need! Amen

Thursday, August 25, 2011

August 25, 2011 … The Giver of Life

Passage of the Day: Matthew 6: 25 … “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?”

My Journal for Today: Yes, same verse from yesterday, repeated today! And again we read Jesus teaching His followers (and by extension to you and me) about the essence of living as a Christian … that our focus should not be on our bodily, temporal, or worldly needs.

John MacArthur helps his readers today in Strength for Today (that’s me!) to understand that Jesus’ statement is an argument from the greater to the lesser. In other words, … if God gives me life, He will sustain my life … ergo, … there is no reason for me to worry about my bodily sustenance which is only part of life. And we have to remember that this lesson was being taught to people in Jesus’ day who were living in the edge, experiencing such things as severe draught, possible bad crops, occasional insect infestations, … all of which could produce famine or loss of income … and maybe even loss of home.

So this teaching by Jesus would have been much tougher for His audience of that day than it would be now for you and me; and you and I both know that it’s a hard saying even now. I read this with essentially no temporal fear of losing everything like some of those who heard Jesus teaching these truths back then on that hillside. And yet, these words are still true for me; and I’m convicted that I, all too often, find myself worrying about the clothes I wear or making sure I’ve got enough money in the bank or in investments to cover tomorrow’s contingencies. My risks may not be for losing my home to bad crops; but my worry is just as sinful for me as it was for those who didn’t trust God for their needs in Jesus’ day.

I’m convicted that I need to rely more-and-more on THE Provider of my life and everything involved in my life. He is Jehovah-Jireh; and HE is my Provider. And I pray that one day I can come to a place where I reflexively trust my Lord for all I need in life, seeking Him first and foremost in all things (again see Matt. 6: 33).

My Prayer Today: I seek You first, Lord; help me to seek You first and trusting in You always! Amen

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

August 24, 2011 … The Sin of Worry

Passage of the Day: Matthew 6: 25 … “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?”

My Journal for Today: John MacArthur, makes a stark statement when he writes for this date in Strength for Today, “To worry about the future is to sin against God.” That’s pretty clear; isn’t it? And though this will likely could be convicting to many who read this (it was for me!), MacArthur is dead-on, flat-out right!! In fact, I’ll go further to say that worrying about the future, with regard to financial well-being or personal security, may be the one category of sinfulness shared by MOST Christians.

What’s wrong with this, you may ask? Well, being concerned about the future and to seek God’s guidance in planning for it is one thing; but worrying about it is a matter of trust; isn’t it? Worrying about God’s provision may be our way of saying to God, “Lord, I believe that You died for my sins; but I just can’t trust You to provide for my needs.” Isn’t that what we really say to God when we worry about our lives?

Common … let’s admit it! To worry (i.e., holding deep anxiety) about anything is an affront to God. In fact, it strikes out at the very character of God and denies the validity of His word and His promises. Think about it! How can we, as believers, say that Paul was writing truth in Phil. 4: 19 when we hold doubts that God is going to supply for our needs? And worrying about our future is to say that our circumstances are bigger and more powerful than God can handle.

Really, I agree with Macarthur in his devotional entry for this date when he contends that worrying is a sign that a “Christian” doesn’t really know God; … because if one truly knew God deeply and intimately … if He knew and believed God’s word and His promises, … he would never doubt what God has said to us about His provisions and His power to meet our needs. Therefore, there would never be a cause to worry.

So, what is God’s prescription for the believer who worries? It is really quite simple. He would say to the anxious Christian, “Come … get to know Me. … To know Me is to love me. … To love Me is to obey Me. … To obey Me is to serve Me. … And to serve Me is to be blessed by Me.” And so, to know God as intimately as possible should be the goal of every believer who desires to eradicate worry from life.

My Prayer Today: O, Lord, I want to know You more today than yesterday … more tomorrow than today! Amen

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

August 23, 2011 … Letting the Fog Lift

Passage of the Day: Matthew 6: 25 … “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?”

My Journal for Today: Take in the word picture of Jesus in today’s verse, where The Lord exhorts His followers to avoid worry; and then let me share with you the picture used by John MacArthur in his Strength for Today devotional entry for this date.

MacArthur paints the word picture of worry being like a fog. Fog is a shroud of cloudiness, created by just a little bit of water dispersed into billions of droplets which hangs in the atmosphere to block our vision, often in the wrong place and at the wrong time. And in much the same way, worry, which is usually born out of very little substance, often descends upon our hearts, clouding our minds and crippling or paralyzing our choices. … Can you identify?

Remembering the context of Matthew 6, i.e., the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus was teaching to people, most of whom didn’t know from whence their next meal would come. It would not have been uncommon for these people to have their minds clouded by worry over their next meal. So, the admonitions of Jesus in today’s passage would have been a hard saying for these people … probably much more so than for many affluent Americans, who so often worry about whether we have enough money or things to be secure or to “keep up with the Joneses.” How often do we let our anxiety about financial matters become a mind-paralyzing fog, causing us to grope for directions in life, especially these days when the world economy seems to be in free-fall?

That’s why MacArthur’s word picture of worry being a fog is so pertinent to our lives. We try to see through the fog of our own greed or obsessive security worries; and we can’t see where we need to go, … rather than following the advice of our Lord to walk step-by-step, following God’s will, which, if we let it, will lead us, like a fog horn of purpose/direction, out of the fog and into His light.

Our fog of greediness or insecurity is really a matter of whether we really believe the classic passage [which I hope you have memorized], Proverbs 3: 5 – 6: … 5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.

Do we really believe this truth from God’s word, as well as that in another memorable verse from the Apostle Paul, Phil. 4: 19? Because if we do, there will be no fog of worry. We will know – that we will know that we will know – that God will provide … that we will always have what we need to live … that we can always follow God where He leads without fear. The question for us today is … do we believe these truths? And … do we live them?

My Prayer Today: I trust You, God; and I see clearly. Amen

Monday, August 22, 2011

August 22, 2011 … Materialistic Christians

Passage of the Day: Matthew 6: 19 … “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.”

My Journal for Today: Today we return to where we started this month, in Matthew 6: 19, with Jesus’ command to avoid materialism. And I firmly believe, as confirmed by MacArthur in his devotional entry for this date, materialism has become one of the biggest cultural stumbling blocks to the spiritual well-being and growth of Christians in our culture today. And apparently from the directness of Jesus’ teaching, it was that way in His day (on earth) as well. What is it that some say, “The more we change, … the more we stay the same?”

It is certainly truth, as we’ve seen/discussed, … that having things or being blessed with wealth is NOT a sin. God gives from His providence so that we, His children, can enjoy His blessings (1st Tim. 6: 17) [from the Apostle Paul’s point of view, inspired by God’s Spirit].

SCRIPTURE: 1st Tim. 6: 17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.

But in Paul’s admonition above, he warns God’s wealthy people not to put their hope in the uncertainty of temporal things. And James (in James 4: 4 – below) tells believers that friendship with worldliness is enmity toward God.

SCRIPTURE: James 4: 4 … don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.

And finally, the Apostle John joins in this chorus of challenge, warns Christians not to fall in love with the world, which will lead to lusting, pride, and covetousness (see 1st John 2: 15 – 16, which I hope you have memorized). And anytime you read the same thing being said often, especially by several different Spirit-led authors of Scripture, it’s time to pay attention.

I strongly believe that material “blessings” are one of God’s greatest testing mechanisms for our faith. When we are materially blessed by our Lord, it becomes God’s test of how we will be able to manage God’s providence in the next life (see Luke 16: 10 – 12). So, we must praise God if He has blessed some of us from His bounty; and then we must immediately ask ourselves how we can best be God’s steward and use His blessings for HIS glory (in this, read and meditate on Matt. 25: 14 – 30).

My Prayer Today: O, Lord, may I use Your blessings for Your glory! Amen

Sunday, August 21, 2011

August 21, 2011 … A Little Piece of Bread

Passage of the Day: Hebrews 13: 5 … Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." [from Deut. 31: 6]

My Journal for Today: John MacArthur, in his devotional for this date in Strength for Today, relates a very poignant story of World War II orphans being discovered by our troops after the war. These unfortunate children, upon recovery, were put in an orphanage; but the staff there noted that the children would do all they could to stay awake at night, refusing to sleep. Then one perceptive doctor gave them a piece of bread; and they went to sleep clutching their bread as if it were a security blanket. You see, those kids slept with the bread because it represented hope that there would be food tomorrow.

Today’s verse, as well as Phil. 4: 19, should be our bread of life and our hope in Christ. The truths taught in these verses give us hope, from Gods’ word, that there will always be “bread” for us from God’s infinite store house, … now and forever …; as well as the fact that God will never leave us, nor forsake us. Therefore, we need not have a hoarder mentality or relent to the love of money or to covet the stuff others have.

Our Lord wants us to trust Him and steer clear of our “natural” desire to accumulate an abundance of things (see Luke 12: 15) as a hedge against an unsure tomorrow. We, as followers of Jehovah Jireh (our Provider God) must trust that God will provide our needs in all circumstances (from today’s passage as well as Matt. 6: 33). And, as these passages teach, we must learn, as Paul testified in Phil. 4: 11-12, to live in all situations, knowing that God will give us the strength to go forward (see Phil. 4: 13 and 2nd Cor. 12: 9).

Every night, before we go to bed, we need to recognize that God has given us much more than a scrap of bread for our security. We can sleep, knowing that He has given us His absolutely reliable promise from the truth of His word that tomorrow we will have all we need to live and thrive in this world – as well as in the next (see Deut. 31: 6 and 2nd Peter 1: 3-4).

That’s all I need to sleep tonight; … how about you?

My Prayer Today: Thank you, Lord, for Your promises … and Your provision. … Amen

Saturday, August 20, 2011

August 20, 2011 … The Lord Who Provides

Passage of the Day: Genesis 22: 13 – 14 … 13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, "On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided."

My Journal for Today: As I read through and meditate on John MacArthur’s devotional from Strength for Today on this date, he makes an excellent and convicting point that we, who call ourselves “believers,” would never doubt that God is love … or that He is great and mighty … or that God is Holy and just. However, when it comes to God’s character as our provider, as in the name “Jehovah-Jireh” used in today’s passage when referring to “Lord,” our actions all too often reveal our distrust of God in this regard.

We read, in Matt. 6: 25 – 34, Jesus telling us not to worry about what we will eat or what we will wear; … and yet, we do worry about such things; … don’t we? As Christians, somehow we know in our head that God perfectly knows our needs, and He has promised to provide those needs; yet, we don’t have that truth deeply embedded in our hearts; … do we? We so often live our lives in contradiction to God’s exhortation to seek Him first for ALL things so that He can provide exactly what we need (see Matt. 6: 33, which you may even – and should – have memorized).

Abraham got it, up on that mountain with his son Isaac laying on that slab about to die at God’s command. However, I’m afraid I don’t really get it; … at least not completely enough. All too often, I don’t … in my small faith … really trust that God will provide anything and everything I need. One day perhaps I can move this head-faith, in my surrender to my Jehovah Jireh, to my heart, and I can have the faith of an Abraham and just let my God be my everything.

But until then, I’ll keep asking myself … when will I really “get with God’s program?” … really believing God’s promises and receiving His abundant grace gladly … and faithfully? When will my lifestyle become one of complete worship and obedience to my God’s promises, completely trusting in Jehovah-Jireh?

I pray it begins today!

My Prayer Today: At least today, … I declare, You are my Provider, Lord! Amen

Friday, August 19, 2011

August 19, 2011 … Dare to be a Daniel

Passage of the Day: 1st Chronicles 29: 11 – 12 … 11 Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is Yours. Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. 12 Wealth and honor come from You; You are the ruler of all things. In Your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all.

My Journal for Today: Yesterday my fellow readers here and I looked at the truth and reality that God owns everything, a truth we must recognize as Christians if we are to be effective stewards of God’s providence. Today’s passage, one verse of which was quoted in yesterday’s devotional entry, reflects this as well.

However, as I am influenced by John MacArthur’s devotional for this date in Strength for Today, he helps me (us) by taking his readers back to the story of Daniel being cast into the lion’s den, described in Daniel 6 – linked for your study. Here we read of the extent of Daniel’s trust of God’s sovereignty, which was put to the ultimate test, a life-threatening set of circumstances, from which Daniel emerged a winner! MacArthur also quotes the author Jerry Bridges from his book Trusting God, who writes, “God … so directs and controls all events and actions of His creatures that they never act outside of His sovereign will. We must believe and cling to this … if we are to glorify God by trusting Him.”

These last few devotional entries are not long and involved, because the issues are fairly straight forward [I didn’t say “easy” to deal with; … but they are “straight forward”]. As MacArthur and Bridges intimate, honoring God in our stewardship is a matter of belief and trust – a matter of faith. Do I trust God as it says in Prov. 3: 5 – 6 … in ALL things … at ALL times; or do I hold back, relying on my own understanding, searching for reasons which satisfy my own mind when I don’t comprehend what is happening or when I’m out of control? MacArthur (and God’s word) challenges me (and you) to dare to be a Daniel when circumstances are overwhelming or incomprehensible.

How about it? Are we ready to trust our sovereign God today?!! Are we willing to be the stewards of the God who gave us all for His glory?

My Prayer Today: Help me, Lord, to be a Daniel and to trust You totally. Amen

Thursday, August 18, 2011

August 18, 2011 … Recognizing God’s Ownership

Passage of the Day: Psalm 24: 1 … The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; …

My Journal for Today: This will not be a long devotional entry today. The point is short and clear; and it’s made in today’s verse. The point: Godly and biblical stewardship begins and hinges upon the recognition that we, God’s creation, own NOTHING! It’s all God’s, pure and simple … for HIS use and HIS glory.

John MacArthur reminds his readers on this date in Strength for Today of the wonderful story of John Wesley, whom, upon hearing that his house had burned, replied, “No it hasn’t. I don’t own a house. The one I lived in belongs to the Lord.” Wesley recognized that God had given him that house and God would still provide for his needs.

This raises the questions … do we see God’s ownership and His providence in the way Wesley saw it? Or … do we take personal ownership of the stuff of life, which leads to personalized greed and the coveting of worldly things? … May I digress with the confession that all too often I seek to be the owner of “stuff” in my life; and because I feel that way, I seek to control that “stuff,” trying to protect MY [there I go again!] “stuff.” In my head I know the truth of today’s highlight scripture; but too often I don’t live it out – from the heart - in my life. How about you?

MacArthur very nicely summarizes where our hearts and minds should be focused, writing, “We should worship God as the owner of all things, thank Him for whatever He entrusts to us, and never allow our ‘possessions’ to be a cause to forget Him.” That was Kind David’s prayer when he said to God (in 1st Chron. 29: 11), “…everything in heaven and in earth is Yours.”

And that should be our attitude and continual prayer as well.

My Prayer Today: And that is my prayer this day, Lord; … it is all Yours! Amen

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

August 17, 2011 … Finding True Contentment

Passage of the Day: Philippians 1:21 … For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

My Journal for Today: Short verse ... powerful implications. The Apostle Paul says it – flat out – in today’s verse (copied above). To Paul, as it should be for all Christians, Christ was his all-in-all. And John MacArthur, in today’s devotional from Strength for Today, clearly states, “… true contentment is found only in Christ.”

However, it is unfortunately the case that many people, and even many Christians, have bought into the worldly view of life summarized by the bumper sticker … “The man who dies with the most toys wins!” And it’s time for all of us to stop and honestly see if that sticker applies, even remotely, to our lives; because, if it does, for us to live is fleshly gain and to die is cheapened by our greed.

The Apostle Paul went on (in Phil. 4: 11 – 12) to express God’s truth about contentment; and he did so from his own personal witness [writing while he was imprisoned!]. He declared that having things or not having things was (or is) not where contentment is found. Real contentment, to Paul, only comes from a deep and abiding relationship with Jesus, … THE Christ.

So, I come to this place in life with my own testimony of this truth, after many years in my past seeking contentment as the world would have it … looking for the accumulation of “stuff,” especially monetary accumulation to produce security and contentment. Now I can clearly, and very personally, support what Paul is saying in today’s verse … that my contentment has been found in a pursuit to know God through my relationship with Christ. I now know, as Paul witnessed, that only pursuing Christ can and will bring me contentment. And to this end, my pursuit will continue until I’m with my Lord in glory.

My Prayer Today: Thank You for teaching me that You are everything, Lord! Amen

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

August 16, 2011 … Serving Your Master

Passage of the Day: Matthew 6: 24 … "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”

My Journal for Today: Jesus’ teaching and exhortation in today’s passage is straight forward and logical. He says NOBODY can be a slave to two masters. The Greek word for “nobody” means ……… NOBODY!

Now, in today’s world, many people are into “multi-tasking;” and many people get quite good at this method of getting things done (even though this can be a recipe for “burnout,” which is another lesson entirely!). But handling two tasks simultaneously is not what Jesus is teaching about. When he uses to the concept “serve” in today’s teaching, He is referring to the Greek word “douleuo,” which clearly refers to being a “slave” to a master. And Jesus is saying that we cannot be a slave or servant (i.e., disciple) to Himself and to any other worldly or fleshly master, such as money (in this instance). For in bowing down and serving money or some worldly pleasure as our master, we are deferring our allegiance to Satan, the world, or self, which means that we cannot serve God at the same time.

The world and Satan, the world’s [temporary] master, demands that their followers be proud, to walk by sight, to seek the things of the world, and to be anxious over everything, having no power except that provided by Satan. But our Lord, God, demands Christians to be humble, to walk by faith, to seek the things of heaven, and to be anxious for nothing, having all power provided by our God. And as you can read, these two masters are separated by 180 degrees of difference in their demands. So, which will we choose?

Romans 6: 17 – 18 reminds us that Christians, who are now in Christ, were once slaves to sin; but now, anyone who has chosen to believe and make Christ as Lord, becomes a slave of righteousness. Hence, the Christian – the true Christian – will never comfortably be able to choose to be a slave to the pursuit of the world or selfish gain because God’s Spirit will never provide peace in such pursuits. When God’s Spirit is deeply rooted in the heart of any believer, that one becomes a sold-out bond slave to Christ; and any decisions that are made in the flesh or in the pursuit of Satan’s world will produce Holy Spirit generated reactions (i.e., conviction), ultimately leading one to surrender to The Master, Who always wants the best for His servants. But if a Christian chooses to be temporarily mastered by his own deceit-ridden heart, by the world, or by Satan, he can expect to live in the misery of conviction and chastisement from a God who loves that one enough not to let him stay directed toward a sin-directed master.

I know that the concept of being a SLAVE is not one that sits well with the western consciousness, especially in our culture of American individualism and post-modern relativism. But the irony is … we can never find true freedom or God’s peace without being a slave to God’s Truth (see John 8: 32); and Jesus is The Truth (see John 14: 6). So, we, as believers, must decide … do we serve (i.e., become slaves) of Christ; or do we serve Satan, the world, or the flesh?

It is our choice!

My Prayer Today: I serve You, Lord! Amen

Monday, August 15, 2011

August 15, 2008 … Seeing Clearly

Passage of the Day: Matthew 6: 22 – 23 … [NIV] 22 "The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

Matt. 6: 22-23 in NASB: 22 “The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is [a]clear, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

My Journal for Today: There’s an interesting paradox as we continue with Jesus’ teachings on stewardship from the Sermon on the Mount. In today’s passage, provided in both NIV and NASB, our Lord is trying to show believers the one key to have clear spiritual discernment. And yet in the teaching process, He uses word pictures that make it challenging for His disciples to get a clear picture of what He’s trying to teach. It’s almost as if Christ was giving a pop-quiz on spiritual discernment while he was teaching on the subject. It might be like an optometrist saying to a patient, “Look in this lens and tell me what you see. [And then he puts a lens in front of your eyes that makes the image look like the patient is seeing through a murky lens covered with gel.]” Jesus was THE Master Teacher; but at times one has to really stretch the mind to find what He’s teaching about so that the heart will benefit. And that, I believe, is what Jesus continually does … stretch our minds and hearts, as Christians, … all the way to eternity.

Also, I believe, Jesus – to extent my pop-quiz metaphor – is teaching to see if His disciples truly believe Him. In other words, a non-believer CANNOT get what He’s saying because a non-believer gets no discernment assist from God’s Spirit. But this lesson, from today’s text, is being taught prior to Pentecost; and it would take the prevenient grace of God’s Spirit, giving Spiritual “lenses” to any in Jesus’ audience that day as He preached this sermon so that His disciples could really be able to “see” what He was teaching with clarity. In other words, if anyone in that audience had the ability to understand this lesson, Jesus knew that seeker truly believed and really wanted to follow Him. What about you? Do you believe what Jesus is teaching with His words above in Matt. 6: 22-23; because if you really do, then you can read/meditate on God’s word, and God’s Spirit will teach you God’s meaning from His word.

Again, back to our passage from Matt. 6, our Lord speaks of the “eye” being the lamp (or “window” in other translations) for the body (or the “soul,” if you will). If you study from the NASB version, you’ll read that Jesus says, “If your eye is CLEAR, …” which provides the optimum view on discernment. The term, “clear,” (or “good” above in the NIV) is from a Greek construct meaning “generous.” So, what Jesus is rather obtusely challenging his followers to understand is that the generosity of one’s heart contributes to the clarity of the Christian to discern what comes into the heart as light coming through a window. If the window is very dirty [from a greedy heart], very little light gets in. If the window is very clean [from a generous spirit], more of the light gets through and we can see life so much more clearly.

So, restating this again for clarity [redundancy teaches!], the generous heart is a clear window, letting the light of God’s truth into the soul. But the opposite is the case with a begrudging or selfish heart, which, if it were the condition of the believer’s heart, would block God’s light from getting in, darkening the soul, and resulting in spiritual density. Have you ever felt, in reading God’s word or listening to a sermon, that you just didn’t get it? Well, maybe it would be wise for us to look at our own heart at that time. Could it be that we are pursuing selfish gains or holding a grudge or retaining our money from God’s kingdom? Maybe opening up to a genuinely generous spirit – the HOLY SPIRIT – you can take the blinders off and you can see God’s way more clearly.

John MacArthur in his daily devotional from Strength for Today, very nicely today paraphrases the message of Jesus today by writing, “How you handle your money (time or talents) is the key to your spiritual perception.” If your heart is on heaven and in tune with Christ, you will have a generous spirit and a giving nature. If your treasure is withheld here on earth in selfishness, you will be near-sighted or even blinded spiritually and your greed will be apparent.

I leave it you to do the self-analysis as I’m doing mine here this morning. How well do we see things through the lens of God’s Spirit; and just how does the eye of generosity in our soul let the light of Christ in?

My Prayer Today: Help me to see more and give more of myself, Lord! Amen

Sunday, August 14, 2011

August 14, 2011 … Being Devoted to God

Passage of the Day: Matthew 6: 21 [see Scripture in bold/underlined] … 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

My Journal for Today:
Personally, in this one highlighted verse for the day (see in bold and underlined above), I think Jesus gives Christians the best indicator of the health of our stewardship as believers. And also VERY personally, this is one of the real hard sayings from Jesus’ teachings for Christians to absorb and apply in our lives [especially yours truly!].

We certainly know, as Christians and from our knowledge of Romans 3: 23 and Jeremiah 17: 9 (great verses to have memorized), that we’re all sinful and have deceitful hearts. But praise God, when God’s Spirit comes to reside in the still naturally sinful heart of man upon conversion, supernatural change will take place in that heart over time [see 2nd Cor. 5: 17 and Phil. 1: 6]. This is the process of sanctification; and it becomes manifest in more and more Christlike behavior being seen in the life of the true Christian as that one develops a deeper and deeper relationship with the Savior. And as that believer begins to pursue God and surrender to His Spirit, one of the best measures of that sanctification would be the stewardship of that Christian. I think I’ve said it before, quoting a friend of mine, “Show me the check stubs and the calendar of a so-called “Christian,” and we’ll be able to see if he’s the real deal.”

So, as I do a self-check here, I’ll ask you, “What about your check stubs [or electronic financial data]; … what about your calendar?” If we had a close look at your spending habits, your giving, and your use of God’s resources (time and talents, as well as treasures), would your heart be on display as Jesus viewed what you treasure? I have to ask myself all the time, “Am I gladly (and the attitude is important as seen in 2nd Cor. 9: 6 - 7) using God’s money and the time He has given me for Godly ends; … or am I using His providence for myself?” Honest answers to these questions will tell us whether we are sowing what God would have us sow from our use of His providence … whether our heart is right as we use His treasures.

My Prayer Today: O help me, Lord, to give with single-minded devotion to You. Amen

Saturday, August 13, 2011

August 13, 2011 … Giving Generously to the Lord

Passage of the Day: Matthew 6: 20 [see Scripture in bold/underlined ] … 19 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.

My Journal for Today:
According to John MacArthur in Strength for Today, the early Church, as recorded in Acts 2, became a model for how believers were to “…store up treasures … in heaven …,” as Jesus was teaching in today’s passage.

As these early believers saw the needs of other fellow Christians, they were gladly willing to pool their resources and sacrifice generously to meet those needs. And according to the later discipleship teachings of both Peter (1st Pet. 1: 3-4) and Paul (1st Tim. 6: 18 – 19), that’s what kingdom giving was all about [and as it should for us now]. It is an investment of giving, gladly and generously, to honor God in the here-and-now. And for that investment of sacrifice, where a believer humbly gives with a generous attitude, it is God’s promise that treasures, abounding beyond our imagination, will be stored up in heaven to reward the generous Christian who was/is willing to sacrifice with gladness of heart in this life. Someone once told me, “God’s pay for His work in this life may not seem like much; but the fringe benefits are out of this world!”

And in the next life, upon reaping what we, as faithful followers of Christ, have sowed in this life, our bounty will be more gladly used to glorify the One – and the only One – Who is worthy to receive all honor and praise … our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

So, my dear ones who read this, in this life – our here and now life – we, who are benefactors of God’s infinite sacrifice on the Cross, must ask ourselves if we are handling God’s providence in such a way as to lay up treasures for His glory in the next life.

My Prayer Today: I can do more, Lord … so much more! Amen

Friday, August 12, 2011

August 12, 2011 … Keeping the Treasure Safe

Passage of the Day: Matthew 6: 19 … Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.

My Journal for Today: If you’ve been with me here, we’ve looked at this passage now from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount for several days in our look at stewardship of God-given resources. And in this passage, our Lord gives His followers (and that is us) God’s instruction on how to handle what we receive from Him – i.e., His providence.

In the times Jesus made this exhortation, worldly wealth was measured in commodities like those mentioned by Jesus: garments or fabrics, grain, and precious metals. Here Jesus warns that garments can be eaten by moths, … grain can be devoured by vermin, … and gold can be stolen by thieves. And of course, He is saying that nothing of this world is permanent/lasting. And even if one could protect their “stuff,” they would have to leave them behind at death.

That’s why our Lord goes on in the very next sentence (i.e., Matt. 6: 20) to tell us that the only absolutely permanent treasures we can lay up for ourselves are those things which will last in eternity; … and those, of course, are the souls and testimonies of the Saints.

Therefore, in his devotional entry from Strength for Today on this date, John MacArthur bluntly asks any believer, “What about you? Are you putting your treasures in a safe place?” And I would go on to ask myself (and you, by extension), “What am I [are we] doing to invest in eternity? How am I [are you] using what God has blessed me [us] with for His glory [i.e., … our time … our talents … our treasures]?”

Ouch! That hurts a bit! I’m growing into this; but my stewardship still needs attention. How about you?

My Prayer Today: Help me to be a good steward of Your bounty, Lord! Amen

Thursday, August 11, 2011

August 11, 2011 … Living Unselfishly

Passage of the Day: Matthew 6: 19a [see Scripture - bold/underlined ] … 19a Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.

My Journal for Today: You know, Jesus really does want His disciples to have contentment, peace, … and yes, even happiness. All of the Sermon on the Mount, from which today’s passage was taken, was Jesus teaching His followers about “kingdom living.” He wanted for us what His Apostle John wrote about in John 10: 10 … the Spiritually full or “abundant life.”

And Jesus came at this from many angles in the Sermon on the Mount; but as we see from these teachings, the kingdom life of spiritual prosperity comes with a price; and in the context of the stewardship of God’s providence (i.e., money or material things), our price is avoiding the one attitude that can allow our common enemy to steal/kill our kingdom existence; and that is covetousness (again, see John 10: 10).

Really what Jesus is warning His followers in today’s verse is how to avoid one of the most common forms of idolatry; and that is the love of money, which is certainly just as true today, or maybe more so, as it was in the 1st century. Stories abound of miserable millionaires. Some time ago I saw one such story on the TV about Aaron Spelling, the media mogul and mega-millionaire, who died living in a 123 room “castle” in Southern California. Only three people lived in that edifice, Spelling, his wife, and one “friend.” This so-called “friend” reported that in his later years Aaron Spelling was a miserable man, paranoid and isolated from even his own family. And we all know the weird, sad story of how Howard Hughes, one of the richest men in the world in his day, died a naked, paranoid recluse in a Los Vegas penthouse.

So, what is God’s prescription for the disease of greed? Well, today’s verse, Matt. 6: 19, is one of them; and the Apostle Paul clearly wrote another in 1st Cor. 10: 31, writing, "…whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." And for the past few days in my journal entries, I’ve referred to Jesus’ admonition from this same section of the Sermon on the Mount as He pointedly said, “ … seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things (His providence – your needs) will be added to you.”

That’s our price for the abundant life – the kingdom life; and it’s not too much to pay when we consider what we get in this sweet deal. By living in obedience to Christ and His word and seeking to use HIS providence for HIS glory, we get all that the abundant life produces, which includes peace and contentment, … and the best of all, … a closer walk with our Savior … with a whole lot more of His love than we could ever experience from seeking it through the avenue of selfishness.

What do you think? Good deal, huh?

My Prayer Today: It is a great deal, Lord! Amen

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Godly Stewardship

Blogger's Note: I'll be posting two daily entries for my devotionals for the last two days. I had no internet access on the ship where we've been cruising.

August 9, 2011 … Handling Possessions Properly

Passage of the Day: Matthew 6: 19a [see verse in bold ] … 19a Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth
, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.

My Journal for Today: Today’s verse is Jesus speaking; and at times, as here, He can be very straight – even hard – when He teaches. He certainly didn’t mince words when He was teaching about something He considered basic to Christianity; and today’s truth is one of those “Christianity 101” principles.

From today’s verse, in his devotional for the date in Strength for Today, John MacArthur points out that Jesus uses the Greek construct for “store up” being ”theaurizete,” which would be a play on words. It would literally say, “Do not ‘treasure up’ treasures for yourself.” The word picture is of one creating a long, horizontal line or stack of any given treasure; and in such a picture, the Greeks assumed that such action implied a show of hoarding for all to see. It’s as if the person is saying, “Look at all I have here.” It also illustrates the lack of doing anything constructive with these God-given riches, but merely hoarding them, which we know Jesus strongly opposed (see Jesus’ parable of the Talents in Matt. 25: 14 – 30 and remember where this passage resides in the Bible – you’ll refer to it often since money is such a big part of life).

We also see Jesus teaching about such matters in His parable of the rich, young fool (see Luke 12: 16 – 21); and from these two teaching passages, we know that Christ expects the believer, His disciples, to make an active commitment of God’s grace from His providence toward God’s Kingdom (again we’re directed by the Matt. 6: 33, which I’m sure you have memorized by now).

Here’s the hard truth. We can never fulfill God’s will for the use of His providence if we are “stacking away” His treasures to impress others or only for our own security. Personally I feel more challenged by the latter than the former; but we certainly see hoarding and ostentatious show of wealth all around us. While I’ve been studying these lessons the last few days, my wife and I have been traveling in Europe on a Christian cruise through the Mediterranean; and it’s been both edifying and convicting, to get these lessons in the context of a lot of wealth being on parade around us while those of us who came on this cruise to fellowship and learn from God’s word have had to keep our Christian values in tow. And all the while the economy seems to be crashing down around us with the stock market plummeting right at the same time we’re cruising gently through these Mediterranean waters. It’s like a life lesson in realizing what is important and trusting that God is in control; and HE always promises. How we deal with an attitude of self protection to keep us secure financially is another matter, for which I’m under conviction by not trusting God enough for my needs.

We need to realize that such ill-begotten priorities, involving the handling of God’s grace, constitutes a slap in God’s face. By taking selfish charge of God’s resources and hoarding or showing off, we dampen God’s ability, through His grace, to use HIS bounty for HIS glory through HIS servants. We don’t know what the cost might be for such selfishness; but Ananias and Sapphira certainly found out [read Acts 5: 1 – 10]. They were struck dead by God for their hoarding of what God commanded them to give to His Kingdom. Meditate on 2nd Cor. 9: 6-7 and ask yourself what God would have you give – CHEERFULLY and not with a begrudging attitude – for His kingdom.

When God says to seek Him and honor His kingdom first (again, Matt. 6: 33), He means it! And He will provide what we need. May I never forget His admonition; and may I never be ungrateful for His mercy and grace.

My Prayer Today: I say again, Lord, … may I never forget that it’s all Yours. Amen


August 10, 2011 … Being a Wise Manager

Passage of the Day: Matthew 6: 19a [see in bold/underlined] … 19a Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.

My Journal for Today: In my recent devotional entries, the way I’ve been using God’s word to rail against greed and the love of money, one might get the idea that being wealthy or having material things is a bad thing in God’s eyes. NOT SO!!

As John MacArthur, in Strength for Today, reminds us in his entry for this date, both Old/New Testaments declare that any wealth or material providence for which we might have been blessed comes from God (see Deut. 8: 18 and 1st Cor. 4: 7 below).

Deut. 8: 18But remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms His covenant, which He swore to your forefathers, as it is today.

1st Cor. 4: 7For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? …

As God’s word says [above], “What do you have that you did not receive (from God)?” But beyond these pronouncements of truth about from whence our providence comes, Jesus in His parable of the Talents (Matt. 25: 14 – 30) teaches clearly that as His disciples, whether we have been given much or little, …we are ALL to be wise stewards of God’s providence and His blessings. So, it’s fine to HAVE [even great wealth] from God; but then, when His providence is put into our hands, we’re to use it for His glory.

MacArthur’s devotional on this date illustrates this for his readers with a true story of John Wesley, a Godly man who became quite wealthy in the 19th century by writing and publishing Christian hymns, many of which we still sing to this day. Wesley, by today’s standards, would be much like the Michael W. Smiths of today… financially blessed by the sale of Christian music, which then glorifies God. And both Wesley then and Smith now have used their providence for God as well. John Wesley not only used his musical talents for God’s Kingdom, but he is said to have had only 28 British pounds to his name at the time of his death, because he had carefully and selectively given away a fortune over his life in the service of the Lord.

No, … again, being wealthy is not a bad thing. Having “stuff” is not bad. In fact, it becomes a wonderful thing in God’s eyes when His providence is used to further His kingdom. Right now God has blessed me with an expensive computer, which has all the whistles and bells; but do I feel guilty about having such a fancy techno-tool, which has the potential to be involved in evil enterprise? No, because day-after-day, God has given me this tool to honor Him. Even as I type these devotional journal entries, this computer often plays lovely praise music, to which I listen during my prayer/praise/study times; and I sit here typing this devotional journal, using the word processor in this wonderful machine. A couple of years ago, my wife and I purchased a beautiful HDTV system from the providence of inheritance of my father’s passing. But before we purchased this expensive item, we prayed that the way we used that TV system would be for God’s glory (by the way we avoided worldly/fleshly viewing, concentrating on programming that would edify and relax our minds without involving us in ungodly viewing).

Certainly I am not the perfect witness in this arena. I still make selfish money decisions at times; but prayerfully God convicts me and I make course corrections along the way. And I pray that all who read this are seeking God’s will and direction when it comes to using the providence with which He has blessed us. To that end, may we all be vessels of His purpose.

My Prayer Today: Help me to use Your gifts, Lord, wisely for Your Kingdom. Amen

Sunday, August 07, 2011

August 8, 2011 … Proof of Greed’s Dangers

Passage of the Day: 1st Timothy 6: 6 – 10 [see in bold and underlined ] … 6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

My Journal for Today:
Today John MacArthur in Strength for Today revisits 1st Tim. 6: 10 (please review my devotional entry for Aug. 3 by going to this link) in the context of Paul’s teaching to Timothy and the church about the dangers of loving money and/or holding to a life focus on materialism. At the heart of this pursuit of worldly gain is, of course, greed and/or covetousness; and MacArthur wisely writes, “It’s hard to imagine a sin that has not been committed for the sake of greed.” Do we need to wonder why Paul’s exposition of truth exposes us all in Romans 3: 23, … “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Is there anyone reading here who’s never been greedy or coveted something in their lives?

And in today’s verse Paul uses colorful word pictures to depict the outcomes of money-love. He says that those who become eager for money, “pierced themselves” with many griefs. The Greek word for “pierced” in today’s verse is the word, “peripiero,” which refers to being “skewered”, … much as we do meat for barbecue. Paul is saying that the love of money or materialism can puncture the heart/soul of the one who chooses to pursue material gain in lieu of trusting in God for His providence. And again, we’re reminded of the warnings from Jesus, Who declared that we cannot serve both God and money (see Matt. 6: 24). And David, the Psalmist, reminds us that those who refrain from wandering from the faith into materialism will be satisfied completely (see Ps. 32: 10 and Ps. 17: 15).

May all of us who claim Christ as Lord hold our love of God as our highest pursuit as John commanded in 1st John 2: 15 – 16 [an important verse to have memorized]; and therefore, we declare that we will not be lured by the lusts of this world. This is a worthy aspiration; but we need to be aware that Satan will be continually trying to puncture our hearts and deflate our testimony and witness with the temptation to place materialism higher and higher in our personal priorities – until one day we may discover that our choices elevate money and/or things above God.

May we all remain steadfast to the commitment and goal expressed in Matt. 6: 33 (which I’m sure you have in your heart by now).

My Prayer Today: Help me, Lord, focus on You above all worldly pursuits. Amen

Saturday, August 06, 2011

August 7, 2011 … Loving Money: Its Effects

Passage of the Day: 1st Timothy 6: 6 – 9 [see bold text below] … 6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.

My Journal for Today:
In this last week (see my entries for 8/3 and 8/6) inspired by Paul’s instruction to Timothy, I’ve been reviewing ways to avoid the traps of worldly/fleshly materialism and/or “sensualism.” You may not find the latter word in your dictionary; but “sensualism” is the pursuit of those things which feed our senses and become self-destructive sin patterns, deterring us from a deep and abiding relationship with Christ. This is very personal concept for me because habitual sexual sin choices for many years in my life almost kept me from Christ and came very close to the ruination of my marriage, family, and career. Now, having been delivered into a walk of freedom and sobriety from sexual sin patterns, I now struggle with the sensual sin stronghold of gluttony in my life. So, I know very personally how Satan and my own heart can collaborate in sensualism to separate me from my fellowship with Christ. In fact, as I write this, I’m on a cruise in the Mediterranean; and I’ve been quite convicted of my gluttonous tendencies, having so many opportunities to graze on the very tempting food courts which are “free” and part of our cruise charges.

In today’s highlight verse we read of Paul’s warning of the outcomes of such pursuits as Paul speaks of those who “… fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men (and of course, women) into ruin and destruction.” And we see such destruction occurring all around us with State after State sanctioning gambling, which is taking millions into financial ruin. We have an epidemic of obesity in our culture, caused by the pursuit of sensual over-eating. Our children are being plunged into the obsessive-compulsive drive to find sexual images on the TV, in movies, on the Internet, being brought to them on little boxes (called “smart” phones) which they carry around in their pockets/purses, leading to a pandemic of obsessive pornography in our world. It’s like the world, and even the Christian world, is totally ignoring the warnings of God’s word (as in today’s verse).

By our choices we are in disobedience to God’s warnings, all the way from the Old Testament (see Deuteronomy 7: 25 and Zephaniah 1: 18).

Deut. 7: 25The images of their gods you are to burn in the fire. Do not covet the silver and gold on them, and do not take it for yourselves, or you will be ensnared by it, for it is detestable to the LORD your God.

Zeph. 1: 18 … [God through Zephaniah] “Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to save them on the day of the LORD's wrath. In the fire of his jealousy the whole world will be consumed, for he will make a sudden end of all who live in the earth."

Those are pretty clear warnings from God’s word; don’t you think? And reading from the pages of Scripture, the Bible is replete with stories of lives destroyed because of the pursuit of materialism or sensual pleasures.

There was the case of Achan (see Joshua 7: 1 – 26), who hid his wealth, causing his family to lose their lives and Israel to lose in warfare. And in the NT, there were Ananias and Sapphira, who were both struck dead because, in greed, they held back the Lord’s proceeds (see Acts 5: 1 – 11). And finally there was the most tragic example of all with Judas betraying Jesus for thirty pieces of silver, which ultimately led to his ignominious suicide (read Matt. 27: 3 – 5).

So, will we ever get the picture and recognize the importance of obedience to God’s word, which clearly lays out the consequences of refusing to surrender our desires to God’s will and trusting His providence completely for our needs (again read and memorize Matt. 6: 33 and Phil. 4: 19)?

My Prayer Today: I do, Lord! I get it! I am Yours! Amen

Friday, August 05, 2011

August 6, 2011 … Love of Money Obscures Life’s Simplicity

Passage of the Day: 1st Timothy 6: 8 [bold/underlined]… 6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.

My Journal for Today:
It is so easy, in our fast-paced, techno-informational culture, to lose sight of whom we are (in Christ) and whom we need to be or become as Christians. As I noted in my devotional entry for yesterday, we lose sight of the real meaning of contentment with diminished peace/power in our lives when greed, selfishness, or materialism become our focus.

In today’s passage, the Apostle Paul exhorts his younger protégé, Timothy, and teaching all believers about the basics of life so that we can have contentment, peace, and spiritual power as we live out our lives on this earth. And yesterday I also alluded to the teachings of Jesus (in Matt. 6: 33), where He strongly states that our focus must be on God first with our lives lived for His kingdom.

And using John MacArthur’s Strength for Today again, this learned author and theologian provides us [with some of my own editorial comments added] with five (5) reminders to help Christians focus on what is important and to help us avoid getting seduced into materialism

>>> #1 … Evaluate [i.e., filter] every purpose or temporal decision in the light of Matthew 6: 33. If you’re looking for a “WWJD” [What Would Jesus Do?] filtering mechanism, that verse from Jesus’ own mouth is the best one we have to see if we’re following Him, as He commanded, in this life [see also Luke 9: 23].
>>> #2 … Be thankful for everything because God owes us nothing. If we have a sense of spiritual entitlement or a victim’s mentality because of the challenges of life, we can never be truly grateful for God’s grace and providence [see Phil. 4: 19].
>>> #3 … Recognize needs versus wants. Doing so usually frees up our God-given resources (time, treasure, and talents) for Godly goals [see 2Cor. 9: 6, 7].
>>> #4 … Always spend less than we earn. How much more clear could Godly logic be; … because spending more than we earn leads to debt; and in doing so we become a slave to our indebtedness [see Prov. 22: 7]?
>>> #5 … Live sacrificially for God’s kingdom. … Our goal is to live for Savior rather than for self or the world [see Romans 12: 1-2].

And I personally believe (and have experienced) … if we live by these principles, ever focusing on God’s word for guidance and direction (see Joshua 1: 8), we will be free in Christ, empowered by God’s grace with all that we need in live (see God’s promise in 2nd Peter 1: 3 – 4).

My Prayer Today: I say again, Lord, … You are my all – in – all. Amen

August 5, 2011 … Loving Money Focuses on the Temporal

Passage of the Day: 1st Timothy 6: 7 … 6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 6 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.

My Journal for Today:
You’ve heard it before … “You can’t take it with you!”

It’s a simple lesson, for sure; so this devotional entry will be short and sweet [well, maybe not-so-sweet]. But I’m almost sure that we’ve all experienced the desire to go for the most we can get in the here-and-now. Money-love very easily seduces non-believers and Christians alike into temporal concerns; and in doing so, believers can lose focus on our trust in God.

Today’s verse is a terse warning from Paul to Timothy (and, of course to all Christians), telling us that our concerns need to be on the eternal rather than on the temporal. And God’s word is replete with restatements of this concern (see Prov. 27: 24, Job 1: 21, and Eccl. 5: 15) as well as the direct teachings of Jesus (Mark 8: 26, Matt. 6: 19 – 21, and Luke 12: 15 – 21). And in this latter passage from Christ, the parable of the rich young fool, Jesus very pointedly teaches His followers that WE cannot know when we will be taken from this life and into our eternity. Therefore, He exhorts His disciples to cultivate and be ever vigilant with our attitude of trust in God … and to be in total surrender to God’s will and His providence.

God provides the temporal so that we can prepare for the eternal. In Christ we have our ALL-IN-ALL; and in Him we have our forever. [Oooh! That has to be a God-thought; because I made that up; and I’m not smart enough to think that one up!] … We really need say little else to emphasize this point.

My Prayer Today: Help me to trust You, Lord, for everything. Amen

Thursday, August 04, 2011

August 4, 2011 … Love of Money Ignores True Gain

Passage of the Day: 1st Timothy 6: 6 … 6 But godliness with contentment is great gain.

My Journal for Today: John MacArthur in his published devotional for this date in Strength for Today, exposing the verse for the day from Paul to Timothy, writes, “True wealth is found in contentment, not in monetary gain.” Besides citing the verse above, he also quotes an old Roman proverb which disclaims, “Money is like seawater; … the more you drink, the thirstier you get, until you die from it’s poison.” MacArthur also supports his claim by citing Solomon in Eccl. 5: 10, who warns, “Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income..” And finally he cites a quote from the richest man on earth in his day, John D. Rockefeller, who, at his wealthiest, said, “I have made millions, but they brought me no happiness.”

So, … are we getting the picture yet?! From the experience of the ages to the ultimate truth, which is God’s word, we see that happiness and true contentment are not correlated with the love of money and the pursuit of material gain. And yet, so many, and that includes far too many Christians, pursue wealth in the hopes of finding security, contentment, peace, and happiness. And if you read and meditate on Proverbs 30: 8 – 9 as well as 2nd Corinthians 3: 5, you will see that real contentment, peace, and happiness can only be found in a deep and abiding relationship with God.

Oh how our enemy Satan wants us to believe his lies that worldly gain can provide happiness, peace, and/or contentment. But I, for one, give as loud a testimony as I can here in print that I used to be one who pursued happiness through Satan's lie of worldly gain; but I never found contentment until I came to know God, the Son, Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord; and the more I know Him, the more contentment I find in Him … and Him alone.

I pray that you find your peace and contentment in Jesus as well; and again, as I so often do, during my devotional time in these mornings, I remember and sing in my heart the words of that old hymn …

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face;
And the things of this world will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.

My Prayer Today:
There is no contentment, Lord, except in You. Amen

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

August 3, 2011 … The Love of Money

Passage of the Day: 1st Timothy 6: 10 … 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

My Journal for Today: Today’s teaching from the Apostle Paul to his younger protégé, Timothy, has become one of the classic biblical teachings to all Christians about our attitude, as believers, toward money and materialism. Yesterday, John MacArthur in Strength for Today, helped us see from verses 6 – 8 of 1st Tim. 6 that having money or things is not evil because God is the provider. However, in verse 10 we’re confronted with a self-inventory question: “Do we LOVE our money or things too much?” Thankfully, MacArthur also helps us answer this question with five indicators to help us see whether our attitudes have tipped over into sin with regard to materialism.

#1 … BEWARE … if you are more concerned with acquiring money than using it wisely. I’ve read somewhere that it’s okay to use money and love people; but we should never love money and use people.
#2 … BEWARE … if you feel that you never have enough money or things. When the pursuit of material gain becomes our primary desire, God has been given a back seat in our heart.
#3 ... BEWARE … if you tend to flaunt or show off what you have or have bought. When you’re showing off your new car to the next door neighbors, who’s #1 … self or Savior? - Duh!
#4 … BEWARE … if you resent giving your money as God’s word teaches or to worthy causes. Do you find joy or agony when the plate is passed in church?
#5 … BEWARE … BIGTIME! … if you too easily sin to obtain money or things?
Robbing Peter to pay Paul would not be condoned by either of the Apostles.

Forgive my glib remark following #5; but I think all too often we find ourselves looking for situational excuses when we justify handling our financial woes by doing things which clearly move into the sinful realm. How often have Christians excused their impulse or compulsive buying, feeling that they NEED or DESERVE something that is clearly a WANT or desire and not a need? How does a Christian justify obsessive shopping; or how does a Christian excuse buying lottery tickets week after week, desiring to become “rich” quickly?

Jesus clearly taught [in Matt. 6: 24] we cannot serve God and money; and today’s verse warns us what can (and will) happen when the scales of life become tipped toward the love of money over our love of God. And taking Jesus at His word (which we should always do!), our pursuit should always be things which advance the Kingdom of God (from Matt. 6: 33) rather than the pursuit of or flaunting of personal gain.

So, our pursuits need to be for the NEEDS which God will always provide; and then any blessings beyond our needs can be our gift back to God as we use His providence for His glory!

My Prayer Today: My pursuit is You, Lord! Amen

Monday, August 01, 2011

August 2, 2011 … The Right Attitude Toward Money

Passage of the Day: 1st Timothy 6: 6 – 8 … 6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.

My Journal for Today: I think you would agree, if you are using this devotional to get closer to God’s will and His way, that our culture and our world promotes greed and selfishness and the desire for money and things. Hence in his devotionals for this month, John MacArthur, from Strength for Today posits eight principles from Scripture concerning money/wealth which we, as Christians, must believe and live. These principles, with their biblical support, are listed below. If you’re reading/studying here, I will expect that you will meditate on each scripture that is listed for each principle. …

1. Having money is not wrong. [1st Samuel 2: 7]
2. Money and possessions are from God’s providence. [Deuteronomy 8: 10 – 18]
3. If it is God’s will, we must be willing to part with our material wealth. [Job 1: 21]
4. Material wealth is not to be coveted or favored. [James 2: 1 – 10]
5. The pursuit of wealth should never be our top priority. [Matthew 6: 33]
6. Our money should be used for eternal purposes. [Luke 16: 9]
7. We will never find security in the pursuit/acquisition of wealth. [Proverbs 11: 28]
8. We must never hoard or foolishly spend God’s providence. [Proverbs 11: 24-25]

Serious application of these biblical principles, when it comes to the use of God’s providence and material wealth will honor God; and as Matt. 6: 33 (hopefully a memorized verse with you) clearly states, application of these Godly principles concerning His providence will put God and His kingdom first rather than our own selfish desires. So these principles above become the only wise use of God-given providence/wealth (see also Luke 6: 38).

As we read above, money, in and of itself, is not evil. It only becomes evil when it becomes a tool of evil thinking or evil doing. As we’ve seen in Prov. 23: 7 (from NKJV) , “… as a man thinks in his heart , so is he.” So, as we meditate on the principles above from God’s word, we need to ask ourselves, “What have I become in my use of God’s providence?” When we answer that question in tune with these eight biblical principles, prayerfully we will be living out Matt. 6: 33 in our lives.

My Prayer Today: Lord, may I use Your providence to honor You. Amen