A long time coming

The long wait is over. After a full 365 days of work plus a couple of extras for formatting and several weeks of waiting, I now have the complete set of all 13 DAILY: A Year in the Word of God devotional journals.

 

 

I must say that, whether or not they sell (though I hope they do), there’s a pretty big sense of accomplishment in having my own books on my bookshelf right next to Steven Furtick, Charles Spurgeon, and Dutch Sheets—though I in no way compare myself to those men.

I’ve set a similar goal for myself again this year and, in an effort not to repeat myself have indexed my 2017 posts along with the scriptures referenced. And, being on the OCD side of things, also felt the need to colour code the entries so that they correspond with the cover of the book they’re published in. What does that look like when alphabetized? Pretty fantastic if you ask me.

Daily_spreadsheet

It doesn’t matter

In a world where everyone wants something to matter, there are a few things that don’t matter at all when it comes to our Commission as believers.

1. It doesn’t matter where you are.

Matthew 14:13

Bono had it right when he penned these words:

You’ve got to get yourself together
You’ve got stuck in a moment
And now you can’t get out of it

We can get so caught up in our doing that we don’t notice that Jesus has gone somewhere else and we’ve failed to follow. The crowds that followed knew that Jesus had something they needed. It didn’t matter that he was in a boat and they were on land. They followed.

There are times that we may be hesitant to leave what we’re doing because we have so much time, energy, and resources invested. But is it really worth missing Jesus? We must all learn to keep our eyes on him and follow at a moments notice.

2. It doesn’t matter how you feel.

Matthew 14:14

Jesus had just received news that his cousin, John the Baptist, had been beheaded in prison. He wanted to be alone. Yet the crowds followed him and, even in his grief, he had compassion, ministered to them, and healed the sick. Whether we feel like it or not, our call to minister doesn’t go away or get put on hold. Jesus didn’t say, “When you feel like it, maybe go across the street and tell someone about me.” He said, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.” (Mark 16:15)

How we feel is not included in our call. In the following verses we will see that, even in one of his darkest moments as a man, Jesus was able to perform a great miracle and reach thousands of people. Perhaps by going ahead, especially when we don’t feel like it, God is able to accomplish more through us.

3. It doesn’t matter what is (or isn’t) in your hands.

Matthew 14:19

If you’re a pastor or a leader in your church and 10,000 people show up one Sunday and want to stick around all day, what would you do? Feed them or send them off with an invitation to return and hope they’ll come back? If the disciples had their way, they’d have sent away the crowds. Their hands were empty. Jesus had been performing miracles all day and the men who were closest to him still didn’t see that just because their hands were empty, it didn’t mean they had nothing.

Whether we feel qualified or equipped to fulfill the Great Commission is irrelevant. What’s in our hands doesn’t matter. It’s probably even better if our hands are empty because then we have no other recourse than to depend on what’s in Jesus’ hands.

When Jesus handed off the bread and fish to the disciples, they then handed it off to the people. And then it came back—far more than what they’d started with. Every hand that touched the food was a part of the miracle and as more people handled it, the greater it became.

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.

1 John 4:4 (NIV)

The message of Jesus is completely counter to our culture. We cannot maintain popular ideals and still be effective in ministry.

He must become greater; I must become less.

John 4:30 (NIV)

All of it

Read: Genesis 42-43, Matthew 13:33-58

When asked if she was aware that Jesus loves her, my four-year-old niece matter-of-factly responded, “Yes, I know that,” as though it were a silly question that didn’t even need to be asked in the first place.

The love of God toward His children—us—is something we should be reminded of every day. But there are many other things from the Word of God that we, like my niece, scoff at. Of course we know that. Do we really have to go over it again?

Matthew 13:52

We often make the mistake of throwing out the old in favour of the new. We do it with almost everything we have. When something is of no use to us, it gets tossed rather than repaired or renewed. Many Christians have done the same with what we may view as old ideas. We accept Jesus’ teaching, but nothing else. Yet, Jesus himself told his disciples that the old is just as important as the new. Maybe even more so since the old is the foundation on which the new has been built.

An argument may be made that Jesus came to free us from the law. He did. He came to free us from the bondage of it. There was no way that any human being could fulfill every letter of the law. Another way had to be made to access God.

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

Matthew 5:17 (NIV)

If we view the Old Testament—the Law and the Prophets—as obsolete, how then can we fully understand Jesus who is the fulfillment of it?

Matthew Henry said that, old experiences and new observations all have their use. Our place is at Christ’s feet, and we must daily learn old lessons over again, and new ones also.

I have never met a person who reads through their Bible over and over again and says that they discovered nothing new. If God’s mercies are new every morning, surely there is revelation to follow. And we should seek it with all that we are. God wants to reveal Himself to us through His Word—all of it.

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask of God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

James 1:5 (NIV)

I cannot do it

Read: Genesis 41, Matthew 13:1-32

I cannot do it. To most, these words are a signal of great weakness, but they can be the most empowering in the English language.

Having spent years in an Egyptian prison for a crime he did not commit, Joseph was called before Pharaoh because of his skill in interpreting dreams. When Pharaoh asks him to demonstrate his ability, Joseph immediately announces that he cannot.

Genesis 41:16

Now, the man who had brought Joseph to Pharaoh’s attention knew what Joseph was capable of, having received an interpretation for his own dream. Imagine how he felt having vouched for the man who says, “I cannot.”

What would the outcome have been had Joseph taken credit for the ability God had given him as a boy? Would he have been able to tell Pharaoh what the dreams meant? Would the omission of the statement “I cannot” have changed the course of history?

What more could we accomplish with God on our side if we, like Joseph, would simply admit our shortcomings and allow God to work through us? How much more could God do on earth if we would only lay our egos aside?

Joseph’s humility landed him as second in command over an entire nation. Through him, not only Egypt was spared through famine, but many other peoples, including his own family were saved.

I cannot do it could very well be the most powerful phrase we could dare to utter because we have to set ourselves aside in order to do it. And, once we are out of the way, God has room to work.

The overflow

Read: Genesis 38-40, Matthew 12:22-50

Whether it’s intentional or not, things are going in and out of us all day every day. I’m not talking about food here. Or maybe I am. But it’s the spiritual sort. We read an article. We drive past a billboard. We watch a TV show. We have a conversation with a friend. We pass by a stranger. It’s all stimulation and it’s all being absorbed one way or another. And what goes in is what will come out.

Matthew 12:34

Since there are a lot of things that go in that we have no control over, the situation may seem hopeless. But, as we discussed yesterday, there is always hope. Just because we can’t control all of the bad things doesn’t mean we have no control whatsoever over the good things. We just have to make sure that the good stuff outweighs the bad. It may be as simple as changing the radio station in the car on the commute to work, or putting down one book in exchange for another. In some cases, it may take a little more effort.

For me, it’s getting up earlier than my schedule requires so that I know I will have time first thing every day to spend in the Word of God. I can carry that with me all day.

I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you.

Psalm 119:11 (NIV)

Jesus said that a tree—that’s us—is recognized by its fruit. A good tree bears good fruit and a bad tree bears bad fruit. Every once in a while, it does us good to take a look at the kind of fruit we bear. We cannot assume that it’s always good. And, once we’ve determined our produce, we may need to take a look at what we’ve been feeding it. Even if you believe you have pretty decent fruit, keep in mind it can always be better, and the better it is, the less chance there is of it turning on you. Your fruit affects those around you even more than it affects you.

So, what’s your overflow?

A new hope

Read: Genesis 36-37, Matthew 12:1-21

A look at any news outlet these days will let you know that there are an awful lot of people who have no hope. Even those who think they do, don’t. This is nothing new. Hopelessness has plagued the human race since the very first humans walked the earth. Our own weaknesses and insecurities often overshadow anything or anyone who may be able to shine a little light into our lives.

This is what the Jews were feeling in the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry. The Pharisees had interpreted the law to a point that there was absolutely no hope in ever being able to keep it. In the first few verses of Matthew 12, we find Jesus and his disciples accused of breaking the law simply because they were hungry. If the need for a midday meal was enough to break the law, how much more did the Jews struggle in their daily life to keep up with the strict parameters the Pharisees put on them?

Yet Jesus fought against these man-made restrictions. While still keeping the law, he explained the freedom in it. Certain exceptions could be made within the boundaries of the law. Jesus emphasized his point by healing a man with a withered hand. The Pharisees considered healing work and thus, decided it was unlawful to do so on the Sabbath. Jesus, on the other hand established that it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:12).

Matthew 12:21

Jesus’ ministry was not to publicly put the Pharisees in their place, but rather to show the average person that there was hope beyond what they’d been taught. Their faith wasn’t all about the rules, but the freedom that could be found in them. The law was not given to stifle humanity, but to benefit them. And Jesus, in fulfilling the law, came to do the same.

It is in Jesus’ name that our greatest hope is found. It is in his name that demons must flee and sickness must vanish. It is in his name that we are set free and in his name that we find life everlasting.

Where there is no hope, there is Jesus. Where hope has faded, he brings a new hope.

Suitable for all audiences

Read: Genesis 33-35, Matthew 11

Have you ever known someone who refused to watch a G-rated movie because that stuff is juvenile? It’s fluff. It’s meant for kids. I’m above that sort of childishness. Well, I guess the Gospel is too juvenile as well, because Jesus made sure that his message was suitable for all audiences. It was actually aimed toward the less learned.

Matthew 11:25

Jesus stood strong in the face of the religious and welcomed the children to him. He acted in direct contrast to the culture of the day appealing to the weak and simple. His Gospel, while suitable for all audiences, was better received by those who had no claim to knowledge of the law.

Aside from sin, the thing that can restrain us the most from receiving from God is ourselves. Our big brains and so-called wisdom clog our mind with complex ideas that Jesus never presented. Like the Pharisees in the days of the disciples, we see ourselves as being above such simplicity. And Jesus praised God that He chose to reveal his truth to the young and the simple rather than the wise and learned.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is simple enough to be received by children and enduring enough for the aged. It is deep enough to appeal to the learned and broad enough to be understood by the simple.

Rather than working from the top down, Jesus started at the bottom and worked his way up. Not because those were the only people who would listen to him, but because it was his Father’s will that he do so.

Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.

Matthew 11:26 (NIV)