Judges 9

Judges 9 recounts the life of Abimelech, the son of Gideon by his concubine. Gideon had faithfully served God throughout his life, but Abimelech did not share the commitment of his father. Abimelech had one commitment–himself. He sought to continually achieve power. In some ways this isn’t surprising as we all have a part of our own lives where we want to be in charge. However, something that is more important for us to consider is who we choose to follow as our leader. As Abimelech was fighting to become leader by killing all of his brothers, his youngest brother Jotham escaped and sought to warn the people about Abimelech. He wanted the people to realize that they should not follow him and his self-serving attitude. Standing on Mount Gerizim, Jotham shouted, 7 “Listen to me, you leaders of Shechem, that God may listen to you. He was wanting them to consider their willingness to follow Abimelech, who had already proven to be a ruthless, self-seeking leader. He warned them by telling a parable that clearly was meant to help them see that worthless people seek to lord over others as Abimelech had done. Jotham ended his warning by saying, 19″ if you then have acted in good faith and integrity with Jerubbaal and with his house this day, then rejoice in Abimelech, and let him also rejoice in you. 20 But if not, let fire come out from Abimelech and devour the leaders of Shechem and Beth-millo; and let fire come out from the leaders of Shechem and from Beth-millo and devour Abimelech.” In other words, if your choice of a leader is good in God’s sight then may you rejoice, but if not may you suffer the consequences. We may ask what this episode has to do with us, but we must understand this important lesson–it is important who you choose to be your leaders. Let’s keep in mind the words of Jesus who taught in Matthew 20, 25 “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, 28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  It is important in our lives to choose leaders who are servants, because if a leader isn’t willing to serve ,then that leader will always be seeking to be served. Those who follow such a leader often find that life for them is filled with trouble while those who follow servant leaders find that life is filled with more joy. That is why Jesus is the perfect leader to follow. He lead ultimately by first serving God the Father, but then served us by giving his life as a ransom for our sin. Jesus is the perfect leader to follow.

Ruth 1-2

I believe everyone is aware that life is full of difficult moments. In fact, we are all too familiar with the statement “when it rains, it pours.” We are familiar with that statement because is often seems when one thing goes wrong in life multiple things go wrong. Naomi is a woman who experienced multiple hardships. She first lost her husband, then her two sons, followed by an extreme famine in the land. These things together made life very difficult for Naomi. You can read in Ruth 2 that Naomi had felt that God had dealt bitterly with her but she still made an important, life-changing decision. In Ruth 1 we read, “6 Then she arose with her daughters-in-law to return from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the fields of Moab that the Lord had visited his people and given them food. 7 So she set out from the place where she was..” Even though she didn’t understand why she had experienced such difficulty from the Lord’s hand, she still went toward the Lord. She went to where she had heard to Lord was working. She still placed her faith in the Lord in the middle of her difficulty. Now, with her decision, we also see another very important decision. This one not by Naomi. This other important decision was from her daughter-in-law Ruth. As Naomi left to go back to her homeland, she encouraged her daughter-in-laws to return back to their people. She did this because she knew she couldn’t take care of them herself. We read where Orpah listened to Naomi and went back to her people, while Ruth makes a truly life changing decisions. This is how her decision is recorded…15 And she said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” 16 But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. What was so big about this decision? Ruth is this moment decided to not go back to the false gods of her family and instead trust in the one true God. She trusted God to be her God. In the end, what we see is that Ruth is blessed because of this decision. She experiences God’s redeemer and even becomes a part of the lineage of the Savior of the world. In reality, people are still faced with this decision today. Turn to false Gods or turn to the one true God. My prayer for all today is that when difficulties strike they will turn to the one true God instead of trusting in false gods. That they will turn to God and find His redemption. I have no doubt if you trust God even when things seems to be going bad, he will provide in amazing ways for you. I pray today that you will decide to trust in God and go toward Him.

Joshua 1

Have you ever had something that you knew you needed to do, but just didn’t do it? Maybe it was procrastination or maybe just resistance but you failed to do something you needed to do. For example, some people put off paying taxes or renewing their driver’s license until the last possible minute. It’s not always that what we are failing to do is a bad thing, but for some reason we just put it off. Sometimes we need people to speak into our lives and say “just do it.” In Joshua 1:1-2 it is as if God comes to Joshua and says, “Joshua it’s time.” Look how the book of Joshua begins…

Joshua 1:1 After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, 2 “Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel.

There is no way that Joshua did not know that Moses had died, so it isn’t as if God is telling Joshua some breaking news. What he is saying to Joshua is, “it’s time. It’s time for you to do the job I have for you.” We could go back to the end of Deuteronomy and see where Moses had laid his hands on Joshua. Therefore we have every reason to believe that Joshua knew he was taking over for Moses as the leader of the Israelites when Moses died. However, Joshua seems hesitant. Maybe he was still grieving. Maybe he had some doubts. The text doesn’t give a reason for Joshua’s hesitancy, so we are left to guess. What is key though is God says arise and go. It’s time. In our lives, we need to listen for the same thing from God. A prompting that says go. This prompting may come through a sermon you hear or a devotion you read. It could be through someone close to you who recognizes God’s call on your life. Or it could simply be the internal prompting of the Holy Spirit that says “Go.” But however that prompting comes, I encourage you to hear the voice of the Lord that is saying “arise and go” because if he has something for you to do, it’s important for you to listen and respond. Joshua did and God used him mightily. He wants to do the same with you.

Exodus 20:1-21

Most people do not like rules. Well, at least rules that they have to follow. We might like imposing rules on others, but we typically rebel against rules that we have to follow. It starts when we are very young and continues as we get older. When one is young they don’t like the rule that you have to eat all your vegetables in order to get dessert. In the teen years, the dreaded curfew comes along. As adults, who likes a speed limit? No matter what the rule we seem to want to disobey. But here is something we all really know, rules are for our protection. We want the child to eat vegetables because vegetables are filled with the vitamins and minerals that a child needs to help them grow and develop properly. Curfews are meant to keep teens from being out when most of the bad stuff happens. Speed limits are meant to prevent wrecks, including the injuries that can come with them. Rules truly are meant for good.

In Exodus 20, we find the most famous set of rules–The Ten Commandments. I have every reason to believe that God first knows that they are for our good. If you obey them, there is much trouble that you can avoid. However, the Ten Commandments really have a greater purpose. They are meant to show us God’s grace. In verse 20, Moses shares a great truth with the people when they find themselves trembling in the presence of God who has just given the Ten Commandments. Look at what he said. Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.” We often think of the Ten Commandments as setting us up for failure. We often view them as things for God to punish us for. However, that is not the case at all. They are meant to help us not sin. In truth, all these things were problems before God gave the list. He brought them to our attention because people can have the tendency to not see the dangers. People easily covet and don’t see how quickly and easily coveting turns into wanting something so badly that they will cheat to get it. Or people find it easy to tell a lie and do not see that it can destroy lives. God gave us the Ten Commandments for our good. He was protecting us from ourselves. The Ten Commandments are instruments of grace.

Let me encourage you today to be thankful that God cares enough to give you directions that protect you from the danger ahead, instead of complaining about what God has asked you to do. Take time to thank God for His grace.

Exodus 3

In America, we have always prided ourselves in the ability to be self-sufficient. If people fall down we like to speak about them pulling themselves up by their boot straps. Or maybe we like to talk about people being self-made millionaires (I surely don’t fit that category). If nothing else, we like to pride ourselves on our achievements. Granted there is much good to talk about when we talk about one working hard and succeeding in what they do. There is though one major downfall in our view of self-sufficiency –a person can get the feeling that he or she is independent of God or at least act independently of God. God never created us to be independent of Him. He wants to be in relationship with us, even working with us to accomplish great things. Many believers have even made the mistake of crediting things to people and forgetting about God’s hand. Moses is an example. Moses rightfully gets much praise for what he did in delivering the people of Israel from Egypt. However, we must be careful to never separate what Moses did from God actually did. In Exodus chapter 3, God calls Moses to go to Egypt knowing that the success would always be in God’s presence and his power. It was never Moses’ credentials that mattered. It was God’s credentials as the great “I AM” who delivered the children of Israel. We must never forget that God is our source of power and strength. In fact, it should be God who first directs us to what he wants us to do just as he did with Moses. When you are carrying out a plan that God has given you, success is a guarantee because God gives his presence and power to accomplish his mission. Therefore, let’s never live life independent of God. Let’s look to God, hear his call, and move forward with his strength.

Genesis 37

Genesis 37 introduces us to one of my favorite biblical characters–Joseph. Much happens in this chapter, but the chapter really centers around two of Joseph’s dreams. Two dreams that end with events that his family clearly interprets as them bowing down to Joseph. Now, it’s not clear from the text if Joseph fully understood what was going on here, but what we know is that God was giving Joseph a vision of what was going to happen in his life. His brothers simply got mad. His father scolded him as well. However, it is interesting in verse 11 where it says that his father kept the saying in his heart. Jacob knew by his own experience that God had given him a vision of his future and that he, too, was proclaimed as a younger brother who would rise above his older brothers. In other words, Jacob knew that quite possibly this was a vision from God. Though Jacob’s brothers and others fought against the vision, ultimately we know that what God had revealed eventually happened.

God’s plans cannot be stopped. Unfortunately, there are many times when we have a dream from God that others don’t support or believe. If God has given you a clear vision for your life, have faith that God will see it come to fruition even if others fight against it. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a vision years ago that there would be a day when in our country people would be judged by the content of their character instead of the color of their skin. It is a dream that many have fought against. Let’s pray that we are seeing a day when this dream comes to be because God has a plan that he is unfolding which includes people of all colors and nations unified and serving him. What dream has God given you? People might fight against it, but if it is a part of God’s plan, God will help it unfold.

Genesis 27

One thing that is true for us all is that there are things that we want. Sometimes our wants are material things and sometimes they are things like recognition, promotions or other kind of personal gain. Wants are not necessarily a bad thing, however, we have to be careful. At times the pursuit of our wants can cause wrong actions or unintended consequences. In Genesis 27, we see a case where getting a want led to negative consequences. We actually see Rebekah wanting her favorite son, Jacob,to get Isaac’s blessing. What this led to was Rebekah encouraging Jacob to be deceptive, then Jacob following through with the deception, and eventually Jacob being on the run in fear of his brother Esau. What everyone had forgotten was that God had a plan. God had told Rebekah that the younger sone would serve the older, so there was no need for her to fight for Jacob to have this blessing. Isaac knew the promise as well, so he should not have been seeking to bless Esau. So, the real issue was that everyone was fighting for what they wanted and forgot about what God wanted and having faith in his plan. The outcome was a family in turmoil. Things surely could have been different for all of them if God had been their focus because God’s plans will be fulfilled. Instead of pursuing what you want, pursue God. What you will discover if you pursue God is that you will not have to get involved in deception, you will not have to suffer the consequences of wrong pursuits, and instead you will experience God’s blessings… His way. God’s blessing will be better than anything you want.

Genesis 12:1-9; 15:1-6; 17:1-8

Has anyone ever given you the advice to read the Bible and note all the promises God has made to you? My guess is most who will read this devotion have at some point heard that advice. It’s not bad advice. God’s word contains some great promises. God has promised to never leave you nor forsake you. Not sure anything is much better than God’s assured presence. God has promised to work all things together for good for those who love him. I especially like that when things are going well. It’s good to know that somehow even in bad things God is working for good. No doubt we love God’s promises, and they are good.

Abraham was a man who experienced God’s promises firsthand. The promise we are all familiar with is God’s promise to Abraham to give him many descendants—an amazing promise considering Abraham and Sarah had no children and were way past childbearing years. As I ponder God’s promises to Abraham, I am first reminded that God’s promises are truly more than we deserve and go far beyond what we could do for ourselves. They remind us that God is both gracious and powerful. However, I am also reminded that God’s promises are really not just for one individual which is normally what we focus on.

Truly, when we think about God’s promises, we are really wanting to know what God has promised me. But God’s promises are not just for an individual. God’s promises to Abraham show that. In Geneses 12:3, God says to Abraham as part of his promises, “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Clearly, what God was promising Abraham went far beyond just what God was doing for him. Genesis 17:1-8 makes it very clear that God’s promise to Abraham was a promise that was meant for all the generations that would come after him. God didn’t want Abraham to take just an individualistic view of what he was doing but wanted Abraham to see that his working in Abraham’s life had a bigger purpose than just Abraham having a better life. God’s promises to Abraham, and to us, are really about what God is doing in the world as a whole.

When we consider what God is wanting to ultimately accomplish, we get a hint at the end of Genesis 17:8 as God is speaking about his promise and says, “and I will be their God.” There it is. What God really is desiring with us in all his promises is a relationship with Him. Not just us individually but all persons. Knowing this should be part of what changes our attitude from “what has God promised to me?” to an attitude of “how do God’s promises to me help others know Him?” If we have the proper attitude, we can more clearly understand the command and promise found in Matthew 28:19-20. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” God surely has promised to be with us, but He wants to be with us as we go into all the world helping others to be in relationship with him. Let’s clearly understand God’s promises for us while not losing sight of God’s greater plan for the whole world.

Genesis 3

At our house, Kim and I have a good thing going. I make the mess, and she cleans it up. I like to cook, so I can make a pretty good mess cooking, and she typically cleans all the dishes. That may not sound like too bad of a deal, except that I can have a tendency to make messes in general that Kim ends up cleaning up. I apparently have a little higher tolerance for a mess than she does. I am thankful that Kim has never made a big deal about it (by the way I do help clean sometimes) because if she did our relationship could be in trouble.

In this part of our relationship, she demonstrates the way God is with us. We make the mess. He is left to clean it up. In Genesis 3, we see this demonstrated clearly. Most are familiar with this passage because it recounts what we call the fall of mankind. It is the account of Adam and Eve sinning in the garden. There they were in the perfect environment created by God, and they messed it up. They gave into the temptation of Satan and ate from the tree that God had forbidden, then compounded the problem by seeking to blame others, then ultimately tried to hide from God. Mess on top of more mess.

Thankfully in the midst of all this, we see God actually speaking to Satan these words about the offspring of man in Genesis 3:15, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” This verse is called the protoevangelium–a fancy way of saying the first reference to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Satan in all his dealings might bruise the heal of man, but Jesus would ultimately bruise the head of Satan. The word translated “bruise” in the ESV can also be translated “strike” or “crush” which may help us understand why the location of the blow is so relevant. A striking or crushing of the heal would not be fatal, while a strike or crush to the head would be.

That is exactly what Jesus has done to Satan for us, struck a fatal blow to deal with the mess we have made. The difference between what Jesus has done for us and and what Kim does for me is that I could clean up my mess around the house, but only Jesus can take care of the mess we have caused by sin. The mess we have made by sinning has actually caused our death, but thankfully, we are told in Colossians 2, “13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” Even Satan has been disarmed through Jesus. Let’s be thankful today that God can clean up our mess when we are unable.

Genesis 1:1-25

Have you ever noticed how important it is to get the basics right? For example, if you want to use a mower to mow the grass, you have to have blades on the mower or you cannot cut grass. That’s basic. I you want to watch your favorite show on television, you have to plug the t.v. in so you have power. That’s basic. If you want to have a milkshake, you need to have some ice cream (I hope that didn’t make you long for a milkshake). I could go on with many things, but you get the picture. In the three things I mentioned, there is more to each scenario. A mower needs gas, tires, and oil. If you are going to watch t.v., you have to have a screen, a remote, or source to change channels. If you are going to have a milkshake, you need milk and other ingredients to get the flavor you want. However, without the basics it doesn’t matter what else you have. In Genesis 1, there is much we could look at. We could talk about the order that the earth has. We could look at how everything has it’s kind. We could talk about how there is a process through which things reproduce. There is much to be seen in the first few verses of the Bible. However, we must never forget the basics. What are the basics of Genesis 1? “In the beginning God.” The basic thing we must see in Genesis 1 is God. These first few verses show us that everything centers around God. There is nothing that God does not touch. There is nothing that God is not interested in. They also teach us that God is the creator and owner of all things. He is the one who has the right to direct all that happens. He has the right to tell what is done with what. We also must be reminded in these verses that God is worthy of our worship. Since he is the beginning of all things, then he is worthy of our worship. This should then remind us that the most important thing for our life is our relationship with God. If he is the beginning of all things, the controller of all things, the one we should worship, then what could be more important than our relationship with Him? Nothing! In fact, I would maintain that the earliest verses in Genesis point us to our need for Jesus. Why? Because he is the one who can restore our relationship with the God who created us. We can know Genesis points to Jesus especially when we read in the gospel of John 1:1-3, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. In Jesus is life. That is a basic we must never forget.