Seven Days of Devotion
The Weekly Word is a Collection of Devotionals to be read on the Day Listed and presented freely as a service to and for the Body of Christ and Believers throughout the World that We may Hear God Speak to us as the Spirit of God gives us ears to hear and eyes to see what God would have for us daily in relationship to Him.
"You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind." This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
Growing up, I tended to push the envelope. I think I was thrown out of more bars than I walked into. I wasn't a bad guy, but I was always getting into mischievous trouble. Why? Deep down, I felt empty. I feared I would never amount to anything. I was afraid of what people might do to me. I feared where I was headed, but I feared changing course. I lived in perpetual fear... and I blamed myself.
Years later, as a new Christian, I came across a verse that changed my life. 1 John 3:20 says, "For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things." Boy, I could relate! If anyone had a condemning heart, I did. I carried such guilt. I knew God loved me enough to forgive my every sin, but I was afraid to forgive myself. In essence, I had made God smaller than myself -- I had allowed my own sense of guilt and sinfulness to trump the perfecting work of His love in my life. One thing had always stood in my way: fear.
The opposite of love is fear. Perfect love and fear cannot coexist, because "perfect love casts out fear" (1 John 4:18). Where there is fear, love is lacking. And in my heart, God's love was lacking. You see, I'd never realized that all the guilt, shame, bitterness, and anger in my life was rooted in fear. I was afraid of love, because I didn't think I deserved it. From the moment I allowed God to uproot the fear, I realized the sheer power of His love. I didn't have to defend myself. I didn't need to strive to be somebody. If God was in charge, why should I fear? "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind" (2 Timothy 1:7).
All the Lord requires of us is love -- to love Him, and to love others. That's it. All the commandments boil down to this one thing: love. Nothing is more powerful than the perfect love of Jesus Christ. Today, allow His love to permeate every cell of your body. Let Him cast out all the fear in your heart, and the sin it causes. Let His love bring forgiveness and restoration to you, your family, your friends, and your enemies. Let Him give you a love for others that you've never known or experienced, and that radically transforms your world. "He who does not love does not know God, for God is love" (1 John 4:8).
And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
Jesus never got angry with anyone... except the religious leaders of His day. He never yelled at a teenager for having sex on a Friday night. He never scolded anyone for smoking a joint, or getting drunk, or stealing from a business partner. Instead, He always said, "Repent."
But it was a different story with the religious leaders. Jesus didn't hesitate to rebuke the scribes and Pharisees. And He did it in front of the people who respected them most -- the public.
The scribes and Pharisees were hugely popular among the people of Jesus' time.
Unlike the Sadducees, who were the "snobby," upper-class aristocrats, the scribes and Pharisees were mostly middle-class businessmen, lawyers, and judges. Even though the Sadducees were technically more powerful, the scribes and Pharisees were much more famous -- and they knew it.
They liked that the people looked to them for the interpretation of the truth, rather than looking to God. They liked making themselves the peoples' only access to God. But Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6).
You see, the scribes and Pharisees had exalted themselves to the very throne that Jesus came to occupy. They had made themselves the "way" and the "truth" -- except they neither had the power to give life to one lost soul, nor did they even desire such a thing; they only wanted power and fame for themselves.
They didn't love the people -- they thought they were better than the people. They didn't care for the people -- they burdened the people. And Jesus would not tolerate it. Four times in Matthew 23, He says, "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees!" Is it a surprise that Jesus would want to warn the multitudes of such vultures? Is it any wonder that He would be outraged by such pride?
Today, who sits on the throne of your heart?
Is it you? Are you, like the Pharisees, living only for yourself, even when it burdens and impedes others? When we exalt ourselves, we tell the world that this is exactly the case. But if Jesus Christ sits on the throne of your heart, He will be life to you, and you will bring life to others.
Some of us walk around with these big burdens on our shoulders, but if you will place Jesus on the throne of your heart, you will be totally free -- free from religion and the entanglements that men have put in your way; free from the stumbling blocks that make you feel guilty. God is madly in love with you. Not just a little bit. His love is overpowering. He forgives you of your sins, and He sets you free. Jesus said, "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32).
May I encourage you to exalt Jesus higher and higher in your life. Make Him the center of everything. Don't exalt yourself, and don't look to others who exalt themselves. Matthew 23:11 says that "he who is greatest among you shall be your servant."
Humble yourself, and become someone, like Jesus, who gives, who loves, who pours out their life for others -- and who never asks for anything in return. That is being a servant... and that is greatness.
But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.
A little boy was invited to dinner for the first time in his life. He would just be going to his next-door neighbor's house, but to him, this was a huge event. "See ya, Mom! See ya, Dad!" he hollered as he raced to the house next door. When they sat down at the table to eat, the boy, who was raised in a Christian home, bowed his head. "Lord, thank you for this food," he began to pray out loud. But nobody stopped; everyone kept passing food across the table.
The little boy opened his eyes and asked, without a hint of embarrassment, "Don't you people thank God for your food?" After an awkward silence, the lady of the house said, "No, honey, we don't." The little fellow thought for a moment. "You know, you're like my dogs" he told them. "They just start right in."
You and I can be like that, can't we? We can make $100,000 on a real estate deal, and not give God a penny. We can "start right in," carelessly feasting on the food before us, ignorant of God's graciousness to provide it. But when we lose $100,000, we're quick to cry out to God. When things go wrong, we look to Him with eyes of desperation. Why? Because instead of loving God, we think we can use Him. Instead of blessing God with our gifts, talents, finances -- you name it -- we expect God to bless us. We are self-focused. And we are deceived.
The people of Noah's time were living the good life. They ate, they drank, and they partied. And that's not necessarily bad. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says that "whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." But the people were self-focused, not God-focused. They didn't eat and drink to celebrate God, but to satisfy themselves.
When Noah warned of God's imminent judgment, a world-wide flood, they mocked him. "Oh come on, that's ridiculous!" they must have said, laughing. After all, it had never rained! They had never even heard of a flood! But must God use means with which we are familiar? Must He work in ways we expect? Because the people couldn't even imagine such a substantial work of God, they were swept away by it. "So also will the coming of the Son of Man be" (Matthew 24:39).
You see, deception comes through selfishness. When our hopes and dreams are only rooted in self-glory, not only do we miss the glory of God -- we can't even imagine it. When our eyes are fixed on ourselves, not only are we oblivious to God -- we assume His role in our lives. Self-focus always results in self-deception because when we lose sight of God, we lose sight of our purpose.
Jesus said, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and [you shall love] your neighbor as yourself" (Luke 10:27). That is our purpose, lest we deceive ourselves.Today, we live in days very similar to the days of Noah. Jesus Christ is coming to take you home, and what a glorious day it will be to stand in His presence and worship Him "in the beauty of holiness" (Psalm 96:9)! But you must be prepared. Don't live a self-centered life; you only deceive yourself. Give your life to Jesus, and live for His glory.
For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.
On March 26, 1994, Ronald Opus jumped from the top of a ten-story building, intending to commit suicide. He died that day, but not from the ten-story leap. As he fell past the 9th floor, his life was interrupted by a shotgun blast passing through a window, which killed him instantly.
Neither the shooter nor the deceased was aware that a safety net had been installed just below the 8th floor to protect building workers. Were it not for the gunshot, Mr. Opus would have lived.
Here's what happened. An elderly man and his wife, who had been arguing vigorously, occupied the 9th-floor room where the shotgun blast emanated. The man had been threatening his wife with the gun, and became so upset that he pulled the trigger and missed his wife completely. The pellets went through the window, striking Mr. Opus.
Bizarrely, the elderly man told authorities that it was a long-standing habit of his to threaten his wife with an unloaded shotgun, but that he never had any intent to kill her. Someone else, he insisted, had loaded the gun.
And sure enough, a witness confirmed that the couples' son had done so. An investigation found that the old lady had cut off her son's financial support, and that the son had loaded the gun, knowing his father's propensity to threaten her with it. He wanted his mother dead. But it doesn't end there.
Authorities determined that the son would be guilty of murder, even though he had not actually pulled the trigger.
After all, the blood of Ronald Opus was on his hands. But as the investigation continued, authorities were shocked to find that the son was, in fact, Ronald Opus. He had become despondent over his failure to engineer his mother's murder, and had jumped off the ten-story building, only to be killed by the shotgun blast passing through the 9th-story window.
Ronald Opus had actually murdered himself.
Unbelievable. When I heard that story, I thought, "What a waste!" Here was a man who valued life so little -- his mother's life, his father's life, and his own life -- that he actively pursued death. He tried to kill not only his mother, but himself.
He had been given the greatest resources available -- life, family, health -- and in squandering his family's lives, lost his own. He held such little value in that which he had been given that he murdered the last resource that ultimately mattered to him: himself.
You know, the way we treat our resources says a lot about what we value. We don't squander that which we hold dear. We don't let go to waste that which holds potential. Jesus tells the parable in Matthew 25 of a master who gives his three servants a measure of money. The first two servants invest the money, and make the master a profit.
But the third servant does nothing with it. And without notice, the master takes the money from the third servant, giving it to the servant who had more. Why? Because the third servant didn't value the little he'd been given. Sure, he says he did, but he sat on it. Maybe he didn't realize its potential to grow. Maybe he didn't care, or was afraid. Whatever the case, the master took the money away. You see, if we truly value the resources God has given us, we will use them. If we hold dear our life, our family, our health -- we will do everything we can not only to preserve them, but to invest in them.
No doubt, God has given us amazing resources. Do you realize the value of your breath? Of your family? Of God's Word? Of His power to work in and through you?
Today, don't squander God's blessings.
Don't sit on the gifts he's given you. Actively invest in them, grow them, and realize their potential. May we become people who appreciate and use the awesome resources God has given us!
And when Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, a woman came to Him having an alabaster flask of very costly fragrant oil, and she poured it on His head as He sat at the table.
Years ago, a chaplain friend of mine in northern California received a 2:00 AM phone call. It was the Highway Patrol, and they needed him right away -- there had been an accident, and it was ugly. So he raced to the scene, exhausted, but eager to help. As he pulled up, he saw car parts everywhere and the typical ominous, swirling police lights. "How can I help?" he asked an officer. "Chaplain, this is one of the worst accidents we've seen, but we need to identify the victim, the driver..." Without hesitation, the chaplain interrupted, saying, "I'll do it; I'll get in the car somehow." He walked up to the shattered car; the driver's body was beyond recognition. He pulled out the driver's wallet, and froze. The driver was his son.
Understandably, he flipped out, unable to absorb what was happening. That night, he broke the news to his wife that their only son had lost his life on Interstate 5. It was the start of a horrible time in his life -- a time of anger and bitterness towards God. A time of brokenness and unanswered questions.
Shortly thereafter, he received another phone call, this time from back east. Terrorists had just flown two planes into the World Trade Center towers, and the voice on the other end of the line pleaded, "We need you to come to Ground Zero." He refused. It was the last place he wanted to go. Months passed, though, and that Christmas, after some convincing from his wife, he packed his bags and made the trip to New York.
Walking Ground Zero, he encountered a devastated couple, still wondering if their daughter had been killed in the attacks. "Can you tell me about her?" he asked them. He wrote down her description -- 24 years old, brown hair, brown eyes, 115 pounds -- and said he'd ask around. Later that day, as he walked inside the police perimeter, a truck came around the corner, filled with debris. As it passed by, something fell off the back, and he randomly picked it up. Pulling out his notes, he realized what he had just found: the identification for the couples' missing daughter.
He went back to the couple, hugged them, and cried. And cried, and cried. "Is this your daughter?" Mom and Dad fell apart. But that day, the chaplain was able to put it all in perspective. God healed his heart that day, and used him to lead the couple to Jesus.
You know, it's amazing how God not only loves the broken-hearted -- He uses them to bring love and healing to other broken-hearted people. In Matthew 26, Jesus visits the home of someone who knew what it felt like to be broken-hearted: a leper. Here was a man who had been ostracized and rejected not only by his friends and family, but even by the religious leaders of his day. Jesus, though, freely visited his home. He loved this leper, even when everyone else rejected him. Why? Because Jesus, too, was broken-hearted.
You see, Jesus knew that He would be crucified in only a matter of days. He knew the burden of sin He would carry as He would be tortured and nailed to a cross. And it broke His heart. But there, in the leper's home of all places, a woman poured out expensive fragrant oil over His head to bless Him. Can you imagine how encouraged Jesus must have felt? Can you imagine how blessed He must have been by this woman, broken before her Lord, sacrificing her costly fragrance to honor Him? The disciples, though, grumbled amongst themselves. "This fragrant oil might have been sold for much and given to the poor," they reasoned (Matthew 26:9). They didn't share Jesus' brokenness, and couldn't minister to Him. They didn't understand.
Maybe today you feel like a failure, or an outcast, or that you'll never amount to anything. Maybe you, like my chaplain friend, are broken-hearted and crushed. Jesus understands. He loves you, and He wants to heal you. He suffered great loss -- even death on a cross -- because He cares for you so much. Let Jesus heal your heart, and He will use you to heal others.
Jesus said to Peter, "Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times." Peter said to Him, "Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!" And so said all the disciples.
Peter and Judas were seemingly polar opposites. Peter was pushy, presumptuous, aggressive, and often flippant with his mouth. "Even if I have to die with You," he arrogantly announced to Jesus, "I will not deny You!" Judas, on the other hand, flew under the radar. He stayed in the background, unlike Peter, never making such bold statements. But both men were arrogant. Both acted selfishly. And both betrayed Jesus. Really, for all their apparent dissimilarities, they only differed in one major aspect: Peter had an authentic, loving relationship with Jesus Christ, and Judas didn't.
Judas had walked with Jesus, had heard Jesus teach, and had witnessed the miracles Jesus had performed. He had seen Jesusfeed people, heal people, raise people from the dead -- and yet the whole time, had probably speculated, "How can I profit from whatJesus is doing?" He had likely wondered to himself, "What's in it for me?" Boy, his eyes must have lit up as he watched the Pharisees, seeing in them his golden opportunity to turn a profit. Surely he could tell that they wanted Jesus dead, so he approached the chief priest with a bribe. "What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you?" he asked (Matthew 26:14). And for thirty pieces of silver, Judas betrayed Jesus to them.
Peter, too, betrayed Jesus; He denied even knowing Him. Not once, or even twice, but three times. Matthew 26:74 says that he became so vehement in his denial that he "began to curse and swear, saying, 'I do not know the Man!'" And immediately, as the rooster crowed, Peter realized his sin, remembering how pompously he had sworn toJesus that he would never deny Him -- the way he had just done.
Both men denied Jesus, but we see their hearts in the way they reacted. Peter, when he realized his sin, "went out and wept bitterly" (Matthew 26:74). Judas, on the other hand, "went out and hanged himself" (Matthew 27:5). Peter reacted with tears of indignity; Judas attempted to salvage his dignity, with the selfish act of suicide. Peter wept over his sin, while Judas ran from his.
You see, if Judas had any relationship with Jesus, it was so shallow and inconsequential that it could be undone by thirty mere pieces of silver. If he loved Jesus, he wouldn't have tried to profit off Him. If he truly knew Jesus, he wouldn't have run from his sin, but would have repented from it. Peter, for all his flaws, not only recognized his sin, but wept over it, and repented from it.
We have all betrayed Jesus. We have all sinned. Romans 3:10 says, "There is none righteous, no, not one." But may we be like Peter, who "wept bitterly" over his sin and repented. Today, if you have an authentic relationship with Jesus Christ, you don't have to run from your sin -- you are forgiven! If you will repent from your sin, "He is faithful and just to forgive us" (1 John 1:9). Today, may you realize God's unfailing love for you, even as you inevitably fail him. May you know the "width and length and depth and height" of the "love of Christ, which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God" (Ephesians 3:18-19).
No grain offering which you bring to the LORD shall be made with leaven, for you shall burn no leaven nor any honey in any offering to the LORD made by fire.
Any good marketing executive will tell you that in order to sell a new product to the public, you can't just tell your audience what it is; you must show them how it will improve their lives. In essence, you must show your audience a version of themselves that is happier, more attractive, and more fulfilled than the current, real version -- all because of your product. Weight loss ads, movie trailers, beer commercials -- they don't simply tell you about the product they're selling, but show you how consuming it in some way will make you happier and more fulfilled. Why does this work so well? Because we all want that which makes us happy. We all want to be fulfilled.
But when the world is quick to offer you the lure of happiness and the promise of fulfillment, do they really care about a more fulfilled, happier you? Of course not. To the world, you are simply a means to profit; you are a pawn to be played. The world wants us to act like it, dress like it, spend money like it, talk like it -- all for the sake of draining us of everything we hold dear. Is it any wonder, then, that in looking to the world for fulfillment, we end up drained? Is it any surprise that in trying to "fit in" with the world, we are gouged by it?
The Israelites had a bad habit of looking to the world and imitating it, just as we often do. But the Lord did not want the Israelites acting like, dressing like, or talking like the rest of the world. They were to be set apart -- a "special treasure to Me above all people" (Exodus 19:5) and "a holy nation" (Exodus 19:6). Notice in Leviticus 2:11 that the Lord forbid their grain offerings from being made with leaven or honey. This may sound like a small detail to us, but leaven and honey were used heavily by the Gentiles in making sacrifices to their false gods. The Lord was commanding His people to be unlike the Gentiles -- to make a different kind of sacrifice. He was calling His people to be set apart from the rest of the world.
We, like the Israelites, are called to be set apart. Romans 12:2 says, "Do not be conformed to this world." But where the Lord commanded the Israelites to make a different kind of sacrifice, He calls us to be a different kind of sacrifice. We are to present our bodies a "living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God" (Romans 12:1). We are to not only act differently than the world, but to truly live differently. How else will the world ever know the power of God in our lives unless they first acknowledge a difference in us?
Proverbs 4:27 says, "Do not turn to the right or the left; remove your foot from evil." Today, may I encourage you to look straight ahead into the loving eyes of Jesus, and follow Him -- and Him alone -- at all costs. Don't waste time looking to your left and your right. The world has nothing to offer you, but as a believer in Jesus Christ, you have something to offer the world. Be set apart. Look to Jesus, and let Him fulfill you.
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