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.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
As a boy, I lived on a long, winding street in Portland, and walking home from basketball games in the winter -- when it was cold, dark, and drizzly -- used to scare the dickens out of me. I was sure that behind every hedge and between every house was a bad guy, waiting to jump out. After all, there was an insane asylum at the end of the street, and every once in a while, one of the patients would break out and wander through the neighborhood. But I developed a sure-fire strategy.
First, I walked in the middle of the street. Then I would start to talk, using different voices, as if I were accompanied by a whole group of friends. "Hey Bill, how you doing?" "Well Fred, I'm doing well," I would answer myself. Lastly, and most importantly, I would run. Oh, it would start out as a hearty jog, but by the time I approached my house, I was going 100 miles an hour. I was scared to death.
You know, as a kid, those winter-night journeys down that street were "the valley of the shadow of death" to me. Sure, I had my "strategy," but I hated being alone, and I hated running in fear. So I've always found it interesting that David, in Psalm 23, says, "I walkthrough the valley of the shadow of death."
He didn't run; hewalked. I couldn't imagine walking that dark street as a kid! But David never broke into a panicked run. He didn't try to protect himself; he wasn't afraid. In fact, he didn't even have a strategy! Why? Because David wasn't alone. God was not only with him, but was leading his way. David simply walked with God.
When we panic, it's our human nature to want to run. We want to protect ourselves, to rush to a place of safety. And when we are in dark places, we want desperately to see. But 2 Corinthians 5:7 says, "We walk by faith, not by sight."
You see, we must learn not to run out ahead of God simply because He's not visible. We must learn to patiently walk with Him, step by step, moment by moment, even when we're scared and every fiber in our body says, "Run! Run away!"
God wants to lead us "through the valley of the shadow of death," and to comfort us. He wants us to learn to trust Him, even when all we see is darkness. But we must learn, as David did, to walk with Him.
Maybe you're experiencing your own "valley of the shadow of death," and you're fearful -- you don't know what will happen next. Maybe it's a financial problem, or a family issue, or a situation at work. And maybe you just want an escape. You are not alone, and you don't need to run in fear. Let God take you by the hand and walk with you. Let Him guide your every step, knowing that He can see everything, even when you see nothing. Let Him wrap His arms around you today and comfort you with the perfect love that casts out all fear (1 John 4:18). Rather than running yourself into the ground, surrender yourself, and let God mend that which is broken.
"For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light" (Ephesians 5:8).
"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.
Billy Graham once said that if you lose your money, you've really lost nothing. If you lose your health, you've lost something. But if you lose your character, you've lost everything. Why? Because your character validates or invalidates every word you say. It is the filter through which you are heard, either serving to amplify and clarify your words, or silence them. Without character, you don't have a voice. Sure, people might hear what you say, but they will not listen. You may make noise, but you will never make an impact.
In Matthew 28, Jesus tells us to "go therefore and make disciples of all nations." He commands us to make an impact on our world. It is our great privilege -- our Great Commission -- to actively represent our Lord and Savior, and to teach others what He has taught us. But how can anyone make a single disciple of Jesus Christ if they aren't a disciple first? How can we possibly impact our friends and families, much less "all nations," if our actions invalidate our words?
You see, if we're not living it, they're not seeing it. Many people around the world are doubters of the Gospel today because they've never seen it. Maybe they've heard about Jesus, but they've never seen His power in someone's life. We, as believers, need to have character that is rooted in the renewing and transforming power of Jesus Christ. We are His mouthpiece to a dying and hopeless world, and our lives are the filter through which His Word is heard. If we don't live by God's Word, we muzzle it. If our character stands in contrast to the truth of God that we proclaim, we invalidate it to those who hear. But if God is our integrity, He will be our megaphone. If He is actively working in our lives, people will notice -- and they will listen.
As the old saying goes, actions speak louder than words. But words are still necessary. If the righteousness of Jesus Christ is your megaphone, speak up! As the Lord works in your life and people take notice, tell them about it! Just as we can silence God's voice by invalidating it, so we can mute it by refusing to be His mouthpiece at all. Neither is God's will. The message of salvation through Jesus Christ is too powerful to leave you unchanged, and too important not to share.
What are you living for today? What are your priorities? Our God is a powerful God, so why do we often walk in fear and defeat? His love and forgiveness are perfect and everlasting, so why do we harbor bitterness, anger, and jealousy? If we believe God's Word, let's live it. We don't want to be people who are out of touch with God, "having a form of godliness but denying its power" (2 Timothy 3:5). And we don't want to be people who sit on the greatest news ever given mankind, missing the urgency of the Gospel. May we be people who love the Lord with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all our strength (Mark 12:30). May we be people who actively live by the Word of God, and who are unashamed to speak it!
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
As a pilot, I've come to appreciate how much knowledge is required to fly a plane. Before I ever took to the cockpit controls, I had to study countless training materials and digest as many raw facts as possible. And the knowledge I acquired has served me well. But any pilot will tell you that it takes much more than a healthy knowledge of "raw facts" to effectively fly a plane -- it takes experience.
Hundreds, even thousands, of hours of experience. All the books in the world can tell you how to take off, how to land, how to handle an emergency, what to expect in a crisis -- but until you sit in the pilot's seat yourself, none of those facts mean anything. You must learn the facts, but more importantly, you must learn to apply them.
To be wise is not just to know facts, but to know how to apply them. Wisdom is not just knowing how to take a step, but knowing which step to take. Here's the problem: Proverbs 20:24 says, "A man's steps are of the Lord; how then can a man understand his own way?" We have ambitions, we have goals, and we have intentions, but though "a man's heart plans his way, the Lord directs his steps" (Proverbs 16:9).
You see, our lives are like a flight where we occupy the pilot's seat, completely blindfolded. When there's not a lot of turbulence, and we're at a comfortable cruising altitude, we can probably do just fine for a while.
After all, not a lot of action is required. In fact, we can even start to get comfortable, believing that we're in control. But as soon as we encounter turbulence -- much less a full-on emergency -- we fool ourselves if we think we know what decision to make. We're blindfolded! We might know from experience how to find certain cockpit controls, but how could we possibly know which controls to use if we can't even see what's happening to the plane?
Meanwhile, God is sitting there with us the whole time, armed with a full flight plan, able to see the skies, and willing to guide our hands at the controls. Our blindfold prevents us from seeing Him, and our panic sometimes prevents us from hearing Him, but if we listen closely, He speaks His words of love and guidance to us. All we must do is give Him control. He will guide our hands. He, and He alone, can effectively fly the plane.
"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." When we surrender control of our lives to God, acknowledging that He, and He alone, has the understanding, perspective, and ultimate love for us to guide us in everything we do, we show that we honor and fear Him -- and we take the first step towards true wisdom. We don't just know the will of God, we apply it. You see, when we fear the Lord, He is not just a piece of knowledge to us. In fact, He is not just someone in whom we believe. "For even the demons believe [in God] -- and tremble!" (James 2:19).
To fear the Lord is to surrender to Him.
It is listening to His voice, even when we're not experiencing "turbulence." It is acknowledging our own blindness, and relying on His vision. And it is submitting ourselves to His plan, even when we don't understand it. That is the beginning of true wisdom.
Today, whether you're in the midst of blue skies or storms, let God guide you. Listen to His voice, and surrender everything to Him. "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him" (James 1:5).
Now as soon as they had come out of the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. But Simon's wife's mother lay sick with a fever, and they told Jesus about her at once. So He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and immediately the fever left her. And she served them.
Your home is your most personal space. No other place could be more private. So it's interesting that Jesus didn't confine His ministry to public squares -- He came to peoples' homes.
Here in Mark 1:29, we see Him coming into Simon Peter's home, where Peter's mother-in-law was sick with a fever. The woman had probably never met Jesus, and maybe wasn't even aware that He could heal her. But Peter was. He and the disciples didn't hesitate to tell Jesus about her need, and Jesus acted swiftly. Tenderly taking her hand, He lifted her up, and "immediately" healed her (verse 31). Jesus touched her life that day, and she never even stepped outside the house. He had worked powerfully and quickly on her behalf, simply because Peter had asked Him to.
You know, we can sometimes forget the urgency of Jesus' love. Jesus didn't wait for people to come to Him -- He went to them. He visited sinners in their most personal spaces, far from the "spotlight" and safety of the public arena. He went not only where He was loved, but where He was needed. While He visited Peter's house, Peter presented a need, and Jesus responded "immediately." Even at this early point in the book of Mark, it is already the sixth time that word, "immediately," has been used. And I don't think it's an accident. Jesus acted immediately, with urgency, because He loved people.
We all have friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers who need the healing touch of Jesus Christ. Let me encourage you today to lift up the people around you to Jesus. Like Peter lifted the needs of his mother-in-law to Jesus, lift up your family and friends to Him, that He might heal them, and that they might encounter His love for them. Jesus answers prayer. He tells us in John 14:14, "If you ask anything in My name, I will do it."
Maybe today, though, you are like Peter's mother-in-law -- you are the one in need of healing, whether physically, emotionally, or spiritually. You may have known Jesus for years, or perhaps you've never known Him. Whatever the case, let me encourage you that you don't even have to leave your house -- He will come to you. Wherever you are, simply ask Him to touch your life, and He will respond immediately, according to His perfect will. He loves you more than you will ever understand, and is thrilled to hear your voice. He urgently wants to give you "a future and a hope" (Jeremiah 29:11), because He loves you.
Jesus wants to touch your life, and the lives of those you love, this very moment. Not tomorrow, but today. Let us never forget or dismiss the urgency of Jesus' love!
If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.
A number of years ago, I remember watching an episode of David Letterman's show, and stand-up comedian Bill Maher was the guest. "I hear you are a Libertarian?" Letterman asked his notoriously controversial guest. "Yes," said Maher. And when Letterman asked what, exactly, that meant, Maher was quick to answer. "Well, basically it's the belief that anybody can do anything they want, as long as they aren't hurting others. For instance, a Libertarian would say that Dr. Kevorkian is not hurting others, that he can do what he wants to do, and that we shouldn't bother him." Letterman thought a second, and then responded, "But he isn't killing himself." And the audience applauded.
But Bill Maher didn't want to lose this crowd.
Determined to challenge the audience's convictions -- many of them presumably rooted in religion -- he pushed forward. "You know what I really don't like? I don't like all these athletes saying after a basketball or football victory, ‘Praise Jesus for the win.' I'm sick of that. I never hear them say after a loss, ‘Well, Jesus wasn't feeling good today and He didn't help me jump as high.'" Maher continued on a tirade. And do you know what? When he said, "I'm sick of the Jesus thing," the entire audience applauded. But Letterman leaned back in his chair, a little stunned, and said, "Hold it, hold it. Is this your Libertarian thinking?" And Maher replied with a smile, "Yes, I guess it would be."
Then Letterman said, "Aren't you the guy who just told us that everybody should be able to do what they want to do, as long as they don't hurt anybody?" Suddenly one person clapped, then two, then ten, until the entire audience was roaring with applause.
Think what you will about Bill Maher, David Letterman, and their politics. What I found stunning was the audience reaction. How could so many people, by show of their applause, in the span of only a few moments, so swiftly contradict themselves?
In Mark 3, the scribes accused Jesus of contradicting Himself. They were sick of "the Jesus thing" -- the way He loved people, healed people, forgave people, and even cast out demons -- so they spread rumors that He was actually in league with the devil. "By the ruler of the demons," they said, "He casts out demons" (verse 22). No doubt, it was an all-out assault on Jesus' character. They were making the case that Jesus was not only untrustworthy, but evil.
Jesus simply replied, "If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand." You see, Satan's mission is to "steal, kill, and destroy" (John 10:10), so why would he tolerate -- much less commission -- the One who came to give life, and life more abundantly (John 10:10)? Why would he want Jesus casting out demons, that people might be healed and restored? It's ridiculous. In doing so, Satan would defeat himself.
But you know, often we defeat ourselves because we contradict ourselves. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are saved by His grace, and called to walk in His Spirit, but "the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things you wish" (Galatians 5:17).
We are, in fact, like that late-night studio audience, pulled one way, and then another. But if we try to walk two different directions at once, we not only go nowhere -- we fall down. If we are at war with ourselves, we not only injure ourselves -- we defeat ourselves.
You see, the Bible says, "Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve" (Joshua 24:15). Make a decision and don't look back. Unless we are "all-in," we will fall away. Unless we walk in the Spirit, we will walk in the flesh. There's no standing still. But Galatians 5:6 says, "Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh."
Today, are you living a self-defeating life? Do you have one foot in the Spirit, and one in the flesh? Let me encourage you to become rooted in the Word of God, and you will not be swayed back and forth, at war with yourself, and ineffective in the spiritual war for the souls of people around you. Walk with conviction. Seek the Lord with your whole heart, never looking back, and you "shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither" (Psalm 1:3).
The wise in heart will receive commands, but a prating fool will fall.
Life is not predictable. If we knew with certainty what would happen tomorrow, we would never doubt, never second-guess, and never question our plans and decisions today, because we would already know their end results. But things change, for better or worse -- and often in ways we can't predict. We don't know what to expect in the future, so we often do second-guess ourselves, those around us, and even God. It's human nature to worry about the unknown -- and to avoid it. It's natural to resist what we can't see. But there's one problem: If we resist what we can't see, we resist God.
David writes in Psalm 55:19 about his enemies of old, "Because they do not change, therefore they do not fear God." He knew that it was impossible to honor the Lord without being willing to change. Without a willingness to venture into the unknown, we can never follow God, because His ways are not ours. God says in Isaiah 55:9, "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts." You see, to follow God is to put confidence in the superiority of His ways, even when we can't understand them and we don't know where they'll lead us. To follow God is to embrace continuous change.
It's easier said than done, isn't it? Change can be very difficult because it inevitably makes us vulnerable. It exposes us. Whenever something changes in our lives, we experience a learning curve -- and our success or failure to adapt hinges on our ability to learn. That's why Proverbs 10:8 says, "The wise in heart will receive commands, but a prating fool will fail."
You see, God does not call us to be experts, but to be students. An expert babbles on about what he knows, while a student adapts to what he learns. Sure, the student will make mistakes and even fail sometimes. But in failing, he is learning. The real failure belongs to the expert, who does not change, even as the world around him does. We must not be afraid to be like students -- constantly learning, constantly failing, constantly growing, and constantly changing.
Today, maybe you are facing changes in your life, whether good or bad. Let me encourage you to play the role of the student. Be willing to listen to God's instructions, and be willing to adapt. Don't be afraid to be vulnerable, and don't be afraid to fail, because there is no greater failure than growing stagnant. Yes, changes sometimes hurt. My pastor, Chuck Smith, has a saying: "Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be broken." Be willing to change, and change will not break you.
Life is not predictable, but "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever" (Hebrews 18:8). Don't miss God's will simply because you're afraid of the unknown. Put your trust in the One "who was and is and is to come" (Revelation 4:8), and He will be your rock through every circumstance!
For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.
Scientists will never understand the human soul. Sure, they've come a long way in understanding the human body -- how it works, why it breaks down, what helps it heal -- but our bodies are merely temporary, earthly encasements for our souls. We are more than flesh and blood. Because we have a soul, we have the ability to love. Because we have a soul, we can make moral decisions. And so, because we have a soul, we can be made guilty of sin, knowing its consequences. After all, if we know the difference between right and wrong, and still do wrong, we are guilty. Indeed, Romans 3:23 tells us that we are all guilty of sin. Fortunately, God is a merciful God! In fact, long before He ever sent His Son to die on a cross for our sins, God was a merciful God. But where there was sin, there would be blood.
Leviticus 17:11 shows us that God so loved the Israelites that He provided a way for them to make atonement for their souls. By all means, He didn't have to. God had every right to demand the death of anyone who sinned. But, of course, no one would have lived. So, since "the life of the flesh is in the blood," He accepted the sacrificial blood of animals, rather than requiring the blood of the guilty, that the guilty might live. Do you realize how merciful God was to do this? Can you see how much God must have loved His people to give them a second chance, a third chance, a fourth, and on and on?
How much greater, then, that the Lord poured out His own blood, that we might live. Praise the Lord that Jesus sacrificed His life and allowed His flesh to be brutally killed, that by His blood, our souls might live -- not only here on earth, but with God for eternity! You see, just as the life of the flesh is the blood, so the life of the soul is His blood. Unless He poured out His blood, our souls could not live.
The world will never see a greater act of mercy than that of Jesus Christ sacrificing His life on a cross for our sins. It was a merciful act from an already-merciful God. Truly, since the day Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, God has demonstrated unfathomable mercy. Today, may the blood of Jesus be life to your soul. May you rest in His mercy, knowing that He loves you more than you will ever understand. And may His mercy inspire you to be more like Him in everything you do.
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