Daily Devotions


Mark 11-12 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He expects our lives to bear fruit for the kingdom

It seems that I have a knack for selecting the best fresh fruit at the grocery store, or at least this is what I’m told by family and friends.  I’m fairly certain this knack developed because I’ve been selecting fruit for about 150 years, but nevertheless, there are a few things that I look for when I’m inspecting fruit.   Weight plays a significant role in the selection – ripe fruit will weigh more for its size than what is expected because sugar increases the moisture content in the fruit making it weigh more.  Smell is important as well – no smell indicates that the fruit isn’t ripe and a moldy smell usually means it is overripe.  Well, I could go on, but much more important than my fruit selection is the lesson that Jesus taught His disciples about fruit inspection. 

@ Mark 11
“The next morning as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry.  He noticed a fig tree in full leaf a little way off, so he went over to see if he could find any figs…Jesus said to the tree, ‘May no one ever eat your fruit again!’” (11:12-14)  These were interesting observations for the disciples who were following Jesus that day.  We might think that Jesus was very hungry to be moved to the point of cursing a tree for bearing no figs, but the symbolism speaks too loudly for us to imagine it as only about hunger.  From the fig tree, Jesus moved to the temple and cleaned it out, cleaned out the scam artists and thieves.  Those things not producing fruit that day were addressed.  The temple had lost its function as a house of worship, and the fig tree had lost its function as a food source, and both were rebuked.

In Matthew 7:16, Jesus explained about false prophets, “You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act…”  We often find ourselves as fruit inspectors of those who are professing Jesus as their Savior.  Through the years I have learned that any process of inspecting should always begin with me.  Am I showing the promise of fruit with my leafy show as a believer, yet bearing no fruit? Do I exhibit the fruit of the spirit in my life as well as the fruit of the harvest of souls?

A merciful Jesus may not curse me for my lack, but what have I done that marks me as a believer when I pray for anything in verse 24?  “I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours.  But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.”  Forgiveness – the precursor to answered prayers! Having inspected myself with an honest heart, I can then evaluate the actions of others, and their legitimacy as a believer should the need arise – are they good fruit or bad fruit? 

@ Mark 12
With clearing out the temple and remarks after that, Jesus upset the religious folks that day. The Sadducees believed only in the Pentateuch, Genesis through Deuteronomy, and did not believe in the resurrection because it was not addressed in those scriptures.  After the Pharisees failed to trap Jesus about taxes, the Sadducees attempted to catch Him regarding marriage in Heaven.

Jesus’ response was our perfect example of how to handle what I call professional unbelievers.  These individuals attempt to dilute our message with questions regarding what they consider inconsistencies in the Bible or difficult passages we may not fully understand until we get to heaven.  However, just like Jesus, we are wise when we go directly to the heart of the matter.  He knew their real hang-up was the resurrection – His resurrection.

Regardless of the arguments presented to us, in reality, we are addressing the struggles that unbelievers have with accepting Jesus as Savior and Lord.  Our best response is to sidestep the rhetoric and share the truth of the Gospel first.  We should never forget that there is an innate power to John 3:16 that convicts men of sin much more effectively than all of our debating or bloviating. When the dust settles, the Gospel will remain. 

Moving Forward: May I bear the fruit of the spirit as well as the fruit of the harvest, never disappointing my Jesus. 

Tomorrow @ 2 Corinthians 1-3

Jeremiah 17-21 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He desires to shape us into vessels of honor

Years ago I visited a potter who allowed visitors to take a stab at the potter’s wheel.  My attempt became a literal mud-slinging contest between me and the wheel – the wheel won.  The condition of my clothing testified to that fact.  One thing I learned that day was that the master skills of the potter are difficult to replicate by a novice, and the example given to Jeremiah by God at the potter’s shop in Jeremiah 18 became very real to me.

With the Master Potter willing to mold us into useful vessels of honor, why do we choose to allow novices to mold our lives?  We often let our own willful desires or those of others to influence and shape us. The results are never what God intended.

“[I] found the potter working at his wheel.  But the jar he was making did not turn out as he had hoped, so he crushed it into a lump of clay again and started over.”(18:3-4)  As long as the clay was soft and moldable, the potter was able to crush and remold it; but in time, the clay became dry and ultimately hardened.  It was no longer possible to refine its shape into something useful.  Sadly, this was the shape that Israel was in. 

Repentance would have challenged God to start over with the nation that had not turned out as He had hoped.  He would have molded it into a nation of honor, but repentance did not come. So God allowed the hardened vessel to be smashed as foretold in Chapter 19 through the Babylonian invasion.

“But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.  They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water.  Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought.  Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.” (17:7-8) While traveling the countryside, I’ve always been able to know where the rivers and streams are located by the outcrop of trees and shrubs that grow alongside them.  Their roots have reached into the water source.

When we make the Lord our hope and confidence rather than choosing the dictates of our own desires, our roots reach deep into the Source.  Instead of becoming dry and hardened, we remain fresh and supple, and our presence points others to that Source as they travel life’s countryside.  Even in this, we are useful vessels of honor for Him. 

Moving Forward: A cherished old hymn comes to mind, “Have thine own way, Lord. Have thine own way.  Thou art the potter; I am the clay.  Mold me and make me after Thy will, while I am waiting, yielded and still.” 

Tomorrow @ Mark 11-12

Job 31-32 (NLT)

Discover His heart: His wisdom is for young and old alike – ours for the asking

Our eyes are inundated with stimulating and suggestive sights just about everywhere we go, whether in public places, on the television or on our computers. We may be minding our own business, not seeking out anything questionable yet be assaulted dead on. We need to understand that we control how we respond to these visual encounters. I appreciate the wisdom of author Steve Arterburn who cautions men on this subject in his book, “Every Man’s Battle,” and encourages the bounce response.

Arterburn suggests that when the eyes encounter those things that are stimulating and suggestive, quickly bounce the eyes to something else rather than linger. In his day, Job wasn’t privileged nor was he challenged by the media we have at our disposal, but evidently he still was tested in this area and had his own method of dealing with it.

In Chapter 31, Job made his last appeal to the jury of friends about his innocence.  Although his defense had sounded arrogant at times, Job was a good man who loved God. “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look with lust at a young woman.” (31:1) Sin first entered the garden when Eve saw the fruit, lingered on it, and then considered it. With all that is thrown in our view today, oh that we will make a covenant with our eyes like Job did, men and women alike.

Job pleaded innocent to sins against God, to sins against other people and to sins against himself – but no one believed him. Job’s friends felt that all suffering was the punishment for sin. They deducted either God was wrong, or Job was lying, and God is never in error. The three tormentors gave up and finally shut their mouths…ahhhh.

Enter the smart young voyeur into this conversation, Elihu, the moderator in this trial.  While trying to find a solution to this ongoing dispute, Elihu had plenty of insults to pass around, first to the three friends that he thought unwise. Many things Elihu spoke were true, for example, “There is a spirit within people, the breath of the Almighty within them, that makes them intelligent.”(32:8) All wisdom comes from God and is available to all, but it’s usually our experiences in life that cause us to draw from that wisdom.

Naturally, older people have more experiences than do young people, and wisdom hopefully follows those experiences. However, I’ve known many young ones with wisdom beyond their years because they have sought the Source of all wisdom. We can also receive the gift of wisdom, supernatural wisdom that has no age boundary, and also the wisdom given freely by God to those who ask for it. (James 1:5) We really have no valid excuse for the foolish things we do at times.

Elihu concluded his speech explaining that he was like a cork ready to pop with all the wisdom he possessed. I would say that only the young could be so confident, and as we read over the next few chapters, we learn that he, too, was incorrect in his counsel to Job. Imagine.

It was wisdom that led Job to make a covenant with his eyes – an agreement, a treaty, a promise, a commitment – not to look with lust on any woman. Wisdom will always lead us to make right choices in life. I remember a little song we sang in Children’s Church when I was young that helped me to understand at a very early age that we control our steps and actions each day. “Be careful little feet where you go…be careful little hands what you do…be careful little eyes what you see…For the Father up above is looking down in love, so be careful little eyes what you see.” Well, we never outgrow that need to be careful, and that is wise.

Moving Forward: I make a covenant with my eyes not to look at any person, place or thing with selfish desire. I seek His wisdom that He offers so freely in all that I think, do and say.

Tomorrow @ Jeremiah 17-21

Psalms 45-47 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: His Presence is a river of joy in our lives

Watching the news unfold today is not for the faint of heart.  Many parts of the world are filled with political chaos while other areas are facing catastrophic events unlike any time in history.  Individuals performing ordinary tasks on any given day have had their world turned upside down with earthquakes, floods or storms, but we can take heart in the words of Jesus, “when you see all these things, you can know his return is very near, right at the door.” (Matthew 24:33)

This section of Psalms begins with a prophetic account of the marriage of Christ and His bride, the Church, in Psalm 45.  The King, anointed with the oil of joy (7) at this happiest of all occasions is joined with His Bride, who has left her past life (10) for the delight of one who loves her eternally. These are the things of which movies are made, and one day, this will be our reality!  But until then… 

@ Psalm 46
Psalm 46 reminds us of the protection He offers His beloved as we wait for His return.  “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.”(1) Have we seen any trouble lately?  “So we will not fear when earthquakes come and mountains crumble into the sea.”(2) Hundreds of earthquakes around the world are reported each day, ever growing in strength.  “The nations are in chaos, and their kingdoms crumble!” (6) Have we ever seen a day like today where countries are facing national bankruptcy, with our own country on the verge of collapse at times?  “God’s voice thunders, and the earth melts!” (6)  Today we see tsunamis leveling cities and lava destroying everything in its path, filling the air with volcanic ash.  Fearsome are the days in which we live.

However, The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us.(7)  We will not fear!  Even though the events surrounding Jerusalem at the time this Psalm was written were chaotic, there was a river bringing joy to the city, “A river brings joy to the city of our God, the sacred home of the Most High.” (4).  No, Jerusalem did not have a river like we would think; it was a different kind of river.  It was a river of joy from the throne of God, filling God’s people with His presence regardless of the circumstances surrounding them.  As long as they stayed in the river, peace and joy were theirs.

We, too, have a river of joy, the very presence of God flowing through our lives to bring peace and joy in troubled times. We should not fret and wail like those who have no hope, but we should follow His advice, “Be still, and know that I am God!” (10)  I stand silent in His Presence. 

Moving Forward:  I will not fear. I will remain in the river of joy today, ever confident that “The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us!” (11) We are not alone. 

Tomorrow @ Job 31-32

I Samuel 26-31 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  His Spirit will guide us into all truth

The first time I saw a commercial on late-night television for the Psychic Hotline I laughed and wondered who would ever resort to such nonsense to receive guidance.  Well, the laugh was on me.  This billion dollar industry has entrapped countless numbers of individuals into seeking advice from counterfeits who can only pretend to know the future rather than receiving direction from the Source of all truth. It’s hard to imagine why the chosen King of Israel would do the same by contacting a counterfeit. 

@ I Samuel 28
The story found in I Samuel 28 of Saul’s visit to the witch of Endor probably saddens me more than any of his other sins.  To digress from anointed King of Israel, more handsome and stately than any other man, to a panic-stricken, desperate man is tragic.  Throughout I Samuel, we read about the steps that brought Saul to this dreadful position, and now Samuel, the spiritual leader of Israel is dead. The Spirit of the Lord has departed from Saul (I Samuel 16:14) and the Philistine army is ready for battle – not a good scenario.

While this appears to be a perfect time for Saul to repent and call on God to deliver Israel, this man who had known and felt the Spirit of God on his life chose to seek out a witch for help. Just as troubling is the fact that his advisers knew precisely where he could find one!  Godly advisers would have discouraged this abomination to God and to the king’s own law, “Saul has outlawed all the mediums and all who consult the spirits of the dead.” (9)  David certainly had it right, “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly…” (Psalm 1:1, KJV)

Scholars have debated over the centuries about the appearance of Samuel.  Was he a demonic substitute for Samuel?  If so, why did the witch shriek with terror when she saw him?  She was the last one who would have been troubled by his appearance.  How did the spirit know the future?  That would imply that Satan is omniscient and knew the future regarding Saul and his sons dying the next day.  Absolutely not!  Was the appearance of dead Samuel from God?  He accurately read Saul’s mail and foretold the future regarding his death.  I have come to the conclusion that…I’m not certain, but lean towards the last thought.

If Samuel’s appearance was from God, does this give us license to consult the dead?  Not on your life!  Besides the Old Testament prohibitions, the New Testament also denounces it in Galatians 5:19-21 and in Paul’s deliverance of a woman who practiced sorcery in Acts 16:16-18.  The big question to answer is why we would need to consult the dead?

When I understand that Jesus holds the keys of death and the grave (Revelations 1:18), why would I consort with an underling or substitute of any kind?  Through His Holy Spirit, He reveals truth to us, “But I will send you the Advocate [counselor] – the Spirit of Truth….He will guide you into all truth…He will tell you about the future…the Spirit will tell you what He receives from me.”  (John 15:25;16:13-15)

Jesus was speaking to His disciples in these passages, but these words are true for us as well because of the Spirit of truth living in us.  Why would I not go directly to the horse’s mouth, so to speak?  Through the Living Word, including His still small voice spoken to our hearts, He reveals all that we would ever need to know, and there’s an added bonus. His timing is perfect! 

Moving Forward: I call only upon the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit, to reveal to me all that I need to know for today through His Living Word. 

Tomorrow @ Psalms 45-47

Exodus 9-12 (NLT)

Discover His heart: Our merciful God offers us many opportunities to turn our hearts towards Him.

I’ve known some stubborn people in my life, but none the likes of Pharaoh. After the snake-swallowing event with Moses, I’m reasonably sure that I would have given in and let God’s people go! Bloody water, frogs, gnats, flies, dead livestock, boils, hail, locusts, darkness – obviously Pharaoh wanted to keep his cheap labor.

For a long time, I didn’t understand the scripture that said God hardened Pharaoh’s heart because this would definitely put Pharaoh at a disadvantage even if he had wanted to let God’s people go. However, I have come to understand that Pharaoh’s heart was hardened by God’s actions. I know many individuals who experience trouble in their lives because of their sins; and in blaming God for it, their hearts are hardened towards Him and His people. Jesus came to soften their stony hearts and bring healing and deliverance.

@ Exodus 12
The instructions the Lord gave to Moses regarding the Passover dinner preparations and the blood on the doorposts were detailed and non-negotiable. God was about to deliver from bondage all those who followed His instructions to the letter, and through their obedience, the sons of Israel were spared. “Pharaoh and all his officials and all the people of Egypt woke up during the night, and loud wailing was heard throughout the land of Egypt. There was not a single house where someone had not died.”(30) With the death of his nation’s firstborn sons and the wailing of his people, stubborn Pharaoh finally acquiesced – Israel was free to leave.

The story of the Passover dinner paints an interesting picture. “These are your instructions for eating this meal: Be fully dressed, wear your sandals, and carry your walking stick in your hand. Eat the meal with urgency, for this is the Lord’s Passover.” (12:11) Dressed for dinner! How appropriate! With the wailing of the mourning Egyptians in earshot, the Israelites were told to dress for dinner and eat quickly as if ready to leave at any moment. And they did.

I view the church today in somewhat the same position. We are dressed for dinner with our lamps full, with His blood on our heart’s door and waiting for the coming of the bridegroom. We are expecting to leave at any moment! But within earshot, if we really listen, we hear the wailing. We hear the wailing of the lost souls of our world expressed in so many different ways, needing deliverance too.

The blood on the doorpost was only for the Israelites, but it was replaced at Calvary by the blood of the perfect lamb, the perfect sacrifice, and this blood is for everyone! How can we ignore their wailing, their cries for help? Better we roll up the sleeves of our dinner dress, seek out the lost and bring them to the table. Maître d’? Table for….all!

Moving Forward: With a soft heart this day, I listen for the wail, the cry of the lost, and invite them to come and dine with me.

Tomorrow @ I Samuel 26-31

I Corinthians 15-16 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He promises a resurrected body for all who believe in Him

Over the past few years, the resurgence of vampires, zombies, occult books and movies has captivated the world, each giving a false depiction of the resurrected body. The devil has a counterfeit for everything. While many of these books, movies and television programs are entertaining and spine-tingling for some, their message dilutes and brings confusion about God’s incredible promise of the resurrected body and eternity. As believers, we should not be ignorant of their agenda. Evidently, the New Testament Greek Church was dealing with its own brand of confusion over resurrection, and Paul had plenty to say about it.

@ I Corinthians 15
“But tell me this—since we preach that Christ rose from the dead, why are some of you saying there will be no resurrection of the dead? For if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless.” (12-14) Greek culture believed that only the soul lived forever which would dismiss the fact the Jesus walked this earth and His body was recognized after His resurrection. (Luke 24:22-49)

In Chapter 15, Paul confirmed the resurrection of Christ, the only valid reason for the gospel, and the resurrection of all who follow in Christ. Without it, reason might dictate a party-on mentality because tomorrow we will die and that’s it. Paul said, “Don’t be fooled by those who say such things, for ‘bad company corrupts good character.’” (33) What we believe about eternity definitely affects how we live today.

“How will the dead be raised? What kind of bodies will they have?” (35) Brilliant Paul remarked that these were foolish questions, but I, not so brilliant, appreciate them and his explanation in verses 36-44. We understand the process of planting a seed, its death in the soil and then the transformation into a beautiful plant. What a great explanation of what happens to our bodies from death in the soil to the beautiful transformed body at the resurrection, one that can last for eternity.

“But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed.”(51-52) I love to imagine the experience of His coming for those who are still living: Trumpet sound> transformation> out-of-this-world flight – all in a blink! What a trip! Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

It only stands to reason that the enemy of our soul would want to bring confusion and water down this wonderful promise of resurrection. As a believer, I’ve chosen to avoid the popular books and movies of our day, from Harry Potter to the Twilight series – they just don’t sit right with me. “For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” (2 Cor. 6:14, NIV). “I will refuse to look at anything vile and vulgar,” (Psalm 101:3) I remain ever mindful of the company I keep.

Moving forward: Thrilled with the prospect of a resurrected body, I continue this day with eternity on my mind, encouraging others to join me on that glorious day.

Tomorrow @ Exodus 9-12

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