I Love the LORD Because…

Old Testament: Judges 19 & 20

Poetry: Psalm 116

New Testament: Luke 16

As was discussed in two previous days’ devotions, Psalm 116 is another of the Hallel (literally, “Praise”) Psalms that are particularly associated with joyous events for Jews. They are prominent in the liturgies of the primary seasonal festivals such as Passover, and Psalm 116 is additionally part of the “Egyptian Hallel” subset of Hallel psalms. Psalm 116 does not make specific reference to Egypt, Passover, or the Exodus of Israel, but it is very straightforward to adapt its structure into a prayer of praise for the salvation of the nation of Israel. By connecting the psalm to that event, it is easily transformed into a pedagogical device that teaches the listener to acknowledge God for His grace toward Israel.

The Psalm is most naturally structured into three parts, but let us draw out the first two verses as an introductory dialogue (ellipsis of psalm text in bold):

I love the LORD. Why? Because He hears my voice, my supplications. Because He has inclined His ear to me. How should I respond? …. I shall call upon Him as long as I live.

The psalmist has provided a simple justification for the reader, all of us, to reverence and petition God: Because He hears me; the implication is that God answers those petitions. And because He hears me I should not fail to call on Him again and again.

Beginning in verse three, the psalmist builds upon the introductory dialogue to stretch and flesh out what could be the reason for calling on God and a more specific supplication: Cords of death wrap around me; the terror of the grave has come upon me; I found distress and sorrow. It is easy to see how this text was associated with Passover and the exodus: these words could be those of enslaved Israel, looking for deliverance from Egypt. Now look at verse four: Then I called upon the name of the LORD… “Save my life!” Taken in association with the enslavement in Egypt, these are the collective words of Israel, longing for deliverance, longing for God to “Hear my voice and incline His ear to me” (v 1). Verse four ends the first part of the psalm. 

The second part of the psalm does not begin with a description of the salvation desired by the writer (later usage: the nation of Israel), but instead utilizes another introductory statement: Gracious is the LORD .. our God is compassionate … the LORD has dealt bountifully with you. (vv 5-7). Only in verses 8-11 is the desired salvation described. The psalmist acknowledges God for who He is before getting to specifics about what He has done. Cast as part of the Hallel, we have Israel 1) acknowledging God as LORD and 2) thanking God for salvation from Egypt. To see a record of a similar acknowledgment, take a look at Exodus 15, a poem or song of adoration sung by Moses and the Israelites after passing through the sea.

Finally, beginning in verse 12, the psalmist builds out eight verses to answer the question What shall I render to the Lord? It is the question that must be asked after reflecting and acknowledging what He has done. And the answer, given in the text, is a catalog of options for worship and reverence toward God.

When the psalm is sectioned as outlined here, one can see how it was adapted for the celebration of Passover. It provides context (terrible circumstances, like Egypt) and a call for salvation, it identifies the LORD God as the agent of deliverance, and then provides options for adoration of God. Imagine sitting around a table, each member of a family saying or offering (perhaps competitively?) an option for active reverence: “I shall lift up the cup of salvation” (the mealtime allusion is especially apt in relation to Passover), “I shall pay my vows to the LORD” and “I’ll pay my vows in the presence of all His people.” The point is that the reverence, acknowledgment, and worship derive directly from the active role that God takes (took!) in deliverance from the circumstances of verse three.

Psalm 116 is a wonderful outline of one context for the why and what of thankfulness toward God: I may be in terrible circumstances, but the God that is gracious and compassionate can and will rescue me. In response, I bow to Him in reverence and worship, declaring my thankfulness to Him in the presence of others.

-Dan Siderius


The Psalms, as poetry, always carry some underlying structure, though perhaps lost in the translation from Hebrew to English. One of the features of many psalms that I appreciate is doublet structure, in the form of question-and-answer. For example, Psalm 116:1:

Question: I love the LORD

Answer: Because He hears my voice

These doublets can be used to impart rhythm to the reading of certain psalms. One way to take advantage of the inherent rhythm is to speak the psalms antiphonally, where one person reads the first part of the doublet and a second person reads the response. Another option is to incorporate movement, by walking through the first half of the doublet, pausing, and then resuming with the second half. It can greatly liven the Psalms!
If you are interested in reading the Psalms whose translation purposefully retained rhythmic and melodic elements, I encourage you to use the Coverdale Psalter (e.g., Psalm 116: https://psalter.liturgical-calendar.com/en-emodeng/Coverdale/116) or its newer revision, the New Coverdale Psalter (available for viewing online: https://bcp2019.anglicanchurch.net/index.php/downloads-pdf/).

Reflection Questions

  1. How would you finish the sentence/poem/song which begins, “I love the LORD because…”? Think on it, write it down, share it with the LORD. Who else could benefit from hearing your testimony of why you love the LORD?
  2. What are some options for how you can respond to the LORD? Write them down as well. Some responses, perhaps some we do most often, are not very good responses – if your list includes any poor responses you can cross them out now. Put a star next to a response you will work on today.

Servants of the Word

Old Testament: Joshua 11 & 12

Psalms: Psalm 100

New Testament: Luke Intro below & Luke 1:1-4

Gospel of Luke Introduction

The gospel of Luke was written by Luke the physician (Col 4:14), who traveled with Paul.  Luke was a gentile who learned about Jesus through careful research from eye witnesses.  Luke wrote the gospel of Luke (the longest Gospel), and the book of Acts – which combined make Luke the most prolific writer in the New Testament.  

The gospel of Matthew was written to a Jewish audience, Mark was written to a Roman audience. Luke was written to Theophilus, for a Gentile audience – to assure Theophilus the truth of what he had been taught about Jesus.  Multiple times, Luke stressed that salvation was for the Gentiles.  For example, Luke 2:30-32, “For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

Luke highlighted Jesus’ love for and ministry to outcasts, including: immoral women, Samaritans, runaways, tax collectors, lepers, and criminals.  Luke also emphasized Jesus’ prayer life.

The gospel of Luke starts with the story of John the Baptist’s birth, and details the familiar birth of Jesus.  Luke then details Jesus’ ministry in Galilee.  The majority of the book focuses on Jesus’ heading to Jerusalem – where he knew he would be crucified.  (Luke 9:51 says, “As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.”)  Luke then records Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.

Luke is the only gospel to detail the story of Jesus’ joining two men on the road to Emmaus after his resurrection.  I find this story moving.  I love their response as recorded in Luke 24: 32, “They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

I pray that your heart will be burning within you as you let Jesus speak to you as you open the Scriptures to read the book of Luke.

-Steve Mattison

DEVOTION by Juliet

There were many who tried to compile an account about the things accomplished by the disciples of Jesus, as handed down to them by the eyewitnesses and servants of the word, but it was Luke’s compilation that made the cut.

Luke investigated everything carefully from the beginning (of Jesus’s ministry) and wrote it out in consecutive order. He wanted his reader(s) to know the exact truth about the things that he was learning, which meant that his reader could have been believing some things in error, even though his reader was learning things not too long after there were eyewitnesses to Jesus’s ministry. This should cause us to pause and be mindful of all that we know or think we know.

Truth matters. We should all endeavor to be careful to investigate everything written about and spoken by Jesus, because in him is the knowledge of salvation.

Did you notice though that Luke’s intro makes a statement we don’t often hear? He said his compilation was an account of the things accomplished by the eyewitnesses and servants of the word, or of the gospel. Whether the “word” here represents Jesus or the entirety of the gospel message, which you find in Jesus the Christ, I am not sure. What I am sure of is that if you want to be a servant of the word, the gospel, you should probably know what it is, desire it, and serve.

Do you know the word, the gospel? Do you desire it, both to know it and serve it? Do you know what it means to serve the word, the gospel? If we don’t, we should investigate it carefully, just like Luke did, to serve it rightly, in truth and without error. But that can be difficult.

The god of this world, Satan, has blinded the minds of those who will perish without the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ (2 Cor. 4:4). That’s why we have such a great commission set before us as his disciples, to make known to the world the word, which is the gospel of the kingdom of God, which is found in Jesus, who is in the image of God, which leads to salvation.

God wants none to perish, but without the knowledge of the word, the gospel, Jesus, we will perish. It is our service to the word to preach the gospel.

Notice again that Luke says, “servants of the word,” not just knowledge bearers of the word. It follows that if you are servants of the word, that your life and your character will reflect that. If you are servants of the word, then you will be a person that serves self-sacrificially, to whatever extent is needed in the plan of God, for the salvation of others.

Within our commission, we may have specific tasks that God grants us to do for him on an individual basis to accomplish his work. If we want to know what that work is, we have to get to serving. The more we do for him through Christ, the more service he will give us to do work with while his son is away.

In Joshua, we read about his service and sacrifice to God for the salvation of others, which involved conquering all the lands that God told him to conquer, to be the one through whom he would give his people of his time the promised land. But he didn’t become this servant of the words God spoke to him just because he acknowledged that what was spoken by God was true. He became this servant because of his service to do what God told him to do, reflecting his character, his faith in God to do what he said he’d do.   

In Psalm 100, we can read about one of many services that David is well known for. He brought the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to God when he came before him, acknowledging who his God was often, acknowledging his name Yahweh, and the work of his hands, namely, us. The byproduct of David’s service reflects his heart, his character, which is after God’s own heart.

Through Luke’s personal service and sacrifice to God through his narrative, we’ll read about our Messiah Jesus, and see his self-sacrificial service embedded in his entire life, written in consecutive order. Once his ministry began, the man didn’t even have a place to call home, as he was too busy serving others to settle in one location. His servitude and devotion to his God culminated in his final earthly work at his death on the cross, leading to the salvation of all.

Remember as we read Luke’s narrative that he was one of only 4 writers out of many whose compilation succeeded in becoming what are commonly referred to as “the gospels”. What an accomplishment! This tells me that if you want to be servers of the word, you’ve got to have a desire to do it and to do it with everything that is in you, because that’s the person you’ve become after receiving the knowledge of Christ.

As we continue on in our reading in Luke chapter 1, let’s take note of all the witnesses and servants of the word with the same careful investigation that Luke gave to his narrative. While we search for the exact truth about the things we’ve been taught, let’s examine the servitude and character of the people who were closest to Jesus, as well as the consequences that followed. After gaining the knowledge of what was accomplished by the original servants of the word, the gospel, let’s get to being the servants of the word of our generation.

-Juliet Taylor

Reflection Questions:

  1. Luke’s narrative was written in consecutive order. Do you know how the other three narratives that met the gospel cut were ordered?
  2. How are you a servant of the word?
  3. What character trait do you want to portray to others after being a servant of the word?

Your Part in God’s Plan of Salvation

Old Testament Reading: Joshua 7 & 8

Psalms Reading: Psalm 98

New Testament Reading on Jesus: John 20

Remember what Jesus accomplished today and all that that entails. Remember his faithfulness to finish the work God gave him on earth.

Now remember what God did. Remember that it was God’s plan of salvation to save us through his son. His right hand and his holy arm have gained the victory for Him!

God has made known to us our salvation!

The Seas and all that is in them know it and resound! The rivers know it and clap! The mountains know it and sing together for joy at his marvelous works!

Do we know it?

Do we realize that God’s plan of salvation is fulfilled through Jesus? Do we fully grasp what that means?

It means that if we are his, we are kingdom bound, and no one can snatch us out of his hand.

Salvation has been made known by God, and he’s done it through covenants. God offers the opportunity for his people to be saved by remaining faithful to the covenants he makes with them. The last, final, “goal” covenant God has made, and will make with his people, is the New Covenant through Jesus.

Before Jesus’s covenant, bringing the hope of entering into the Kingdom of God, God worked through other covenants with his people to give them good things.

It is no surprise to me that God chose Joshua (Jesus), whose name means, “Yahweh is salvation,” to bring his children into the land promised. Although it was Moses who was the mediator of the covenant that God made with them, the plan of salvation for Israel was fulfilled through Joshua.

Just prior to delivering Jericho over to them, God made another covenant with his people through Joshua. This covenant involved being faithful to refrain from taking the devoted things from the city, so that God’s people would not covet. If they violated this command, God said they would have trouble.

One man did violate this covenant, and through this one man’s sin, all the children of Israel were held liable for destruction (hmmm, sounds familiar).

God was faithful to do what he said he’d do regarding the breaking of this covenant. He turned away from his people because of the sin of one man amongst the many, and trouble ensued. But another man, Joshua, led the people to repent (hmmm, this also sounds familiar). God accepted this repentance through Joshua’s leadership, but with requirements to destroy the sin and the violator of the covenant.

After sin was removed from the people, God told his people to consecrate themselves. If they were devoted to him, he would be devoted to them (covenant language). The plan of salvation was restored for a time.

Eventually, the covenant through Moses, and most of the additional regulations that came to be through others came to an end because the people continued to violate God’s covenants over and over again. Every time God offered to make a covenant with his disobedient and obstinate people, it was an act of his mercy and grace because they rarely remained faithful to it, and he knew that. All of God’s covenants were grace covenants out of his love for his people and his desire for all to be saved.

But because of man’s constant violation of his free gift, their unfaithfulness to the covenant, or their unfaithfulness to fulfill their part of the plan, God made a New Covenant, with all mankind, with better promises, that would be fulfilled through his son, Jesus. That is what we are celebrating today.

But remember. God’s plan of salvation through the blood of Jesus is the last covenant he will offer to mankind.

To partake in the plan of salvation, we must freely choose to enter the covenant through Jesus and remain faithful to our part in the plan, as Jesus was faithful to his.

Our part in the plan is to imitate our Lord and Savior, Jesus Messiah, by keeping ourselves free from sin, and repenting when we do sin, so that we can live out a life of self-sacrifice of our will, to whatever extent is needed to save others, just as our leader Jesus did, which is God’s will.

If we do that, we will be one (in the plan of salvation) with Jesus and God. To be one with God and Jesus means that you know your role in the plan of salvation, and you remain faithful to it. Be devoted to him through his son. He will be devoted to you.

I’ve come to realize that most people don’t know the plan of salvation that God has revealed, at least not in its entirety.

There was a time when Jesus’s own disciples did not fully grasp what the plan of salvation was. In John 20:9-10, we’re told that his disciples did not even understand from scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead, even though he had been telling them all along!

Jesus revealed this part of the plan plainly by first showing himself in his resurrected state to Mary Magdalene. He then told her more about the plan and told her to go and tell his brethren.

She was faithful to believe and do whatever her Lord required of her. Remember her character.

Jesus then revealed his resurrected self to his disciples. When those who saw him finally understood this part of the plan, they rejoiced!!!

Jesus instructed and empowered his disciples through the gift of the holy spirit to fulfill their part in the plan of salvation, which includes forgiveness of sins.

God’s plan of salvation begins in Genesis and ends in Revelation. It is fulfilled through our Messiah Jesus.

The people who know the plan of salvation live it out and preach it, so that all may be saved. They join in the purpose and plan of God through his son to save humanity, by choosing God’s will over their own.

Remember Jesus today, and that God’s plan of salvation is through him.

Let’s shout!!! Hallelujah to our God, and Hosanna to our King!

-Juliet Taylor

Question 1:  Do you know your role in the plan of salvation?

Question 2:  What other parallels between Joshua and Jesus do you see, especially related to the covenants God made with them?

Question 3:  Look into the phrase, “One with God.” Do you think it means what I think it means (one in understanding and fulfillment of the plan of salvation)?

Preparing Your Heart: Acceptance

*Theme Week – Jesus: Mark 15

Old Testament Reading: Joshua 5 & 6

Psalms Reading: Psalm 97

Jesus is dead and sealed in a tomb. And Barabbas is free. 

Can you imagine waking up on the day after you were to die a deservedly horrific and public death? Waking up free? The sun is shining. Birds sing. Life continues around you. You should be dead, but you’re not. 

Mark’s account of our Messiah’s death here mentions the centurion standing guard over Jesus. This Roman witnesses something he probably didn’t know much about. Even those raised with the prophecies of the savior didn’t comprehend what was happening. But this Roman soldier sees all that happened during Jesus’ death and he says, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”

I wonder what he did with that information. I wonder what you will do with it. 

Upon Jesus’ death, the heavy curtain separating God’s presence from the rest of the world was torn in two. You are no longer separated from our heavenly father. Christ is now your way to Him. And Christ was the only sacrifice significant enough to truly allow salvation. 

It’s Saturday. Barabbas is guilty but free. The centurion is ignorant of God’s plan but knows exactly who Jesus is. And Jesus is innocent but dead. 

Where are you this day? The way to God is now open. You are free. You know who Jesus Christ is. And better still, you know what happens next. So what will you do with this information?

Take some time with me today to prepare yourself by opening your heart and accepting the gift that has been given. Ask yourself:

How am I like Barrabas? I’m living today, and can be free from my sin, but am I behaving like someone who has been given another chance? 

How can I better know Jesus Christ, the Son of God? Am I spending enough time in Scripture? 

My way to God is clear, but am I seeking Him? How can I do a better job of recognizing God and acknowledging Him in everything?

Have I truly accepted the gift of salvation? And am I showing that in my words and actions and choices?

My prayer for us today is that we recognize Jesus’ crucifixion for what it was: a sacrifice that was made so that we can live free of sin, so that we could be reunited again with our God. Reflect on this today, and accept the gift that has been given. He’s in the tomb and we are not. Today we remember the sacrifice. Tomorrow we celebrate!

Jenn Haynes

(Editor’s Note: Jenn has done a great job this week preparing us for a celebration of the Resurrection! If you haven’t yet had a chance to attend or view a Good Friday service of reflection you might also find benefit in that. Here is a link to one that 3 churches in northern Indiana did last night which was set up as a memorial Celebration of Life service after the death of Jesus.)

Preparing Your Mind: Recognizing Priorities

*Theme Week – Jesus: Luke 23

Old Testament Reading: Joshua 1 & 2

Psalms Reading: Psalm 95

The next few days of readings will be centered around Jesus’s crucifixion. Luke’s account tells us of the interaction that Jesus had with the thieves on the crosses next to Christ, which is what I’m focusing my attention on today. 

Jesus has been arrested and has appeared before Pilate, the highest Roman official in the area, and been found guilty of nothing more than inciting a spiritual revolution. Yet he was punished and tortured and hung up on a cross with criminals to die an agonizing death. 

The criminals were guilty. They knew that they were being punished for wrongs they had committed. Still one mocked Jesus, telling him to save himself and them. The other, however, knows that he has sinned. He knows that he deserves punishment and that Jesus does not. And rather than asking Jesus to remove him from the cross and death, he has his focus on something far more important. He asked Jesus to remember him when he comes into his kingdom. 

How remarkable. Honestly, when I’m in trouble I’m not thinking of whether or not I deserve that trouble. I’m not focused on what is ultimately important. I should be acknowledging that I’ve done wrong and that I likely deserve whatever mess I’m in. I should acknowledge that whatever battle I’m in the midst of, I can continue to fight because God has already won the war. Instead, I’m just looking for God to rescue me from my current situation. I’m looking for an easy way out. I have lost sight of the end game, which is an everlasting kingdom that can be had by accepting the gift of grace offered to us when Jesus was punished and killed for our transgressions. 

The thief had his priorities straight, and Jesus acknowledged it by promising him a place in his everlasting Kingdom. How beautiful. 

Take some time with me today to prepare yourself by realigning your priorities. Ask yourself: 

When I am struggling, is my focus on myself or on God’s plan? 

Have I accepted the free (for me) gift of salvation, or am I still trying to earn my way into God’s kingdom? 

Have I truly acknowledged and accepted that no matter what I have done or said to redeem myself, I cannot?

How can I better reflect my joy and gratitude for this gift of eternal life? How can I express it to others so that they can accept it as well? 

My prayer for you and myself today is that we each accept with a humble heart the gift of salvation, acknowledging that it is only by grace that we are saved. I pray that we accept that grace with extreme joy, because it is truly something to celebrate. I pray that our priorities are not focused on anything in this world, but on God’s coming kingdom. 

Jenn Haynes

Preparing our Attitude

*Theme WEek – Jesus: John 13

Old Testament Reading: Deuteronomy 31 & 32

Psalms Reading: Psalm 92

I used to read the Gospels and try and compare myself with various characters. And I never wanted to see myself in Peter, and yet here we are. I never wanted to compare myself to the man who seemed to so frequently fly off the handle or get things wrong. I didn’t want to be like the one who sunk in the waves and denied his Christ three times in one night. But I most definitely feel a kinship with him, especially when I read this passage. 

Poor Peter. His Rabbi, who he has been so close to and loved so much, is humbling himself to wash Peter’s feet and he’s clearly mortified. This was something only the lowliest of servants did. And here was Christ, washing his feet, when none of his disciples had thought to do the same for him. And then when Christ says his disciple can’t be clean unless his feet are washed, he insists Christ wash his hands and head as well. He’s so desperate and proud that it’s a little heartbreaking. Because he has it all wrong. 

Jesus is about to die. He’s about to suffer and die for each of them, and for each of us. And they all have to humble themselves enough to accept that sacrifice. They cannot save themselves. They cannot fully cleanse themselves. Only by accepting Christ and his act of servitude for us can we be clean. 

And not only that, but we have to follow Christ’s example and humble ourselves to serve others. We are not too good to be served, and we are not too good to serve either. 

Peter is fighting this internal battle with himself. He wants to serve Christ, but can’t accept with grace the gift of service that has been given to him. He wants to serve Christ, but perhaps not humble himself so low to serve others in this manner as well. 

Jesus loved his followers dearly. In the beginning of the passage it says that he loved them to the end. This means he loved them to the fullest of capacity and without end. And here he has poured out every bit of himself into complete humility and served them in the basest of ways. 

Our savior did that for us when he was tortured and crucified. This is the attitude of love and service we should have for others. 

Take some time today and prepare your attitude with me. Ask yourself: 

Have I truly acknowledged the deep, humbling act of service that Jesus has done for me? 

In what areas of my life am I still too proud? 

Am I focusing too much on the fact that my feet climbed out of the boat and walked on water, rather than the fact that my feet also sank beneath the waves and I had to be pulled out? 

How can I serve someone else in humility as well this week? 

Am I showing others a deep love and a servant’s heart? 

My prayer for each of us today is that we truly and fully recognize the gift that has been given to us and accept it with full humility, acknowledging our great need for it. I also pray that as we acknowledge our need for salvation and cleansing, we turn and offer grace and service to others as well, so that they can see Christ serving in us. 

Jenn Haynes


Old Testament: Deuteronomy Intro below

Psalms Reading: Psalm 76

New Testament Reading: 2 Corinthians 13

Today we have three readings before us that seem very different from one another. They are different in many ways; approach, style, etc. but contain a similar message throughout.

The book of Deuteronomy details many hardships and troubles that God’s people faced. It also contains promises and hope. It reminds us that we have an active role in our faith. Our Heavenly Father did not create us with a certainty that we would listen and obey, that we would automatically choose Him. He created us with free will and allows us, each and every one of us, to make these life and death decisions on our own. He gives us all of the information we need and places the choice in our hands. To have life is to be with God. This book is about having an ongoing relationship with our loving God.

Psalm 76 is a song of victory of Israel over the enemies of God. Often times we see the rejoicing of the people and focus only upon the battle God won that led them to this point. He had delivered victory – that is evident to Israelite and Gentile both. There is more to it though, more here than a casual glance will reveal. The psalmist sings of weapons of war at rest. The Lexham English Bible says, the stouthearted sleep, both rider and horse slumber. Death is implied here but, in that death, God has brought peace. The slain, the peace of death, and for those who yet live peace through knowing Him, revering Him, “From heaven you pronounced judgement, and the land feared and was quiet.” Like with our overview of Deuteronomy, we see our need for a relationship with God, that life comes from Him.

And then we get to our final section of reading for today, as we finish 2 Corinthians with chapter 13 – which brings to mind 1 Corinthians 13 – the chapter all about love. From verse four through the beginning of verse eight, it details what real love is and what it is not. The first three verses are quite plain to say that what we do or say in this life matters little if it does not come from the type of love that God, and Jesus displayed for us.

We are merely messengers of the Gospel, the Good News. We are to ensure that others know of salvation through Jesus by our words and actions. It is not for us to judge one another or force a change. We are to faithfully bring the truth of God’s word to our family, friends, and acquaintances. It is that truth that will reveal both sin and the need for salvation, but it is still up to the individual to make that choice. If that choice is not to come to God through Jesus, then we are to still love them. We are limited to our knowledge of now, this moment, and even that is severely lacking. We do not know their future choices, so we love them. They are created in God’s image, so we love them.

Each of these sections of Scripture present the hardships that come with the choice we each face, to know and love God or deny Him. It is not just our choices though, but also those of everyone around us. We have this amazing knowledge of God, Jesus, and salvation. We, who have a relationship with Him through Jesus, have a hope beyond the troubles of this life. Loving God, and knowing His love, can comfort us in our most desperate moments.

We want that for others and sometimes get frustrated, angry, or hurt that they refuse to open themselves to this relationship. That is probably similar to how God felt about you and I before we made that choice. I believe that a huge part of our commission to go into the world to spread the Gospel is to love the sinner as God loves us who still sin. Be patient. Speak and live God’s word. That is what love is!

-Jeff Ransom

Deuteronomy Introduction

I love the book of Deuteronomy.  Even though it retells many of the highlights of Exodus through Numbers, the tone of Deuteronomy is much different.  Instead of just laying out the law as God had given it, and instead of just relaying historical facts, Moses was now encouraging the people to love and follow God- for their own good.  

Moses wrote the book of Deuteronomy just before his death.  This was his last opportunity to encourage the Israelites to obey God wholeheartedly.  When he wrote it, almost everyone was dead who had been an adult when the Israelites had left Egypt.  As a result, Moses was trying to remind the new generation of all that God had done for them (and their parents), and was trying to encourage them to follow God – and not just obey Him, but to love Him.

Deuteronomy 10: 12-13 is an example of this, “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?”

The book of Deuteronomy ends with Moses climbing a mountain, and looking out over the Promised Land – which he wasn’t allowed to enter because of one act of disobedience against God.  And then Moses died.  Can you imagine how disappointed Moses must have been, seeing the promised land, but not being able to enter?  He had longed for this his whole life, and was finally denied entry.

This should be a warning to us. It reminds me of Luke 13:28, which says, “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out.”

I’ll close with Deuteronomy 30: 15-20, “See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.  But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”

-Steve Mattison

Reflection Questions

  1. What do we learn from Moses and Paul about how to speak and live God’s word? How can you speak and live God’s word better than you have previously?
  2. We all have choices to make. What choices have you made that have brought you closer to a relationship with God and the salvation he extends through His son? What choices have you made that have taken you further from God? What will you choose today?
  3. What do you learn about God and His character in today’s Bible reading? Who needs to hear that and how will you share?

Now is the Day of Salvation!

Old Testament Reading: Exodus 28-30 (see note below)
Psalms Reading: Psalm 41
* New Testament Reading: Romans 11

Editor’s Note: I apologize for missing the fact that three days ago our reading plan jumped to 3 chapters a day in our Old Testament reading – it will do that occasionally (mostly during genealogies, land surveys, and detailed “building” descriptions) to fit the whole OT into one year. If you have been following the devotions reading schedule not the printable schedule/download you might have a little bit of catching up to do in Exodus. Sorry!

We’ve talked the last two days about the Israelite’s rejection of God, and the subsequent grace God has shown us Gentile believers who he has adopted into His family.  Gentiles, both in Paul’s day and also today, might be tempted to condemn the Israelites and also become conceited because of God’s grace toward us.

Paul addressed the potential conceit we might feel in Romans 11:17-21 which says, “If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not boast over those branches.  If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you.  You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.”  Granted.  But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith.  Do not be arrogant, but be afraid.  For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.”

I find this analogy interesting.  In orchards, often a wild rootstock is more hearty than a domesticated rootstock.  So when grafting, someone will graft a desirable shoot that will produce good fruit onto a strong rootstock to get the best tree possible.  Nobody would ever consider grafting an autumn olive (or Russian olive) branch onto a productive olive tree.  Autumn olives are an invasive species, have thorns, and are completely undesirable.  Even deer don’t eat autumn olives.  

So, given Paul’s analogy, we are worthless.  Israelites, in the analogy, were far more valuable than we are.  If God pruned them off because of their unfaithfulness, and then grafted us in, we should be thankful, not conceited.  Because if God pruned them, he will certainly prune us who are worth so much less, if we don’t continue in our faith.

Paul said that some of the motivation for his preaching to the Gentiles was to make the Israelites jealous, and want to be reconciled with God.  Some wonder if God would ever accept back a person who walks away from God.  Romans 11: 23-24 suggests that God will welcome rebels back, “And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.  After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree!”

This is great news, not only for Israelites, but also for us.  First, we have been extended the opportunity of salvation because of the Israelites’ rejection of God.  And secondly, because if God will welcome them back when they have walked away from Him, this suggests He will welcome us back if we have turned away from Him.

It’s a dangerous thing to presume on the grace of God.  But if you have wandered, come back to God while there is still time.  2 Corinthians 6:2 says, “For he says, ‘In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.’ I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.“

If you haven’t yet accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior, today is the day of salvation.  If you accepted Him in the past, but have wandered away, today is the day to come back.  We don’t know when Jesus will return.  I assume it will be relatively soon.  Once He does return, it will be too late to accept Him.  Today is the day.  Seize the day.

-Steve Mattison

Reflection Questions

  1. What do you need to do since Now is the day of salvation? How will you do it?
  2. How have you been a recipient of God’s grace? Tell Him how you feel about it.
  3. What do you think of God’s grafting skills? What have you learned about Him in our Bible reading today?

Are you Zealous for God?

Old Testament Reading: Exodus 22 & 23
Psalms Reading: Psalm 40
* New Testament Reading: Romans 10

Paul starts Romans 10 like he started Romans 9, wishing that Israelites would be saved.  He lamented in verses 2-4, “For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.  Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.  Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.”

Are you zealous for God?  If so, great!  But as Paul pointed out, zeal is not enough.  Do you try to establish your own righteousness (through rigidly following a bunch of rules or making up your own rules)?  That didn’t work out too well for the Israelites, and won’t work out well for you either.

Fortunately, Paul revealed what *is* needed in Romans 10:9-10, “If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.”

This sounds too simple to be true, but it is.  We need to publicly proclaim “Jesus is Lord” – and live it, not just say it.  And we need to believe that God raised Jesus from the dead – not just head knowledge, but knowledge that will transform our lives.  If we do this, we will indeed be saved!  Praise God!

Since this is true, evangelism is critical!  Paul points out in Romans 10:14-15, “How then can they call on the one they have not believed in?  And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?  And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?  And how can they preach unless they are sent?  As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

If we have the right relationship with God, we will have the love of God in our hearts.  And just as God doesn’t want anyone to perish, we too won’t want anyone to perish.  But how can people be saved if they don’t know about God and Jesus?  And how can they know unless someone tells them?  In the “Steve Mattison” translation, this passage pretty clearly says that you and I have a responsibility to tell others about the good news of the gospel, and you and I have a responsibility to send missionaries to tell even more people.  How are you doing with that?

A lot of people who dabble at Christianity need to get serious about going all in with God or quit pretending.  In Revelation 3:15-16, Jesus said, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot.  I wish you were either one or the other!  So because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”

You may be wondering how does this apply to you?  I’m glad you asked.

Have you made a public confession that Jesus is your Lord?  If so, does your life reinforce or contradict that confession?

Do you believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead?  If so, does your life bolster or refute that head knowledge?

Are you actively spreading the gospel and/or funding missionaries so they can spread the gospel?

-Steve Mattison

Reflection Questions

  1. See Above!
  2. What has God revealed about Himself today?

And then The End will Come

Old Testament Reading: Genesis 45 & 46

Psalms Reading: Psalm 25

New Testament Reading: Matthew 24

I am practically lost without an instruction manual. I have relied on instruction manuals for everything, from constructing Legos and Bionicles when I was young (does anyone remember those?), to building cheap furniture from the department store. Instruction manuals bring order to the chaos; they provide a clear path forward to your desired goal. I admire people that can “wing it” and still accomplish their task without a set of instructions; I am not one of those gifted people. However, I believe that instruction manuals are a good analogy for our Christian life and purpose moving forward; after all, Jesus gave us clear instructions too.

In Matthew 24, we find one of the most interesting and debated texts in the entire Bible. There are details that depict what is going to happen when the city of Jerusalem is conquered by Rome in 70 AD, and there are details about when Jesus will come again on the clouds of heaven to establish the Kingdom of God. Books on top of books have been written about this passage, and its parallels in Mark and Luke; however, not enough has been said about the practical instructions Jesus gives to us here among all the chaotic images described. In verse 14, we are told that, in the midst of all the craziness, we Christians have one job: to share the gospel of the kingdom to the whole world. In fact, Jesus tells us that he will not return until this job has been accomplished.

Brothers and sisters, the greatest contribution you can make in this life is telling someone else about God’s coming kingdom. It is in this message that true salvation is found. It is in this message that God will redeem humanity and the earth. It is in this message that your sins can be forgiven. This message needs to be shared not just in other countries, but with your friend, your neighbor, and everyone else in your life. This is our only mission in life as Christians before Jesus comes back: let’s follow the Great Instruction Manual given by Jesus by sharing the same message that he shared (Luke 4:43). You can truly save a life.

-Talon Paul

Reflection Questions

  1. What are your thoughts and feelings as you read Matthew 24? In your opinion, what is the best part of the chapter? What do you find of great value?
  2. Reading through Matthew 24 what instructions, warnings and promptings do you find from Jesus?
  3. What are you doing to share the good news of the coming Kingdom? What might Jesus like to see you doing this month that you haven’t already been doing?
  4. What did God reveal about Himself today in your reading of His words?
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