Sharpening One Another

Old Testament: 2 Samuel 21 & 22

*Poetry: Proverbs 27

New Testament: Acts 21

     Today we will discuss a few pieces of wisdom from Proverbs 27. Some sections of the book offer extended advice on one topic, but for this chapter I will just comment on three verses.

     “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.” (Proverbs 27:6). I think this is a helpful reminder about the nature of wisdom, whether with human friends or our relationship with God. Love sometimes involves the willingness to say someone is wrong, but being told you are wrong can be painful. That means the friend can be taking a risk to offer that truth. And the pain involved for the one hearing the truth may be in proportion to how much pride has built up for them, how much of a false image needs to be removed. But truth is better than a lie, even when truth hurts. (A proverb can’t cover every detail, and this isn’t saying that a friend should seek to harm when giving the truth. Faithfulness and friendship are already assumed in this proverb.) But on the other side of matters an enemy will be quite ready to mislead while seeming friendly, giving deceitful kisses (perhaps only metaphorically) as they guide someone’s conduct and heart astray. Remember that truth is not determined by how we feel when we first hear it, it must be examined.

     When I was at Bible college we used to talk about Proverbs 27:14: “If you loudly greet your neighbor early in the morning, he will think of it as a curse.” To me the application for this text involved the frustration of being up early if you were not a morning person, if someone else was and they were not cautious about their conduct. At college we had added issues to watch out for, like people who had stayed up late into the night studying or writing, or talking about theology (or life). But when I looked up this text to see the views of researchers I found reference after reference treating it as about over-the-top flattery or kindness being treated as a sign of hypocrisy to be rejected. I was quite surprised. Maybe I was just too focused on one perspective, or perhaps I am too used to honesty to think in those terms. Still, it never occurred to me from the text to see the meaning that way. But this is a useful illustration of the fact that proverbs are open to interpretation. Dwelling on one, working it over in your mind, or even sharing your thoughts about it with another person, can allow you to gain insight.

Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” (v. 17) This is another proverb that I have been aware of and considered for many years. It brings to mind a late stage in the process of developing a tool, perhaps a sword. It supposes that we all are hardened, we all have gone through some discipline and experience. But seeking to grow with each other we can hone the edges of what we are meant to be. Some years ago there was a theological journal published out of Michigan called Sharpening Steel which took its name from this verse. I believe the idea of the title was that by people examining scriptures and writing about what they learned from them believers would be able to help each other gain new ideas and new thoughts about how to grow and serve. It is a useful principle for a journal but also for how we operate in our regular lives.

Lord, as I finish this week of writing devotions I ask you to watch over the people who have been reading these words. Help them to find the strength they need. None of them are meant to be acting alone. Please, Lord, help the ones that are trying to go it alone this week to reach out to a brother or a sister in Christ and acknowledge that they need more strength than they have. Don’t let any of us be closed off. I feel that this is not the case right now. Let your Spirit work in the hearts of your people. Let the knowledge of Jesus’s love warm us all. May we reach out to each other. In the name of your son I pray these things. Amen.

-Daniel Smead


  1. Can you look back on a time when you think you learned something that seemed painful and you later recognized it was true and valuable? Has that changed your behavior?
  2. What do you speak to other believers about? How often do you find time to talk about what you have valued in the scripture? Or what you find beautiful in the world? Or what you have struggled with?
  3. Don’t assume that you must be much stronger than those around you to be able to be of any help – iron can sharpen iron, it doesn’t take diamond. Notice that the proverb is meant to work both ways, are you prepared to be strengthened by those around you? For that to happen will there need to be any change in your thinking or your attitudes?

Running to Do God’s Work

Old Testament: 1 Samuel 25 & 26

Poetry: Proverbs 14

*New Testament: Acts 8

Acts is quite possibly my favorite book of the Bible because of its emphasis on theological truths. Acts also shows us the amazing effects that occur when we are following God wholeheartedly and preaching to others sound theology. The book allows us to get an insider look on what the early church looked like and the rapid growth that occurred as the apostles preached the name of Jesus to the Jews in hopes of convincing them to accept him as the Messiah.

The story of Philip and the Ethiopian shows a beautiful example of how God places people in the right place at the right time. In this case, quite literally. God used Philip to come alongside the Ethiopian at the exact moment that his heart was ready to receive the truth.  We see a clear contrast from Simon the sorcerer whose heart was “not right before God”. Simon desired a profit for himself over the truth that God could give. On the other hand, the Ethiopian was reading the Scriptures and seeking to understand it.

The Ethiopian devoted his life to serve the king of Ethiopia by becoming a eunuch so that the king’s throne and family would not be threatened. He was a very high-ranking Ethiopian who was an important official in charge of all the treasury of the queen of the Ethiopians. This is an important piece of information since this high-ranking man, from a different country, made the decision to travel to Jerusalem to visit the temple and worship God. Therefore, he desired and even went out of his way to worship the true God, even though it was a different god than his people worshiped. This may indicate that he had even converted to Judaism. And somewhere along the way he got his hands on a precious copy of the book of Isaiah, which would have been much harder to acquire back then. And as many of us can relate to, he was having a hard time understanding what he was reading. He wanted to know more about the passage and who it was referring to because he could have related to it personally as a eunuch. At this point in the story, Philip listened to God and literally RAN to go do what God wanted him to do. This shows Philip’s heart in doing God’s will wherever God places him.

When it comes to theology, we can see how God took a gentile who feared God and gave him the opportunity to accept Jesus as the Messiah. I love what this says about God. The Ethiopian was not one of God’s chosen people in the definition of nationality. But God saw one of His children struggling to understand His word, so He sent Philip to help reveal the Messianic text of Isaiah the prophet to the Ethiopian so that he could accept the truth of the Messiah. Here we see the beginning of the Gentiles being grafted into the family of God when the Ethiopian accepts the message of Jesus and becomes baptized. This also shows how important the message of Jesus as the Messiah is to God.

-Makayla Railton

Application Points:

The spiritual health of our heart matters. (Be like the Ethiopian, not Simon the sorcerer!)

God desires us to be in His Kingdom and He desires us to help others get there. (Be like Philip!)

The Lord be with You

*Old Testament: Ruth 1 & 2

Poetry: Psalm 118

New Testament: Luke 18

Today we begin reading the book of Ruth, which is both enjoyable and easy to read; a book without heavy theology to parse. The importance of the book is made plain at its end (for a preview, look to Ruth 4:17), in that it identifies a certain history of the family of the later King David. In that sense, it serves the Old Testament purpose of remembrance. In this case, it establishes a back story for the royal family (which ultimately leads to Jesus himself), but it also shows the providential role of God in that family. Like the passages in the Book of Judges, an important purpose of the text is to remind Israel how God established a relationship with the nation and then provides, cares for, and protects the nation.

Chapter 1 of Ruth provides the context for the remainder of the book: a family’s migration to Moab, and Naomi’s return to Bethlehem with the unexpected companion, Ruth. Chapter 2 is where the action of this story is established, with Ruth going to glean in Boaz’s fields and the repeated acts of kindness that he shows to her. We must also recognize the extent of his kindness as well: Boaz is obligated to leave some of his unharvested crops for the poor (see Leviticus 23:22), but he goes above and beyond this in his instructions to his servants to purposely leave grains for Ruth. She must have been confused, perhaps embarrassed by the kindness of Boaz, but it all leads to Naomi recognizing Boaz:

“The man is our relative, he is one of our closest relatives.” (Ruth 2:20 NASB)

Unfortunately, the depth of the term “closest relative” is not adequately captured in translation. The Hebrew term means “kinsman redeemer” – a family member that satisfies an obligation or vengeance of another in the extended family. Specific examples are the man that, following the Torah, marries his brother’s widow to preserve land inheritance, but also one who redeems a family member from slavery. This usage takes us to a second purpose of the Old Testament: prefiguring. Boaz, as a “kinsman redeemer” for the family of Naomi, prefigures Jesus as the one that redeems his family: Israel and (as we now know) Gentiles grafted in.

One aspect of Ruth that I greatly enjoy is the ordinariness of the spiritual expression of its characters. Without being ostentatious, the characters of the book recognize the providential role of God repeatedly and reflect it back to others to further recognize God’s role in their daily lives. Consider the statement of Ruth and Orpah in 1:8,9:

“May the LORD deal kindly with you as you have dealt with the dead and with me. May the LORD grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband.”

It is not enough for Naomi to wish her daughters-in-law success in their presumed departure; she specifically calls on God to give them that success in their new lives.

Then consider the dialogue between Boaz and his servants in 2:4:

Boaz to his servants: “May the LORD be with you.”

Servants’ response: “May the LORD bless you.”

I think the implication is that Boaz and his servants lived lives suffused in the presumption that God would be with them in every action, in every step along every path. Think about it further: Boaz and his servants were not going to war or going on a trip; they were simply going to the fields for the ordinary work of the day. Yet, he begins the day with a blessing on his servants.

In today’s culture, we increasingly compartmentalize our lives, even our spiritual lives. We work for some hours of the day, we take care of our daily obligations, and, hopefully, we set aside time to relax. More than likely prayer is a “carved out” time and time reading scripture may have to be scheduled. The alternative is to suffuse the entire day with the recognition that God is with us at every moment, and that prayer can and should be spontaneous and simple – ordinary. That we can take any moment to request God’s blessing on another.

This reminds me of an experience from childhood that might be odd to some. One summer, sometime in my teenage years, I had taken my youngest sister on a bike ride to the post office ostensibly for an errand, but mostly to be outside. At the post office, we encountered two nuns in the waiting area. (This was not out of the ordinary, there was a very active convent in my hometown.) One of the nuns leaned down, laid her hand on my sister’s head, and spoke a very simple blessing on her. Then she went back to her business, without skipping a beat. For that woman, living a life devoted to serving others in the name of God, speaking a blessing on a young child was utterly ordinary – she simply wanted to express God’s love to a child.

One of the messages of the Book of Ruth is that God is present in all parts of our lives. We can endeavor to purposefully include our appreciation for God for who He is and to share His love for all people in every moment of our day.

-Dan Siderius

Dan Siderius is a member of the Fair Oaks Community Church of God in Virginia. He lives in central Maryland with his wife and daughter and works as a research scientist for a government laboratory. Apart from work and parenting, he enjoys studying history, gardening, and all varieties of cooking.

Reflection Questions

  1. How can you break your spiritual life out of its compartment this week and mix it with your ordinary every day life? What are the benefits to doing so?
  2. How and to whom can you share remembrances of God providing, caring for and protecting? How can you seek to more regularly and often request God’s blessings on others?
  3. In what ways are Boaz and Jesus similar? In what ways are they different?
  4. What do we learn of God, and His Son Jesus, in our Bible readings today?


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?

God’s Restoration

Old Testament: Numbers 31-33

Psalms Reading: Psalms 74

New Testament: 2 Corinthians 11

My Bible notes explain that Psalm 74 is from the time of the exile, after the nation of Israel had been destroyed and the temple left in ruins and the promised land completely ravished. The first half of the Psalm is a recounting of how the sanctuary of the Almighty was decimated by the enemy. The second half of the Psalm is a cry out to God to do something about it. Verse 12 is the pivot point between the two halves. 

As I read Psalm 74, my inner first-born older-sister voice says something like, “Well, what do you expect? Your insolent behavior was basically an invitation to the enemy to come and wreak havoc. You opened the door to the temple wide open with your disobedience. And now you realize your mistake and want God to fix it???”

As if I never did anything foolish. Not once have I been disobedient. And I never have had to deal with the consequences of my poor choices. Nor have I ever asked God to come to my rescue and defend me when I got in over my head. Nope, not at all. Not me.

Maybe this Psalm hits a little too close to home. Because there have been so many times when my disobedience has left me on my knees. I said something that shouldn’t have been said; I ignored God’s voice telling me to walk the other way; I refused to forgive; I thought too highly of myself. And when I realized what I got myself into, the only thing I could think of doing was crying out to God for help.

While God fully desires us to be obedient, he knows our human nature and capability to mess things up from time to time. He wants us to call out to Him. He longs for us to recognize our need for Him. So even when we open the door of our hearts to something less than God’s best and our lives are turned inside out and upside down, He will come and restore us to who we are meant to be.

Thank you God, for being full of mercy and grace and hearing me when I call out. Thank you God, for not turning your back on me when my mess is a result of my foolishness. Thank you God, for loving me unconditionally, that even though I may have to suffer the consequences of my actions, you redeem me.

-Bethany Ligon

Reflection Questions

  1. When has your disobedience caused the need for restoration?
  2. Is there an area of your life that you have already experienced God’s restoration? What did it look like when it was in ruins? What does restoration look/feel like?
  3. What has God revealed about Himself in today’s Bible reading?

My Mouth is Filled with Your Praise

Old Testament Reading: Numbers 24 & 25

*Psalms Reading: Psalm 71

New Testament Reading: 2 Corinthians 8

As I began reading Psalm 71 I immediately took to heart the first sentence, “In you, LORD, I have taken refuge.” How many times do we have troubles and look to things other then God? We look to our friends, our families, sometimes video games, sugar, so many things when our first response should be to look to God. Our writer goes on to ask God to be his rock of refuge, to which I can always go. We can go to Him anytime day or night. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night because something is bothering me. While I know my husband would not get upset if I woke him, it is not something I want to do. But guess what, God is there! He is always with us.

The Psalm goes on to ask about not casting him away when he is old, not forsaking him when his strength is gone. He asks God for help. He says he will always have hope and he will praise God more and more. He will tell of his saving acts all day long. He will praise Him with the harp, the lyre, his lips and his tongue. The writer of this Psalm really knew that God is AMAZING!

All of this made me think of a few things. First, as I said earlier, God is aways with us. I have a great support system and God has put wonderful people in my life to help me navigate the craziness of this world but do I put God aside and try everything else first and then go to Him? I know I do sometimes, then I realize I should have gone to Him first. Many times when I go to him first, he puts the right help in front of me to navigate my problem and sometimes he tells me I just need to wait on it.

Second, when he is talking about his enemies, I think of the enemies that are trying to take us away from God. They will stop at nothing to tear us from the love of God. Verse 4 says “Deliver me, my God from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of those who are evil and cruel.”  We need to stand firm in our faith, seek God, spend time in His word, and be careful that we don’t get pulled away. It is so easy to walk away, to spend time away from God. We need to be purposeful in our walk with Him so we are not tempted to walk away.

Lastly, he is praising God. We need to praise God for all he has given us. My husband says he is part of the joyful noise club. I am too, I don’t have a beautiful voice but the Bible doesn’t say we have to have a beautiful voice, it says to make a joyful noise. It also doesn’t say we need to be Bible scholars to speak his word or tell others of the great things He does. Verse 17 says, “I declare your marvelous deeds.”  Go out and declare His marvelous deeds in your life.

-Jeani Ransom

Questions for reflection:

  1. How do you take refuge in God? Do you seek others first or God first?
  2. How can you show your praise to Him today?
  3. What marvelous deeds has He done for you? Who can you share them with?

Stay in the Shelter of the LORD

New Testament Reading:  1 Corinthians 14

*Psalms Reading:  Psalm 61

Old Testament Reading:  Numbers 1-3

I really enjoy a good thunderstorm.  Sometimes in the spring and summer in Minnesota we can watch the sky turn dark and see and feel the lightning and thunder.  I find it incredible, and it causes me to praise God for his awesome power and might.  I should clarify, I enjoy it when I am in the safety of my home.  If you have ever been trapped outdoors during a powerful storm it is amazing how weak and helpless you can feel.  The first four verses of Psalm 61 remind me of a time when that happened.

Hear my cry, O God,
    listen to my prayer;
from the end of the earth I call to you
    when my heart is faint.
Lead me to the rock
    that is higher than I,
for you have been my refuge,
    a strong tower against the enemy.

Let me dwell in your tent forever!
    Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings! (ESV)

Amy and I were out fishing in Canada when a powerful storm swept in out of nowhere.  Being outside in a thunderstorm is scary enough but being in what amounts to a 16-foot aluminum lightning rod brings it to a whole new level.  We were far enough from camp when the storm started that I knew we couldn’t make it back before the serious weather hit.  In the middle of the lake, you are the tallest thing, especially if your wife is short.  As it turns out, what we did is not advised but it worked out for us.  We headed toward shore and pulled the boat under a large rock overhang and waited out the storm.  It was still nerve wracking but being protected under that large outcropping gave a feeling of safety and security that would not have been found had we stayed in the middle of the lake.  It’s good to know that in the storms of life, the only safe, reliable shelter is the rock that is higher than I.  Our God is a strong tower against the enemy that we can take refuge in.  Once we are there, verse 4 should be our heart’s cry:  Let me dwell in your tent forever!  Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings!

-Todd and Amy Blanchard

Reflection Questions

  1. Has there ever been a time in your life when you felt very near to God?  What were the circumstances that brought you there?  Are you still there?  If not, why?
  2. Unfortunately, often we are closest to God when we are in dire circumstances.  What can you do to find/maintain that closeness with God in your everyday life?
  3. How did God show himself to you today?

How do you show up?

Old Testament Reading: Exodus 9 & 10
Psalms Reading: Psalm 33
New Testament Reading: Romans 3

I was struck by verses 3-5 of today’s reading in Psalm 33.

3 Sing to Him a new song;

Play skillfully with a shout of joy.

4 For the word of the Lord is upright,

And all His work is done in faithfulness.

5 He loves righteousness and justice;

The earth is full of the lovingkindness of the Lord. (NASB 1995)

Are we singing the same old song of praise to God? The thoughts that stirred in me when I read this passage were that we are on a journey of getting to know God and His word is His love letter to us. If we are open to it, He is gradually revealing the beauty of His character to us. His word is truly “alive and active” (Hebrews 4:12, NIV). 

Furthermore, verse 8 reminds us that we should fear Him and be standing in awe of Him!

8 Let all the earth fear the Lord;

Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. (NASB 1995)

If we think about everything God has done and who He is, can we even help but do that? Well, I do think about Moses though from the reading earlier in the week. He seemed to lose sight pretty quickly of the majesty of God and that was evident in the way he communicated with God. He was showing up on holy ground with filthy sandals. However, some self-reflection compels me that I sometimes show up with filthy sandals on and don’t always remember to render the reverence God is due.

The contrast between David and Moses keeps revisiting my mind and heart, so maybe that’s a message God really needs me to hear and maybe you do, too. How are you showing up before God? Are we signing a new song of praise that can only be fueled by an intentional quest of getting to know Him more intimately. Otherwise, we will keep singing the same old song in those same old dirty sandals.

-Kristy Cisneros

Reflection Questions:

  1. What are some new areas you can praise God in? 
  2. What new things have you learned about God’s character in this year’s reading so far that you could praise Him for?

The Weight of Unconfessed Sin

Old Testament Reading: Exodus 7 & 8
Psalms Reading: Psalm 32
New Testament Reading: Romans 2

The weight of unconfessed sin is heavy. Today’s passage in Psalm 32 helps us to see that unconfessed sin takes a spiritual, emotional and physical toll on us. David mentions that his body was wasting away under the burden of his unacknowledged sin.

Psalm 32

3 When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away

Through my groaning all day long.

4 For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me;

My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. Selah. (NASB 1995)

When we confess our sins to God and repent of them, God is faithful to forgive. Many times we can be like Adam and Eve clamoring to find our leaves to cover our shame and nakedness. It is futile to try and conceal our sin from an omniscient, omnipresent God.  

5 I acknowledged my sin to You,

And my iniquity I did not hide;

I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord”;

And You forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah. (NASB 1995)

I hope the admonition in verse 6 was not lost on you. 

6 Therefore, let everyone who is godly pray to You in a time when You may be found;

Surely in a flood of great waters they will not reach him. (NASB 1995)

This verse reminds me that we do not have unlimited time and opportunity to right our wrongs with the maker of the Universe. There will be a time when God can no longer be found, so if you are bearing the weight of unconfessed sin, what are you waiting for?

Romans 2 reminds us of some of the amazing attributes of God’s character: kindness, patience and tolerance. However, it also warns us not to take those attributes lightly.

4 Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? (NASB 1995)

Meditating on how amazing our Heavenly Father truly is and how much He loves us should compel us to repent and to reconcile with Him. However, we are not special and there is a limit to His kindness, tolerance and patience. He is also a God of justice. We read in verse 11 of Romans 2, “For there is no partiality with God.” (NASB 1995) The subsequent verses make it clear what the outcome will be if we remain stubborn and unrepentant.

5 But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 6 who will render to each person according to his deeds: 7 to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; 8 but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. (NASB 1995)

I would like to circle back to the Psalm 32 passage of how David’s unconfessed sin was causing his body to waste away.  We see a similar concept in Romans 2 and how our conscience accuses our thoughts and wears on us if we do not confess and repent of our wrongdoing. 

14 For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, 15 in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, 16 on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus. (NASB 1995)

It all comes down to our hearts. In verse 29 of Romans 2, we see that our circumcision should be of our hearts. If we are a people after God’s own heart like David, we will inevitably have ‘the work of the law written in our hearts’ and our priority will be pleasing God and not man. That means confessing our sins and returning back to God while He still may be found.

29 But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God. (NASB 1995)

-Kristy Cisneros

Reflection Questions:

  1. Are you currently bearing the burden of unconfessed sin? Enlist God’s help in confessing and freeing yourself of this burden. Go a step further and ask God to help you alter your course so that you aren’t falling into the same sin traps over and over that continue to get in the way of your relationship with God.
  2. In reflecting on your life, does it seem to show more of an effort toward pleasing man or pleasing God?
  3. What does God reveal about Himself in today’s Bible reading – and why does it matter?

What Kind of Dirt Are You?

Old Testament Reading: Genesis 23 & 24

Psalms Reading: Psalm 14

New Testament Reading: Matthew 13

Genesis 2:7 tells us, “Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”

In Genesis 3:18, God told Adam, “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”

What kind of dirt are you?

Many years ago, our family built a house.  Once construction was done, we needed to seed the yard so we could have a lawn.  I tilled the yard and raked it out.  My son Chris (who was about 4 at the time) and I then broadcast grass seed.  Some of the seeds fell on the driveway, some fell under spruce trees along our property line, and some (most) were scattered on dirt. We talked about which seeds we expected to grow, and why.  I then told Chris a story Jesus told, as recorded in Matthew 13, about a farmer who scattered seeds.

In Jesus’ story, there were four places the seeds fell.  The first seeds fell along the path, and birds ate them up.  Jesus explained in Matthew 13:19, “When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path.”

The second example of seeds fell on rocky places where there wasn’t much soil.  It sprang up quickly but then withered.  Jesus explained in Matthew 13: 20-21, “The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy.  But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.”

The third seed fell among thorns, that grew up and choked the seed.  Jesus explained in Matthew 13: 22, “The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.”  (Luke 8:18 also includes “pleasures” causing choking.)

The final seed fell on good soil.  Jesus explained in Matthew 13:23, “But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown.” 

In Jesus’ story, the seed was the good news about the Kingdom of God.  In each of these examples, the seed was good; the difference in productivity was because of the soil. So I’ll ask again, what kind of dirt are you?

Do you understand the magnitude of the good news about the Kingdom of God and what that means for you if you follow God wholeheartedly?

Are you easily discouraged in your Christian walk when difficulties arise?

Are you distracted from wholeheartedly following God by worries? Or pleasures? Or wealth? Or the good things this life has to offer?

Or are you bearing a crop for God?  And if you are, what does that look like?  Here are some examples:

  • Winning others to Christ (Romans 1:13)
  • Giving money to further God’s work (Romans 15:25-28)
  • Doing good works (Colossians 1:10)
  • Growing in Christian character (Galatians 5:22-23)
  • Continually offering a sacrifice of praise to God (Hebrews 13:15)

And if you are bearing a crop, how productive are you?  Are you bearing 100 times what was sown?  60 times? 30 times?  I think we all need to work on this.

In closing, since you’re just dirt, you might as well be the best dirt you can be.  Go bear much fruit.

-Steve Mattison

P.S. It was hard for me to decide what to focus on for today’s devotion.  Since I’ve previously written a devotion (How to get a Spouse) based on the Genesis 24 reading for today, I thought I’d focus on Matthew 13 instead.

Reflection Questions

  1. All four seed/dirt examples first required hearing the word. What are you doing to hear the word of God about the good news of His Kingdom?
  2. Examine your life – what type of dirt have you been previously and are you now? ON THE PATH -hears the message, doesn’t understand -evil one snatches it away ROCKY GROUND – no root – trouble and persecution – fall away IN THORNS – choked out by worries, deceitfulness of wealth and pleasures GOOD SOIL – hears and understands – produces a good crop
  3. What kind of dirt do you want to be? What will it require if you are currently a different type? What type of fertilizer and additives can you add to your dirt? What can be strained out and removed from your dirt to help you grow a better crop?
  4. What might Jesus have wanted us to learn about God, the ultimate giver of the Kingdom message, today?
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