See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse—the blessing if you obey the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today; the curse if you disobey the commands of the Lord your God and turn from the way that I command you today by following other gods.
Chapter 11 is a constant reminder for obedience. We see multiple reminders to be careful – which to me shows how easy it is mess up. If we are not paying attention we can easily fall.
The Israelites are about to finally leave the wilderness and go into the land that was promised. Before entering they are given some instruction to help them not fall away like those before them. It was focused on obedience to the law and commands that were being given to them.
We often think of obedience as a restriction from the things we would like to do. But here we are reminded that God desires blessing for us and those blessings are for those who make the choice of obedience.
Obedience isn’t just knowing God or about his commands. It is making the choice to follow them. Making the choice to have them be a priority in your life. Surrounding yourself with reminders to do what is right so you are not tempted to fall away.
It is a choice! We are not forced to do anything. God did not create humans as robots. He gave us the choice to obey or not. We make a choice everyday and that choice is tied together with love. If we love God we will obey him!
Those that love God will obey God. Those that obey God will be blessed by God.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
When have you experienced God’s blessings for obedience?
Can you think of a time you may have experienced God’s punishment or curses because of a time of disobedience?
What have you seen of God’s power and might with your own eyes? How can you pass this along to those younger than you who did not experience what you did? Why is that important to do?
Jesus is at it again. Back in Matthew 5 we discussed how Jesus didn’t abolish the Old Testament but he breathed new life into the old laws with his teachings. The most important thing wasn’t following the letter of the law but having the heart of Jesus – adding love. Here in Matthew 12 the Pharisees are upset that Jesus’ disciples picked some heads of grain to eat when they were hungry on the Sabbath. Picking some grains is a lot like harvesting and harvesting is work and work is not allowed on the Sabbath. The Pharisees loved nit-picking the law, making it really hard for anyone to succeed in following the law, thus finding fault in everyone else, which they thought made themselves look better. Their microscopic vision into the smallest detail of the law took the focus off of the big picture – how are you doing at being God’s people. The law had been given by God to create a healthy, righteous people devoted to God and kind to others. But this extreme fascination with catching everyone’s slightest mistake was not healthy, righteous, kind, or pleasing to God. Instead of the law being used to make a holy people for God, it was being used to divide and tear down and pull people further from their love for God. The law was good. Their use of it was not. It wasn’t time to throw away the law. It was time to add love.
The purpose of the Sabbath was to put time (a whole day) aside to stop busyness and focus on rest, worship and loving God. It was given as a gift by a gracious and loving God who knew what people would do if they didn’t take time to rest and refocus. He knew all healthy relationships take time and this was the perfect opportunity to add a date day with God on the calendar – every week. A mini-vacation with God and family every 7th day. It’s a great way to create a spiritually, mentally, physically healthy people for God. But the benefits dwindled when the Pharisees turned it into a legalistic checklist of don’t do this and don’t do that.
Jesus wisely gave the Old-Testament-loving Pharisees two examples from the Scriptures of cases where the Sabbath regulations were broken by Godly people doing Godly things, and God didn’t strike them down dead. In fact, He seemed to approve of the exceptions to the rule. Likewise, Jesus is confident God also approved of him healing, doing good and helping others on the Sabbath.
In calling himself the Lord of the Sabbath, Jesus wasn’t saying he was the Lord of something that ought to be thrown out because it had outlived its usefulness. No. He recognized the worth of the Sabbath AND the good that could be done during a day devoted to God. It wasn’t about a checklist and Sabbath day spies making sure you aren’t breaking the law. It is about a day to focus on God, your relationship with Him and the good that He wants you to do for Him. It is a day devoted to loving God and loving others to help us refocus and build our spiritual muscles to take us through the next 6 days doing His will in love.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
Does your week generally include a Sabbath day of rest and devotion to God? If so, what does it usually look like? What do you appreciate most about it? Do you do it more for what you gain from it, or to please God? (either answer is legitimate). If you don’t normally include a Sabbath rest on your calendar, do you see value in trying a Sabbath rest? How might it look different from your typical day? What would be challenging about making this change? What benefits might you expect to see?
Re-read Matthew 12:33-37. This week have you been producing good fruit or bad fruit? How so? What about your words? Why do you think your words are so important – at least one of the things you will be judged by? Do you find it easier to say the right thing or do the right thing? Were there any words you said recently that you wouldn’t want Jesus to repeat to you on judgment day? How can we stop careless words which will get us into trouble?
Jesus welcomes us as a part of his family, if we do what? (Matthew 12:50) On a scale of 1-10 how are you doing in this area? What could you do today to boost your score? What benefits are there for those who are in Jesus’ family?
de·vo·tion | \ di-ˈvō-shən (noun) – 1. a feeling of strong love or loyalty; 2. the use of time, money, energy, etc., for a particular purpose 3. prayer, worship, or other religious activities that are done in private.
So it begins. A new year, a new beginning! (but in reality, pretty much the same as yesterday, just with a couple minutes more or less daylight than the surrounding days depending on which hemisphere you live in.) As anticipated, we are beginning a new set of readings for this year! Yay! Today it begins with Matthew 1, which goes through the family tree of Jesus through the line of his father, Joseph., and the DM from God about Jesus. It is a showcase of how God has been devoted to his people, Israel, faithfully moving generation-to-generation, literally or metaphorically, to begin the path of Jesus Christ and the redemption of us who follow Him. In so doing, God displays his devotion to us; His love, His use of time, and the pouring out of His holy blessing. Because of this, we should do nothing less than be devoted to Him in the same manner (John 4:19). What does it mean to be devoted to God? Today, we look at the three definitions for the word devotion to gain a clearer picture of how we can remain faithful, not only to reading God’s word this year, but drawing closer to Him through this daily activity.
When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus. – Matthew 1:24-25
1. A Strong Love or Loyalty – On our very best days, we seek God in every aspect of our day. We plan alongside Him; we move with Him; and it is because we love Him and desire to do His will. But then there are other days where we are faithful and devoted to Him, and our flighty human nature begins to tug. Those days, usually Mondays, we are in a place of love, but not necessarily acting on a response. We still must find the will to be faithful, true, and loyal, because God is still in these moments forgiving, restoring, healing, and moving us. Devote yourself to reading the Word of God throughout this year. Hopefully, in this blog. Follow, share, and do His will in this manner and your relationship with Him will grow stronger.
Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah. – Matthew 1:17
2. The Use of Time for a Particular Purpose – It is obvious from reading the genealogy in Matthew 1 that God uses time precisely. This may be used as evidence that God had created a family tree from Adam to Second Adam, Jesus, before the creation of the world. He set them apart. There is no doubt that setting aside time for a particular purpose has its perks. Christians have been doing it for centuries, coming together at the same time and location to worship God. In doing this, the weekly life of the family or individual is governed by their meeting as a body of believers, “Sorry, we can’t do that because we have church.” In the same manner, your individual time of worship and devotion with God should govern each of your days, not simply be the remaining portions. Set aside time that doesn’t have distractions, doctor’s appointments, or drudgery. This is time only for you and God.
Because Joseph, her husband, was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. – Matthew 1:19-20
3. Religious Activities Done in Private – Joseph wanted to “put away” Mary privately instead of humiliating her in public because he was faithful. WHAT?! He was faithful to the law and the customs of His people, which many of us often confuse with the Will of God. It is also in private that Joseph receives a direct message – God’s will is moving in a much different direction and will change the foundation and fulfillment of the Law. Being devoted to God is not solely in the public display, although the symbols of baptism and communion are important public, visible representations that acknowledge our walk with Christ. Before giving us the model prayer in Matthew 6, Jesus discourages us from making our prayer, devotion, and fasting times something that we draw attention to because when we do, we draw attention to ourselves. It is welcome, and highly encouraged, that you read these devotions alongside someone you know, but it’s not to showcase your devoutness, or to shout in the streets your sufferings for Christ, or to display your streaks. There will be time to declare your faith and testimony in public, but it is guided by what is done behind the closed doors of those who are devoted.
QUESTIONS TO PONDER/DISCUSS –
you may pick and choose your favorites
In this chapter we see several names for the baby born. What names do you find in verses 1, 16, 21, 23, 25 (some are repeated) and what is the significance and meaning of each? Footnotes may be helpful. What will help us remember the importance of these names?
Which definition of devotion do you feel you are doing the best with right now? Which one could use a little work? What would your family, friends, neighbors say you are devoted to? Better yet – what would God say you are devoted to?
The angel told Joseph in a dream, “Do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife…” (Matthew 1:20). Think about what God may be wanting you to do today, this week, this month, this year. It might go against your natural tendencies or the customs of the land. It may be something that causes you fear and some anxiety. Pray for the direction and follow-through to step out in devotion to God and be an active part of His plans for redemption.
Many people find great benefit from the practice of journaling – often writing down thoughts, questions, feelings, quotes helps them stick a little better. You may enjoy daily writing out a verse from each chapter. You can either write out the verse pictured with each devotion, or when reading through the day’s chapter look for a special verse that you want to write down to take with you through the day.
The link to read today’s chapter, Matthew 1, on BibleGateway.com is now at the top, directly below the title and picture.
And here’s the reading plan for the year to print and mark your progress. Looking forward to Seeking Growing and Loving together with you in 2022! God has good things in store for those who seek Him!
Today we are looking at 2 Corinthians 13 and Paul is writing to the people of Corinth, even though he has already visited them twice but still they are unable to perform the will of God and be faithful righteous believers. In verse 11 Paul writes “Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice!…” We see that even though the Corinthians have all of these issues in their lives he calls them “brothers and sisters” because he loves them so very much that they are family to him.
“Strive for full restoration.” Paul wants us to be the best version of ourselves. I was just recently baptized and I have been working on restoring my relationship with God. As Kyle McClain said this past week at General Conference everything takes time, and the longer we go without praying and reading our Bible the farther we stray from God. Love God and trust in him and he will guide you. And closing with verse 14 – “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”
This week we will get the pleasure of hearing from some new SeekGrowLove writers – and some not so new, too. Samuel is a high school student I enjoyed spending some time with at FUEL and General Conference. Thank you for writing, Samuel! Congratulations on your recent baptism! It will be fun watching God guide you as you continue seeking Him and striving for full restoration!
On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. Matthew 2:11
‘Tis the season to be giving gifts. Like the Wise Men from long ago, we present our loved ones with gifts each Christmas. The gifts that were brought before the young Messiah, held great significance. The gold was representative of Jesus’ kingship. The incense points to Jesus’ priesthood. And the myrrh was an indication of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. All three were costly. All three were given as an act of worship.
But what about the gifts that we bring to the Messiah? What is it that you and I have that can be presented to the Prince of Peace? I can think of another trio of gifts that would be pleasing:
Acts of service
Acts of devotion
Acts of faith
I may not have gold to give, but I can serve. The two greatest commandments are to love God and love people. How we choose to do that on a daily basis are acts of service. When we put ourselves in a position of lifting others up, we are making an offering that is pleasing in God’s sight.
I may not have incense to give, but I can be devoted. We are instructed to love God with ALL of our heart, and with ALL of our soul, and with ALL of our mind, and with ALL of our strength. When we stop holding back and finally submit to our Lord all that we are, the good, the bad, and the ugly, we position ourselves to be forgiven by the great High Priest.
I may not have myrrh, but I can be faithful. When circumstances don’t make sense; when we are in a season of loss; when we have given every last effort, when we don’t know what else to do, we can still be faithful and trust in the One who gave himself for each one of us.
Friends, whether today is a day that you can be surrounded by those you love or you’re in a place where your heart is hurting (maybe it’s a combination of the two), know this: whatever you have, your joys and your sorrows, out of your wealth and your poverty, in your health and in your illness, the gifts you bring will be treasured beyond measure.
Hi! I’m Blair and this week I want to focus on what we are called to do for others and how we should go about these tasks.
Which commandment is the greatest, this was a question that the pharisees asked Jesus, but they were not expecting his answer. (Mark 12:28-34) Jesus gave us our two greatest commandments, love God with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your mind, and all your strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.
This doesn’t mean the other commandments are null and void but they can all be encompassed under the simple phrase, love God and love people. Jesus shows us this countless times, he shows compassion to everyone! Regardless of who they are, or what they do, by doing this he is a living example of God’s love. We should take after his example and show kindness to people, and through this show God’s love.
Deuteronomy 30: 15-20 has become one of my most often used passages. It is talking about our decision and the true choices we have. I think these verses need be used in all of our decisions. Deut. 30:15-20 “See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity; in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the Lord your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it. But if your heart turns away and you will not obey, but are drawn away and worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall surely perish. You will not prolong your days in the land where you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess it. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.”
These are the choices that God has set before us “life and prosperity, or death and adversity”, is that a difficult choice. Who would willingly say, I would like more death and adversity in my life. But we are saying that when we choose to live in a way that is anti-God. When we choose to go against the will of God, we choose those things. Then he says, the Lord wants to bless us in our lives, but he only blesses us when we choose to love Him and walk in His ways and follow His commands. But all of His commands are for our own good and leads to a much better way of life. It’s not really a hard choice but it is one that we have to make everyday! Choose Life – the choice is ours but there’s really no comparison, and we can ask ourselves which one leads to the best results. There is only one choice that makes sense.
The rest of this week we are talking about living life ON PURPOSE – the way God intended. Choosing God-given targets (not the fake worldly targets that keep popping up in our way), and then pursuing those goals with everything we have – both individually, as well as with the church body.
If you took the opportunity to read the passages at the end of yesterday’s post (Matthew 22:36-40, Matthew 28:18-20 and Acts 2:41-47), you read the Great Commandment(s), the Great Commission, and a brief description of the Early Church – great reading for sure. In Rick Warren’s book, Purpose Driven Church, he recounts the work done at his church to create and live by a great purpose statement. After much study of God’s Word they boiled it down to this slogan: “A Great Commitment to the Great Commandment and the Great Commission will grow a Great Church.” (p. 103).
Today let’s dive into just the first part of the Great Commandment passage. A Pharisee tested Jesus, asking him what is the greatest commandment? Jesus replied – quoting Deuteronomy: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.” (Matt 22:37-38). And, so living our life to love God should be our first and greatest priority. What does this look like? When we love something/someone we revere it and hold it up. We spend time with what we love. We seek out ways to honor those people and things we love. We put up on a pedestal those we love – and in God’s case – he fully deserves this and much more. We call this WORSHIP!
Worship is defined as, “the feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for a deity”. I like that the definition includes not just feeling it – but showing it. Our church worship services ought to be great places for us to be active, engaged, thoughtful, giving, speaking, singing participants in worship. But, if that is the only time we are worshipping we are falling far short of our God-given purpose of worship.
Many examples of worship can be found throughout the book of Psalms. Go ahead, pick a chapter or two and look for instances of worship – as well as why God is worthy to be worshipped. Just a few examples are: “I will PRAISE you, O LORD, with all my heart; I will TELL of all your wonders.” (Psalm 9:1), “OFFER right sacrifices…” (Psalm 4:5), “WAIT for the Lord…” (Psalm 27:14). “I PRAY to you, O LORD” (Psalm 69: 13). “I will PRAISE God’s name in SONG and GLORIFY him with THANKSGIVING.” (Psalm 69:30).
This is all well and fine when we FEEL like praising God – when the sun is shining and we are on top of His world. But, what about those days when the clouds are out and we are discouraged or feel God is silent or playing hide and seek with us. Our feelings don’t change the first and greatest commandment – to LOVE God. Our circumstances don’t change our first and greatest priority – to WORSHIP God.
Psalm 13 is a perfect example for us when we are stuck in the cloudy day mentality. David feels forgotten by God, he is wrestling with dark thoughts and a heavy heart, he feels he has been trampled down by his enemies/life. Yet, he ends the short Psalm with this: “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me.” (Psalm 13:5-6). God is worthy of our worship – all the time …. And all the time – God is worthy of our worship.
I have been asked many times during my trips if we have to worship in the chapel. Or, which chapel is the right place to worship. The word they use in the Philippines came from the Spanish priests. “Simbahan”. “Simba” means worship and “han” means place. So naturally they assume the building is the place to worship. Read Genesis 22:1-12 and notice in many translations verse 5 says Abraham worshipped on Mount Moriah.
And what did he do there? Sacrifice. This makes us think of sacrifice as worship. In fact what we sacrifice for God is our worship to him. It’s that we should worship God as we love God. With all of our being and available resources.
This is one of my favorite chapters. I will explain why shortly; first, I want to point out that this chapter talks about living to please God. Verse 1 not only asks, but urges us in the Lord Jesus to please God more and more. It says to control our bodies in a way that is holy and honorable. We are told to love each other. It seems like I have heard that before? How about in Mark 12:30-31 New International Version (NIV) where it says:
30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
If we follow those commandments, we will please God. And if it is mentioned more than once, it must be important.
Now the reason this is one of my favorite chapters is because it speaks about the sleep of the dead. It says that one day Jesus will return and those who have fallen asleep have hope. We have HOPE! Hope of what you ask? Hope of meeting the Lord in the air and being with Him and God FOREVER! Verse 18 says to encourage each other with these words. So I tell you encourage each other that we will be able to live for eternity with not only other believers but also God and Jesus.
Tomorrow we will talk about the last chapter of 1st Thessalonians, Chapter 5.