overcoming sin


Misery will come to the one who lures people away into sin. ... If your hand clings to sin, cut it off and throw it away. If your foot continually steps onto sin’s path, cut it off and throw it away. ... And if your eye is always focusing on sin, pluck it out and throw it away. [Matthew 18:7,8,9 TPT]


Some have interpreted Jesus' words literally.
Sharia law even commands that the hands of thieves be cut off.
These totally miss the point of what Jesus is teaching.

Using hyperbolic language Jesus exaggerates to make the point that sin is serious.
I think that our actions would be different if we saw sin the way that our Lord saw it.
The truth is that sin damages not only us but the fabric of society as a whole.

Perhaps heaven can be described as a place that is absent of sin?
Going with that it seems that might be one way for the heavenly kingdom to come.
Maybe that is an aspect that we should keep in mind when we pray?

The phenomena of temptation is one that is common to everyone.
We all have weak areas where temptation is the hardest to overcome.
In a sense, we yield to temptation when our outer being is stronger than our inner being.

So the onus is on us to do the things that make our innermost being strong.
The challenge is to deny ourselves, pick up our cross and follow Christ.
Each time that we do, we strengthen and exercise our innermost being.

Lord help me to feed and exercise my innermost being today.


... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.

kingdom humility


“Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” ... "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. [Matthew 18:3-4 ESV]


Children are the most vulnerable of all humans - they are the most innocent.
Their faith is simple - they have a genuine trust of others.
These are humble - their faith in God is something to be emulated.

A hallmark of a great culture is the way that it treats children.
How we treat children says much about us and the society we live in.
And the Lord tells us that there are severe consequences of causing harm to children.

In contrast, adult human beings, like the disciples, are all about "who is the greatest".
The demeanor of pride filled adults is in stark contrast to the humility of children.
Perhaps pride is the sin that Jesus warns his disciples about?

I wonder if our exodus from childlikeness is all about the road from humility to pride?
And maybe the aging process is a journey from the heart to the head?
In the end, Jesus tells us that the road to greatness is maintaining a childlike humility.

I repent of pride Lord. Help me to be like a child.


... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.

blessed taxes


Jesus asked him, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the world collect fees or taxes? Is it from their family members or from other people?” [Matthew 17:25 GW]

In April tax returns will be due here in the United States.
Over the years I have encountered Christians who believe that they do not have to pay taxes.
Can't really remember their rationale but they were pretty firm in their beliefs.

The truth is that many begrudgingly pay taxes.
These look for every single legal (and I used that term loosely) deduction they are entitled to.
I think taxes have always been an unpopular reality.

Even back in Jesus' day people hated to pay taxes.
Interesting how Jesus addresses the inequities of the tax code back then.
Apparently it was common knowledge that some (i.e. royal family members) did not pay taxes.

This sounds a lot like folks today who use loopholes in the tax code to evade taxes.
Jesus later tells Peter that he should pay the tax to simply not offend the taxing authority.
He did not see himself as one above the law.

Amazing how he paid the tax using a shekel found in the mouth of a fish.
I mean really. How did he know that fish had a shekel?
Perhaps it is an object lesson for us who believe?

I wonder if the fish represents God's blessings of those who are faithful to pay taxes?
In reality taxes are simply our civil tithe to those who keep our streets and our nations safe.
Perhaps our attitude should be one of thankfulness for those who tangibly serve us?

My trust is in you Lord. Help my attitude to be one of gratitude when I pay taxes.


... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.

a greatly distressing message


As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.” And they were greatly distressed. [Matthew 17:22-23 ESV]

The gospel is a greatly distressing message.
Just consider what happened in the hours preceding the death of Jesus.
My heart breaks when I consider what happened to God's only Son.

He was delivered to the religious and governmental leaders of that time.
He was given a mock trial and declared guilty of blasphemy by religious leaders.
The 'Men of God' should have known better.

He was delivered to two leaders (Pilate and Herod) who treated him with unspeakable violence.
He was then sentenced to death and nailed to a cross on a Friday.
The gospel is a greatly distressing message.

Yet the message was turned on its head on Sunday morning.
In a single stroke of the miraculous, God would not let the cross be the last word.
Jesus was raised from the dead and appeared to his disciples in an immortal body.

Reams have been written about the resurrection and still many do not believe.
Perhaps these cannot get past the distressing message of the cross?
Perhaps the resurrection is too wonderful to embrace?

Thank you Lord that the cross was not the last word. Praise you Jesus.


... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.

seed-like faith


The disciples said, “Why could we not cast it out?” He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” [Matthew 17:19-20 ESV]

This can be a difficult passage if one interprets Jesus' words to his disciples literally.
Many read these words and do not understand that Jesus is speaking in a hyperbolically.
The imagery of seeds and mountains paints a picture about the role of faith in prayer.

In my view, he is not speaking about what we say but about what we pray.
In a few words he teaches us that great obstacles can be removed when we pray.
The message of this passage is that even the smallest of faith can be effectual.

The fact of the matter is that God is the only one who can remove mountainous obstacles.
Consequently, I think that he must always be the focus of our faith and of our prayers.
When we pray our desire should first be to see the coming of his kingdom and will on earth.

If our faith, even great faith, is directed in any other direction it will fall short.
Yet if our small seed-like faith is focused on God it will accomplish much.
Obstacles to our spiritual growth will be moved and nothing will be impossible in prayer.

Help me to stay focused on you Lord - in difficult times and in ones not so hard.


... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.