What is your “blank?”

September 29, 2010

Be Still . . .
Devotionals for Daily Living
 ©

On that day there will be no light, no cold or frost. It will be a unique day, without daytime or nighttime–a day known to the LORD. When evening comes, there will be light.
On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem, half to the eastern sea and half to the western sea, in summer and in winter.
The LORD will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one LORD, and his name the only name.
(Zechariah 14:6-9 (NIV))

Is this what you pray for?

Zechariah described what this world will be like once God’s Kingdom comes down upon the earth. It will be a marvelously beautiful world. God will have remade it and everything will be absolutely perfect.

Can you picture yourself in this setting?

Does it sound idealic or does it sound boring?

Think about that last question. When you read the words written in Zechariah, did you find yourself thinking that it would be wonderful, but you hope that they have ____________ ? What is the one thing that you think you simply cannot live without? That is your “blank,” that is your sin.

We all have things that we think we cannot do without. To some people, these center around wealth. Others – power. Others focus on food, entertainment, or even frivolous activities such as video games or computer activities.

I want you to honestly think about that for a moment. For those who have held steadfast in their faith, we will find ourselves in a wonderful place and in the presence of God. Yet, we, as frail humanity, find ourselves thinking that this is not enough. We need our “blanks.” In my opinion, we may be breaking a commandment.

You shall have no other gods before me.
(Exodus 10:3 (NIV))

We must carefully watch our thoughts, for Satan is always trying to trick us into giving up our salvation. When we are promised heaven, he will slyly bring up things and make us think we cannot live without them.

Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”
(Matthew 16:23 (NIV))

Don’t let Satan use your “blank” to become your stumbling block. After all, whatever God has promised is far better than what man or Satan can bring.

Copyright 1998 – 2010 Dennis J. Smock
Daily Living Ministries, Inc.
http://www.dailylivingministries.org
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Is your religion worthless?

September 15, 2010

Be Still . . .
Devotionals for Daily Living
 ©

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
(Proverbs 15:1 (NIV))

Have you ever stopped to think about what your words produce? Do they turn away wrath or do they stir up anger?

We can all produce gentle words when the situation is not stressful and we can remain in control. What happens when the situation starts to get out of hand? What happens when someone cuts you off in traffic? What about the times when your spouse does something that seems to be a direct personal attack, even though it isn’t? What about any number of things that can happen throughout your day that can make your gentle words turn harsh? Sometimes it is not so easy to refrain from these words that stir up anger.

Even though it is difficult, we are given instructions to deal with one another in love and peace.

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
(Ephesians 4:1-3 (NIV))

Have you ever noticed that your words are like a magnet that attracts words that are similar. If you respond with harsh words, there is a very good chance that you will receive harsh words in return. If you respond with gentle words, the chance of receiving gentle words in return increases.

How would Jesus wish for you to respond? Think about what was written of in James.

If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.
(James 1:26 (NIV))

Could this mean that our harsh words prove our faith to be worthless? We must strive to follow Jesus in all things, even in the ways of our words.

Copyright 1998 – 2010 Dennis J. Smock
Daily Living Ministries, Inc.
http://www.dailylivingministries.org
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Do you put God to the test?

July 26, 2010

Be Still . . .
Devotionals for Daily Living
 ©

Jesus answered him, “It is also written: `Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ”
(Matthew 4:7 (NIV))

How many of us are guilty of doing exactly this?

Let’s face the truth, we all tell God things like, “If you will pay off my debts, I will give to the church,” or “If you will cure me, I will never do anything bad again.”

We are all guilty of doing the very thing that Jesus told us not to do. We test God with no intentions of fulfilling our part of the bargain. Has God ever given you what you ask for when you ask in this manner? He has even told us how we are to approach Him. He has told us what our priorities should be.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
(Matthew 6:33 (NIV))

Seek God first, and He will provide out of His abundance. Test God by asking for something from Him first, and He will respond in a way that you do not want.

Do you put God to the test, or do you seek His kingdom first?

Copyright 1998 – 2010 Dennis J. Smock
Daily Living Ministries, Inc.
http://www.dailylivingministries.org
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Beware deceptive words

July 16, 2010

Be Still . . .
Devotionals for Daily Living
 ©

But look, you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless.
(Jeremiah 7:8 (NIV))

Why do we trust in things that are not true?

Jeremiah spoke to the Israelites what God wanted him to say. Many people were doing exactly that – trusting in deceptive words. I honestly think that we, as a nation, are doing exactly the same thing as the nation of Israel did. We are putting our trust in things that we should not trust. We are doing things that we should not be doing. We are living our lives as if we were the ones who decide what is right and what is wrong.

This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: “Stand at the gate of the LORD’s house and there proclaim this message:
” `Hear the word of the LORD, all you people of Judah who come through these gates to worship the LORD. This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place. Do not trust in deceptive words and say, “This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD!” If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your forefathers for ever and ever.
(Jeremiah 7:1-7 (NIV))

Deceptive words!

How can we expect God to bless this nation, when we don’t bless God with what we hear and what we see? Think about that for a moment. Think about the history of Israel and hopefully you will see God’s truth about deception and turning to other gods. When Israel lost sight of who they worshipped and whose they were, the nation suffered. Only when they turned back to God did the nation prosper. In recent years, this nation has turned to deceptive words and ways, and now we are suffering. The world, and false gods, have taken over our society. People worship money, fame, power and many other things. Many still profess a faith in Jesus, but what is the priority when we sit in church and think about how we can make more money than the next person? Do thoughts about a new car, or a promotion, or a vacation find their way into your mind when you are in worship? Our deceptive words may be our own selfish thoughts and desires.

`Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, “We are safe”–safe to do all these detestable things? Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! declares the LORD.
(Jeremiah 7:9-11 (NIV))

We all like to place our trust in many things. We want to trust in the economy. We want to trust in government. We want to trust in our family. We seem to place our trust in things that are human in nature, and as such, are prone to fail. We say that we trust in God, yet, we are removing Him more and more from our lives. When we remove God, we are doing the very things that Jeremiah spoke to the Israelites about. We can’t live our lives without God and contrary to God, and then put on a smile and attend church and expect everything to be a blessing.

We need to turn to God and follow His leading.

If someone like Jeremiah came today to this nation, would we listen? Would we believe? It is my prayer that we do listen and we do believe. God gave us His Word to guide us. We aren’t listening to His word like we should.

What deceptive words do you need to let go of?

Copyright 1998 – 2010 Dennis J. Smock
Daily Living Ministries, Inc.
http://www.dailylivingministries.org
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What do you seek?

June 18, 2010

Be Still . . .
Devotionals for Daily Living
 ©

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
(Matthew 6:33 (NIV))

What is it that you seek? In our society, we have a tendency to seek after luxuries. I am not too certain that if we earnestly turn to God that He will give us the luxuries that we seek. All throughout the Bible there have been examples of people that God has blessed because they earnestly sought Him. There are also examples of people who devoted their lives to God and only had locusts and wild honey to show for it. Don’t get me wrong. John the Baptist was thoroughly blessed by God for his devotion. It was a blessing that we do not understand.

Matthew speaks not of luxuries, but of every day necessities such as food and clothing. God provides exactly what we need. Take another look at John the Baptist. He was blessed by God providing him the locusts and wild honey. I don’t think that we would consider that a blessing, but it truly was. It allowed John to preach repentance and not worry about what he would eat or what he would wear. God provided just what John needed.

There is an important concept. God provided just what was needed. He sent locusts and wild honey to John to sustain him. He also sent manna to the Israelites while they wandered in the desert. Even when they did not seek first His kingdom, He provided.

Take a look at all that you have. What do you seek first – more possessions or God’s Word? Life is ironic at times. When we seek after earthly security, it never comes. When we seek after God, He gives us Himself, His security, and all of the other things, too.

Seek after God’s kingdom and not the luxuries of this world. He will surprise you with what He does give you.

Copyright 1998 – 2010 Dennis J. Smock
Daily Living Ministries, Inc.
http://www.dailylivingministries.org
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Foolish controversies

June 17, 2010

Be Still . . .
Devotionals for Daily Living
 ©

But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless
(Titus 3:9 (NIV))

I have read this passage before, but tonight, it came across much differently than it has in the past.

I want everybody to think of these words and read Titus 3:9 once more.

“We can’t do that in this church. We have never done it that way before.”

Legalism, no matter how it is shrouded, is still legalism. We can adhere to the letter of God’s law or strive to fulfill the intent. We can fuss over enforcing man-made traditions in the church or we can embrace love and grace with open arms. We can be so strict about ritual or we can embrace the meaning that caused someone to start the ritual.

What controversies do you face in your walk of faith? Are they worth the time and the headache?

It is said that age brings rigidity and a desire to not change. We have a tendency to like continuity in our lives. If something breaks that continuity, we have a tendency to not accept the change. It is my prayer that each of us embrace whatever God may be sending our way, no matter how it may be coming to us.

I want you to think about something for a moment.

Imagine yourself as a devout Jew of the time that Jesus came to this earth. How many people were not willing to embrace what He came to teach? How many people shouted to stone Jesus, or how many shouted to crucify Him? Sometimes we must simply be open to what God is showing us in and through the change. The Pharisees and Sadducees missed the blessing and the grace because they were not willing to explore the possibility that God was moving amongst them in a way that did not fit their preconceived ideas.

How many of our “foolish controversies” are a result of our preconceived and rigid ways? I pray that we may be softened so that we do not burst when confronted with the “new wine” of Godly change.

Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.
(Matthew 9:17 (NIV))

Copyright 1998 – 2010 Dennis J. Smock
Daily Living Ministries, Inc.
http://www.dailylivingministries.org
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Are you a joyful giver?

May 24, 2010

Be Still . . .
Devotionals for Daily Living
 ©

Later they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to catch him in his words. They came to him and said, “Teacher, we know you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay or shouldn’t we?”
But Jesus knew their hypocrisy. “Why are you trying to trap me?” he asked. “Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” They brought the coin, and he asked them, “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?”
“Caesar’s,” they replied.
Then Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”
And they were amazed at him.
(Mark 12:13-17 (NIV))

Just what do you classify as belonging to God? Just what is it that you use as the basis for deciding what is Caesar’s and what is God’s?

That is a tough question. It was then, and it still is now.

Jesus attempted to answer this in a way that would be understood. If He were walking amongst us today, perhaps the response would be, “Whose fingerprint is on it? Is it part of man’s creation or is it God’s creation?”

Jesus knew full well that everything is God’s, yet He also knew that God’s creation can be used by man for his own desires. In these verses, we are told that money is to be used for man’s purposes.

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny.
Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything–all she had to live on.”
(Mark 12:41-33 (NIV))

Jesus also tells us that money is to be used for God’s purposes.

This brings us right back to the question about how do you determine what is Caesar’s and what is God’s. Could it be based on individual priorities? Could it be based on the fact that everything is God’s and we are simply stewards?

God gives us all that we need. Perhaps Jesus was simply telling those who asked this question that it is up to them how they respond. It could be that He was trying to remind them that God does provide all that we need and these types of questions simply show a lack of faith. These type of questions imply that we do not have enough faith to believe that God will provide all that we need even if we have to give to Caesar. Some people use this type of an argument to reason that they do not have enough to give to God.

We are told that the people were amazed with His answer. We do not know how they gave to Caesar and how they gave to God from that point forward, but I would venture to say that they never looked upon either one the same ever again.

Giving is a personal decision.

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written:
“He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor;
his righteousness endures forever.”
(2 Corinthians 9:6-9 (NIV))

Whatever you give to God, do it with joy in your heart. Do not give reluctantly, for a gift given in reluctance is not a true gift. It is actually more like a tax from Caesar. Who do you know that is joyful over paying taxes? Who do you know that is joyful over giving to God?

Do you have joy when you give?

Copyright 1998 – 2010 Dennis J. Smock
Daily Living Ministries, Inc.
http://www.dailylivingministries.org
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Clay in the hands of the potter

April 13, 2010

Be Still . . .
Devotionals for Daily Living
 ©

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.
(Matthew 23:25-26 (NIV))

Just what is the root cause of sin?

Is it what we see on the outside that is sinful? Can a person live in the midst of sin and still be righteous?

Is it what we see on the outside that makes someone righteous? Can a person live in the midst of righteousness and still be a sinner?

It is a matter of character. It is a matter of the inner desires of a person that will determine exactly how they react in any given situation. What is on the inside will make a person achieve righteousness even in the midst of sin. It is what will make a person sin even in the midst of righteousness.

All throughout history, people have tried to start with the outside and present a facade of righteousness when their hearts were sinful. Jesus knows the heart. He knows that what is on the outside does not always reflect what is on the inside. He knows that the heart harbors ulterior motives that are not always what they appear to be on the surface.

There is a saying that the true nature of a person comes out when they are far from home. Nobody will know them when they do the things that they truly desire to do. If you were far away from home and everyone around you was doing something sinful, how would you react? Would you join in or would you stay true to what you profess at home?

Yet, O LORD, you are our Father.
We are the clay, you are the potter;
we are all the work of your hand.
(Isaiah 64:8 (NIV))

In the days of Jesus, clay was used for making many things, including cups and other vessels. If we are the clay in the hands of the potter, are we clean in the eyes of God?

How is the inside that only God can see?

Copyright 1998 – 2010 Dennis J. Smock
Daily Living Ministries, Inc.
http://www.dailylivingministries.org
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Would he tell us any different?

March 26, 2010

Be Still . . .
Devotionals for Daily Living©

Can a man scoop fire into his lap
without his clothes being burned?
Can a man walk on hot coals
without his feet being scorched?
(Proverbs 6:27-28 (NIV))

Can a man associate with sin without falling into its trap?

Far too many think that they can do whatever they want without any repercussions. They think that they can stand on the edge without falling over. They think that they can live life in the fast lane without having an accident.

God told us very plainly that we are not capable of avoiding the repercussions of our actions even if we have no desire to fall into sin. Literally, we are not capable of holding flames without getting burned. We cannot live our lives as if God will protect us from the very things that we do. Professing a faith in Jesus and in God is not an open pass to do all of the things that we know we shouldn’t. Too many people believe that they can do whatever they want as long as they ask forgiveness. Is this truly a faith that follows what God desires?

But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
(John 8:1-11 (NIV))

Jesus did not tell the woman to not get caught or to be careful. He told her to “Go now and leave your life of sin.” Would he tell us any different?

Copyright 1998 – 2010 Dennis J. Smock
Daily Living Ministries, Inc.
http://www.dailylivingministries.org
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God’s vision

March 15, 2010

Be Still . . .
Devotionals for Daily Living©

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
(1 Samuel 16:7 (NIV))

What does God see when He looks at you?

Is it what you think it is?

I know that these are tough questions to be asking yourself, but in all honesty, they are questions that we need to ask ourselves on a regular basis. The words to Samuel were spoken by God long before He sent His Son, Jesus, yet they still hold true today. Even though we can call upon the name of Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior, we still have to have a pure heart. If we profess a faith in Jesus that is not sincere and true, we have simply fulfilled these words.

“Not everyone who says to me, `Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, `I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
(Matthew 7:21-23 (NIV))

Outward appearances can be deceiving. We can act righteous and have an evil heart. We can be at church every time the doors open, yet, not hold true to the precepts that Jesus taught us.

Have you stopped to look at your heart? Are you afraid of what you will see? Are you hiding from the truth with respect to what is truly in your heart?

Fortunately, we can turn to God in honesty and sincerity. We can turn away from what we are hiding in our hearts and allow the atoning blood of Jesus to cleanse us so that God will truly see a clean heart.

What does God see when He looks at you?

Copyright 1998 – 2010 Dennis J. Smock
Daily Living Ministries, Inc.
http://www.dailylivingministries.org
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