90 Second Devotional | December 15

Welcome to my goofy attempts to have Advent devotionals with my busy college students who now live in 3 different cities…

And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.) And he blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!” And Abram gave him a tenth of everything.

Genesis 14:18-20

Melchizedek is an interesting figure who first appears in Genesis chapter 14. At this point in history, Abram had just rescued his nephew Lot from Chedorlaomer, one of many kings who had gone to battle against the king of Sodom. After the victory, Abram goes to meet the king of Sodom in a valley when he is approached by Melchizedek, who is is described as the king of Salem, a priest of the Most High God. Melchizedek brings out bread and wine, blesses Abram, and Abram gives him a tenth (or tithe) of all he has.

Now if we look at these terms, Melchizedek in Hebrew literally means “my king is righteous.” Salem, or sha-lame in Hebrew, is obviously related to shalom – peace. So we have my king is righteous, king of peace, priest of the Most High God.

Psalm 110 also mentions Melchizedek and is considered by many be a Messianic psalm. It says in verse four: “The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, ‘You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.'” The writer of Hebrews, in chapter 7, also mentions Melchizedek and digs into the meanings behind the names among other things.

But what I want to look at is the fact that this king – my king is righteous, King of Peace – offered bread and wine to Abram.

I can’t help but think of Jesus, who at the Last Supper, took the bread, broke it after giving thanks, passed it around, and said, “Take and eat; this is my body;” and He took the cup of wine and blessed it, saying, “This is my blood of the covenant, poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (see Matthew 26:26-28, et al). He ordered us to do this in remembrance of Him.

Our King is righteous, and He has done so much for us. It’s my prayer that you will know Him as your King of Peace, the King who is righteous, this holiday season and forever after.

90 Second Devotional | December 14

Welcome to my goofy attempts to have Advent devotionals with my busy college students who now live in 3 different cities…

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. . 

Micah 5:2

Micah 5:2 records yet another prophecy of the Messiah. In it, His birthplace is declared – a town called Bethlehem. In Hebrew, בֵּית לֶ֫חֶם means House of Bread. It’s fascinating to me that the Lord would be born in a town by this name because in John 6:35, Jesus refers to Himself as the Bread of Life.

And He is the Bread that nourishes, sustains, and makes eternal life possible. All other bread gives only temporary sustenance. He alone can satisfy entirely and eternally.

Interestingly enough, John 6:22-59 records one of the most difficult teachings Jesus gave to the people, in part because it was incredibly offensive. There’s a lot behind His talk of eating His flesh and drinking His blood – much more than I can go over in the space of 90 seconds. For brevity’s sake, think about the old saying, “You are what you eat.”

If we literally take the life of Jesus into ourselves, letting Him be our source of life and let His life become the driving force of our own lives – literally letting Him transform us to be more like Him – I believe that’s the gist of what He was saying. Many people left Him after this and just walked away.

My question to you today is this: what do you do with the hard teachings of Jesus? Do you scoff and turn away? Or do you, like Peter in verse 68, say, “Lord, to whom should we go? You have the word of eternal life…”

85 Second Devotional | December 12

Welcome to my goofy attempts to have Advent devotionals with my busy college students who now live in 3 different cities.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given. . . and his name shall be called. . . Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6

Peace is something that seems elusive to most of us in the modern world. After all, we can hardly escape the constant barrage of information, and most of us are now so accustomed to the incessant yammering of the media that we don’t even pay attention.

Another scandal involving high-ranking officials? Of course.

Government corruption exposed yet no one serves jail time. Naturally.

We’ve come to expect chaos, even embrace it. But the expectation comes at a cost. The US consistently ranks #1 or #2 for anxiety, depression, and substance abuse despite being the most affluent nation in the world. Money, it seems, does not buy us peace.

Sadly, as a nation we’ve rejected the Prince of Peace. Fewer Americans each year identify as Christian and of those who do, even fewer actually read the Bible or follow the teachings of the Christ they claim to serve. A 2019 Lifeway research study found evangelicals are far more likely to use social media daily than read their Bibles.

Yet in chapter 26, Isaiah writes, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock” (Isaiah 26:3-4).

We lack peace because we no longer truly trust in the Prince of Peace. But we can choose to change this. Will you?

60 Second Devotional | December 10

Welcome to my goofy attempts to have Advent devotionals with my busy college students who now live in 3 different cities…

. . .and his name shall be called. . . Mighty God, Everlasting Father. . .

Isaiah 9:6

In Isaiah 9:6, the Messiah is also called, “Mighty God, Everlasting Father.” It’s interesting that many skeptics today claim Jesus never pretended to be God. And they’re right – He didn’t pretend. He knew it, He stated it, and He proved it.

In John 8, Jesus is teaching at the temple, and His teachings about being slaves to sin rubs some people wrong. They push back, calling Him a Samaritan (which would have been insulting to a Jewish man) and accusing Him of having a demon. In a bizarre refutation that they’ve ever been slaves, they invoke Abraham as their father.

To this, Jesus replies that Abraham saw His day come and was glad. This brings on jeers, and Jesus makes the bold claim, “Before Abraham was, I am.”

Jeers turned to rage as the crowd attempted to stone Him. They knew He was referring to Exodus 3:14 and making a claim to Divinity.

Another time, Jesus is at the Feast of Dedication being questioned at the temple by a crowd demanding to know if He is the promised Messiah. He tells them, “I and the Father are one,” but they are also discontent with His answer (see John 10:22-33).

But Jesus not only claimed divinity, He proved it. He lay down His life down but also took it up again, precisely as He promised He would do in John 10:18.

60 Second Devotional | December 9

Welcome to my goofy attempts to have Advent devotionals with my busy college students who now live in 3 different cities…

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor. . .

Isaiah 9:6

Today we are going to linger in Isaiah 9 and look at verse 6, specifically the prophecy that Messiah would be called Wonderful Counselor.

And Jesus is this Wonderful Counselor, though the advice He gives is very different from what you’ll get in the rest of the world. We are surrounded by advice to follow our hearts, to do what makes us happy, to live our truth, and all kinds of advice that sounds good on the surface. But anyone who’s tried to keep this advice, like I once did, will eventually end up feeling empty, unfulfilled, and even despondent.

The counsel Jesus gives is different. in the sermon on the mount, He warns us against laying up for ourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal, but advises us instead to store treasure in heaven where it will be secure.

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Matthew 6:19-21

When we invest in a world that is doomed to pass away, we make a poor investment. But when we invest in Jesus and His eternal kingdom, our investment will pay dividends for all eternity.

60 Second Devotional | December 8

Isaiah 9 contains one of the most well-known prophecies of the coming Messiah. It offers hope in a broken and often terrifying world. This verse is near the beginning:

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.

Isaiah 9:2

Did you know the Hebrew word translated “deep darkness” here is צַלְמָוֶת [tsalmâveth], the same word translated “shadow of death” in Psalm 23:4?

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Psalm 23:4

The word carries connotations of darkness and terror, danger, and yes, death.

The truth is, our world is filled with darkness, danger, terror, and death. Scripture tells us we are dead in our sins, which is why Jesus came. Because He is fully God, His life is worth far more than any created being. Because He is fully man, His willing death alone can repair the breach between God and man caused by sin.

That’s why He is the only Way to God. He is the Light which came into this world of deep darkness.

60 Second Devotional | December 7

Welcome to my goofy attempts to have Advent devotionals with my busy college students who now live in 3 different cities…

Psalm 22 is a known Messianic prophecy and one Jesus quoted the first few words of from the cross: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? ( see Psalm 22:1, Matthew 27:26).

Keep reading the psalm and you’ll see prophecies that He will be scorned, despised, and mocked (v 6-7). Verse 8 is an accurate prediction of what was said about Jesus while He hung on the cross, which is recorded in Matthew 27:43 where the chief priests and elders mocked, “He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God’ (Matthew 27:43).

The psalm also describes Him as being surrounded by evil men, having His strength dried up, being pierced, having his garments divided and lots cast for His clothing – all of which happened during the crucifixion. You can read the accounts in Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, and John 19.

But what I love is the way the song ends in hope: They shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn, that he has done it (Psalm 22:30-31).

He has done it. He has come. He will come again.

60 Second Devo | December 6

You have said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one;
    I have sworn to David my servant:
I will establish your offspring forever,
    and build your throne for all generations.”

Psalm 89:3-4

There are several places throughout the Scriptures recording God’s promise to David that a ruler would come from his line who would reign forever. That promise was fulfilled in Jesus – the King of kings and Lord of lords who has established God’s eternal Kingdom.

But look around you. It doesn’t yet look like a Kingdom of peace and justice has come yet, does it? That’s because God sent the King first in a sort of covert operation (to borrow from C.S. Lewis), cloaked in humility. His plan was not to coerce or subdue, but to woo because God desires to share genuine love, not to merely conquer and control. Thus, Jesus experienced being human while modeling the humility and trust He wants from us.

The Kingdom begins in breaking the chains of sin, requiring humility and trust. But make no mistake – Jesus will come again, next time in His power to fully establish His Kingdom.

For those of us who love Him enough to be despised for His sake now, just as He once was for our sake, that Day will be the ultimate victory. For those who ignore Him, mistrust Him, mock Him, or reject Him, that day will be a terror. But He waits to give all of us a chance – to give all of us a choice.

Choose wisely.

Like Trees Walking

And [Jesus] took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when He had spit on His eyes and laid His hands on him, He asked him, “Do you see anything?” And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.”

Mark 8:23-24, ESV

Healing the Blind

I love the Gospel accounts of Yeshua (Jesus) healing the blind because I know He’s in the same business today. For any who are willing, my Lord still heals spiritual blindness – a blindness far more profound than the mere absence of sight. Of all the blind men He healed, the one that resonates most with me is the healing recorded in Mark 8:22-25.

Distorted Vision

Mark’s account is singular in that Yeshua’s healing did not seem to “take” at first. This unnamed fellow’s sight did not immediately return. Instead, he began to see in stages, and his first glimpse of the world offered a distorted image of reality.

I can relate because I also began to see in stages after the Lord first touched me. He did not heal the abysmal spiritual darkness in me all at once. Instead, my first glimpses of the real world remained distorted by the lens of secular humanism I first embraced as a teenager.

The humanist worldview led me to view life as a silly option and death as the more logical choice. The more I saw through this murky lens, the darker life grew until blackness reigned unchallenged.

Worldview Breakdown

Secular humanism provides insufficient answers to questions of mankind’s purpose and meaning. Their efforts to touch these concepts lead in circles, much like Pooh and Piglet following their own tracks in the snow.

In adulthood, questions began to buffet me in the thick darkness of my chosen worldview:

  • If the end justifies the means, then why does my conscience prick me when I cause someone pain? 
  • If mankind sets the standard for right and wrong, what man gets to set it?
  • When others use me and I feel wronged, am I right or are they?
  • When social standards change, does right and wrong change, too?
  • Is life built on such an unstable foundation as all this?
  • If man is the measure of all things, then what’s the point?
  • Why bother with life at all?

Years spent groping in this philosophical darkness brought no peace but only multiplied my confusion. And quite frankly, the longer I groped in this darkness, the less sense the humanist worldview made.

As I rode the fluctuating and unstable tide of humanistic morality, I knew deep inside there must be a true right and a true wrong. Without a changeless absolute truth, life was purposeless, chaotic, and ultimately meaningless.

The moral question became one of life or death for me.

Beginning to See

This is where Yeshua found me.

He began to heal my spiritual blindness, but at first I saw neither Him nor His truth clearly. Instead, I saw a distorted version of reality blurred by drab layers of humanistic philosophy. At the Lord’s first touch, I saw enough to know He was there although I saw Him only dimly.

It took several applications of the Word of Truth before I saw clearly. And what I discovered was the world, seen through the crystal-clear truth of the Maker of all things, =made a startling, stark sense.

What About You?

I don’t know where you stand, friend. I don’t know if you see Yeshua through His Word or if you see an obscure shadow of Him; a man like a tree walking around. But I pray He will heal you fully so you may see the beauty of the Light of the World and all He illuminates.

Let’s Talk About S–

Sin. I want to talk about sin. Get your mind out of the gutter, ya perv.

Seriously, though, we really don’t talk much about sin anymore, and I think I know why.

As humans, we have an innate understanding of right and wrong. Over time, this understanding becomes twisted by our pride, distorted by repeated suppression, and is subject to a myriad of other deformations. Yet somewhere deep inside, we all know certain things are wrong – even if we only recognize them as a wrong when done to us.

They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them

Romans 2:15

The general term for this understanding is conscience. And like any other human part, it can become scarred-over and calloused until there’s no feeling left.

Which brings us to today.

Instead of sin, we talk about things like lifestyle, my truth, or even illness. Much air is expended discussing our battles or our challenges. When confronted with wrongdoing, Christian influencers may confess their struggles. . . but not their sin.

It’s true we do go to battle against our sinful inclinations; we must struggle against temptation to sin. And yet, more often than not, the words are not used in this way but rather as a clever dodge to avoid responsibility. A struggle or a lifestyle is much more palatable than a willful crime.

What we’re missing in this subtle semantic waltz is the gravity of sin.

Sin is a killer. Period.

Sin is ugly. It is rebellion against the Maker; treason against the King; a refusal of the creation to perform its function as it was designed.

Sin lies. It cheats us of true life. It steals joy and covers it up in an endless, wretched pursuit of meager happiness and fleeting pleasure.

And no matter what name we give to make it sweeter to say, sin leads to death. In fact, death is what the sinner earns – as surely as you earn your paycheck from your employer.

For the wages of sin is death. . .

“But I’m not dead,” you may say, and perhaps you’re right. I wonder, though: can you honestly tell me you have a single relationship that hasn’t suffered a kind of death? Was any type of harm ever done to you by another person? Have you ever harmed another, even mildly?

Death of trust, death of respect, death of joy, of reputation, commitment, communication. Death everywhere we look, if we look with honesty. Even the cooling of affections is a kind of death.

Friends, this horror covers only one kind of death. The rot of sin goes far deeper than this.

. . . but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

(Romans 6:23)

The good news is, we don’t have to accept death. We can talk about our sin; confess it, repent of it, and be set free in Christ. Expose the canker of sin to the fresh air of truth.

It may hurt, it may be embarrassing, but I can tell you from experience there is no cleaner pain. Like debriding an infected wound, the momentary torment is nothing compared to the relief of healing.

Let’s confess our sin to God our Healer and turn away in true repentance, trusting in the work of the Son of God to break the chains of sin and make us really free.

But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.

Romans 6:22