A Journey Through God's Word
Devotions from our 2016-2017 16-month calendar:
September 2016You honor me by anointing my head wth oil my cup overflows with blessing! - Psalm 23:5 Read Devotion >
In Jesus’ day, olives were a treasured commodity because the oil they produced was so valuable. To get the oil out, the olives were placed in a press under the immense weight of a giant stone. The first drops of oil were the most precious because this oil was used to anoint kings and heal the sick. The heavy stone used to crush the olives and extract this priceless oil was called a gethsemane. On the night he was arrested, Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray, and felt the enormous weight of our sin being placed on him. And just as the anointing oil was squeezed out in the olive press, the Anointed One was so heavily pressed by the sin of the entire world—your sin and mine—that the first drops of his blood was squeezed out of him in the Garden of the Olive Press.
October 2016Celebrate the Restival of Harvest with the firstfruits of your crops - Exodus 23:16 Read Devotion >
My family lives near some beautiful farmland in north Georgia. Whenever I drive past I’m always amazed by a farmer’s ability to prepare soil, plant seeds and harvest crops. The farmer can’t make corn come out of a stalk, or tomatoes come out of a vine or pumpkins to spring out of the ground—God takes care of that. Likewise, we can’t produce faith in our family and friends—we can’t make people believe. What we can do is create the best possible environment in which faith can grow.
We need to love the people around us. As my friend Jeff Henderson says: “For too long the church has been known for what it is against, not what it’s for.” If we love them, accept them, serve them and show them a transformed life, then we create the right soil so God can work with them.
November 2016He directs the snow to fall on the arth and tells the rain to pour down. - Job 37:6 Read Devotion >
Winter can seem like a bleak time when everything is cold, but the ice and snow or winter can be a reminder of God’s presence. According to an ancient Jewish saying, the earth is made “… from the snow that is under God’s Throne of Glory.” This idea came from a verse in the Book of Job—which archeologists believe is the oldest in the Bible—that says: “To snow, God said: ‘Become land!’” This idea grew through verses in the books of Isaiah and Psalms that speak of God’s grace making His followers “as white as snow”. So Jews before and after the time of Jesus believed snow symbolized the presence and glory of God. And they believed snow only fell in winter because there are no biblical feasts or holidays in winter, so God used snow to remind people of His presence.
When it snows here in America, most people panic. We bulk buy essentials. We stress about missed work and school closures. We worry about power and internet outages. But what if we learned from these ancient Jews?
The next time you see snow, let it remind you of the glory of God reflected in the pure, white snow as it falls from heaven and covers the earth.
December 2016Let your light shine before others. - Matthew 5:16 Read Devotion >
Jesus challenged his followers to be a light to those around us so they will be pointed toward God. God decided his message to the world would be spoken through YOU! How you live, act and speak should attract people to God in the same way a moth is attracted to light.
But rather than your life being one single light shining the way to God, what if it’s actually a string of smaller lights—with every action, word and decision building on the other until your life is like a jar of lights? It still shines brightly and it still leads people to God . . . one word, one step at a time.
Today, I pray that with every word, every step, every decision, every breath your faith will shine brightly to those around you.
January 2017The teaching of your word gives light. - Psalm 119:130 Read Devotion >
We all know that a lighthouse, like this one at Point Lonsdale in Australia, is used to warn boats about dangerous rocks or reefs and to let them know that the safety of land is near. Modern-day lighthouses are able to send out different kinds of light that mean different things to sailors, and they are precision-built to ensure the light and the message they send is understood and accurate. If men are wise enough to provide lighthouses to guide ships at sea, it makes sense that God would provide something to help guide us through our lives. In Hebrew tradition, the Bible is often referred to as the Torah Or, which means “Guide of Light.” They believe the Bible is designed to shine light in the darkness, guide against dangers, and lead the way to the safety and security of life with God.
Is the Bible your lighthouse?
February 2017Whoever believes in me as Scripture has said rivers of living water will flow from within them. - John 7:38 Read Devotion >
To the Jews of the Bible, living water was any liquid that came directly from God, such as rain, dew or a river. Living water watered their crops and gave them refreshing water to drink. For people trying to live and survive in a desert, these water sources literally gave them life.
So when Jesus said that living water would flow out of all of his followers, he was saying that his disciples would bring life to the people around them and be refreshing to everyone they come into contact with.
I wonder . . . when was the last time someone described you as refreshing? Would your spouse, your kids, your teammates or the person you cut off in traffic say that you gave them life?
March 2017I am the good shepherd I know my sheep and they know me. - John 10:14 Read Devotion >
Jesus described himself as a Good Shepherd who is willing to lay down his life to protect his sheep. While I always understood this idea in theory, I missed the significance because where I come from, sheep are kept safe inside fenced-off paddocks with food and water, so they don’t need a shepherd.
But Jesus calls his followers to be out in the world beyond the fence line where the dangers are real. This is where we HAVE to rely on Jesus and have faith in our Shepherd’s promise. We have to trust that he will step in to take care of us in every situation.
Are you staying safe behind the fence? Or are you going out to where Jesus is calling you and where you have to rely on him?
April 2017The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever. - Isaiah 40:8 Read Devotion >
When Christians are going through a season of unexpected change, someone will invariably quote the verse: “The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever” to remind us that we have a solid foundation in the Word of God. It’s encouraging to believe that God remains constant in an ever-changing world.
But the Hebrew word for “stand” here actually means to “rise up.” So this verse is not just talking about the solid foundation of the Bible, but is also prophetic of Jesus, whom the disciple John refers to as the Word. This verse predicts that Jesus will rise up from the dead . . . which is where our hope truly comes from.
So whatever you’re experiencing today, you can draw hope from the resurrection of Jesus.
May 2017He renews my strengt. He guides me along right paths. - Psalm 23:3 Read Devotion >
The road we walk on in life is full of ups and downs. Sometimes you’re struggling uphill, other times you’re out of control, careening downhill. But in Psalm 23 we read that God leads us on “straight” or “righteous” paths . . . so what does that mean when your life feels more like a roller coaster?
In the desert, shepherds can’t lead their sheep straight up or down a hill or the sheep will stagger out of control, fall down and hurt themselves. Instead, shepherds use their voice to lead their sheep to narrow paths that wind around the hill and allow the sheep to travel up and down unharmed. Likewise, if we want to survive life’s ups and downs, we need God to guide us to the straight paths he has prepared. But we can’t be guided if we’re distracted and don’t hear his voice.
If your life feels like a twisting roller coaster today, focus on God’s voice and let him guide you to the straight path.
June 2017May the eyes of your heart be enlightened so that you will know the hope of his calling. - Ephesians 1:18 Read Devotion >
The first followers of Jesus believed that God was everywhere AND in everything. They would say that God was in every moment of their day, in every interaction, in every breath . . . in everything. If this is true, then as Christians, the challenge for us is to actually experience the beauty of God in everything.
Perhaps this is what the apostle Paul meant when he wrote: “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you.” (Ephesians 1:18, NIV) Are your eyes opened to see the hope of God in every moment?
Imagine what today would be like if you experienced Jesus in every breath, every moment, every conversation, every meal, every meeting, every tear . . . in everything.
July 2017Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles. - Isaiah 40:31 Read Devotion >
The prophet Isaiah once wrote: “… those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Whenever I’ve read this verse, I’ve always pictured myself as the eagle soaring high above the stress of the world. But the Jewish rabbis taught that while most birds carry their young in their feet to protect them from attack birds swooping down from above, eagles carry their young on their back. Eagles fly higher than all other birds so don’t fear attack from above. So a baby sparrow does nothing when being carried by its mother . . . but a baby eagle needs to cling to its mother’s back so it doesn’t fall off.
True or not, this is an interesting image. It would mean that in this verse, we are not the eagle . . . God is. Our hope is renewed when we cling to God, who is the eagle carrying us when we are weak.
Can you cling to Him today?
August 2017They saw Jesus walking on the water. - John 6:19 Read Devotion >
During biblical times, the sea had a negative connotation for the Jewish people. In fact, the Hebrew word for water—mayim—comes from the root mem, meaning “chaos,” which makes sense when you consider the Israelites grew up hearing that a flood wiped out the earth. Even to this day, you don’t find many houses or hotels along the 33-mile shoreline of the Sea of Galilee despite its picturesque waters.
So why then does Jesus “insist” that his disciples cross the Sea of Galilee during a storm (Mark 6:45)? He sent them into the chaos! But then he came to help them by walking on top of the water—showing that he is in total control of ALL chaos.
Are you facing turmoil today? Remember that Jesus is in control of your chaos, and he’s calling you to get on top of the chaos with him. Are you ready to let Jesus take control of your chaos?
September 2017My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest. Exodus 33:14 Read Devotion >
A few of years ago, I spent a weekend fishing in upstate New York. I’d get up before dawn, row across the stillness of the water and fish for hours. In those moments before the sun came up, I was fully aware of the serenity. Have you ever noticed that it’s only when you slow down that you realize just how busy you are?
Jesus had a rhythm of doing a season of ministry and then resting. He would speak to large crowds or heal a group of people and then take time off. The disciples wanted him to maintain his momentum, but Jesus would say no and rest instead. As Christians, we too often get so caught up in following the STEPS of Jesus, that we miss the STOPS of Jesus.
October 2017The righteous will thrive like a green leaf. - Proverbs 11:28 Read Devotion >
I once read a beautiful spiritual teaching explaining why God designed leaves to turn such stunning colors and then fall off trees during Autumn. The foundation of this ancient lesson comes from the very first Psalm that says a righteous person is like “… a tree planted by streams of water, which bears its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.”
The rabbis used to teach that the leaves in this verse refer to every righteous act of love and compassion we do, every small, unseen deed that gives glory to God and helps another person. They would say that during Fall, all the leaves drop off the tree to encourage us to continue to do new acts of righteousness every year. It reminds us not to pat ourselves on the back for the way we’ve helped others in the past, but instead we should start each season ready to grow new leaves through new acts of compassion and love and forgiveness and grace toward others.
So as you rake your lawn this year, don’t be frustrated by the amount of leaves . . . instead contemplate each leaf, each act of righteousness from the past season, and be inspired and encouraged to do more for God in the coming year.
November 2017Give thanks in every circumstance. - 1 Thessalonains 5:18 Read Devotion >
When was the last time you thanked God for the sunset? Have you ever thanked God for thunder or blessed him for the trees?
The first followers of Jesus had a system of short blessings called berachot that they used to thank God every day. I think modern Christians often forget to be thankful, and as my friend Andy Stanley says, “It’s not enough to feel gratitude, you’ve got to express it.” So tonight, as you watch the sun set, say these ancient words: “Blessed are you, the Lord our God, ruler of the universe who speaks the evening into being and arranges the stars in their place. Blessed are you, Lord who brings on the evening.” Let these words give you an attitude of gratitude.
What are you thankful to God for today?
December 2017But blessed is the one woh trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the sream. - Jeremiah 17:7-8 Read Devotion >
We’ve all seen trees drop their leaves and go dormant during winter, but in the deserts of Israel there are trees that can remain dormant for decades due to drought. On the surface, these trees look dry and lifeless, but they have a deep root system that sustains them during the hardest of times. God has specifically designed them to survive difficult times.
This is the image the prophet Jeremiah used when he wrote this verse. He’s saying that while you might feel like you’re miles away from life-giving water, you can still be like a flourishing tree planted near water if your confidence is planted in God.
Are you going through a tough time? Now is when you develop deep-rooted trust, confidence and hope in God.
Much to the surprise of his high school English teacher, Dave Adamson made a living as a TV reporter on one of Australia’s top sports networks! But he turned his back on the high-paying world of sports media to become a professional Christian when he accepted an opportunity to become a pastor. This led Dave, his wife Meg, and three daughters to move to the US for two years . . . which is currently 8 years and counting.
After realizing his youngest daughter struggled with dyslexia, Dave started teaching her Bible stories through photographs he’s taken around the world. It worked! So when she was able to understand complex hermeneutical exegesis interpretations of theistic apologetics from a photo of a small, fog-covered lamb, Dave decided to post his photos on Instagram for others to enjoy. Now thousands of people follow his daily devotions and say things like; “Wow! I never knew that!” and; “So that’s what that verse meant?!” . . . and so, this calendar was born.
When he’s not writing his bio or working as a pastor at North Point Ministries in Atlanta, he’s usually making his family cross their arms, roll their eyes and tap their feet while he takes “just one more quick photo” on family outings, or he’s up to his neck in “Jewish stuff” as he researches the cultural context of Jesus for his daily Instagram devotions.