Devotional for May 5, 2021

Greetings in Christ,

  Why do we do what we do when we do it?  This question has been asked in the past, but it has many applications to our lives in our actions we take in our lives.  Why do we let fear have a place in our thoughts, and in our hearts?  Why do we let the things of this world bring out the fear in us, fearing the things we should not fear?  Some may call it worry, anxiety, or doubt, but we all have a tendency to let fear grip us.  It has plagued mankind since the downfall of Adam and Eve.

  In the book of Joshua, the land has been sectioned off and given to the sons of Joseph.  Some have come back to Joshua to complain their tribe was large in numbers and the land portion (size)would not sustain them.  Joshua’s response was for them to clear the wooden areas and overtake the people who occupied the land just beyond the wooden areas.  Their response to Joshua was they had chariots and were strong warriors.  Joshua replied and told them they had more strong warriors and they could overtake them if they so desired.  The sons of Joseph feared the unknown, or at least what they thought was the unknown of what could happen to them.

  The sons of Joseph looked to the other people as their enemy, but they considered their enemy to be greater than they ever could be.  They feared moving forward to conquer the land for they imagined things which could happen to them, and they let their imagination take them down paths of thoughts which did not lead to positive results.  They let fear be the fuel which drove them to believe what they imagined could happen to be devastating to their own people.

  Someone made this statement, “Worry is the waste of a good imagination.”  While the sons of Joseph feared what could happen, they let their worry of what they imagined could happen get the best of them instead of relying on what they knew and had been taught while they wandered through the wilderness.  They had been rooted in traditions and heard the stories of what God could do for them, but they chose to worry and let fear rule in their lives.

  Paul wrote to the Thessalonians telling them to remain steadfast in their traditions they had been taught and to keep the faith in the truth.  Paul was reminding them they had been chosen by God for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit, and it is God Who will give them eternal comfort and good hope by grace.  Paul wanted them to look beyond themselves to see what was possible in God for their own good.

  Matthew’s account of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus addresses the crowd telling them they need to ask God for the things they need, seek and they will find, knock and it will be opened.  Jesus is quite clear people must ask before they will receive.  Jesus sets the tone for them to pray for what they need, and it is through prayer God will supply what they need.  It shows their dependence on Him.

  The sons of Joseph did not lean towards their traditions, nor did they ask God for help.  They chose to let the fear of the unknown fuel their imagination of what could happen.  They chose to ignore the past actions of God providing for them as they had wandered through the desert and ignored God’s promise of the new land of milk and honey. 

  Why do we do what we do when we do it?  We let fear fuel our imagination letting us go down the path of all the things we think will happen instead of turning to what we know, and what we should do.  We need to be grounded in the truth, the truth we read in the Bible; and to ask God for what we need.  There is something about praying to God that humbles us, changes us, and guides us.  It is a time where we connect with God on a level which gives us hope of the eternal life we will have in heaven.  We have been chosen by God to His children, and God wants to provide for us, but we must be humble enough to ask Him for the things we need, and to have the faith in the truth to know God will give good things to those who ask.

“O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth, who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens!  From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength because of Your adversaries, to make the enemy and the revengeful cease.  When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained; what is man that You take thought of him, and the son of man that You care for him?  Yet You have made him a little lower than God, and You crown him with glory and majesty!  You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea, whatever passes through the paths of the seas.  O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth!”  Psalm 8

  Lord may we be grounded in the truth of Your word and ask for Your help when we need it.  We will give You praise for all You do.  Amen


  Mark Johnson
  Psalm 8, 24,9,84;Joshua 17:14-18; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17; Matthew 7:7-14


Devotional for April 28, 2021

Greetings in Christ,

  Who doesn’t like organization?  After all, how many times have you gone to look for something only to spend more time looking for it because you think you placed it in a specific spot?  Our levels of organization vary from person to person, but we all do it to some degree.  We organize to save us time and effort when we want to accomplish things in a short amount of time.  We do not like to look for something for a long time or waste effort if we can avoid it. 

  For example, our kitchen area, we do not mix our spoons with our forks in the drawer, nor do we mix our drinking glasses with the pots and pans.  We separate those items into the respective categories so we can go to a drawer and find the utensils or open a cabinet door to find our pots and pans.  We do this to avoid wasting time while we cook.

  We organize to group certain items into their categories so we can remember where we have placed those items.  We are separating items when we organize.  We separate or set apart those things which have the same characteristics, so we call tell them apart easily.  We do this with a lot of things in our lives.  We like to separate things or set apart items to help us function in life more easily.  We have not established something new by organizing or setting apart things in our lives.  God has been setting people apart for a long time and organizing them for a long time.

  The book of Joshua records the actions of Joshua as he is obeying God.  The people of Israel are camped at Gilgal, and they had just built an altar to God there with twelve stones.  While at Gilgal, God tells Joshua to circumcise all the men who were born in the wilderness.  Joshua obeyed God and circumcised all of those who needed to be circumcised.  God wanted to set apart those men who had been born in the wilderness as His own.  God wanted them to set apart having the same characteristics so they would be recognized as the children of God.

  Peter continues with the same theme in his writing to the people in his time.  Peter writes telling the people to be humble.  He starts with the elders telling them not to be lording over those who they oversee, but to serve as an elder with joy and gladness setting the example for others to follow.  He goes on to tell the young men to respect their elders, and to be humble to each other.  When they humble themselves, they allow God to shine through in all they do.  Peter wanted them to be set apart having the same characteristics so they would be recognized as the children of God.

  We all like to be organized to some degree so we can save time and our efforts to accomplish things.  When we think about God wanting to set apart His people it was not for His purpose, but for ours.  We need to be set apart with those who are like minded so we can minimize our time and effort living a Christian life.  When we gather with those have the same characteristics the tension of life melts away and the burdens become lighter.  When we are set apart, we share the same joy of being a Christian with others making our journey easier.  It is when we are set apart, we are able to utilize our time and our efforts more wisely so we can enjoy our walk with God.

  “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name.  Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget none of His benefits; Who pardons all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases; Who redeems your life from the pit, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion; Who satisfies your years with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle.  The Lord performs righteous deeds and judgments for all who are oppressed.  He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the sons of Israel.  The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.
He will not always strive with us, nor will He keep His anger forever.  He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.  For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him.  As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.  Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.  For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.  As for man, his days are like grass; as a flower of the field, so he flourishes.  When the wind has passed over it, it is no more, and its place acknowledges it no longer.  But the lovingkindness of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and His righteousness to children’s children,
to those who keep His covenant and remember His precepts to do them.   The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, and His sovereignty rules overall.  Bless the Lord, you His angels, mighty in strength, who perform His word, obeying the voice of His word!  Bless the Lord, all you His hosts, you who serve Him, doing His will.  Bless the Lord, all His works, in all places of His dominion; bless the Lord, O my soul!”  Psalm 103

  Lord may we find joy in being set apart and be like minded with our fellow brother and sisters.  May this joy overflow in us as we share it with others as we walk with You.  Amen


  Mark Johnson
  Psalm 63,98,103; Joshua 4:19-24, 5:1-9; 1 Peter 5:1-11; Matthew 7:15-29


Devotional for April 21, 2021

Greetings in Christ,

  In the book of Daniel, King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream he did not understand.  In this dream a mighty tree reaches far and wide providing shade and food for many living creatures.  The king tells Daniel his dream and describes to him the tree gets cut down with the parts of tree dispersed in many places, it had a band of iron at the top of the stump with the roots still attached, the stump is drenched with dew, and the stump will have a mind of an animal for seven periods of time.  Unsure of the meaning of the dream he asked Daniel to interpret the dream.  Daniel reveals the meaning of the dream to King Nebuchadnezzar telling him he is the tree, and the things which happen to the tree will unfold and be done to him.

  This dream was a warning to King Nebuchadnezzar about his prideful thinking.  He had believed he accomplished great things on his own by building a great kingdom.  The king proudly talked about the battles he had won stretching his kingdom far into other regions, and he had gathered many resources to supply and feed the number of people within the kingdom.  The king felt he had accomplished more than any other king and he was proud of his work, but little did he know or recognize the hand of God had been working in the background making the king’s progress possible.  King Nebuchadnezzar overlooked God as a reason for his great accomplishments by using his own measures of success.

  John records the conversation between Jesus and Peter.  Jesus is asking Peter if he loved Jesus.  Peter answers he did.  Jesus asked Peter three times and this upset Peter.  Jesus went on to tell Peter he had made choices in his youth which were in his favor, but he will have choices made for him by others when he grows older.  This was to signify what type of death Peter would have, and it would bring glory to Jesus.  It was to bring awareness to Peter and the commitment he would make to follow Jesus.  

  Peter evidently did not grasp the depth of what Jesus was saying because his response was to point to John and ask Jesus what about him.  Jesus, in His response, said if I want him to stay alive till I return what is it to you?  You follow Me!  Peter was trying to apply his own method to measure success in his life and the life of John.  Peter did not think about the hand of God working in the background making way for both him and John to go out and proclaim the name of Jesus.  Peter wanted to use his own measurement of success.

  It is easy to use our own method of measure of success in our lives and apply it to others.  It is easy to look at our surroundings and say I have done well, and we compare ourselves to others to measure the success.  We have a sense of pride in what we do, but we forget the hand of God working in the background aiding us in that success.  King Nebuchadnezzar let his pride lead to his downfall, and Peter let his pride cloud his thinking.

  Peter later realized the importance of recognizing God in all things as he wrote these words.  “The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer.   Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.  Be hospitable to one another without complaint.  As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.   Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God; whoever serves, let him do so as by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

  Peter wanted the people to connect with God through prayer and other people by loving them.  The most important for them was to recognize God’s grace going before them.  It is connecting to God they were able to love each other, and to see God’s grace enabling them to speak and serve.

  When we are truly connected with God, our pride and need for success becomes unimportant as we begin to focus on what God has in store for us.  We see God’s grace extended to us allowing us to love each other with unlimited boundaries.  When the focus is on God and not on us, we can see God working in our lives and the lives of others.

  “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to Your name give glory because of Your lovingkindness, because of Your truth.  Why should the nations say, where, now, is their God?  But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases. The heavens are the heavens of the Lord, but the earth He has given to the sons of men.  The dead do not praise the Lord, nor do any who go down into silence; but as for us, we will bless the Lord from this time forth and forever.  Praise the Lord!”  Psalm 115:1-3, 16-19

  Lord we thank you for Your grace as it is extended to us, and may we focus on You as we serve You by serving each other.  Amen


  Mark Johnson
  Psalm 114,115,148,149,150;Daniel 4:1-18; 1 Peter 4:7-11;  John 21:15-25


Devotional for April 14, 2021

Greetings in Christ,

  What makes a good story believable?  Is it the way it unfolds as you read it, or the way you hear it?  Is it the brevity or the length?  Is it the author or the presenter of the story?  Is it the language or the use of illustrations which drive home the content of the story?  Is it applicable to us?  Just what drives us to look for the believability in story which helps us to determine the value or the truth it may carry for us to apply to our thoughts or lives?  What makes us want to tell others about what we have read or heard?

  We engage in many stories which unfold before our very eyes and ears on a daily basis.  Many grab our attention as we read and hear them as they reveal their details to us.  There is something in the way the story dispenses its magic which makes us take notice and engages our attention.  It is something which peaks our interest, or it may give us concern in some way, but in some way it grabs our time and attention even if it is only for a brief moment.

  We all like a good story.  It is something we can allow ourselves to get lost in the story line while it keeps our attention, and when it is a good story we cannot wait till the end.  Until the story is fully revealed, we are engaged in it with excitement wanting to know the very details which drive us to be part of the story.  We get lost in the details as it reveals the mystery to us, and when the story has been told we marvel at how well it was orchestrated.

  We all like a good story, but when it comes to the best love story in the world how well do we let it engage us?  Is it the language or the way it was written?  Is it the use of illustrations, or the illustrator?  Is it because the details are easy to grasp, or are how they apply to our situation?  Just what is it that makes the best love story in the world hard to quit reading?

  The Bible is a compilation of many stories which was written for mankind to read.  It is a story of a Living God who in His vast love and resources decided to create a living being which He could share His love and resources.  He could not bear the thought He had so much and no one to share it with He created mankind.  He has provided His love and resources for mankind from the very beginning giving them every opportunity to receive them in many ways.  The Bible’s final chapters have an ending that reveals the rewards of accepting this great gift of love, but we do not let it grab us to the point we are excited beyond belief.  We have tendency to let the world’s stories and their details overshadow the greatest love story ever written.

  Isaiah writes these words, “You are My witnesses, declares the Lord, and My servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe Me and understand that I am He.  Before Me there was no God formed, and there will be none after Me.  I, even I, am the Lord, and there is no savior besides Me.
It is I who have declared and saved and proclaimed, and there was no strange god among you; so you are My witnesses, declares the Lord, and I am God.  Even from eternity I am He, and there is none who can deliver out of My hand; I act and who can reverse it?”

  God was reminding the people who He was—the beginning, the present, and the eternal God.  The people had let other stories of life encroach upon the past actions of God, and they had forgotten what He had done for them.  He had to remind them they were looking in the wrong place for the details of His story and past blessings.

  John writes these words, “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.  In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.  If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.  And you know the way where I am going.  Thomas said to Him, Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?  Jesus said to him, I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.  If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.”

  Jesus had to remind the disciples who He was—The Son of God.  They had many facets of the stories we read unfold in front of them, but the story line they saw did not excite them.  They allowed other stories influence them and their understanding of Jesus.  They missed the fact Jesus was representing God on earth, and His actions mirrored those of the Father as He revealed details of the greatest love story.

  The Bible—the greatest love story ever written.  It should engage us to the point we never want to put it down.  It should excite us to the point we cannot keep it to ourselves.  It should excite us to the point we live our lives boldly with the same love as God has for us.  There has not been anything held back to keep us from knowing the whole story of God’s intentions and capabilities for mankind, the only thing keeping us from acting on it is ourselves.

  The Bible—has it grabbed you with overwhelming excitement lately?

  “Praise the Lord!  Praise the Lord, O my soul!  I will praise the Lord while I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.  Do not trust in princes, in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation.  His spirit departs, he returns to the earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.  How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, Who made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them; Who keeps faith forever;  Who executes justice for the oppressed; Who gives food to the hungry.  The Lord sets the prisoners free.  The Lord opens the eyes of the blind; The Lord raises up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous; the Lord protects the strangers; He supports the fatherless and the widow, but He thwarts the way of the wicked.  The Lord will reign forever, your God, O Zion, to all generations.  Praise the Lord!”  Psalm 146

  Lord may we get excited about Your love story as we read it and live it.  Amen


  Mark Johnson
  Psalm 111,112,113,114,146,147; Isaiah 43:8-13; 1 Peter 2:2-10; John 14:1-7


Devotional for April 4, 2021

Greetings in Christ,

  What is life as we know it?  We may think of life as we live it from day to day going through the experiences we have during our daily encounters.  We may think of life as being able to breath, having a heartbeat, or other bodily functions that are necessary for our existence here on earth.  We may think of it as the time we are born till the time we die.  Whatever terminology we apply to our thinking in regards to life, we probably think too small in terms about what life really should be for us.

  Webster’s Dictionary defines life as; the general condition that distinguishes organisms from inorganic objects and dead organisms, being manifested by growth through metabolism, a means of reproduction, and internal regulation in response to the environment.

  We sometimes let the environment of the world dictate to us just how life should be for us here on earth.  We let the world form us to the point we do not feel as if we have any real life, and we let the world rob us of what real life should be for us as we live here on earth.  It may make us feel we are dead inside making us feel we are just a body filling space here on earth. 

  John gives us a glimpse of what he thought would help the people in his time as he writes about Jesus coming to earth.  “All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.  In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.  And the light shines into the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.”  John was determined to shed a different point of view of what life should really be like for mankind here on earth.

  John’s point he was trying to get across is without Jesus there is no life.  Jesus brings the life which lights up the soul of mankind.  He fills the spot which needs to be filled so we can understand what life should really be like for us here on earth, but John did not realize this until after Jesus died on the cross.

  John did not grasp the meaning of what Jesus was trying to teach him while He was still alive on earth.  It took the death of Jesus on the cross for him to understand what life was really supposed to be like on earth.  John had to see Jesus hanging on the cross offering His life so mankind can have life.  It took Jesus hanging on the cross to show John it is giving up your life to God before he can experience real life here on earth.  It took Jesus to show John it is in the giving up one’s life he gains real life.  It is giving up what is considered to be life here on earth to gain the light which brings real life to the heart and soul to him.

  Webster goes on to give another meaning to the word life; a corresponding state, existence, or principle of existence conceived as belonging to the soul: eternal life.  The light Jesus gives to life brings with it eternal life, but He also gives us another gift to ensure the light shines within.

  When Jesus visited the disciples after His resurrection, He spoke these words, “So Jesus said to them again, Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.  And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, Receive the Holy Spirit.”

  It took Jesus to die on the cross before the real meaning of life could be understood.  He showed what it meant to hang on the cross giving up what was considered life here on earth for life in heaven for eternity.  It was through Him giving up His life the light became brighter for the heart and soul of mankind, and it was through the power of the Holy Spirit we can have this light which shines for eternity.

  “Praise the Lord!  Praise, O servants of the Lord, praise the name of the Lord.  Blessed be the name of the Lord from this time forth and forever.  From the rising of the sun to its setting the name of the Lord is to be praised.  The Lord is high above all nations; His glory is above the heavens.  Who is like the Lord our God, Who is enthroned on high, Who humbles Himself to behold the things that are in heaven and in the earth?  He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes, with the princes of His people.  He makes the barren woman abide in the house as a joyful mother of children.  Praise the Lord!”  Psalm 113

  “When Israel went forth from Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of strange language,
Judah became His sanctuary, Israel, His dominion.  The sea looked and fled; the Jordan turned back.  The mountains skipped like rams, the hills, like lambs.  What ails you, O sea, that you flee?  O Jordan, that you turn back?  O mountains, that you skip like rams?  O hills, like lambs?  Tremble, O earth, before the Lord, before the God of Jacob, Who turned the rock into a pool of water, the flint into a fountain of water.”  Psalm 114

  Lord may we live life in the light You give us, and may we let it shine bright for You.  Amen


  Mark Johnson
  Psalm 113,114,148,149,150; Exodus 12:1-14; Isaiah 51:9-11; John 1:1-18, 20:19-23


Devotional for March 31

  Greetings in Christ,

  An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth and turn the other cheek are in stark contrast with each other, and when a situation arises were we have to make the choice between the two which do we choose? Are we angry all the time or do we have peace in our lives?  Do we give praise for what we have in life: a place to live, vehicle to drive, clothes to wear, or do we complain we do not have enough of the finer things in life?

  We may not like the life we have, or the situations we have to face on a daily basis.  We might not like the mediocre job we have, or working with our co-workers.   Our house is not big enough, or our car is not new.  This is the only life you will have here on earth, and you want a better life.  Whatever situation we find ourselves in which makes us feel unhappy stop and think about just how bad you really could have it.   

  We can find all kinds of reasons to not like someone or a situation, but does it do us any good?  We can expend more energy and time being grumpy.  We waste more energy and time trying to get back at others because they wronged us, or we waste more energy and time trying to satisfy our hunger for the material things in life.  As the saying goes it takes more effort and muscles to frown than to smile.  Life is too short to let someone or something control you.  We let the situations of life bind us to the point we become bound to them and they begin to control our thoughts and behavior.  They drag us down to the point we become frustrated and disgusted, and then that’s when we make mistakes we might regret later.

  I can’t help but think about the life of David.  A young man who was a shepherd tending his flock facing wild animals while defending his flock, but he did not fear enter his mind while he dealt with the wild animals for he knew God would be there to guide his actions.  Later, David was chosen to be a king by God only to be chased by Saul for years trying to kill him.  David had to avoid him by hiding in the wilderness and caves just so he could sleep at night.  David goes on to write the Psalms which are filled with praise to God for his life.  We might call him crazy, but God saw him as grateful.

  I can’t help but think of Jesus as He faced those last days here on earth.  He knew He must allow the men who accused Him of blasphemy hang Him on the cross.  He knew He must stay silent as the accusations were hurled at Him during the fake trial, and endure a horrendous beating by the Roman guards, and then mocked by them as they called Him the King of the Jews.  Many called Jesus crazy, but He saw it as time of redemption for mankind.

  We want things cut and dry, black and white, clearly defined, to the point, and whatever term we can apply to how we want things to go, but it comes down to us wanting to have control of our life.  We will never have control.  Control is an illusion which is dangled in front of us by the great deceiver telling us if we work just a little harder we will attain it.  The harder we work the less control we have.

  We waste energy and time trying to accomplish the one thing we cannot grasp-control.  We do it through actions which lead us nowhere and do not achieve any lasting results.  It would be easier if we turned our energy and time towards the One Who has control. 

  The struggles we have here on earth are really God’s battles; let Him fight them for you.  As our creator, He knows just the right thing to do, to guide us along, and by doing this we do not expend unneeded energy and time by making the wrong decisions.  Give thanks to God for your life and what you have.  Let Him find you grateful.

  “Open to me the gates of righteousness; I shall enter through them, I shall give thanks to the Lord.
 This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous will enter through it.  I shall give thanks to You, for You have answered me, and You have become my salvation.  The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief corner stone.   This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.  This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.  O Lord, do save, we beseech You; O Lord, we beseech You, do send prosperity!  Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord; we have blessed you from the house of the Lord.  The Lord is God, and He has given us light; bind the festival sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar.  You are my God, and I give thanks to You; You are my God, I extol You.
Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His lovingkindness is everlasting.”  Psalm 118:19-29

  “The Lord God has given me the tongue of disciples, that I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word.  He awakens me morning by morning, He awakens my ear to listen as a disciple.  The Lord God has opened my ear; and I was not disobedient nor did I turn back.  I gave my back to those who strike me, and my cheeks to those who pluck out the beard; I did not cover my face from humiliation and spitting.  For the Lord God helps me, therefore, I am not disgraced; therefore, I have set my face like flint, and I know that I will not be ashamed.  He who vindicates me is near; who will contend with me?
Let us stand up to each other; who has a case against me?  Let him draw near to me.  Behold, the Lord God helps me.”  Isaiah 50:4-9a

  Lord may we lean on You to guide us and give us the strength to live a life full of gratitude for what You have done for us.  Amen


  Mark Johnson
  Psalm 31: 9-16 118,1-2,19-29; Isaiah 50:4-9a;  Philippians 4:5-11;
  Matthew 26:14-27:66, 27:11-54


Devotional for March 24, 2021

Greetings in Christ,

  I am sure we all have heard the statement-you made the mess now you have to clean it up.  Along with these statements:  you made your bed now you have to lie in it; you have made a big mess of everything how are you going to clean it up?  I think you get the idea.  It’s about making messes and for us to take the responsibility to clean up our mess.  Our parents probably have applied this lesson to us by making us clean our rooms or doing dishes as a child.  As a result, we have been taught to be responsible for cleaning up our own messes.

  We had this lesson handed down to us from generation to generation.  It is a lesson we all had to learn when we begin to know right from wrong.  It is something we all had to learn the hard way.  We try to avoid making messes because we know cleaning up the mess can take a lot more time and effort. 

  Here is an example of my painting experience one day.  I was painting a small office which had a big desk in it.  Room was tight and the walls were tall.  A ladder was needed to paint the upper portion of the walls, and with the big desk it did not leave much room for the ladder.  While moving the ladder up and over the top of the desk it began to fold up (it was straddling the desk).  As the ladder folded up, it knocked over a half full can of paint spilling on the newly carpeted floor.  Needless to say it took seconds to make a mess, but it took hours to clean up.

  Living a Christian life is a lot like cleaning up a mess.  What seems to take just a short time to make a mess results in a long time cleaning up.  We struggle to clean up our past mistakes and what we have done, but we sometimes go about it in the wrong way.  We want to take charge and clean up our mess, but we cannot take on the huge task of doing it right on our own.  While we may have been a part of making the mess, our mess started a long time ago.

  We try to clean up our own mess from some deep need we have learned.  We have been taught to clean up our own mess from our parents, but God has put this desire deep within us.  God has been working to clean up our mess for generations, and when we try to do our own cleaning it hampers God’s process.  We want to clean our own mess, but it is God who can do it right.

  Jesus gave us instructions on how we turn it over to God.  “And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.  For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?”

  We must bear our own cross when we decide to follow Jesus.  The first step is to deny our own life, and by doing this we lay everything at the foot of His cross.  This means we give everything to Jesus.  We then let Him and God take control of our lives.  We no longer need to worry about how to clean up our mess because Jesus and God have agreed to do the cleaning for us.  We create a problem by picking up our mess pick and hang onto it.  We create unnecessary burdens for ourselves in our Christian walk by hanging on to our mess.

  As our creator, God knows what is best for us, and Paul gives us some more advice to help us.  “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.  Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we are imperishable.  Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”

  A runner prepares for a race by getting rid of any excess weight.  They want to run as fast as they can and with endurance for the long haul.  They need to be as light as they can in order to do this.  In the same way we need to set aside our mess so we can run the race with Jesus.  We set aside all the things which may hold us back allowing Him and the Father to clean up our mess as we run the race.  It is when we do this we can run the race with confidence striving to reach the finish line.       

  “I will extol You, my God, O King, and I will bless Your name forever and ever.  Every day I will bless You,
and I will praise Your name forever and ever.  Great is the Lord, and highly to be praised, and His greatness is unsearchable.  One generation shall praise Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts.  On the glorious splendor of Your majesty and on Your wonderful works, I will meditate.
Men shall speak of the power of Your awesome acts, and I will tell of Your greatness.  They shall eagerly utter the memory of Your abundant goodness and will shout joyfully of Your righteousness.  The Lord is gracious and merciful; slow to anger and great in lovingkindness.  The Lord is good to all, and His mercies are over all His works.  All Your works shall give thanks to You, O Lord, and Your godly ones shall bless You.  They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom and talk of Your power; to make known to the sons of men Your mighty acts and the glory of the majesty of Your kingdom.  Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and Your dominion endures throughout all generations.   The Lord sustains all who fall and raises up all who are bowed down.  The eyes of all look to You, and You give them their food in due time.  You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.  The Lord is righteous in all His ways and kind in all His deeds.  The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth.  He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He will also hear their cry and will save them.  The Lord keeps all who love Him, but all the wicked He will destroy.  My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord, and all flesh will bless His holy name forever and ever.”  Psalm 145

  Lord may we leave our mess with You trusting You will clean it up so we can run the race with confidence.  Amen


  Mark Johnson
  Psalm 118,145; Jeremiah 23:16-32; 1 Corinthians 9:19-27; Mark 8:31-9:1


Devotional for March 18, 2021

Greetings in Christ,

  Why do we act or react the way we do when we do what we do?  This may sound weird when you say it out loud, but it does make sense to some degree.  We often do things based upon our belief, or we do things based upon our past experience.  We have a hard time setting our past experiences or beliefs aside so it does not influence our present and future actions which have an impact on our spiritual growth.

  A good example of why we do what we do when we do it is in Mark.  Mark records Jesus confronting the disciples about their unbelief.  Jesus and the disciples are getting away from the crowds so they could relax.  The crowds have surrounded them all day with requests for healing and the Pharisees have bombarded them with questions.  They are tired and they escape in a boat to go to the other side of the lake, but they forgot one thing.  The disciples in their haste forgot to bring enough bread to eat. 

  The disciples begin to argue about whose fault it is for not bringing enough food, and how they were going to satisfy their hunger.  My guess is they were very tired and hungry (which is not a good combination), and none of the disciples wanted to quince their hungry.  Someone had to give up their portion or at best eat a small portion and remain hungry, but no one was willing to budge.  Jesus overheard their arguing, and He stopped their discussions with questions.

  Jesus posed two questions asking them why they argued about the lack of bread, and do they remember what they had witnessed just some time back.  Jesus was concerned they had become so focused on the lack of bread they had forgotten just what they had witnessed when Jesus blessed the bread and the fish on two occasions a few weeks back which fed thousands of people.  Jesus became concerned they still did not fully understand what Jesus was capable of doing for them, and He was concerned they had not grasped the concept of the freedom Jesus was offering them.

  Jesus was trying to get them to realize they did not grasp the whole concept of what was possible through Him.  Jesus wanted them to understand there were more important things to life rather than arguing over the lack of bread.  This is not to say Jesus did not have any regard about their hunger, but rather He understood their hunger, and He was not going to let them go hungry.  They needed to trust Jesus to provide for their sustenance.  Jesus wanted to change their mindset and their thinking.  They felt they were in bondage to their physical need, and they needed to grasp the freedom Jesus was offering them.

  Paul writes in Galatians about the idea of being under the law or being under grace.  He compares Hagar to Sarah and the birth of their sons.  Hagar’s son Ishmael was born under the law, and Sarah’s son Isaac was born under the promise of God.  Hagar and her descendants will be under the law, which is slavery; while Sarah’s descendants will be under the promise, which is freedom.  “Tell me, you who want to be under law, do you not listen to the law?  For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the bondwoman and one by the free woman.  But the son by the bondwoman was born according to the flesh and the son by the free woman through the promise.  This is allegorically speaking, for these women are two covenants: one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar.  Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children.  But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother.”  Galatians 4:21-26

  Jesus was concerned the disciples were still trying to live under the law instead of living by faith.  He was even more concerned because they had witnessed the miracles Jesus was performed, and they did not grasp the depth of what they had witnessed. 

  We too have the tendency to hold onto our old habits of understanding, and we do not grasp the full depth of what Jesus can do for us.  There is an illustration of an elephant which was trained to stay in an area so it would not wander away.  The trainers chained the elephant to a stationary object so it would become acquainted with the distance the chain would allow the elephant to travel.  The elephant depended on the chain to define the area of travel, it would not go past the area of travel even after the chain was removed.  Even though it was free from the chain the elephant still acted like it was still bound by the chain.

  We too let the chain define our limits even though we are free from the chain.  Jesus’ concern for the disciples was to fully grasp the power which was available for them to tap into.  They no longer had to be bound by earthly things which entrap, but rather reach towards heaven to attain the freedom being offered.  Jesus still has this concern for us today; for us to grasp the full concept of freedom in Him.

  Why do we do what we do when we do it?  Do we still feel bound to the chain even though we are free?  With Jesus we can reach beyond what we know, and experience what He knows.

  “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.  Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.  There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard.  Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their utterances to the end of the world.  In them He has placed a tent for the sun, which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber; it rejoices as a strong man to run his course.  Its rising is from one end of the heavens, and its circuit to the other end of them; and there is nothing hidden from its heat.  The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.  The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.  The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous together. They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.  Moreover, by them Your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward.  Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults.  Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins; let them not rule over me; then I will be blameless, and I shall be acquitted of great transgression.  Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight,
O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.”  Psalm 19

  Lord may we fully embrace the freedom You offer us in Your name, and allow Your power to enable us to great things for You.  Amen


  Mark Johnson 
  Psalm 19,46,66,67; Jeremiah 14:1-9, 17-22; Galatians 4:21-5:1; Mark 8:11-21


Devotional for March 10, 2021

Greetings in Christ,

  When we think of mercy and what it entails, what idea of mercy do we have?  What meaning do we associate with it as we contemplate on how it should be defined?  Do we think if it as an act of love?  Do we consider the need(s) of the individual(s) who will receive mercy?  Do we see it as an act of patience on part of the one who extends mercy?  Just how do we define mercy in its full capacity?

  Mercy is an act of love.  It is often considered to be an act towards those who do not deserve to receive mercy.  It is something extended to an individual who has done something wrong and does not deserve to get a break.  This person has committed an act or acts which are considered to be unforgivable, but they receive mercy and are forgiven.  Mercy is often extended to the person who has committed offenses because they have changed their thought process, and they are willing to accept the needed changes to correct their wrong doing.  We attribute this type of mercy to Jesus as He forgives us of our sins, and we accept our part to change our way of life.

  Mercy may not be extended to a person if they are not genuine in their choice to make the right changes.  Mercy can be extended to those who have a genuine attitude change.  Past attitude or bad choices in life are not considered to be a determining factor rather the willingness to make an immediate change in their life is the deciding factor.  We attribute this act of mercy to Jesus as He knows our heart and our needs, but we sometimes fail to make all the right choices as a Christian.  Jesus keeps on forgiving us despite our failures.

  Mercy is an act of patience on the part of the one who extends mercy.  There has to be a reason for the mercy to be extended.  Sometimes mercy is extended to those who have offended someone in order to get their attention, and see if they will change or at least take notice of the mercy extended to them.   The one who extends mercy has been offended and they are patiently waiting for an opportunity to extend their mercy.  We attribute this act of mercy as patience of God while He patiently waits for us to ask Jesus to forgive us of our sins.

  Mark gives us an example of Jesus extending mercy to a demon possessed man.  “They came to Jesus and observed the man who had been demon-possessed sitting down, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the “legion”; and they became frightened.  Those who had seen it described to them how it had happened to the demon-possessed man, and all about the swine.   And they began to implore Him to leave their region.   As He was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed was imploring Him that he might accompany Him.  And He did not let him, but He said to him, “Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you.”  And he went away and began to proclaim in Decapolis what great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed.” Mark 5:15-20 NASB  

  Jesus extended mercy to the demon possessed man, and the man received it with an open heart.  Jesus acted in love and considered the needs of the man, and the man obeyed Jesus in act of love knowing his need for his life to be changed.  Mercy not only was extended, but it was received with the same magnitude as it was given.

  Jeremiah gives us a look at mercy as patience extended by God.  “To whom shall I speak and give warning that they may hear?  Behold, their ears are closed and they cannot listen.  Behold, the word of the Lord has become a reproach to them; they have no delight in it.  But I am full of the wrath of the Lord; I am weary with holding it in.”  Jeremiah 6:10-11a NASB

  God has extended mercy to the people of Israel by restraining His final judgment on them.  God had chosen to abstain from His judgment of their sins, but rather allow another nation to take them captive.  God had extended mercy to the people hoping they will turn the hearts towards Him before they suffer the consequences of their actions under the rule of another nation.  God wanted to see if they truly realized He had extended mercy to them and for them to make the choice to change their ways.

  We may not look at mercy in its full face value as an act of love, need oriented, and an exercise of patience.  For mercy to be mercy it must be received just as it is given for it to be worthy of the one giving it.  Mercy is one of those acts which cannot be contained, but rather passed along to others just as it was extended to us by Jesus.  Mercy is love, considerate, and patient for without it we would not be worthy to be called a child of God.

  “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.  My soul will make its boast in the Lord; the humble will hear it and rejoice.  O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together.  I sought the Lord, and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.  They looked to Him and were radiant, and their faces will never be ashamed.  This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles.  The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and rescues them.  O taste and see that the Lord is good; how blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!  O fear the Lord, you His saints; for to those who fear Him there is no want.  The young lions do lack and suffer hunger; but they who seek the Lord shall not be in want of any good thing.  Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.  Who is the man who desires life
and loves length of days that he may see good?  Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit.  Depart from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.  The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and His ears are open to their cry.  The face of the Lord is against evildoers, to cut off the memory of them from the earth.  The righteous cry, and the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.  The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.  He keeps all his bones, not one of them is broken.  Evil shall slay the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.  The Lord redeems the soul of His servants, and none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned.”  Psalm 34

  Lord may we not be complacent with Your mercy, but rather look upon it with the eminence as You extended it to us as we extend it to others.  Amen


  Mark Johnson
  Psalm 34,93,96;Jeremiah 6:9-15; 1 Corinthians 6:12-20; Mark 5:1-20


Devotional for March 4, 2021

  Greetings in Christ, 

  We have all done it when we read the Bible.  We read the stories of how God has worked in the lives of others and how He had done great things or accomplished many great feats for them.  We think those are special people who God has chosen for some special reason, or at least we think we are not in the same category or league as those who God has chosen in the past.  We think this could only happen to them or it was in the past and God would not do this today.  We classify those stories in our mind as an event happening to someone else in different circumstances, circumstances we would never find ourselves engaging.

  Most of us look at ourselves as a person who is boring, or possibly not exciting enough to grab the attention of God, or for Him to choose us to engage in some special activity.  We are happy people by being who we are in this life only looking just beyond our own ability and thinking we are not capable of doing much more than we already have.  We settle for the normal life, whatever the normal life is, and we just live one day at a time, but we forget one thing, God does not choose the one can do great things on their own.

  Jeremiah had the same thought when God spoke to him.  Jeremiah was a young man when God called him to be a prophet, and in the Jewish culture you were not respected as a youth when you tried to give advice.  It was the elderly and more educated man who was able to give advice, because he was more seasoned in life.  Jeremiah found out God did not care about what he did not know, but rather wanted a willing young man to follow His lead. 

  “Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.  Then I said, Alas, Lord God!  Behold, I do not know how to speak, because I am a youth.  But the Lord said to me, Do not say, I am a youth, because everywhere I send you, you shall go, and all that I command you, you shall speak.  Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the Lord.  Then the Lord stretched out His hand and touched my mouth, and the Lord said to me, Behold, I have put My words in your mouth.  See, I have appointed you this day over the nations and over the kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”

  Jeremiah thought he was just a boring person who did not live an exciting life.  He did not even consider himself worthy for God to call him to do something, but God proved him wrong.

  As we read the stories in the Bible, we should not limit the ability of God to work in any person, but think it could happen even to us.  We get caught up in the idea we are not special enough for God to work through us, but this is not the reality of how God works.  God has to work through mankind for mankind to know God. 

  One day as Jesus was teaching the crowds of people, the disciples thought He would want to take time for His immediate family.  They wanted to alert Jesus of His immediate family waiting for Him, but He gave them an answer which took them by surprise.  Jesus impressed upon them those who were willing to do the will of God are important to Him as well.

  “Then His mother and His brothers arrived, and standing outside they sent word to Him and called Him.  A crowd was sitting around Him, and they said to Him, Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are outside looking for You.  Answering them, He said, Who are My mother and My brothers?  Looking about at those who were sitting around Him, He said, Behold My mother and My brothers!  For whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother.”

  We all are called by God to do something great, and by telling our story of how Jesus has changed our lives to someone else fits God’s idea of doing something great.  God works through everyone to reach everyone, and when we think we are not exciting enough for God to work through us, we limit His ability to work in us despite what we think is our weakness or inability.  God’s grace covers many things and when He works through us He can give us the words to speak.  We just have to be willing to let God work through us.  We all are special in God’s eyes, and it is in His power we will be able to do great things.

  “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth, Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens!  From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength because of Your adversaries, to make the enemy and the revengeful cease.”  Psalm 8:1-2

  “Lift up your heads, O gates, and be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in!  Who is the King of glory?  The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.  Lift up your heads, O gates, and lift them up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in!  Who is this King of glory?
The Lord of hosts, He is the King of glory.”  Psalm 24:7-10

  “Ascribe to the Lord, O sons of the mighty, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.  Ascribe to the Lord the glory due to His name; worship the Lord in holy array.”  Psalm 29:1-2

  Lord may we never forget we are special in Your eyes and want to work through us.  May we never forget You can give us the words to speak so we can share our story.  Amen


  Mark Johnson
  Psalm 8,24,29 84; Jeremiah 1:1-10; 1 Corinthians 3:11-23; Mark 3:31-4:9