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

  Blessings,

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

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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

  Blessings,

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

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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

  Blessings,

  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

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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

  Blessings,

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

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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

  Blessings,

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

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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

  Blessings,

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

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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

  Blessings,

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

 


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Devotional for February 24, 2021

Greetings in Christ,

  Mankind has progressed very quickly in knowledge and technology.  Mankind’s technology advancements are making great strides helping us with everyday tasks.  It seems you hear of some new way to make things smaller, faster, more data storage capabilities, and have multi-function abilities.  The things we have in this present time did not exist twenty years ago.

  Mankind as a whole seems to be able to accomplish more great feats then ever seemed possible.  We have people in think tanks just focusing on new ways to develop new ideas and methods of technology.  Children are exposed to technology at a very young age, and the school systems are equipping the classrooms with computers for the children to do their school work.  Those who do not have a computer are considered to be out of touch with technology.

  We revel in the idea we are moving at a great speed, and we feel great things will happen, and most of us will see those things happen before we die. Space travel will be a common thing, and we will have established homes on another planet.  Voice commands will allow us to control anything we want so we do not have to move from our place of rest, or better yet we will just be able to think it and it will be done.

  Many believe the reason for this rapid development of technology is due to the reverse engineering of alien technology.  Aliens have crashed their ships on the earth and mankind has sequestered the ships into an unknown spot to study their technology to help develop new technology for mankind.  This alien technology is so complex it has taken many years to study and re-develop into what is known today in many things we use today, thus giving mankind the progress it has today.

  Many people believe this is the approach mankind has taken for the rapid development of knowledge and technological level we have today, but they have forgotten one thing—their Creator Who made them.  Credit must be given to those who think an intelligent mind passed on this sophisticated knowledge and technology.  They have overlooked the real source of knowledge—God.  Their only reason for this mistake is they do not recognize God as God.

  It would be crazy to say there are no aliens because it would limit the intelligence and ability of God to create the aliens, but it was God who equipped them with their knowledge.  If we truly believe God is God, then He created everything we can conceive or understand as knowledge.  God has proven over and over He is smarter than mankind. 

  1 Corinthians gives us picture of God’s wisdom.  “Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?  For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.  For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”

  Mankind was created in the image of God, but they will never be God.  Their drive for knowledge and technology has driven mankind to want to be like God.  Eve was tricked into believing she could be like God if she ate the fruit of the forbidden tree, and the devil just keeps on trying to convince mankind they can be just like God.  The strides mankind accomplishes prove they want to eliminate God out of the picture by giving mankind the credit for their knowledge.

  Without God we are nothing, and it His grace that goes before us to enable us to accomplish the things we are able to do.  The only wise people are the people who give God the credit for their ability to do great things.  Let’s not forget to give God the praise for all He has done for us. “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

  “O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; my soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.  Thus I have seen You in the sanctuary, to see Your power and Your glory.  Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips will praise You.  So I will bless You as long as I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name.  My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth offers praises with joyful lips.”  Psalm 63:1-5

  “Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth; break forth and sing for joy and sing praises.  Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody.  With trumpets and the sound of the horn
shout joyfully before the King, the Lord.  Let the sea roar and all it contains, the world and those who dwell in it.  Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy before the Lord, for He is coming to judge the earth; He will judge the world with righteousness and the peoples with equity.”  Psalm 98:4-9

  “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.”  Psalm 103:6-14

  Lord may we always give You the glory for all we are able to accomplish.  Amen

  Blessings,

  Mark Johnson
  Psalm 63,98,103; Deuteronomy 8:1-10; 1 Corinthians 1:17-31; Mark 2:18-22

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Devotional for February 17, 2021

Greetings in Christ, 

  We live in a world in which we seem to encounter don’ts, cant’s, shouldn’t, better not, and many other negative influences in our lives.  We are subjected to them in many ways almost every minute of the day.  We have laws on the books stating we cannot do certain things.  We have heard no as a child many times from our parents as they correct our actions.  We have rules in place to tell us what to do and most of them are telling us not to do something or worded in a negative fashion to make it sound like it is a drudge to carry out.  Even the Ten Commandments have don’ts for us to follow.

  We read in the Bible how people had the don’ts from God and the measures they had to take to avoid the wrath of God.  The high priests had to tie ropes around their ankles when they went into the holy of holies once a year in the tabernacle for fear of dying because they forgot one of the don’ts.  The rope was to pull out the high priest who died so others would not have to face death.  They had a don’t when it came to approaching Mount Sinai while in the desert for fear of death because God said He would even strike down a beast if it approached Sinai.  Moses was even fearful of approaching the mountain, and he had faced many don’ts.

  The don’ts, cant’s, shouldn’t, better not’s have a way of letting fear drive our motive in not doing something.  The negative method of stating something has a very negative impact on our lives and with it comes the fear of doing the don’ts wrath will follow.  Soon the fear becomes the motivator rather than learning why we are not to do something.  We let the fear become so dominate we apply it even to the things we should be doing fearing we will do something wrong.  God even recognized this pattern developing in mankind and wanted to do something to change this approach for mankind’s sake.  

  People focused on the don’ts to the point they missed the whole idea of the reasoning behind the laws, rules, and reasons of hearing no.  The real focus should have been on the result of doing the don’ts.  God’s judgment has never changed, and His reasons to avoid His judgment have never changed-it has been mankind’s approach to His judgment which has changed.  The result of doing the don’ts still brings God’s judgment, but we should not focus on the don’ts but rather the reason for the don’ts.

  Jesus said it best, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.  He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal.  If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.” 

  The reason for the don’ts in our lives is for us to take a good hard look at the world and make a decision whether the world has something to offer us or it is God Who has something to offer us.  If we truly decide this world has nothing for us, and we give up our life to follow Jesus the don’ts should not be our focus.  Our desire should be to serve Jesus, and it will be our focus.  When we focus on Jesus, we allow Him to guide us the don’ts fade away along with the fear of the don’ts.  The don’ts and fear is replaced with the love of Jesus making room for the joy of following Jesus, and God’s judgment will not be something feared, but rather something to rejoice.

  God’s intent was not the don’ts or fear to repel us from His presence, but rather for us to realize what it will be like without His presence.  It is up to us on what we intend to make our desire to be in His presence, or to be absent from His presence.

  “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.  Their idols are silver and gold, the work of man’s hands.  They have mouths, but they cannot speak; they have eyes, but they cannot see; they have ears, but they cannot hear; they have noses, but they cannot smell; they have hands, but they cannot feel; they have feet, but they cannot walk; they cannot make a sound with their throat.  Those who make them will become like them,
everyone who trusts in them.  O Israel, trust in the Lord; He is their help and their shield.  O house of Aaron, trust in the Lord; He is their help and their shield.  You who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord; He is their help and their shield.  The Lord has been mindful of us; He will bless us; He will bless the house of Israel; He will bless the house of Aaron.  He will bless those who fear the Lord, the small together with the great.  May the Lord give you increase, you and your children.  May you be blessed of the Lord, maker of heaven and earth.  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

  Lord may our focus be to serve You.  May we always desire to be in Your presence for ever and ever.  Amen.

  Blessings,

  Mark Johnson
  Psalm 114,115,148,149,150; Deuteronomy 6:1-9; Hebrews 12:18-29; John 12:24-32

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Devotional for February 10, 2021

Greetings in Christ,

  We all like consistency in our lives.  The problem with being consistent it eventually becomes something automatic or reoccurring which becomes a routine done without any thought involved in the process.  We all have done it at some time in our lives and do it almost every day.  It may be something simple as locking a door before we go to bed.  We get comfortable in the bed and our mind begins to think did we lock the door.  We get up to check the door only to find we actually locked the door.  We have locked the door on an automatic process which we do on a consistent basis without a thought process to trigger our mind we actually did lock the door.

  We get caught up doing things repeatedly every day in our lives without really thinking about it.  It is who we are as humans, but somewhere in our minds we have the idea we will get different results.  Perhaps we believe if we keep doing the same thing over and over we will achieve better results because we can improve our actions with repetition.  We apply this to our spiritual lives as we set ourselves into a pattern of doing our devotions, praying, or going to church.  We think if we read our Bible more, pray longer, or attend church more it will make us better people spiritually.  The sad part is it does not change the results.

  It is like planting a tomato plant in the garden.  We can dig in the ground and plant the tomato plant.  We can water it, fertilize it, and make sure it has plenty of sun light, but it may not be the healthiest plant as it grows.  On the other hand, if we plant the tomato plant, water it, fertilize it, and make sure it has sunlight, but drive a stake in the ground and support it as it grows it may grow better.  We can take it one step further by pruning the suckers off the plant to ensure it will not grow to be all plant, but rather produce more fruit so we will have a better tomato plant.  By staking the tomato plant we get it off the ground and reduce the chances of disease to affect the plant.  We prune the suckers by eliminating unneeded growth so the plant will produce more fruit.  We could plant the tomato plant and expect different results every year we plant the tomato plant, but if we desire better results we have to do something different to get more fruit from the plant.

  We have a tendency to get caught up in being consistent in our spiritual life.  We are doing things the same way every day expecting different results.  We need to change up our method in order to get different results.  Sometimes God wants to stake us up, and prune our suckers in order for us to produce more fruit.  Do we listen to His desires and let Him work in our lives?

  “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.  You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him; for those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives.”  Hebrews 12:1-6

  Those who have gone before us have set the course, but also allowed God to guide them in their journey.  They have allowed God to stand them up and prune away unneeded growth in their lives so they can produce the fruit He needed them to produce, but they were not the only ones who wanted different results.  God changed His method of approach as well.

  “For thus says the high and exalted One Who lives forever, whose name is Holy, I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit in order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.  For I will not contend forever, nor will I be angry; for the spirit would grow faint before Me, and the breath of those whom I have made.  Because of the iniquity of his unjust gain I was angry and struck him; I hid My face and was angry, and he went on turning away, in the way of his heart.  I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will lead him and restore comfort to him and to his mourners, creating the praise of the lips.”  Isaiah 57:15-19

  We can do the same thing over and over, but if we want different results we need to do something different.  We need something to change in our spiritual growth.  God can change things up for us, and it is His desire for us to want growth in our spiritual lives, but we must allow things to change to get different results.  God proved this by changing His method of approach to His creation.  Are we willing to change our approach in reaching out to Him?

  “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.”  Psalm 34:1-3

  “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.”  Psalm 34:8-14

  “Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth.  Sing to the Lord, bless His name; proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day.  Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples.  For great is the Lord and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the Lord made the heavens.  Splendor and majesty are before Him, strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.”  Psalm 96:1-6

  Lord may we desire You to keep things fresh and anew in our spiritual lives.  May we allow You to prune us so we can produce fruit for You.  Amen

  Blessings,

  Mark Johnson
  Psalm 34, 93, 96; Isaiah 57:14-21; Hebrews 12:1-6; John 7:37-46

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