A devotional using Lk 1.6 as base, says in part:
One of the old artists was chiselling with great pains on the back part of his marble. “Why do you carve so carefully the tresses on the head of your statue?” asked one; “it will stand high in its niche against the wall, and no one will ever see its back.” “The gods will see it,” was the reply.
We should learn a lesson from the old heathen artist. We should do our work just as honestly where it will be covered up and never seen by human eyes, as where it is to be open to the scrutiny of the world. For God will see it. We should live just as purely and beautifully in secret as in the glare of the world’s noon. There really is no such thing as secrecy in this world.
Focus question: Do I live and act for God to see, or for man to approve?
There are times when we question this truth. We speak the word. The effort seems vain. It appears useless. But God “knows the end from the beginning,” Isaiah 46:10. His word will achieve what He sent it to do. We have no reason to be discouraged.
In Plow New Ground, this is Ed Mathews's last paragraph, not counting the prayer, in his last devotional based on Isa 55.11. It has been a blessing to read this year. I recommend it.
How to separate your work in the kingdom from expected immediate results?
Isaiah 7.9 is the main text for today's devotional.
The way of doubt. King Ahaz hesitated. He was overwhelmed by his predicament. When Isaiah prompted him “to ask the Lord...for a sign,” Ahaz refused, Isaiah 7:11,12. Doubt dooms the doubter. It kept the people of God out of the Promised Land, Hebrews 3:16-19. It is the cleverest ploy of the devil, Genesis 3:1. A lack of faith is like a fox in a chicken coop worrying about having enough to eat. The Lord expects more from us than that, Isaiah 7:9b; James 1:5-8.
Focus question: What situations cause us to feel overwhelmed and begin doubting?
With Mt 16.23, Ed Mathews starts today's devotional:
Meaning of the rebuke. Peter surely meant well. Nevertheless, he was not acting in the best interest of mankind. Had the Messiah listened to him, humanity would still be lost, Hebrews 9:22b; cf. Romans 3:22-26. Peter spoke out of love—albeit a misguided love. He wanted to protect Jesus (like a parent dissuading his child from being a missionary). Christ had to carry His cross. We must carry ours, Matthew 16:24-26.
Focus question: What misguided words do I speak to Jesus?
Ed Mathews uses John 9.3 and the story of the blind man as a wonderful explanation of evil in the world. Here's how he starts:
While in Jerusalem, Jesus saw a blind man, John 9:1. As a visitor in the capital city, one might assume the Lord would be enamored with the beautiful buildings. His disciples were, Matthew 24:1. But Jesus was not a tourist. He came to rescue the perishing.
Focus question: Does the pain and suffering in the world make me question God or glorify him?
Nadab and Abhiu are the topic of interest in today's devotional, Plow New Ground. This excerpt gives an idea of the page-long treatment.
Their offense. The newly appointed priests had acted “contrary” to the command of the Lord, Leviticus 10:1. They took the right censer. They took the right incense. They took the wrong fire, Deuteronomy 4:2. No one has the authority to tamper with the instructions of God. It is our duty to study the written word, to learn the details of His “good, pleasing, and perfect will,” Romans 12:2.
Be sure to read it all at the link above, on today's date.
Focus question: Among the things right that you do, what is something wrong that you tend toward or are involved in?
Using Jn 6.44 as his text, Ed Mathews wrapped up today's devotional with this paragraph,
Why do people turn away? Matthew 23:37. They have so much to gain! They have nothing to lose! Their problem is threefold. (1) They evaluate Jesus in human terms. How could a carpenter be the Christ? (2) They argue among themselves. Are their opinions greater than the words of God? And (3) they resist divine kindness. Why do the lost reject the Savior? The decision is up to us, Jeremiah 31:3. He has already taken the first step. Now it is our turn.
The second point notes a great problem. Opinions take the place of revelation. We want to talk instead of listening. We preferring collecting, weighing and sifting rather than accepting and submitting.
Focus question: How can I make the word of God central to my understanding of Christ and to my faith?
Ed M. nails it again:
Why escape to the desert? Why grow “weary in doing good?” Galatians 6:9. Our feeble thoughts and listless tones expose our hopeless hearts. We should not give up. We must not hide in solitude. We were called to deliver the invitation of God on the “street corners” of life, Matthew 22:1-10. The Lord is telling us “to go back the way we came,” to renew our commitment, to get involved again.
Focus question: When do I feel most weary and discouraged? How do I react?
In his last paragraph of today's devotional, Ed Mathews wrote about Ezekiel's commission, using Ezek 2.5 as his main text:
"This passage has a special significance for ministers of the word. It shows them the rigors of their appointment, the boundaries of their task, and the source of their strength. It warns them against altering the message. It clarifies the purpose of their actions, Ezekiel 2:5. It validates the reason for being faithful to the end, II Corinthians 2:14-16."
Focus question: How much does numerical success motivate my service in the Word, rather than faithfulness to the task?
Today's devotional by Ed Mathews includes this paragraph on the disciples' abandonment of Jesus at his betrayal:
Neglect of prayer. During the prayer vigil in Gethsemane, Peter slept, Mark 14:37,38. Satan wanted to sift him like wheat, Luke 22:31,32. Peter did not understand the situation, Luke 22:33. The most confident was the most vulnerable. Jesus encouraged him to pray, Luke 22:40,46. Peter took a nap. He gave the devil an opening. He fell. He fell badly, Mark 14:66-72. Later, this same apostle wrote, “be alert,” I Peter 5:8.
Stay close to Jesus.
Focus question: What today has the potential to distance you from Jesus? Deal with it effectively.