Ash Wednesday, March 1
When God saw what they had done and how they had put a stop to their evil ways, he changed his mind and did not carry out the destruction he had threatened. This change of plans greatly upset Jonah, and he became very angry. (vv.3:10-4:1)
When I was young, I fell in love with the story of Jonah. I mean, he was swallowed by a giant fish! But when I got older I read the rest of his story-and discovered one of the most honest examples of God’s love ever written.
Post-fish-swallowing Jonah finally obeyed God and preached to the wicked city of Ninevah. Apparently the prophet was wildly successful, because the citizens turned from their evil ways, so much so that God decided not to obliterate them after all.
And what did Jonah do? Praise God for His forgiveness? Take a vacation after a job well done? Nope. Jonah got angry at God for choosing mercy-until the Lord reminded him that He’s God and Jonah isn’t.
Jonah was a good man who made terrible choices. Perhaps you’ve made some terrible choices, too. If so, take heart. Like Jonah, the Lord hasn’t given up on you. This story is not about God saving Ninevah. It’s about Him saving Jonah.
Psalms 95, 32, 143; Hebrews 12:1-14; Luke 18:9-14
Thursday, March 2
Even one of their own men, a prophet from Crete, has said about them, “The people of Crete are all liars, cruel animals, and lazy gluttons.” This is true. So reprimand them sternly to make them strong in the faith. (vv.12-13)
In the ancient world, Crete was not considered a center of shining intellectual and moral values. In fact, it was about as far away from that image as possible. Using a modern illustration, you can think of Crete as a sort of first century “Mos Eisley Spaceport” from Star Wars. As Ben Kenoboi says, “You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.”
Crete was a worthless mess with little potential for success. Decent folk stayed away. And yet, Paul sent one of his most valuable evangelists, Titus, to this “wretched hive” to preach the Good News and plant churches.
Is there a “Mos Eisley” in your life? Is there a place, a person, a relationship, or a situation that is so deeply broken that everyone (including you) has given up on it? If so, think about what Paul wrote to Titus. Crete was full of lazy liars but, as bad as they were, Paul knew God hadn’t given up on them.
Where others see “wretched hives of scum and villainy,” Jesus sees potential.
Deuteronomy 7:6-11; Psalm 37:1-18; John 1:29-34
Friday, March 3
I am ignored as if I were dead, as if I were a broken pot. (v.12)
Have you ever been broken? I mean the kind of broken when you’re an old clay pot that’s been tossed into the middle of a six-lane highway? You’ve been run over by countless cars and crunched down by sixteen-wheelers. Eventually you are not even recognizable as a pot anymore. You’ve been ground down to a handful of dust in the middle of the highway. You might think you’re so broken that you can’t be fixed. Perhaps you even believe that since you are reduced to a handful of dust, there is no way the Lord can put you back together.
If this is what you think, then you might want to take a look at this passage: “Then the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person” (Genesis 2:7). God can do a lot with a handful of dust.
Deuteronomy 7:12-16; Titus 2:1-15; John 1:35-42
Saturday, March 4
“The Lord your God will drive those nations out ahead of you little by little. You will not clear them away all at once, otherwise the wild animals would multiply too quickly for you.” (v.22)
One of Janis Joplin’s biggest hit songs was titled “Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz.” It’s a tongue-in-cheek lament by a somewhat shallow soul, wondering why God hasn’t gifted her with material wealth. It’s also plagiarized from the Bible. From Moses. From Deuteronomy, to be exact.
Deuteronomy is the elderly Moses’ last chance to instruct the Israelites, who are about to enter the Promised Land without him. One question he addresses is, “Why didn’t God just conquer and give us the Promised Land right away?” Switch out “Mercedes” for “Promised Land” and you’ve got a hit song!
Right now many of us are suffering financially, and some are questioning why God is allowing it. One reason might be the verse above-too much too soon invites “wild animals” into your life. A modern example: 70% of lottery winners go bankrupt. And Janis Joplin, who had a fortune, overdosed on heroin at age 27.
If you or a loved one are going through tough financial times, know that God isn’t punishing you or abandoning you. He might just be trying to protect you from wolves.
Psalms 30, 32; Titus 3:1-15; John 1:43-51
Sunday, March 5
Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors. Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. (vv.1-4 NIV)
Have you ever worn clothes for forty years and have them not wear out? Have you ever walked in the desert for forty years and had your feet not swell? I can’t say I have either. But the Lord was testing the Israelites see if they would trust His Word and trust Him. He asks us the same question every day. Do you trust me? Do you really, really, trust me? Imagine how different things might be if you and I truly trusted the Lord.
It’s not the parts of the Bible that I don’t understand that trouble me. It’s the parts that I do understand that concern me. How about you?
Psalms 63, 98; 1 Corinthians 1:17-31; Mark 2:18-22
Monday, March 6
Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. (vv.7-9a)
This was Jesus’ first miracle-turning water into wine. He subsequently healed a royal official’s son from a distance, fed five thousand, healed a paralyzed man after 38 years, and walked on water. He made the lame walk, the dumb talk, and the blind to see. He cleansed the leper, cast out demons, healed the woman’s issue of blood, and raised a man from the dead. He also did many other healings, too many to mention here other than the fact that he overcame the grave and rose from the dead.
Jesus does not change-he still heals today. We must just believe and not doubt. Do these words encourage you in your efforts? If not, why not?
Deuteronomy 8:11-20; Psalms 41, 52; Hebrews 2:11-18
Tuesday, March 7
“That is why I was angry with that generation; I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.’ So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.'” (vv.10-11)
Why are our hearts always going astray? For me, it happens when I do not regularly read, study, meditate on, and put into practice God’s Word. Why have we not known His ways? I submit it is for the same reasons. So how do we solve the problem? By doing the obvious-reading, studying, meditating, and putting into practice God’s Word.
What does it mean they shall never enter God’s rest? What does it say to you and to me? Jesus, and Jesus alone, has the answer. Born once die twice; born twice die once.
Deuteronomy 9:4-12; Psalm 45; John 2:13-22