Daily Devotionals 2021

We hope you join us in this daily devotional for 2021.

January 17

14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”         2 Chronicles 7:14

This week on January 20, 2021 the eyes of the nation and the world will turn to Washington D.C. and the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States and Kamala Harris as the first woman to hold the office of Vice-president.

Growing up in the 60’s, it was a regular routine to turn on either ABC, NBC, or CBS for the half-hour of evening news.   Do these names sound familiar?  Walter Cronkite, Huntley and Brinkley, Frank Reynolds, Howard K. Smith, Harry Reasoner, and Barbara Walters.  Maybe there was more news on TV than I realized, but today, we have round the clock 24-hour news.   Even before Covid-19 we were constantly being bombarded with “Breaking News.”  

As we turn on the 24-hour news these days, it is hard to avoid hearing about a nation in turmoil.  As we have seen through the events of January 6, 2021, we live in a nation that is divided by our politics.  We also see a nation divided by crime, climate change, the economy, war, or whatever, as a nation, America is more in need of prayer than at any time in my lifetime.   

The same was true with the nation of Israel in the 5 century B.C. when Ezra called the nation to prayer.   Israel had moved farther and farther away from God.  That is why God spoke to Ezra in 2 Chronicles 7:14 saying, “14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 

The hope of our nation lies in the power and faithfulness of God.  He can be moved to show mercy to all of us when we call out to Him in prayer, turn from our sins and acknowledge that His ways are better than our ways.   As we do that, his promise is that He will heal our land. 

Thought For Today, take time to humble yourself before God and seek his face.  Does the Lord reveal any sins that need confessing?   What sins of our nation need to be confessed.   What part do we play in the being peacemakers for our nation.   Remember He is faithful to forgive (I John 1:9).  

Today’s Prayer Focus:   Pray for the upcoming inauguration and that there will be a peaceful transition of power.  Pray for President Bide and Vice-President Kamala Harris that they would seek God and be lead by His Spirit to make wise and godly decisions to lead and guide our nation. 

--Rev. Ted Esaki  

January 16

 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”  Ephesians 2:8-9

As we celebrate Martin Luther’ King Jr.’s birthday this month, let me ask you this question.  What was the birth name of MLK Jr?   What was the birth name of his father, Martin Luther King Sr?   Would you be surprised to learn that both MLK Jr. and MLK Sr. were born Michael King?    

Martin Luther King Jr. was born 92 years ago, on Jan. 15, 1929.  But the name on his original birth certificate was not Martin. Nor was it Luther. In fact, for the first years of his life, he was Michael King. And it wasn’t until he was 28 that, on July 23, 1957, his birth certificate was revised.  The name Michael was crossed out next to which was printed carefully in black ink: “Martin Luther King, Jr.”

So, why was his named changed to Martin Luther King Jr?    The story of how Michael became Martin Luther began in 1934 when his father, who then was known as the Rev. Michael King was senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church and a prominent minister in Atlanta. In the summer of 1934, King’s church sent him on a whirlwind trip. He traveled to Rome, Tunisia, Egypt, Jerusalem and Bethlehem before setting sail to Berlin, where he would attend a Baptist World Alliance meeting.  

The trip to Germany had a profound effect on the elder King.  During his trip he was impressed and inspired by the life of the German monk and theologian Martin Luther who in 1517 nailed his 95 theses to the doors of the Wittenberg Castle Church challenging the Catholic church.   That was the beginning of the Protestant Reformation the act that would lead to the revolution that would split Western Christianity.

When the senior King returned home in August 1934, he was a different man, said Clayborne Carson, director of the King Institute. It was sometime in this year that he changed his name and changed his son’s name, too.

So as we remember and celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr., we also remember the religious roots that so effected Martin Luther King Sr.   A fight for social justice, racial equality, the elevation of women in society, the compulsory education of children.  

We also remember the theological underpinnings of the reformation such as Justification by faith alone in Jesus Christ, That we are saved by grace and not works, and the sole authority of scriptures over life.   These are all part of the legacy that Martin Luther had not only Martin Luther King Sr. but our protestant heritage as well.   

Thought For Today:   Take time today google and read up on the life of Martin Luther King Sr. and Jr. and the influence that Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation had upon his life and ministry.   

Today’s Prayer Focus:   Give thanks today that we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone for our salvation.    

--Rev. Ted Esaki

January 15- Mathew Chapter 9

Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town. Some men brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.”

At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, “This fellow is blaspheming!”

Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” Then the man got up and went home. When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to man.

As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.

While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?”

Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.

“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”

While he was saying this, a synagogue leader came and knelt before him and said, “My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live.” Jesus got up and went with him, and so did his disciples.

Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.”

Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment.

When Jesus entered the synagogue leader’s house and saw the noisy crowd and people playing pipes, he said, “Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him. After the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up. News of this spread through all that region.

As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, calling out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!”

When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?”

“Yes, Lord,” they replied.

Then he touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith let it be done to you”; and their sight was restored. Jesus warned them sternly, “See that no one knows about this.” But they went out and spread the news about him all over that region.

While they were going out, a man who was demon-possessed and could not talk was brought to Jesus. And when the demon was driven out, the man who had been mute spoke. The crowd was amazed and said, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.”

But the Pharisees said, “It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons.”

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

1.) This chapter is about Jesus the superstar. He is just walking through this area and performing all these miracles. One important thing to note about all his healings and miracles is that there is an emphasis on faith and Jesus specifically asking if the people have the faith and believe in his power. These people are all desperate and in need of Jesus. Which of these miracles resonates most with you? Why do you believe so?

2.) Why do you think Jesus said- Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? What does that mean for you?

3.) What do you think Jesus is saying to the Pharisees when he was eating with sinners and tax collectors? I have provided the scripture that he quoted in his remark.

Hosea 6

""What can I do with you, Ephraim? What can I do with you, Judah? Your love is like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears. Therefore I cut you in pieces with my prophets, I killed you with the words of my mouth; my judgments flashed like lightning upon you. For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offering"

Jesus' Words

 “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

January 14- Mathew Chapter 8

When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”

Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy. Then Jesus said to him, “See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”

When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”

Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”

The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment.

When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him.

When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:

“He took up our infirmities

    and bore our diseases.”

When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”

Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”

But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”

Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”

When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way. “What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted. “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?”

Some distance from them a large herd of pigs was feeding. The demons begged Jesus, “If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.”

He said to them, “Go!” So they came out and went into the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water. Those tending the pigs ran off, went into the town and reported all this, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region.

1.) Pay attention to the scripture that Jesus quotes when he heals. Jesus has the same power and capacity to heal you, but do you believe it? He also says that they will go on to do what the Centurian said he believed in which is healing. Do you have the same faith as the Centurian?

2.) The next scene in this verse is the disciples, who have little faith compared to the Centurian, who believe their lives are in extreme danger by the storms. In the midst of the storm, Jesus was calm and sleeping and he even seems annoyed by the disciples. Even after he calms the storm, they still question who Jesus was and his authority. Do you identify more with the Centurian in the passage or the disciples? Where do you believe your faith is and do you have the confidence that Jesus can calm the storms in your life?

3.) In James 2:19 we read "Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.". There is more than just believing that needs to be done in your faith. You must actively accept Christ as the Lord and then do what He has commanded us. It is not enough to merely believe, because look at these 2 demons, they certainly believed in Jesus and were afraid of him. As you evaluate your walk with God ask yourself, "Do I merely believe, or am I accepting Christ into my life?".

January 13- Mathew Chapter 7

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.

1.) This is the final part of the Sermon on the Mount, so again, find the audio version of this verse and listen to it and imagine Jesus speaking these words to you. In fact, you should listen to all three chapters at the same time to really get the full experience.

2.) "ask and you shall receive". Sometimes in our lives we have things that we need or want from God and we just expect God to know what we need/ Obviously God does know but have you actually taken the time to ask God for your needs? Have you physically made the sounds from your voice asking God? Ask God today and then seek him, and see what you receive.

3.) Jesus is very clear that you cannot just sit around without action. If you hear and read his words, then you must act on them. What are certain actions that you have been avoiding or what are the things in life that you have been called to do and you have chosen no to?

January 12- Mathew Chapter 6

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

“This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name,

your kingdom come,

your will be done,

    on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread.

And forgive us our debts,

    as we also have forgiven our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation,

    but deliver us from the evil one.’

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

1.) This is a continuation of the Sermon on the Mount. I would ask that you again take some time to find the audio version of this chapter and listen to it and imagine Jesus preaching this over to you in the crowd. Is there something that sticks out when you hear it as opposed to when you read it? Dig deeper into that verse.

2.) If there is a verse that you for sure need to memorize it is the Lord's prayer. It is the ultimate template for prayer not just for yourself, but for new believers or people who are in desperate need of Christ. There are countless people in the world that have not experienced God or have developed a relationship with God. When they ask "how do I pray?", then you have the perfect response and can guide them on the prayer.

3.) The final sentence in this chapter is very important for how we should choose to live our lives. Seek the Kingdom first and God will provide you what you will need to live. This does not mean that you will be well off, it means that you will continue to live. Unfortunately, in today's times were are under more pressure than his audience he was speaking with. We have more bills and responsibilities and it is not easy to simply "not worry" about tomorrow. What he is asking is for complete trust in the Spirit in your life. If you choose to worry about life, then you will only move from one worry to another and you will never stop as there will always be something to worry about. What would it look like for you to give more trust to God? What would it look like for you to remove some items that you worry about from your head? Make your priority to figure out how you will gain from God and not what you will gain from this world. Take small steps if you need to.

January 11- Mathew Chapter 5

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them. He said:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,

    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn,

    for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,

    for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,

    for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful,

    for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart,

    for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,

    for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,

    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.

“Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

“It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

“Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

1.) I recommend finding the audio version of this verse and listen to it. This verse is the Sermon on the Mount and Jesus is speaking this to a very large group of people. This is Jesus preaching and you should put yourself in a place where you imagine yourself as someone in the crowd. What is Jesus speaking to you?

2.) Do you have trouble loving your neighbor? Does this verse incite you with anger or do you even choose to shrug it off? If so, then the last portion of the verse is something you should dive deeper into.

3.) One of the major tenets of the Christian faith is the memorization of scripture. A verse that I believe is crucial to know is the Beatitudes (all the "Blessed Are"). Create a list or notecards and make it a point to memorize the Beatitudes as it is a very comforting verse and the perfect illustration of the upside-down kingdom of Jesus.

January 10

Do not worry about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:6-7

In these days of anxiousness, worry and stress, the apostle Paul gives us three keys to surviving these difficult times.   

1.)Worry About Nothing: That is easier said than done.   In Matthew 6:34 Jesus says, Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.”   Jesus was teaching us that they key to reducing stress is to live one day at a time. 

2.) Pray About Everything: With Sheltering In Place giving us more time, remember if you have time to worry you have time to pray.  This verse teaches us to pray about everything.  

3.) Thank God In All Things;  One of the healthiest human emotions is gratitude.  An attitude of gratitude can make us more resistant to stress and less susceptible to illness.  People who are grateful are happier than people who are not grateful.

One of the great hymns of the Christian faith is “Count Your Blessings.”    That is a good thing for us to do during this time where we continue to face a global pandemic with all of it’s repercussions.     

Thought For Today: make a list of things for which you are thankful.   I Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”   Do you want to know what God’s will for your life is?  This verse teaches us that it is to give thanks.

Is there anything that has you worried today?   Covid-19; your health, your family?   If we seek to worry about nothing, pray about everything, and give thanks in all things, we will find a peace that surpasses all understanding.

Today’s Prayer Focus:   On this the Lord’s Day, let us pray that the name of the Lord will be lifted up, honored and glorified.    

--Rev. Ted Esaki

January 9

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.   James 1:2-4

Some people think that if you become a Christian that you won’t have any problems.   James 1:2-4 teaches us that trials in life are not electives.   They are a required course.   No one is immune from problems.  Problems are inevitable and unpredictable.  Covid-19 is an excellent example of an unpredictable trial.  Who would have ever thought or predicted one year ago that the world would have to endure a global pandemic because of the Coronavirus?   

Psalm 34:19 says “many are the afflictions of the righteous.”  I Peter 4:12 saysDon’t be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering.”   2 Corinthians 4:8-9 says, “we are afflicted in every way.”   But, what do we do when we have problems?    James writes that we should consider it pure joy.  And why, because the testing of our faith helps us to grow and mature into the person that God wants us to be.   That is God’s goal for each of our lives, to grow us and mature us in faith.

One of my favorites quotes was given to me just after my first wife Cheryl was killed in an auto accident 12 days after we were married.  It goes”

We cannot tell what may happen to us in this strange medley that we call life, but we can determine what happens within us, how we take it, how we deal with it, that is the test of living and that is what really counts in the end. How to take the raw stuff of life and turn it into a thing of worth and beauty, that is the test of living.  Life is an adventure of faith if we are to be victors over it and not victims of it.  Faith in the God above us, faith in the little infinite soul within us, faith in life and with our fellow souls, without faith, the plus quality, we cannot really live.  

Thought For Today:  Take time today to examine your life today.  Is Covid-19 causing you to feel like a victim or a victor?   What are you learning about God from this trial?   What do you think God is trying to teach you through the trials you face?

Today’s Prayer Focus:   Take time today to pray for those who are facing the trials of unemployment, sickness, or the loss of loved ones.   Take time to thank God for what you are learning from the Coronavirus pandemic.  

--Pastor Ted Esaki

January 8 - Matthew Chapter 4

Then the Spirit led Jesus into the desert to be tempted by the Devil. After spending forty days and nights without food, Jesus was hungry. Then the Devil came to him and said, "If you are God's Son, order these stones to turn into bread." But Jesus answered, "The scripture says, "Human beings cannot live on bread alone, but need every word that God speaks.' " Then the Devil took Jesus to Jerusalem, the Holy City, set him on the highest point of the Temple, and said to him, "If you are God's Son, throw yourself down, for the scripture says, "God will give orders to his angels about you; they will hold you up with their hands, so that not even your feet will be hurt on the stones.' " Jesus answered, "But the scripture also says, "Do not put the Lord your God to the test.' " Then the Devil took Jesus to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in all their greatness. "All this I will give you," the Devil said, "if you kneel down and worship me." Then Jesus answered, "Go away, Satan! The scripture says, "Worship the Lord your God and serve only him!' " Then the Devil left Jesus; and angels came and helped him. 

 When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he went away to Galilee. He did not stay in Nazareth, but went to live in Capernaum, a town by Lake Galilee, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali. This was done to make come true what the prophet Isaiah had said, "Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, on the road to the sea, on the other side of the Jordan, Galilee, land of the Gentiles! The people who live in darkness will see a great light. On those who live in the dark land of death the light will shine." From that time Jesus began to preach his message: "Turn away from your sins, because the Kingdom of heaven is near!" As Jesus walked along the shore of Lake Galilee, he saw two brothers who were fishermen, Simon (called Peter) and his brother Andrew, catching fish in the lake with a net. Jesus said to them, "Come with me, and I will teach you to catch people." At once they left their nets and went with him. He went on and saw two other brothers, James and John, the sons of Zebedee. They were in their boat with their father Zebedee, getting their nets ready. Jesus called them, and at once they left the boat and their father, and went with him. Jesus went all over Galilee, teaching in the synagogues, preaching the Good News about the Kingdom, and healing people who had all kinds of disease and sickness. The news about him spread through the whole country of Syria, so that people brought to him all those who were sick, suffering from all kinds of diseases and disorders: people with demons, and epileptics, and paralytics - and Jesus healed them all. Large crowds followed him from Galilee and the Ten Towns, from Jerusalem, Judea, and the land on the other side of the Jordan.

Is there anything that stands out to you in this passage?

Did you notice anything that you hadn’t noticed before?

Does any text bring thoughts that relate to something you are dealing with currently?

January 7 - Matthew Chapter 3

At that time John the Baptist came to the desert of Judea and started preaching. "Turn away from your sins," he said, "because the Kingdom of heaven is near!" John was the man the prophet Isaiah was talking about when he said, "Someone is shouting in the desert, "Prepare a road for the Lord; make a straight path for him to travel!' " John's clothes were made of camel's hair; he wore a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. People came to him from Jerusalem, from the whole province of Judea, and from all over the country near the Jordan River. They confessed their sins, and he baptized them in the Jordan. When John saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming to him to be baptized, he said to them, "You snakes - who told you that you could escape from the punishment God is about to send? Do those things that will show that you have turned from your sins. And don't think you can escape punishment by saying that Abraham is your ancestor. I tell you that God can take these rocks and make descendants for Abraham! The ax is ready to cut down the trees at the roots; every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown in the fire. I baptize you with water to show that you have repented, but the one who will come after me will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. He is much greater than I am; and I am not good enough even to carry his sandals. He has his winnowing shovel with him to thresh out all the grain. He will gather his wheat into his barn, but he will burn the chaff in a fire that never goes out." 

 At that time Jesus arrived from Galilee and came to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. But John tried to make him change his mind. "I ought to be baptized by you," John said, "and yet you have come to me!" But Jesus answered him, "Let it be so for now. For in this way we shall do all that God requires." So John agreed. As soon as Jesus was baptized, he came up out of the water. Then heaven was opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God coming down like a dove and lighting on him. Then a voice said from heaven, "This is my own dear Son, with whom I am pleased."

Is there anything that stands out to you in this passage?

Did you notice anything that you hadn’t noticed before?

Does any text bring thoughts that relate to something you are dealing with currently?

Remember that the Holy Spirit is on the inside of you all the time. When He speaks, it will be familiar to you. Jesus said “My sheep know my voice.” If a thought sounds foreign, think about it, check it out and don’t accept it immediately. 

January 6 - Matthew Chapter 2

Jesus was born in the town of Bethlehem in Judea, during the time when Herod was king. Soon afterward, some men who studied the stars came from the East to Jerusalemand asked, "Where is the baby born to be the king of the Jews? We saw his star when it came up in the east, and we have come to worship him." When King Herod heard about this, he was very upset, and so was everyone else in Jerusalem. He called together all the chief priests and the teachers of the Law and asked them, "Where will the Messiah be born?" "In the town of Bethlehem in Judea," they answered. "For this is what the prophet wrote: "Bethlehem in the land of Judah, you are by no means the least of the leading cities of Judah; for from you will come a leader who will guide my people Israel.' " So Herod called the visitors from the East to a secret meeting and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem with these instructions: "Go and make a careful search for the child; and when you find him, let me know, so that I too may go and worship him." And so they left, and on their way they saw the same star they had seen in the East. When they saw it, how happy they were, what joy was theirs! It went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. They went into the house, and when they saw the child with his mother Mary, they knelt down and worshiped him. They brought out their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, and presented them to him. Then they returned to their country by another road, since God had warned them in a dream not to go back to Herod. 

After they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph and said, "Herod will be looking for the child in order to kill him. So get up, take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you to leave." Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and left during the night for Egypt, where he stayed until Herod died. This was done to make come true what the Lord had said through the prophet, "I called my Son out of Egypt." When Herod realized that the visitors from the East had tricked him, he was furious. He gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its neighborhood who were two years old and younger - this was done in accordance with what he had learned from the visitors about the time when the star had appeared. In this way what the prophet Jeremiah had said came true: "A sound is heard in Ramah, the sound of bitter weeping. Rachel is crying for her children; she refuses to be comforted, for they are dead." 

After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, "Get up, take the child and his mother, and go back to the land of Israel, because those who tried to kill the child are dead." So Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went back to Israel. But when Joseph heard that Archelaus had succeeded his father Herod as king of Judea, he was afraid to go there. He was given more instructions in a dream, so he went to the province of Galilee and made his home in a town named Nazareth. And so what the prophets had said came true: "He will be called a Nazarene."

Is there anything that stands out to you in this passage?

Did you notice anything that you hadn’t noticed before?

Does any text bring thoughts that relate to something you are dealing with currently?

January 5 - Matthew Chapter 1

This is the list of the ancestors of Jesus Christ, a descendant of David, who was a descendant of Abraham.

From Abraham to King David, the following ancestors are listed: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah and his brothers; then Perez and Zerah (their mother was Tamar), Hezron, Ram, Amminadab, Nahshon, Salmon, Boaz (his mother was Rahab), Obed (his mother was Ruth), Jesse, and King David. From David to the time when the people of Israel were taken into exile in Babylon, the following ancestors are listed: David, Solomon (his mother was the woman who had been Uriah's wife), Rehoboam, Abijah, Asa, Jehoshaphat, Jehoram, Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, Manasseh, Amon, Josiah, and Jehoiachin and his brothers. From the time after the exile in Babylon to the birth of Jesus, the following ancestors are listed: Jehoiachin, Shealtiel, Zerubbabel, Abiud, Eliakim, Azor, Zadok, Achim, Eliud, Eleazar, Matthan, Jacob, and Joseph, who married Mary, the mother of Jesus, who was called the Messiah. So then, there were fourteen generations from Abraham to David, and fourteen from David to the exile in Babylon, and fourteen from then to the birth of the Messiah. 

This was how the birth of Jesus Christ took place. His mother Mary was engaged to Joseph, but before they were married, she found out that she was going to have a baby by the Holy Spirit. Joseph was a man who always did what was right, but he did not want to disgrace Mary publicly; so he made plans to break the engagement privately. While he was thinking about this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, descendant of David, do not be afraid to take Mary to be your wife. For it is by the Holy Spirit that she has conceived. She will have a son, and you will name him Jesus - because he will save his people from their sins." Now all this happened in order to make come true what the Lord had said through the prophet, "A virgin will become pregnant and have a son, and he will be called Immanuel" (which means, "God is with us"). So when Joseph woke up, he married Mary, as the angel of the Lord had told him to. But he had no sexual relations with her before she gave birth to her son. And Joseph named him Jesus.

Is there anything that stands out to you in this passage?

Did you notice anything that you hadn’t noticed before?

Does any text bring thoughts that relate to something you are dealing with currently?

The answers don’t always have to be yes. Not every passage of scripture will speak to you directly about a current situation; we simply want to practice reading with intention expecting to hear from the Holy Spirit. It can be a new appreciation of God’s character or ability; it can be a gentle reminder of something we already know. It can simply be an emotion. Or it can be a brand new revelation of a situation or meaning - like someone pulled a curtain and you saw something for the first time. Whichever it is, expect the text to be alive to you every time you read.

January 4 - The Gospel According to Matthew

We will begin our New Testament reading with a short description of each book.

According to tradition, the apostle Matthew wrote the Gospel that bears his name between AD 50 and 70, in Judea, to Jewish Christians in Antioch of Syria; it also circulated widely to other churches, such as those in Israel. It is therefore helpful for the reader to become familiar with the Jewish religion before reading this Gospel. A reading of the first five books of the Old Testament, known as the Pentateuch, is a good start. Matthew was called Levi, the son of Alphaeus and brother of James. He was a tax collector and one of the twelve apostles. He supposedly preached in Judea for fifteen years and then in other lands. It is unknown whether or not he suffered martyrdom. The concept of the promised Messiah (The Anointed one, the Christ, and King) is the focus of this study. The Gospel of Matthew emphasizes Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of the Old Testament Scriptures and as the Davidic Messiah. (Foreword from the Kenneth Copeland Study Bible).

The Gospel According to Matthew was written to a Jewish audience and it will be helpful to keep that in mind as we read. However, my desire is not just for more informational knowledge, but for us to practice listening to the guidance of the Holy Spirit as we read. Ask the Holy Spirit in prayer today to teach you to hear His voice in scripture and rest in Jesus' promise that He will guide you into all truth and show you things to come.

--Vessie Kazachka

January 3 - Happy New Year!

Welcome to 2021! 2020 has been a challenging year to say the least and here we are at the beginning of 2021 still under stay-at-home orders. But life goes on and God's isn't shocked and surprised at anything happening in the earth. So I'm moving forward in my desire the get to know the Lord better and I encourage all of us to do the same.

This year our devotionals will include a New Testament reading plan. Every weekday we will read a chapter of the New Testament and listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit to see what He is highlighting to us daily. Let's practice reading the Bible not just as information and a Christian activity, but as the daily direction of a caring and loving Father to His child - containing advice, warning, direction and protection for our daily lives. Please keep in mind the Holy Spirit is our helper and He will guide us into all truth - He will show us things to come and remind us of what Jesus has instructed us as church members and brothers and sisters. So as we read our daily chapter, please think of it as the living advice of our Father fresh off the press daily to guide and bless us in every way.

--Vessie Kazachka

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