Christian Devotions

Words, Words, Words

A man’s belly shall be satisfied with the fruit of his mouth; and with the increase of his lips shall he be filled.

Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.

~~ Proverbs 18:20-21 (KJV)

These verses are all about speech, appropriate speech and inappropriate speech. The tongue is a small member of the body, but it has great power.

My son, if your heart is wise,
then my heart will be glad,
my inmost being will rejoice
when your lips speak what is right.  ~~  Proverbs 23:15-16 (NIV)

Your lips can speak foolishness bringing all kinds of adverse consequences. If you speak wickedness many ills can befall you including the destruction of the city.

Flattery, slander, gossip, hurtful talk, quarreling, lying, all are condemned in today’s reading. How many of us have said something in the heat of a moment that we wished we could “un-say.”

It doesn’t happen. Once a word is spoken and heard, it is forever in the memory of the hearer.

The closing verse for today says:

The tongue has the power of life and death,
and those who love it will eat its fruit.  ~~  Proverbs 18:21 (NIV)

My grandmother used to say: “Let your words be sweet and tender; you never know when you may have to eat them.”

Father, God,

Grant us the wisdom to speak only those things which are healing, uplifting, beautiful, profitable, honorable, and reverent. Help us to tame the wild tongue.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

 

 

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The Accounting

But among these there was not a man of them whom Moses and Aaron the priest numbered, when they numbered the children of Israel in the wilderness of Sinai.

For the Lord had said of them, They shall surely die in the wilderness. And there was not left a man of them, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun.

~~ Numbers 26:64-65 (KJV)

After forty years of wandering, the Israelites prepare to enter the Promised Land. God orders a census, a final accounting of the numbers of the men of Israel. This census will be the basis of the distribution of the lands.

Some of the tribes have increased; some have decreased. But the total number of Israelites is smaller. They have been diminished by their faithlessness and rebellions during these forty years.

Korah, the Levite who rebelled, was swallowed up, but God preserved a remnant of his line for entry into the promised land. God always preserves a remnant of the faithful.

Of all the men who followed Moses into the desert, only Joshua and Caleb are alive. The rest have died of one cause or another because the Lord told them they would die in the desert.

But why? Their sin was one of disbelief. God had told them He was giving them the land, but when they went to look at it, they became fearful of the inhabitants. And they believed their own eyes rather than God’s promise.

There is always a day of reckoning. Every action carries within itself the seed of its own reward or punishment. The faithlessness of those men of Israel resulted in their being denied entrance to the Promised Land. Conversely, the faithful report from Caleb and Joshua is rewarded by their being allowed to enter the Promised Land.

How will we stack up at the day of accounting? Have we been faithful to believe all that the Lord has told us? Have we been rebellious? Have we been lukewarm in our ardor to know Him better?

I’m so glad that our salvation doesn’t rely on our personal accounting. It relies, instead, on our belief in Jesus Christ and His atoning work on the cross. Only Jesus’ sacrifice was sufficient to cover all our shortcomings — past, present and future.

Father, God,

We thank You for Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Keep our hearts faithful to you that we may not be found wanting in the day of accounting.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

 

Tepid

And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;

I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.

So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.

Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:

I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.

As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.

Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.

To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.

He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.

~~  Revelations 3:14-22 (KJV)

To the church at Laodicea, he writes the most scathing admonition imaginable:

“Because you are lukewarm I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”

Can you imagine being rejected by God?

Horrors!

But that is what happens to the apathetic, to the fence straddlers, to the indecisive. God doesn’t want namby-pamby, unconvinced and unconvicted do-nothings.

He wants people on fire for Christ and the church.

People who have just enough Churchianity to have become inoculated to the spirit of Christ are of no use to Him.

But they are certainly of good use to the enemy. Think about that for a moment.

Let us be on fire for Christ,

  • sharing His love to all around us,
  • taking care of the social needs of people as an extension of that love,
  • guarding against theological heresy and sexual immorality,
  • remaining faithful and ardent in that first love of Christ which drew us to Him originally.

Rekindle the flame.

Then hold it high.

Father, God,

Restore to us the first joy of our salvation. Remind us of that original zeal and excitement. Let us never be satisfied with less. Keep us faithful to You in all things. Rekindle our fire.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

 

Calling

Then the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,

Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.

Then said I, Ah, Lord God! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child.

But the Lord said unto me, Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak.

Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the Lord. ~~ Jeremiah 1:4-8 (KJV)

The story of Jeremiah’s call to be a prophet is a comfort to me because there are three truths in it.

First – God says to Jeremiah that He knew him before He formed him in his mother’s womb. What was true of Jeremiah is true of every person ever born.

God knew you and me before we were born. He knew what we would look like, how we would respond to challenges, whether we would be easily obedient or difficult to discipline. He knew all about us.

And He loved us.

Still loves us!

Second – He says to Jeremiah that He set him apart for a particular calling. This is also true of you and me.

God has a particular calling in mind for each person. There is an appointed time and place for us in His universe. Our highest achievement is to be faithful to that calling.

Third – He promises Jeremiah that He will never leave him. As Jeremiah goes where God tells him and says what God commands him to say, the Lord will be with him and will rescue him from whatever comes against him.

This promise is also true for you and me. When we are doing God’s work, He will be our shield and protector.

Just consider these facts:

  • God had you in mind when He spoke the words “Let there be light.”
  • God has a purpose for your life – one designed just for you alone.
  • God will never leave you.

If we believe these three statements to be true, what can stop us from being the ambassadors God wants to send to His hurting world? Of what need we be afraid?

I love the saying “The will of God will never take you where the grace of God will not protect you.” Let us resolve to stay in the will of God.

Father, God,

Thank You for Your promises to us. We are grateful that You choose to be involved in our lives to the smallest details. Help us to be faithful to You, listening closely for Your will, obeying Your calling instantaneously.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

 

Love Fruit

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions  and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.  (Galatians 5: 19-23 – NIV)

I was offended. My friend had come to me for counsel, and I had given good advice which seemed to fall on deaf ears. A week later, she was telling me about the counsel she had received from a mutual friend. That counsel echoed mine precisely. It hurt that she would listen to the other friend and not to me.

When I asked her why it made a difference when our friend said the same things I did, she said “I don’t see the fruit in your life.”

OUCH!

I went home and pondered what my friend had said. Then I decided to cultivate anew the fruits of the spirit.

Love is hard. There are a number of people whom I don’t even like. How can I love them? Eventually it dawned on me that love is a decision, not a warm, fuzzy feeling. Love is a commitment to the well-being of another person. Love is a verb – an active word. It requires action.

I can act myself into a new way of feeling a long time before I can feel myself into a new way of behaving. Once I decided I didn’t need to feel love to behave in a loving way, it became easier, less complicated, to love others.

It helps to try to see others through God’s eyes. Each person I meet is His child – whether obedient or prodigal. God created each one of these people. And He loves them exactly as much as He loves me.  I can quote John 3:16,17 and insert that person’s name in each of the places where there is a pronoun referring to people or the phrase “the world”.

16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

becomes

16 For God so loved Joe Blow, that he gave his only begotten Son, that if Joe Blow believeth in him (Joe Blow) should not perish, but have everlasting life.

17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn Joe Blow; but that Joe Blow through him might be saved.

Insert the name of the person you are facing at the moment and see if that doesn’t change the way you see him or her. Once you begin to see other people through God’s eyes via the lens of John 3:16,17, you will never look at people in quite the same way.

Father, God,

Grant me the heart and hands to love others as You love them. Help me to see how best to fulfill my commitment to their well-being. Thank you for loving us so much.

In Jesus’ most precious name.

Amen.

 

 

Go Where?

 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.  Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:  Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Matthew 28:18-20  (KJV)

Well, this is pretty clear. The grammarian in me notices right away that the “go ye therefore, and teach…” is in the imperative – a direction or command. As Christians, we have one over-riding job: to teach what Jesus taught.

But what about this “all nations” thing?  Are we all to travel to foreign lands to do this teaching?  I think not. “All nations” includes the people in our workplaces, our grocery stores, the restaurants and coffee shops we haunt, and even our churches.

“All nations” means the place where we are at the moment.

“But I’m no teacher” you say.  Ah, but you are. You teach by example. The way you handle yourself in difficult situations, when you are gracious to someone who has been ungracious, the faith you exhibit in the face of tragedy and loss are lessons seen and absorbed by those around you.  If your response to unfavorable situations is sufficiently different from theirs, they will come to you with questions.

After a particularly nasty time in my life, people came to me saying things like “you’re so strong,” and “I don’t see how you do it.” That gave me the opportunity to say that I wasn’t strong, but I knew where to lean which made me look strong.

You see, our teaching others is simply an opportunity to brag on God, to tell them how wonderful He is and all the beautiful things He does for us. We need not have an educational agenda – a lesson plan, if you will.  Our job is simply to answer the questions asked and to step out of the way so the Holy Spirit can do His work of convicting and wooing and teaching.

The best teachers are facilitators. They share their knowledge and instill a thirst for more knowledge in their students. There is no way that I can wrap my finite little mind around the magnificence of our infinite God. But I can share what I know and help create a thirst in others to know more.

“Go ye therefore, and teach…”

Father, God,

Help us to exemplify all that You would have us teach others. Give us the patience to wait for the questions and the wisdom to answer just enough to start the questioner on his journey to You. Fill our mouths alternately with Your words and Your silence. Let us not fall in love with the sound of our own voices.

In Jesus’ most precious name.

Amen.

Sin on Parade

For Jerusalem is ruined, and Judah is fallen: because their tongue and their doings are against the Lord, to provoke the eyes of his glory.

The shew of their countenance doth witness against them; and they declare their sin as Sodom, they hide it not. Woe unto their soul! for they have rewarded evil unto themselves.

Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him: for they shall eat the fruit of their doings.

Woe unto the wicked! it shall be ill with him: for the reward of his hands shall be given him.

As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths.

The Lord standeth up to plead, and standeth to judge the people.

The Lord will enter into judgment with the ancients of his people, and the princes thereof: for ye have eaten up the vineyard; the spoil of the poor is in your houses. ~~ Isaiah 3:8-14 (KJV)

Unacknowledged and unrepented sin is fatal. When a people will not acknowledge its sins as sin and will not repent of it, they have marked themselves for destruction.

I read this verse and shuddered: “They declare their sin as Sodom, they hide it not. Woe unto their soul! for they have rewarded evil unto themselves.”

As a nation, we, too, parade our sins like Sodom. We parade the sin of sodomy and give it place in our world by trying to legitimize it.

We make laws that put innocence in danger and justify expediency over righteousness.

We reward those who manipulate and scheme and commit fraud and usury.

Our legal system has been skewed to favor the powerful over the just; it has overstepped its boundaries at the behest of the powerful.

As a nation, we are in terrible shape. We have committed every sin in the book. We have earned all the reprisals listed in the book.

God is just and merciful to those who acknowledge their sin and repent. But God is also righteous, and those who flout their sin proudly will not receive mercy.

As individuals, let us examine our hearts to root out and repent of our personal sins. As a nation, let us work to return our country to the righteousness of the Lord.

Father, God,

Shine the light of Your love into our hearts to show us our sins that we may repent of them. Give us the discernment to see those who would lead us astray, and let us have the courage not to elect leaders who will pull us down that path.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.